US victims: New low in Mexico’s war


by Ralph Peters [author, novelist]

The war is here. In our front yard. 18,000 dead in five years. With the casualty count worsening. And our attention is half a world away.

In the wake of a Saturday night party in Juarez, Mexico — across the Rio Grande from El Paso — two American citizens affiliated with the US consulate were gunned down in a narco-terror hit.

A husband and his pregnant wife died in a spray of bullets just before driving over the bridge to return home to Texas. The gunmen left the couple’s baby daughter wailing in the rear seat.

In a coordinated hit, the husband of a Mexican national employed by our consulate was shot dead while heading home from the same party, his two kids wounded.

This marks a major escalation of the narco-insurgency raging on our border. There may be a back-story as to why these three figures were assassinated (the narcos knew who they were killing). But no matter what details emerge, this was an attack on a US diplomatic mission.

Other US citizens have died in this Mexican civil war, but they were caught in a crossfire, or had ties to the drug trade. This weekend’s targeted killings are something new — and alarm bells should be ringing.

President Obama has expressed his outrage over the murders. But what is he going to do?

In the past, the cartels have taken pains not to kill US citizens. The drug lords don’t want to draw the US into this war. They think they can fight Mexico’s government to a standstill, then roll back enforcement efforts at the polls — but an angry Uncle Sam is another matter.

They also don’t want to disrupt the massive cross-border trade, which accounts for more than half of Mexico’s exports.

Maquiladoras, the border-region assembly plants supporting US corporations, employ 1.6 million Mexicans. Disrupt trade, you kill jobs. And doing that could damage the narcos’ romantic image among the lower strata of Mexican society as post-modern renegades. (Narcocorridos, ballads about the macho lives and dramatic deaths of traffickers, are hits from Hermosillo to LA.)

Wreck trade, and Mexicans not only have less money to spend on drugs, but stop being the willing sea in which the narco-trafficante swims.

Plus, the maquiladora trade is key to large-scale drug smuggling. With commercial traffic booming under NAFTA, our customs officials can’t check every tractor-trailer. The narcos can play the odds and accept the wastage.

Despite these powerful reasons why the narco-terrorists have avoided killing gringos, the three Juarez killings suggest the game may be changing. We’ll have to await the investigation results — but a willingness to kill not only Americans, but State Department employees, is something new.

I worked the border under then-Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey, and I believe that the major cartel bosses are losing control.

Paradoxically, this is the result of Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s successes. He recognized that this is a civil war and sent in the Army. Working with US agencies, his government has arrested or killed a long list of drug kingpins.

The unintended consequence is that the hotheads — within the cartels or splitting from them — no longer have a controlling hand laid over them. Groups such as the Zetas (former Mexican special forces who went over to the narcos) got their start as tools of one cartel or another, only to turn rogue. Now they’re wanton killers, as cruel as Islamist terrorists.

The bloodbath on our border’s going to get a worse before it gets better. Death is on our doorstep — and no country’s more important to our security, society and economy than Mexico. What are we thinking?

The Mexican Revolution of 1910 disintegrated into one of the last century’s ugliest struggles. A hundred years later, our southern neighbor, with its 111 million people, faces the most under-reported crisis of our time. The Mexican border towns where I partied as an Army lieutenant are combat zones. Mexico’s casualties have been more than three times our KIA losses in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. And the action’s coming north.

This is no longer just about border security. It’s about our national security. And Washington’s been taking a siesta.


NY Post / copyright 2010 NY Post

Ralph Peters’ latest book is “Endless War: Middle Eastern Islam vs. Western CivilizationHis most recent novel is “The War After Armageddon,” is on the street. His most most recent non-fiction book is “Looking For Trouble: Adventures in a Broken World.” He is Fox News’ strategic analyst.

Peters is a retired Army officer and the author of 19 books, as well as of hundreds of essays and articles, written both under his own name and as Owen Parry. He is a frequent columnist for the New York Post and other publications.

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