As drug violence escalates, entire length of US-Mexico border to be patrolled by unmanned drones

[Image courtesy General Atomics. An artist's rendition of Predator B, the unmanned aerial drone patrolling the US-Mexico border for human and drug trafficking, and other threats.]

Beginning this Wednesday, the entire 2,000 miles of border between the United States and Mexico will be patrolled by unmanned aerial drones. Three drones are already patrolling portions of that border, and a fourth Predator begins operations tomorrow out of Corpus Christi, TX, completing the full stretch of la frontera.

The news came in a Department of Homeland Security announcement yesterday, along with word that 1,200 additional National Guard troops will be deployed "to provide intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, and immediate support to counternarcotics enforcement."

Those Predator B drones are made by military contractor General Atomics. You can read more about the drone specs here at the General Atomics website, and download a PDF here. Snip from Reuters:

They carry equipment including sophisticated day and night vision cameras that operators use to detect drug and human smugglers, and can stay aloft for up to 30 hours at a time.
All of this is part of $600 million legislation signed by President Obama earlier this month to increase border security before midterm elections in November, and in response to the ever-escalating drug war in Mexico. Just today, at least 8 people were killed when attackers hurled Molotov cocktails into a bar in Cancun, a popular tourist destination. The attack is presumed to be cartel-related.

And a major drug kingpin nicknamed "The Barbie" for his light complexion was arrested this week— his takedown is seen as a badly-needed public relations coup for the Mexican government, as successive waves of horrific news hit the country.

Perhaps the most gruesome of those recent revelations was the discovery just last week of a mass grave filled with 72 murdered migrants, including a pregnant woman, who were all executed by a dominant cartel, the Zetas.

The incident took place just 100 miles from the US border.

From the Christian Science Monitor:
The massacre confirmed what analysts have begun to suspect (....) gangs are diversifying their criminal activities and targeting groups other than just rival drug traffickers.
The lead investigator in that case "disappeared" last Friday.

[inset thumbnail: courtesy El Universal. The corprses of 72 men and women presumed to have been executed by the Zetas drug gang, inside an abandoned warehouse in the town of San Fernando, just 100 miles from the Mexican border with the U.S. near the city of Matamoros, Mexico.]


    1. The problem is that most of their drug money is coming from “hard” drugs that even Amsterdam still outlaws.

      Pot is a part of it, but they’re also running coke, heroin, guns, and counterfeit prescription drugs, among other things.

      Smugglers are going to smuggle whatever is illegal, and some of what they’ll smuggle are things that really seriously need to be illegal (like counterfeit medication that causes deaths).

      Lifting prohibitions will only go so far in fighting these gangs. You need police work, and you need a reliable and effective law enforcement system on both sides of the border, something that does not exist today.

      1. The problem is that most of their drug money is coming from “hard” drugs that even Amsterdam still outlaws.

        Actually not true (about half their money comes from marijuana, more than any other single drug) but it doesn’t really matter. As I’ve said, even a modest reduction in violence would make legalization worthwhile.

        That doesn’t mean that legalization will be sufficient, but you never know- it might make the difference between a world where conventional law enforcement can handle the job and one where we send killer military robots to patrol airspace over our own country.

  1. Do we know that legalizing marijuana in the US would cause narco violence to go away? Would it help? Why and how do we know this?

    1. Good question, Xeni. Maybe you could look into what the literature has to say about that. I’d also be interested in what the literature has to say about the effectiveness of the War On Drugs in containing and ending narco violence. Or the cost-effectiveness of drones as used in that War. One thing we do know: U.S. booze violence ended with the lifting of Prohibition.

    2. I don’t think legalizing marijuana will cause narco violence to disappear, but it would more or less stop people from committing violent crimes in the name of weed sales.

      How do we know this? We tried prohibition once before with another widely-consumed drug. Liquor-related gang shootings took a nosedive once smuggling whiskey was no longer as profitable as selling it legitimately.

    3. “The Noble Experiment” and its failure said it would.

      “Why and how do we know this?”

      Study “Noble Experiment”. That’s how we will know that it’d reduce narco violence significantly.

