The tragic killing of two U.S. citizens this week in the border town of Matamoros, Mexico, should—in a just world—refocus American attention on the glaring problem of transnational drug cartels’ de facto control of large swaths of our perilously porous southern border.

That the two Americans killed may have been mistaken by warring cartel clans for Haitian drug smugglers, as The Dallas Morning News reported, hardly ameliorates the awful situation or lessens our imperative to recalibrate attention away from faraway proxy wars of dubious national interest and toward the very monsters in our own backyard who run the Western Hemisphere’s worst human trafficking rings and flood the U.S. interior with the most lethal drugs known to man.

It is not an exaggeration to say that the U.S.-Mexico border, at this point, is one of the most chaotic, overtrafficked, and outright dangerous borders in the world. Vicious cartels, such as Sinaloa and Jalisco, engage in gang shootouts in outlaw fashion, with nary a Mexican law enforcement agent in sight—and even those in sight are more likely than not to be bribed and in the cartels’ pockets.

Human trafficking rings, often working hand in hand with the cartels and opportunistic “coyotes” who promise to smuggle vulnerable migrants into the U.S., parade hordes of Central American and Caribbean migrants through the Mexican interior and right up to the border. The humanitarian conditions on these migrant “caravans” are typically abysmal: Drugs are rampant, children are exploited, and far too many women are raped.

Drugs flow across the border like never before. The U.S. drug-overdose crisis, which is primarily a fentanyl crisis, is nearly exclusively a phenomenon of the cartels. Drug-overdose deaths in America last year reached an unconscionable 106,000-plus, or more than 290 daily. That is the functional equivalent of a midsize commercial airliner falling out of the sky each day, and here, as is the case with fentanyl, those proverbial airliners falling out of the sky would be predominantly packed with those under the age of 35.

This tragedy is America’s single greatest humanitarian failing at the present time.

It is also de facto chemical warfare waged against the United States by the criminal drug cartels that operate on our southern border. And the Mexican government, which especially in the northern part of the country nearest the border resembles a failed and deeply corrupt narco-state, is both unwilling and powerless to put a stop to it.

The situation at the border overall is nothing less than deplorable. Ranchers in southern Arizona can hear gunshots and spot cartel thugs strategically perched in the desert hills a few hundred yards away. Hospitals as far apart as Brownsville, Texas, and Yuma, Arizona, are completely overwhelmed and unable to provide medical care for the law-abiding U.S. citizens who live there. And as we were reminded this week, American citizens are being killed.

It is a disaster. And such a disaster—especially one in our own backyard—requires a clear, unambiguous response from the putative greatest nation on earth.

As this column noted last week, one straightforward and potentially highly effective policy the Biden administration should announce would be to designate the leading drug cartels as State Department-recognized foreign terrorist organizations. Doing this would allow the U.S. government to use various means to financially suffocate the cartels and deprive them of their funding sources. It would also aid law enforcement.

Democrats’ typical response is that such a formal designation would complicate diplomatic relations with Mexico, but that barely passes the laugh test: Mexico has just as much—if not more—of an interest in cracking down on the cartels as the U.S., but it cannot publicly say so, let alone act upon that interest, due to the cartels’ successful bribery and corruption of the all-too-venal Mexican government.

Crucially, a formal foreign terrorist organization designation for the leading cartels, such as Sinaloa and Jalisco, would also permit the U.S. to go even further.

Consider the fact that, as recently as 2021, 625 U.S. citizens were abducted in Mexico. Far too many did not come home, as their families failed to pay ransom and the abductees were thus killed. If an Islamic jihadist outfit were responsible for such atrocities on this scale, on an annual basis, Congress would pass a bipartisan authorization to use military force, and the U.S. would not hesitate to declare all-out war.

After 9/11, the U.S. waged war upon al-Qaeda, but for some reason, with hundreds of citizen kidnappings, far too many killings, and an unfathomable number of Americans now dropping dead from cartel-supplied fentanyl poison, bipartisan elites cite concerns about diplomatic niceties and say our hands are tied.

Nonsense. Our hands are not tied.

There is even some precedent. From 1910 to 1919, the Mexican Border War unfolded in a series of military engagements along the border. After Pancho Villa’s infamous attack on Columbus, New Mexico, in 1916, decorated U.S. Army Gen. John J. Pershing launched the “Punitive Expedition” (or the “Pancho Villa Expedition”) into northern Mexico. It was only partially successful, but the U.S. Army did manage to kill Villa’s two top lieutenants.

It is now time for another “Punitive Expedition” into northern Mexico. With cartel violence, drug peddling, and the sheer invasion of illegal aliens at the border the worst they have ever been, the U.S. has little choice but to affirmatively act. We should first seek to obtain the Mexican government’s permission to engage in a limited operation to hunt down and kill top cartel leaders, but this is one such mission where America must go alone if need be.

The direct effect on virtually all facets of American life is far too galling for this to go on much longer. It is time to rain hell on the cartels, stopping their illegal alien smuggling, fentanyl-peddling chemical warfare, thuggery, brutality, and corruption once and for all.

The American ruling class would currently have us believe that “democracy,” and the fate of the Western world more generally, is somehow now on the line in the hinterlands of eastern Ukraine. Suffice it to say that is not the case. But what is the case is that an increasingly failed, corrupt narco-state on our southern border refuses to do anything about some of the world’s most vicious transnational criminal rings, which also happen to control large swaths of the border.

It is past time to focus in earnest on extirpating America’s massive problem south of the border.


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