Hillary Clinton is right. Right on target. Dead right, if you will. Before some of you Hillary haters begin convulsing, hear me out.
After hearing our new secretary of state’s comments last week in Mexico, I thought perhaps she had overheard a conversation I had a couple of weeks ago with an obviously upset man.
He’d left several voicemail messages before we had a chance to talk. In the recordings, he made it clear that he had wanted to talk about something he found quite disturbing.
When we finally connected by phone, the tone of his voice – the tremor of each word – was one of hurt and anger. The caller was a Hispanic with a deep love for Mexico.
After hearing broadcast reports about the drug cartels in Mexico and the violence along the U.S.-Mexico border, the man was upset by a recurring theme in comments from some U.S. government officials.
Some of those officials – and some media commentators – were referring to Mexico as a “failed state” or on the verge of becoming such.
He had a question: If Mexico is a “failed state” because so much drug traffic is coming from there, then are Americans a “failed people” because they are consuming those drugs? I promised I would ask his very good question to our readers and dare them to answer it honestly.
That brings me back to our secretary of state, who visited Mexico as our country was committing more resources to the border and desperately trying to figure out what else could be done to stop the drug trafficking and the increase in related violence.
Clinton said our two countries have a “shared responsibility” in this devastating crisis, and she concluded that Americans’ drug habits and our failed government policies contribute to the problem we claim to vehemently despise.
“How could anybody conclude any differently?” McClatchy Newspapers quoted Clinton as saying. “Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade. Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the deaths of police officers, soldiers and civilians.”
She is right.
I said the same thing when this country, under President George H.W. Bush, ordered the invasion of Panama in 1989 to depose, capture and arrest leader Manuel Noriega for drug trafficking.
I continue to ask: If we knew Noriega was sending tons of drugs to the United States and laundering money, we should also have known who in this country was receiving all those drugs and paying for them. If Noriega was a racketeer, then there were also racketeers in this country.
The same with Mexico.
If there are cartels south of the border, then there are cartels north of it. Let’s deal with them all, consistently and effectively.
Sadly, we do have communities all over this country afflicted by addiction, and we can never do anything significant about drug trafficking until we deal with the demand here.
Too often in our “war on drugs,” we focus on the junkies and the small-time dealers, leaving the leaders of the “cartels” to stay in business.
It’s much easier to raid a home in some low-income neighborhood and drag some minor drug dealer out in his underwear than it is to raid some downtown office building and arrest some kingpin dressed in a $1,000 suit.
Every time there is a budget crisis, among the first programs to be cut are drug prevention, intervention and treatment.
If we spent one-tenth of the amount on drug treatment and prevention as we do on drug enforcement, we would make tremendous progress in addressing the problem. Yes, we need to fight the drug-related violence along our border and help Mexico fight the addictive cancer that’s eating at its soul.
But we must also find a way to cure this nation’s “insatiable appetite” for the illegal substances that destroy individuals, families and entire neighborhoods.
To answer that caller’s question, neither country is a failed state, but both have failed at adequately addressing one of the most damaging problems any nation can face.
Bob Ray Sanders is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Readers may write to him at: 400 W. 7th Street, Fort Worth, Texas 76102, or via e-mail at bobraystar-telegram.com.