  2. Great, most likely this won’t work and it will be a huge waste of money and the only effect will be that it will destroy our civil liberties. On the off chance that this does work, the only result will be that all of the violence will move to the US since it will now be cheaper to produce drugs domestically. This seems like a huge lose-lose to me.

  3. That’s a good point Xeni. If the issue was just the weed, maybe if it was legalized nationally. That’s not going to happen on a Federal level any time soon though. Unfortunately we aren’t talking just weed.

  4. not just marijuana – but meth, coca derivatives & opiates which aren’t already in use & regulated by the FDA.

    it’s simple, to me.

    Make something illegal
    make a black market for it

    reverse the formula & gangs go away.

    What happened with liquor once Prohibition ended? The gangs which ran it disappeared.

    Hundreds upon hundreds of millions of dollars not spent fighting wars (which always accomplish little) could instead be spent building communities, improving schools & raising quality of life everywhere so that people would have much less incentive to use once-illegal drugs. etc. etc.

  5. Good questions, X. Samuel Bronfman, Joseph Kennedy, they worked liquor with the mob. I suppose the Mexican cartels would find a way to work ‘legitimately’ in buds.

    1. Many of the oldest players in big pharma used to be involved in opiates and/or cocaine. Let’s not forget that they too profit from having a lock on the legalized uses of hard drugs.

  6. In theory I think cocaine and heroin should be legalized and regulated, but apparently, that’s not possible with the international trade laws in place. Steven Soderbergh talked about that after doing research for making *Traffic*:

    Q: Did you come to any conclusions about drugs in America during the making of this film?

    A: Legalization’s not going to happen — not in our lifetime — for a whole variety of practical reasons. It would be a violation of every international trade agreement that we have. The U.S. would turn into an enormous drug lab. There’d be people pouring in from all over the world to buy drugs here to take to their countries to sell illegally, so we’d be ostracized by every other country in the world. That’s not going to work. You might say, “What if everyone in the world legalized all at once?” But what are the chances of that happening?

    I came away from this process thinking, “All right let’s talk about realistic stuff.” Stuff like Prop. 36 [the California initiative passed this year that provides treatment programs for nonviolent drug users]; finding a way to look at this as a healthcare issue, not a criminal issue; something other than filling up prisons with nonviolent users. There are little things we can do to make a big impact. Everyone in law enforcement will tell you, education and treatment work. Money and resources put into them have a concrete effect. That would be a good thing. It’s not a very sexy approach, but it works.

    1. I’m with James (& Steven Soderbergh). Legalizing marijuana is politically feasible in the near future (if only barely) and would cut down on at least SOME portion of the horrific violence Xeni details above.

      * If you think all drugs should be legal then marijuana is a good start.
      * If you think some drugs are so bad that they must never be tolerated then legalizing marijuana frees up more law enforcement resources to combat “hard” drugs (and more social services to help addicts).
      * If you think that legal use of marijuana is worse than the narco violence caused by its prohibition then you might want to reexamine your values.

      1. “If you think all drugs should be legal then marijuana is a good start.”

        So you’re saying that pot is a good “gateway” for legalizing other, harder drugs.

    2. I’m very skeptical that the international trade agreements point matters at all. If the United States wants to change domestic policy on controlled substances, we’ll do it, and the rest of the world will step in line. It’s just the way we roll, for better or for worse.

      Of course, the absurdity of marijuana policy in the US just goes to show how far we need to go before something like that matters. There’s no domestic will for widespread legalization. But please, if you’re an American, try thinking about the war on drugs in economic terms, and hopefully others will do the same and we’ll eventually number enough to come to the reasonable conclusion.

  7. I’ve yet to see any data that would suggest that legalizing marijuana would meaningfully reduce Mexican cartel violence.

    Now, the fiscal reasons for Pot legalization are very real. And California, for one, could really, really, use that income.

    Per the drones and the 1,200 national guards added to patrols:

    It’s. About. Flipping. Time.

    Sadly it took an impending November election to motivate the Feds, but this shouldn’t come as any surprise?

  8. I’ve yet to see any data that would suggest that legalizing marijuana would meaningfully reduce Mexican cartel violence.

