Why Mexico’s “Grand Warlock” might be right

We’re supposed to laugh at “Mexico’s self-proclaimed “Grand Warlock” [who] says the United States will pull troops out of Iraq in 2009 and send them to the border with Mexico in an attempt to expand its territory.” After all, he “erroneously predicted last year that oil prices would be stable and that Cuba’s Fidel Castro and singer Britney Spears would die.”

But we should pause to see where his forecast is already true and where it might become true. Mexico has been waging a war, not against the US but against drug gangs on its own territory, in part because the US has sought to fight its war on drugs on Latin American territory, co-opting governments into becoming agents for US law enforcement, and thus reinforcing US hegemony over the region. In this conflict, it is not at all clear that Mexican authorities will prevail and the scale of this conflict is such as to challenge Mexican sovereignty.

I’m not saying this will prompt a US intervention. But I can see where it might. The conflict in Mexico centers in Sinaloa, not directly on the US border, but in the northwestern part of the country. It has spilled into the United States, where Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) claims that “marijuana plantations [operated by outlaw Mexican drug cartels] on public lands, not public lands in Mexico, but on public lands in the United States . . . account for 80 to 90 percent of all marijuana plantation production in the United States.” The media report hysterically on plantations as far north as Oregon. Poe claims they exist in “California, Arizona, Hawaii, West Virginia, Oregon, Tennessee and Kentucky.”

We need to back up a minute. How can Poe possibly know that “80 to 90 percent of all marijuana plantation production in the United States” is run by Mexican gangs? How can anyone guess at aggregate production figures in an illegal industry, an industry whose domestic growers have been concealing their operations from law enforcement (and thieves) for decades? Poe’s claim is simply unsupportable; he cites anecdotal evidence published in US newspapers. He says, for example, “the Washington Times reports . . . that ‘campers, fishermen, hikers and forest and park officials are being intimidated, threatened or assaulted when they come near Mexican-run marijuana’ plantations on American soil, and that ‘all this plant growing produces a street value of $6.7 billion.'” He attributes to law enforcement officials a claim that “drug cartels employ heavily armed bandits to guard these fields and they have superior fire power and surveillance equipment over American law enforcement agents.” This is evidence of violence, not of the scale of production.

This narrative serves two interest groups, those who oppose migration across the Mexican border and those who oppose the legalization of marijuana. It casts Mexicans as drug gangsters and it casts marijuana growers as Mexican drug gangsters. And it raises US interest in the difficulties the Mexican government faces with cartels on its own territory.

Warlock Antonio Vasquez’s forecast still seems like a stretch. Mexicans, who see the US as already occupying half their territory as a consequence of the Mexican-American War, would not be likely to welcome a return visit from troops who were last seen penetrating to the Halls of Montezuma in Mexico City after the US unilaterally shifted Texas’ southern border from the Nueces River to the Rio Grande. But as the “war on terror” falters, the old propaganda value of the “war on drugs” remains, and as the US loses its position of world dominance, the diversionary value of a quick strike in Mexico might appeal to an Obama administration beleaguered by the loss of US standing in the world and beset by a persistently bad economy.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. We have, in the United States, people whose world views have been built around world hegemony, people who have access to very dangerous weapons, and people who might see the country’s problems as a prelude to Armageddon. A Mexican strike might serve to assuage these people as well, forestalling a nuclear, biological, and chemical holocaust, much as the Grenada invasion was part of a “recovery” from the humiliation of Vietnam.

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