A few days ago, America watched as the GOP presidential candidates discussed our National Security. Now more than ever, we live in a world full of hideous individuals who desire the demise of innocent people and even entire societies. Prior to 9/11, I’d venture to say that the average American couldn’t name anyone on the terror watch list. That’s fairly understandable. Terrorism just seemed very far away. Even Osama Bin Laden’s first attempt on the World Trade Center in 1993 didn’t truly shake the sentiment that terrorism was something that happened overseas. Of course it didn’t help that Bill Clinton downplayed the attack as much as possible. . . but who’s keeping track.
Back to the point.
After all, until 9/11 we hadn’t been seriously attacked on the mainland since December 7th, 1941 in the bombing of Pearl Harbor. That is, we hadn’t been attacked on the catastrophic level that Pearl Harbor certainly was. Now, in the years after 9/11, we realize that terrorism’s tentacles have the very real ability to reach us right here at home. Recognizing, understanding, and accepting the reality of the threat is a key factor in keeping our country safe. However, ten years later I wonder how many people have forgotten what that awful September day felt like, and whether or not the fear of the possibility of another attack has diminished. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that we live in perpetual fear of the “what if;” after all, then the terrorists will have achieved at least part of their goal, and that is to disrupt our lives. Instead, I’m suggesting that we don’t let ourselves become numb to the very real threat that exists in our world. On a personal note, I make myself watch the 9/11 documentaries every year on the anniversary of the attacks to ensure that I never forget the horror of that day. Believe me, I want to forget. To forget what happened, however, will be our demise.
As should be expected, countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan took center stage at the debate as the candidates volleyed policies and opinions back and forth. There’s one country, however, that I felt didn’t get the level of attention it so desperately needs today. This country has seen the violent deaths of over 43,000 of its citizens since its current president took office in 2006, when he initiated a widespread, virtually unprecedented (for the area) war on drugs. Most recently, 26 people were found dead and packed in an abandoned van in the heart of this nation’s second largest city, a place where drug-related violence of that level typically hasn’t reared its ugly head. Regardless, horrific, bloody scenes reminiscent of Middle Eastern terror dot the map of that country. The violence has spilled over into a neighboring country, rendering certain areas of that country too dangerous for the local authorities to handle. Shockingly, not one, but two secretaries of the interior (this country’s equivalent of a vice president) have died in tragic accidents within the span of a few years; the most recent occurred just days ago on November 11th, 2011. While no “official” evidence exists that these two men died as a result of the drug war, the nature of their occupation makes it hard to imagine these as simply coincidental accidents. Even more eery is the fact that they both died in areal crashes, but who’s keeping count, right?
Lastly, according to an inter-agency report from the U.S. government as soon after 9/11 as 2003, there exists some evidence of certain radical Islamic terror groups taking up residence in one form or another right in the heart of the chaotic violence consuming this country. A year later the CIA issued a report in which it stated that that nation’s border is “especially inviting target for Hezbollah operatives,” noting specifically that “many alien smuggling networks that facilitate the movement of non-[nationals] have established links to Muslim communities [within that nation].” (omissions in brackets) Most recently, the indictments of Manssor Arbabsiar and Gholam Shakuri in relation to the plot to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador in Washington D.C. paint a grim picture of the potential for radical Islamic terror by way of the chaos in this country. Specifically, “this threat was uncovered when the plotters contacted an informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in [this nation] who claimed he could hire a transnational criminal cartel to undertake the attack.” The Heritage article goes on to say that “the unique distinguishing feature of this plot is that the indictment links the conspiracy to the Qods Force, a special unit of the Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps, which falls under the supervision of the Iranian government in Tehran.” (omissions in brackets)
In case you haven’t already figured this out, I’m talking about Mexico.
For years now, Mexico has been in the throes of a terribly violent and largely unsuccessful war against the powerful drug cartels. To current president Felipe Calderon’s credit, he had some nerve to even take this on. Trafficking has existed in Mexico long before this presidency, but has been largely ignored. After all, to take on the epically-powerful drug cartels requires a person to face the very real possibility of horrific violence to be bestowed on the daring individual or their unfortunate family members. In Felipe Calderon’s case, it probably means saying goodbye to his country once he finishes his term.
There are literally volumes of data pertaining to this drug war, and I could go on for days. But why does this matter in the context of our National Security? Let’s start with the fact that we share a border with Mexico that stretches over 1,900 miles. This isn’t an ocean away. This isn’t in some far-off desert or deserted mountainous region. This is right at our doorstep. Even more concerning than the decidedly unsettling spillover of cartel violence into the United States is the aforementioned reality that foreign radical organizations have a presence in Mexico. How very simple it would be to exploit the situation. As the Heritage Foundation clearly pointed out, however, exploitation is no longer a speculation. It’s happening. And it’s high time that the United States government afford this situation the attention it truly merits.