    We can’t know for sure until we try it, of course, but somewhere around half the cartels’ income comes from marijuana so it’s hard to see how it wouldn’t.

    1. Oh, come on. Look how successful Prohibition was in ending gang-related crime in the US.

    2. We can’t know for sure until we try it, of course, but somewhere around half the cartels’ income comes from marijuana so it’s hard to see how it wouldn’t.

      I may be wrong, but from what I’ve read, it is over half their profits, not half their income. This is because they have to bring cocaine up from South America whereas they just grow pot close to the border or sometimes within the US itself.

      That said, having been offered everything from heroin to (shockingly) PCP every 1000 feet while I was in Amsterdam (disclaimer: I look like a stoner), I somehow doubt legalization of pot will do anything but shift tastes to more addictive substances.

      1. I’ve been to Amsterdam too. Prevalence of street pushers aside, the rates of drug addiction in the Dutch population is lower than that of the UK or the United States.

  9. The gangs did not go away. They simply used the profits they’d made on liquor to branch out into other illegal businesses. Or found a political dynasty…

    That said, ending Prohibition was still the right thing to do. Crime did decrease. And I support legalizing marijuana too.

    But it’s good to set realistic expectations.

    1. Erunnos is right. I am all for legalization but the fact is that the gangs will not go away and I doubt that they will stop resorting to violence to make their operations run smoothly. Drugs are not the only thing smuggled across the border, the mafias deal in anything profitable. It is estimated that up to 40% of the oil Pemex extracts is stolen by the mafia and smuggled to less scrupulent buyers in the USA. If smuggling drugs stops being profitable the excisting routes and modes of operation will still be made use of.

      That said Calderon’s war on the drugs is a huge failure. His now infamous speech where he defends his mission is now widely misquotes by mexicans as: We are killing your children so that the drugs won’t get to them.

  10. The immigrant killings do not suggest that cartels are “diversifying” their killing business so much as they are diversifying their revenue streams. The cartels are trafficking migrants from South & Central America up into the US. Probably taking some of them to work the cartel biz. It’s worth thinking of the cartels as multi-national supply-chains: once you have the transport system set-up you can move all kinds of things that want to get moved.

    Re: legalization, I support the current California Prop 19 initiative for marijuana but I don’t think it will reduce cartel violence significantly. The Mexican cartels get about 40% of their revenues from marijuana, with the majority coming from cocaine, heroin and meth. If the Cali marijuana market drops out, they can continue to sell weed to the rest of the country and shift their Cali distribution more completely into powders, with all the nasty secondary social welfare effects that come with them. Even in my little home town most of the street dealers/gang members are getting busted with powders, not weed.

    US legalization is a major outlier, IMHO. Given that the socio-political dialog here continues to move further & further to the Right, there are a ton of reasons we won’t likely see a federal law any time soon. But we’ll see a patchwork of states trying to legalize and an increasing number of influential lobbyists going to Washington as the business of marijuana grows. How long until ConAgra gets in the game?

    1. The end of alcohol prohibition didn’t come to the entire country at once (Mississippi didn’t re-legalize booze until 1966) but it was still enough to have a major and immediate impact on the amount of alcohol-related gang violence in the U.S.

      IMHO even a modest reduction in violence would be enough to make legalization worthwhile. “No more people killing each other over marijuana” seems like a goal we should all be able to get behind even if other problems persist.

  11. –The gangs did not go away. They simply used the profits they’d made on liquor to branch out into other illegal businesses. Or found a political dynasty…–

    Read “Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition”. The rumor that Kennedy’s father was a bootlegger was an invention of JFK’s political enemies.

    -Darren MacLennan

    1. I agree there’s not much more than circumstantial evidence of Joseph Kennedy’s bootlegging. But for sure the rumors weren’t an “invention of JFK’s political enemies.” As early as 1928 Canada’s Royal Commission on Custom’s and Excise issued a report concerning J. Kennedy’s involvement in the practice. At the time, Jack was 11.

  12. Legalizing pot would free up police, prisons and courts to come down much harder on the more serious drugs and their dealers.

