Are you American? Then you must be concerned about war. Oh, not some distant conflict, not Afghanistan. No, the war you must be concerned about – surely you must? – is the war on your southern border. Yes, it’s the war in Mexico, that unacknowledged Vietnam.
The war on terror (what a disaster that has been) is bad enough; the war on drugs has been even worse. It’s the sheer savagery of the Mexican conflict that disgusts me, the mutilations and the murderous sadism. Do you know how many people have died in the drugs war? The official estimate to date is 50,000 but those who know about this sort of thing believe that the true total is twice as many. The victims are not soldiers by and large. As Mary Wakefield writing in the Spectator said, they are young boys, babies, mothers and husbands. Severed heads and decapitated bodies are a regular sight on the streets. That's the reality of modern Mexico
Felipe Calderon, Mexico’s drug-busting former president, was a man with a mission. He came to office with a single aim in mind, a crusade, if you like. He would crack down on the big drug barons in order, he said, ‘to restore moral order.’ But the drug cartels are a bit like the Lernaean Hydra of Greek mythology: cut off one head and two more appear. Kingpins were killed, yes, but their organisations simply fragmented. More and more gangs has meant more and more crime. Murder, extortion, rape and kidnapping are now pretty much part of the daily scene.
The problem, as I’ve written before, isn’t really an internal one. The anti-drugs crusade was predetermined failure simply because there are factors beyond the control of the Mexican authorities. The biggest factor of all is the insatiable demand for the produce of the cartels north of the Rio Grande. The drug war in Mexico, in other words, is fuelled by American consumers.
So much money has been wasted and so many lives have been lost in attempting, Canute-style, to hold back an inexorable tide. The American government, aware of the problem, attempted to help Mexico build a dyke. Billions was spent on supporting Calderon’s crazy crusade. American money was spent, for example, on Los Zetas.
Who are they, you may wonder? They are Mexico’s elite Special Forces squad, trained by American and Israeli specialists in such talents as intimidation, ambushing and marksmanship, all as part of the struggle against the drug lords. There is only one problem. Some years ago the organisation set up in business for itself. In what, exactly? Why, in drugs. Nobody does it better than Los Zetas, and nobody butchers children with such professionalism and aplomb. The more your tax dollars are spent on training Special Forces, the more Los Zetas benefit from fresh recruits.
There is an added irony here. Several States of the Union, Colorado and Washington leading the way, are anxious to legalise cannabis. There is Mexico, vainly struggling to contain a problem while its northern neighbour seems to be giving a green light to the cartels, over 40% of whose business is selling cannabis to gringos. When one thinks things can’t get any crazier, why, they do.
Organised crime is now the single most serious problem facing Mexico. Americans know, or should know, all about organised crime and Prohibition. Just consider your own history, consider what a leg up the gangsters were given in that brief decade last century when alcohol was banned.
Mexico has had Prohibition for decade after decade, with the results I have touched on above. The monster has grown to unimaginable proportions. Only legalisation will cut it down to size. But who has the courage to take that bold step? Alas, poor Mexico: so far from God, so close to the United States.