    Of course, a lot of the communities here in BC would dry up without the annual flood of case from US sales of pot. I have little doubt that the apparent (and otherwise unlikely) resilience of many of the rural communities close to the border has a fair amount to do with the marijuana export business and fairly little to do with the fact that they are scenic and picturesque.

  13. It’s funny that for someone who was so against the AZ immigration law, he’s now sending re-enforcements to protect the borders from immigrants.

    Just sayin…

    1. There’s quite a difference between horrible institutionalized racism and helping prevent drug violence from spilling over the border. One is targeted at -even vaguely- brown people, one is targeted at drug traffickers and the brutal means they use to carry out their trade.

  14. Interesting to me that nobody mentioned that using drones to patrol the border is an example of foreign policy come home.

    I see it as normalizing surveillance.

    First we use drones in Afghanistan/Iraq/Pakistan, then it seems like such a good idea (plus a boon to the military contractors involved)that we use them on our borders, then…maybe when there is a domestic disturbance, or Katrina-like catastrophe, and it’s only prudent to use them to, you know, protect “property and interests” that are “vital”, we use them again, and again, and then always.

    And then that’s just the way it is, looking up, seeing drones, just part of daily life. Of course, who is it that is looked upon by drones? It isn’t white collar criminals. They don’t help there one bit. It isn’t anyone involved in control fraud. It isn’t political graft that we formally thought of as illegal.

    So, drones can not only intimidate by their presence, but they also can set the parameters of what is considered dangerous and illegal.

    But, maybe not, I’m prolly just an old crank…

  15. To Whom It May Concern,

    Please understand that this drug war has absolutely nothing to do with the eternal war on terror, our #1 on the planet (and still growing) prison caste, the ongoing depression, loss of civil liberties, unemployment, increased surveillance, and your own personal health and well-being.

    To suggest as much clearly delineates you as a foilhat-wearing, spittle-flecked, rabid, radical, extreme lunatic who has no place whatsoever in a rational and sane society.

    Be so kind as to remove yourself to a neutral location where we do not have to endure your loathsome hallucinations. Failing that, endure our scornful snark. It is our number one export at present.

    Best always,

  16. Had you rather be at war with the Anheuser-Busch corporation, or getting tax revenue from them? I say let the people who use drugs fund our war on the cartels.

    And why are the same Americans that are always railing against big government and the nanny state all for letting the government mandate what chemicals we can put into our own bodies, or the ways in which it’s legal to alter our own consciousness? I know, I know, the answer involves more politics than logic.

  17. Also, all of the tactics, weapons, and procedures being deployed, with great experimental glee and the joy of new discovery, against Iraqis and Afghans for crowd control, manipulation, and suppression of insurrection will never be used against America’s precious sons and daughters.

    You have my word on it.

    Ever yours in Christ,

  18. You mean the “horrible institutionalized racism” that 70% of the state inhabitants are backing?

    I mean, it’s not like the cartel violence ever gets to a border state, right? The AZ crime rate hasn’t gone up at all and it doesn’t cost the state a several hundred million dollars to keep them there (e.g. hospitalization, schooling, etc…)

    It’s just a way for those dirty police mens to be racist, right? ;)

    1. What kind of public support did slavery have? What about the Jim Crow laws?

      Would you be kind enough to provide me with some poll figures? Also, if possible, include other great democratic moments in human history, like various political purges, ethnic cleansings, shoot-first wars, and the genocidal theft of the entire North American continent.

      See, apparently, if it’s over 50% it must be ethical and in good faith.

  19. A plural of the people making comments on Yahoo News will be happier than pigs in sh_t about drones patrolling the border. They would be even happier if the drones were armed.

    The US has a presence in the biggest opium producing country and friendly relations with coca producing countries. Why are we letting our cocaine and heroin users buy drugs that from these violent gangs when we could provide an alternate supply?

  20. i predicted this rise in violence as soon as we had to give thumbprints to buy cold medicine. this is about meth and that Bubba Twotooth can’t make enough in his trailor to keep it a local industry.

  21. I wish people would stop using mealy-mouth words like “armed drones” and call’em what they are: Killer Robots.

    At least that part of our promised future has materialised: even if we never did get the blasters or jet-packs.

    Thank Heavens that, although the trade is run by giant cartels in Mexico with tentacles in every branch of government, the Convenience Fairy makes sure that once the drugs cross the border that only Mom-and-Pop operations are involved. Otherwise there would be American Kingpins with enough power to make sure that no one ever even mentions them – let alone arrests them.

  22. Xeni, I am rather surprised to see you pushing the immigration = illegal drugs justification for militarizing the border. By far the majority of deaths on the border are not drug related, they are economic in nature. To conflate the two issues is, in my opinion, to play into a hand from right-wing anti-immigration racism.

    Latin American poor people risk a chance at death to cross the border because to stay home is to face an even more certain, albeit slower, death by starvation. Boost the economy in the south, stop using Latin America as a resource extraction pit and waste dump, and the most massive migration of humans in history would drastically slow.

    You’ve been Guatemala, Xeni. I’ve followed your posts there. You know that something like 40%-60% of Guatemala’s GNP is based on Guatemalans living and working in LA and sending the cash back.

    Check out this blogger, he has some interesting viewpoints.

      1. Not exactly what I was saying. My point was the immigration is primarily a migration of the economically dispersed. The vast bulk of the border death appear to be from the hazards (human and environmental) of the crossing. A smaller part of the crossings and deaths are drug-related.

  23. A light plane can be turned into a drone. I expect it’s a weapon that will be used against us. Don’t be surprised when it happens.

  24. You mean the “horrible institutionalized racism” that 70% of the state inhabitants are backing?

    Yeah… that racism. Just because the majority of a redneck population thinks something racist is right, doesn’t render them non-racist. AZ is full o’ xenophobic jerks, and all you have to look at is the boycott of AZ by a multitude of US companies to see that. Not to mention it is the home of everyone’s “favourite” ignorant bumbling fool McCain.

    Regarding the potential effects of ganja legalisation: I think it is undoubted that violence would decrease, though I don’t think the crime rate will drop as it did with the end of prohibition. The reason is that in the case of drugs trafficing, it is an international issue. Purely domestic problems are WAY easier to tidy up. The other factor is, as others have mentioned, that there are other alternative products to be sold which means that crushing the profitability of one product will just shift production to another.

    If the US gubmint really cared about decreasing trefficing-related violence both inside and outside the US, they would crack down on the unregulated sales of firearms at gun shows. Weapon sales in Mexico are WAY more tightly controlled than in the US and the weapons used by the big cartels have time and time again been shown to have been sourced in the US.

    C’mon Americans: it’s time to dig up Heston’s grave, take the gun from his cold, dead hands, shit in his casket and then re-bury. Don’t continue to let country bumpkins and their idiotic passion for the 2nd amendment rule your country, taint your international image and most of all – put the lives of you and the people you love at risk.

    Que illogical pro-gun response in 3… 2… 1…

    1. Yeah I just saw that the night before. Awesome film that has more imagination than a summer’s worth of blockbusters.

  25. “Prevalence of street pushers aside, the rates of drug addiction in the Dutch population is lower than that of the UK or the United States.”

    That may be, but apparently, the Netherlands’ liberal drug policies have acted as a magnet for bad actors around Europe. Legal pot (and the drug tourists looking for it) brings in drug traffickers offering much heavier, nastier shit, backed by muscle. When I went to Netherlands, I was surprised how *ambivalent* the Dutch I talked to were about their own policies. I go there praising their liberalized drug policies like a dumb San Francisco hippie, and consistently, the reaction from the Dutch was, “Well…”

  26. cocaine is a hell of a drug.

    it is no coincidence that the majority of the violence in Mexico involves drugs that induce violence: cocaine, and meth.

    it has nothing to do with marijuana. marijuana does not cause people to become violent or angry. it makes people lazy and complacent. cocaine and meth, however, most definitely predisposes human beings to not only think violent and angry thoughts but to also act upon them.

    most of these drug dealers, and murderers, are on coke and meth. stop watching shows like ‘Weeds’ and extrapolating false information from what is essentially a Hollywood television show based on absolutely nothing but FICTION.

    much as i hate to admit it, because i loath cocaine and meth and the people who use it, but the best course of action – to prevent more unnecessary death and drug-related terrorism – is to legalize cocaine and meth so that it loses its street value and murderers no longer have a reason to kill other human beings in order to make a profit.

    then again, most major corporations murder a certain number of human beings every year for the sake of profit. so why stop now?

    General Motors, Shell, McCain Foods, Pfizer, cocaine farmers, drug dealers, drug cartels, what’s the difference?

  27. When the final tally is added up from all of the horrific slow, and therefore largely unrecorded, deaths from depleted uranium (nuclear waste made into weapons) that our nation has spread over the Balkans and the Middle East and is still spreading, how will that compare to the tally of the cartels?

    That gift will still be murdering people 1,000 years from now.

    We stack corpses, so-called collateral damage, like cord wood during any given business day on this planet and just chalk it up to the mundane cost of modern living. But for some reason, the comparatively microscopic tally of the drug “cartels” (however one chooses to define them) looms menacingly large.

    Now… why is that?

    Steroids in baseball?

    Just another snack food to keep the mouthbreathers sated in between “economic downturns?”

  28. Not to change the topic about legalization of pot, but what about the thought of un manned robots patrolling the border. Where does this stop. Will these things (or similar) eventually be flying over us busting every car that goes over the speed limit.

  29. When the final tally is added up from all of the horrific slow, and therefore largely unrecorded, deaths from depleted uranium (nuclear waste made into weapons) that our nation has spread over the Balkans and the Middle East and is still spreading, how will that compare to the tally of the cartels?

    I will happily wear a watch made of spent shells of depleted uranium if you send it to me. As long as I don’t inhale it, it poses as much risk to me as a banana.

    Mind you the alternative to depleted uranium is lead which is far more toxic than DU. Never mind all the other toxic crap that goes into weapons.

    1. >> I will happily wear a watch made of spent shells of depleted uranium if you send it to me.

      And I can pay a carny five dollars to eat a lightbulb or pound a nail into his nose.

    2. >> As long as I don’t inhale it

      What precisely do you think happens to depleted uranium projectiles upon impact?

    3. Do you have a degree in the apropriate field? Have you been to Iraq or Afghanistan? Have you performed field testing in war zones where depleated uranium was used? Can you explain why the “alternative to DU is lead” (because that is BULLSHIT)? Have you done any research into anything, or are you just telling us your worthless and baseless opinion?

      Y r fckng mrn. Take your ignorance elsewhere.

  30. The drones must stop flying at 10:00 pm due to the location of the closest airport. Therefore, this is another government action that’s all dog but little bite.

  31. Depleted uranium rounds disperse and aerosolize upon impact. That puts the soldiers, citizens of the invaded country at risk for the present and decades, if not centuries, to come.

    My point is simply this. During a typical three week period in Iraq, for example, we used 1,000 tons of DU rounds. One thousand TONS. Essentially turning Iraq into a nuclear waste dumping ground, our toilet.

    If our nation has so very little regard for human life, of that of its own soldiers, and those who must live on that land for generations, why do we gather our taffeta hoop skirts in a bunch and prance about all a-panic over the occasional cartel hit?

    I’m not saying drug violence is not significant. I’m saying we react with a ridiculous level of alarm which is completely out of proportion to the true harm we do as a nation on any given day.

    This Aloisius is the perfect example. Flippantly dismissing DU by suggesting it is as harmful as a banana or wristwatch. This type of idiocy and disproportionate cruelty dominates the heart of American empire.

    In addition, I sincerely doubt he’d feel as ambivalent if 1,000 tons of depleted uranium was disintegrated near the school of his children.

    Finally, we aren’t actually objecting to the cartel’s policy of assassination, are we? The United States boldly and routinely carries out assassination as national policy. This is known by all. No longer the hush-hush whisper of the “foil hat brigade.” If the United States can assassinate to protect its business interests, why can’t the cartels?

    And then… how long do you think it will be before these drones are carrying weapons and carrying out assassinations of their own? At that point, when you see a cluster of bullet-riddled corpses baking under the hot, desert sun, you won’t know if they were massacred by the cartels or by the Americans.

    As a country, we are full of shit.

    1. In addition, I sincerely doubt he’d feel as ambivalent if 1,000 tons of depleted uranium was disintegrated near the school of his children.

      Considering that the dust from depleted uranium will settle within minutes, I would have no issues with covering a school with the level of depleted uranium with the level found at a typical firing range which will be far higher than any battlefield per square ft.

      The danger from inhaling/ingesting depleted uranium is really because it is chemically toxic. In order to get enough in your system to exceed safety standards for even uranium workers, you’d have to get shot.

      Really, the reports of cancer related to DU are questionable. There are a whole host of other diseases you’d see before cancer and frankly, there are far more toxic things we leave on the battlefield.

      This isn’t flippant. I just believe in Chemistry.

      1. “The danger from inhaling/ingesting depleted uranium is really because it is chemically toxic. In order to get enough in your system to exceed safety standards for even uranium workers, you’d have to get shot.”

        Well then, what shall we say is responsible for the massive increase in birth defects in the city of Fallujah?

        I’m pretty sure that the baby born with three heads didn’t get that way from being shot. Your choices here are 1) DU or 2) White Phosphorus.

        Of course if you care to look, you could find plenty of photos online of Balkan babies with their organs on the outside of their body. Since white phosphorus wasn’t used as a weapon there, I guess you’d have to concede that you are just plain wrong.

        /chemistry pedantry fail

        1. I’m pretty sure that the baby born with three heads didn’t get that way from being shot. Your choices here are 1) DU or 2) White Phosphorus.

          First, that is a false choice. There are dozens of toxic materials in military hardware. There are also hundreds of toxic substances in all those buildings that were bombed flat.

          Second, the number of birth defects according to that article is 1-2 more per year compared to the national average. Since the population of Fallujah is over 600,000 and there are 30 births per 1000 people in Iraq, we’re talking nearly 18k births/year.

          Finally, we basically demolished their sewage, water systems, eliminated what little prenatal care they might have gotten and severely affected the local diet. That is a recipe for disease.

          1. “Mind you the alternative to depleted uranium is lead which is far more toxic than DU.”

            “First, that is a false choice. There are dozens of toxic materials in military hardware. There are also hundreds of toxic substances in all those buildings that were bombed flat.”

            So, to address your earlier assertation, I’d like to refer you to a conflict in which many more munitions were expended, and a majority of these made of lead – namely the First World War. Indeed,many of these same munitions are discovered in farmers’ fields every year, nearly a century later. Farmers’ fields where they grow FOOD. So, where is the century’s worth of French birth defects that should have resulted from all that lead? Or trinitro-tolulene? Or PETN? Or any of the “dozens of toxic materials” that would have been expended? And that’s just WWI. WW2 should have been comparable, yes?

            So, to sum up, you’re just being willfully ignorant, or a troll. No problem. Troll away.

  32. How long before the drones get armed and then start accidentally killing innocent civilians?

    As for #48, dealers will fight and kill just as readily for the right to sell you pot as they will for the right to sell you coke.

    This idea that pot is somehow the innocent party caught up in the war on big, bad drugs is just bullshit.

    If you legalize it, then you’d better be prepared for big tobacco to move in and start playing with the chemistry to make it a “better” smoke…

  33. How do we know that narco-violence will vanish if we legalise drugs?

    Name one other product which is sold legally and elicits such violence.

    Of course, US froeign policy towards Mexico and other countries plays a big role, but that’s not likely to change either.

    Lucky for Mexicans that unmanned drones have such a good record when it comes to killing “bad guys”.

  34. I think some people could benefit from clarification on what unmanned drones are–they are operated remotely by human beings. They are not killer robots. Considering the truly frightening escalation of violence by organized crime in Mexico, we very much need increased security at the border to keep it from spilling over into the U.S. Legalizing pot is not a solution to this crime. The drug cartels have become extremely powerful and will not be deterred by a decrease in one income stream. Moreover, much of their income comes from dangerous drugs like crystal meth, which no one sane would argue that people should be able to buy freely for recreational use.

  35. this is an economics game, pure and simple, plus a lil geographics. eco first, mexico receives $30B annually from the drug trade. to replace this awesome amount of easy cash it would require mexico govt to establish an industry of $300B annually, like software, or something. anyways, not easy to do. second, geography, core of mexico is in the south and it’s heavily patrolled for drugs. the north is like an alien landscape that few in mex south really care about, especially with $30B rolling in annually… jus sayin…

  36. Wow, and to think I thought we were just shifting our Iraq War industry over to Afghanistan.

    I was off by multiple continents!

  37. A little Mara-ja-wana coming across the border is not the issue. Various kinds of heroin, cocaine, meth are.

    England poisoned China for almost 100 years with opium. It destroyed Chinese productivity, ruined families, bled money out of the country and all the rest.

    Does anybody really think that drugs helps America produce more and better good to compete in the world, or helps fix medical care, or helps families cope with life, or makes roads safer to drive, or reduces crime? Does taking drugs make you a better person.

    Oh, how did China end opium after 100 years of trying everything and being a backward, rundown country under the thumb of the rest of the world? Mao enforced the death penalty for anybody selling, supplying or using opium. It ended over night.

    China remembers what was done to it and what it took to save itself.

    Drugs are good umm-kay.

  38. An important distinction… cocaine, meth, marijuana, any “illicit” drug you care to name is already legalized. It’s just that the people who can sell, consume, and profit from it are subject to a separate system of laws that are not accessible to most people.

    It should come as no surprise to any reasonably savvy, well-read person that different systems of regulation and enforcement apply to different socioeconomic layers.

    This is not about stopping drugs. It’s about stopping the rabble from home brewing their own and diminishing a ridiculously lucrative revenue stream for the wealthiest people on the planet.

    I’m not talking about the Paris Hiltons of the world who are served up to promote an egalitarian image of rule of law. I’m talking about the capital and influence that can keep these industries humming on a global scale with little serious impediment, and if you think the pinnacle of that pyramid is some garish Central American warlord lounging nonchalantly on his leopard skin BarcaLounger, you need to turn off the tube.

  39. Wanna fight the drug war?

    Go to the source… Washington, DC.

    These drones should be deployed over the Capitol Building.

  40. Why have we been wasting our time in Afghanistan and Iraq for the past 9 years when the terrorist threats posed by those countries are piddling by comparison to the one just to the south of us?

    This is really frightening, to me. Here we’ve got a state that is unable to control its rampant criminal networks (very similar to afghanistan). They’ve got a ready supply of revenue and can easily cross over the boarder into the united states. All they’re lacking is a motivating political or religious ideology, and they could cause some serious chaos in the states.

    1. You are assuming that what takes place in Mexico is not manufactured and deliberately maintained by the United States. Mexico is kept conveniently lawless in many places and conveniently corrupt.

      Laws and a rigid system of regulation tends to hamper certain business interests.

      The United States is very good at manufacturing chaos where it deems it most beneficial.

    2. By drawing comparisons between Mexico and Afghanistan, I’m assuming you mean to imply that we should pursue military action in Mexico.

      A sovereign nation, with at least a functional military, with which we share a 2,000 mile porous border.

      Please disagree.

  41. Damn you’re quick today Anti (I suspect it’s you, anyway)!

    One day I will learn to control myself – I promise!

  42. Xeni, prohibition causes prices to rise and a black market to develop. Black markets usually suffer from quality and violence problems. Also, potency tends to increase (more bang for a certain amount of substance).

    The prohibition in the US (alcohol, in the 20s) caused similar problems, with the rise of organized crime.

    The reason for it is that demand remains, despite prohibition. So supply adapts to the extra risk, and acts outside of the law. The price goes very high, compared to similar crops. Consumers resort to crime in order to pay for the stuff.

    If it were not for the prohibition, the price of drugs would be quite low, as most of them are as easy to produce as wheat or coffee, and they grow easily. Without all this income, organized crime would shrink and crime would fall.

    On top of that, we would not have such a large number of people in prison in the US, which has many negative side effects as well.

    For more detailed analysis, see US demand fuels Mexican drug war (audio) and
    The Economics of Prohibition (pdf).

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