On Monday, November 21st, D.E.A. agents in unmarked cars were discreetly following a large chemical tanker truck carrying 300 pounds of concealed marijuana as they monitored a "controlled delivery" — a law enforcement trap for drug smugglers. Suddenly, in a secluded area of suburban Houston, at least three vehicles rapidly approached the truck, and several members of Los Zetas, a dangerous Mexican drug cartel, jumped out of the vehicles, "yanked open the passenger cab door and repeatedly shot Chapa [the truck driver], whose hands had been raised in the air," tossed his body to the street, and may have been about to drive off with the truck, when dozens of D.E.A. agents and local law enforcement converged on the scene, killed one member of Los Zetas, and arrested four others. Something had definitely gone wrong with this controlled delivery.
After the standard, one-day news blackout to give law enforcement a chance to run down any leads garnered from the arrests, various news media were reporting that "hijackers" had attempted "to take control of the truck" — thereby leaving the impression that the murdered driver was merely unfortunate collateral damage, because he just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
However, according to Curtis Collier — President of U.S. Border Watch, with more than 20 years of law enforcement and drug interdiction experience — this incident was not an "attempted truck hijacking." It was a planned hit, designed to send a message to rival drug cartels, as well as to law enforcement. The density of the law enforcement "presence" in the Houston area should have been much more of a deterrent to this kind of crime than it was. The murderers could have executed this "hit" far outside of the metropolitan Houston area, in some isolated rural location, with a much lower likelihood of witnesses and subsequent prosecution. Instead, the leadership of Los Zetas were sufficiently confident of their own legal invulnerability that they chose to thumb their noses at law enforcement while striking fear into the hearts of members of rival drug cartels that have already established themselves here in Houston. This is precisely the kind of lawlessness that has been tearing Mexico apart for years.
By December 4th, the secret was out. Although the D.E.A. would not comment, long-time law enforcement sources say that the driver was a confidential informant working with the D.E.A., and that the killing was the work of "a cartel-related hit team." According to the Houston Chronicle, "For some at the scene, it seemed all too similar to what has been playing out in Mexico, where drug cartels operate with near impunity as they clash with each other and with the military and police."
According to Bob Price, another member of U.S. Border Watch and a recognized border security expert:
This event was not a drug deal gone bad. It was, in fact, a contract hit that was intended to take place on the streets of Houston. The Los Zetas gang is sending a message that they are here and they are serious about moving their drugs into our community. The assassination of a confidential informant in such a public manner shows their intent. This could have easily occurred in an isolated location in South Texas. But it did not. Los Zetas brought this violence directly to Houston. They brought it with a purpose. They brought it to send a message. They brought it to demonstrate a message of terrorism. A shootout near a suburban neighborhood is a deliberate act of terrorism.
It is time we send a message back to the cartels. Houston is our city. Harris County is our county. Texas is our state. And this is our country. We must secure the border of the United States to stop this flow of drugs and terrorists into our country. Until we make a determined stand, this will only continue or get worse.
This crime was committed in the near-northwestern suburbs of Houston, Texas, in a small, paved but still undeveloped section of land that is adjacent to one suburban residential area, within one or two miles of several others, and only about ten miles from where this writer currently lives. But what this crime indicates is that Los Zetas drug cartel — arguably the most violent of the Mexican drug cartels — has now, for its own strategic purposes, stepped out of hiding, discarded its deliberately cultivated low profile, and begun openly to defy U.S. law enforcement by eliminating a confidential government informant, thereby signaling the likely extension of the drug cartel wars, heretofore confined to Mexico, into the comparative peace and safety of suburban U.S.A.
Within the next few years, Mr. Collier now anticipates that Houston and other U.S. cities will see an epidemic of "big shoot-outs, dismembered bodies, and chopped off heads" — just like what the drug cartels have been routinely doing throughout Mexico in recent years.
Why the federal war on drugs keeps on expanding
Meanwhile, even as the drug cartel war is spreading across the Mexican border into the U.S., our federal government is actually expanding the federal war on drugs, with very predictable consequences.
For example, the manufacturer of a portable water purifier is being put out of business by D.E.A. regulations because the purifier uses small quantities of iodine (about a quarter of an ounce) to purify the water. This simple invention has the capacity to purify 2,000 quarts of water. But it turns out that these small quantities of iodine can also be used to make the currently illegal drug methamphetamine. After ignoring a $1,200 regulatory fee and various other regulations that his small business cannot afford, Mr. Wallace, the inventor as well as the manufacturer of the water purifier, is being put out of business. "In May, his Oklahoma distributor — warned by the DEA — said he could no longer send Wallace iodine."
According to D.E.A. spokeswoman Barbara Carreno, "Methamphetamine is an insidious drug that causes enormous collateral damage. If Mr. Wallace is no longer in business[,] he has perhaps become part of that collateral damage, for it was not a result of DEA regulations, but rather the selfish actions of criminal opportunists."
"Not a result of DEA regulations"? Hmmm . . . Perhaps this was not the intention of the DEA regulations. However, as a direct result of those regulations, Mr. Wallace most certainly is out of business.
Still, the federal war on drugs continues to expand. The Houston Chronicle recently reported a local story on yet another terrible death that has been linked to substance abuse. The death is being blamed, at least in part, on the banned substance that was being abused before the death occurred. Authorities say that this substance "can be abused as a drug and cause dangerous effects such as psychotic and paranoid episodes."
What was the culprit in this case? Bath salts. Bath salts?!? Yes — the latest claim from our federal government is that we may also have to criminalize certain precursors of the bath salts that are being abused. "In October, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency temporarily banned three synthetic stimulants used to make the bath salts. The ban will last at least a year while federal authorities study whether it should be permanent." What kind of insanity is this? Do we need a new law to protect us from every instance of our own stupidity?
If we are going to be consistent about criminalizing any means of physical or psychological injury — how about outlawing ubiquitous kitchen knives, which could be used to facilitate already established crimes such as robbery, assault, murder, or suicide? What about toxic, but otherwise very effective, household cleaners? What about certain kinds of food, the repeated or excessive ingestion of which have been shown to lead to disease?
For that matter, what about water, which could be used to drown people? Uh-oh … maybe we should regulate the production and sale of water with a view toward preventing its occasional criminal misuse in this manner … Or perhaps we could rest assured after affixing a prominent warning label to the water bottle in order to put a stop to such potential misuse....
On second thought: Does it make any sense perpetually to be writing new laws and regulations in order to try to prevent every imaginable example of such misuse? Enough already! We have, on the books, established bodies of common law and of statutory law for the prosecution of age-old crimes like robbery, assault, murder, and even suicide. Because of the limitations of human nature, these laws cannot possibly anticipate every means, motive, or mitigating circumstance that might come to pass. Why should we allow our public servants to churn out redundant laws and regulations in a vain, onerous, and ultimately tyrannical effort to try to criminalize every imaginable means, motive, or mitigating circumstance that might somehow be involved in the perpetration of such long-established crimes?
What to do?
There is an alternative approach to the problems associated with currently illegal drugs: Gradually phase out the federal war on drugs, while parents once again engage in teaching traditional citizenship to their children in order to restore the moral and religious character of the American people — as the Founding Fathers intended. This constitutional alternative is compatible with the motto of The John Birch Society: "Less Government, more responsibility, and — with God's help — a better world." (This would not preclude regulation of drugs at the state or municipal level, since, according to the Tenth Amendment, such power is not delegated to the federal government, and is therefore retained by the states and/or the people.) So far, there is only one, nationally known presidential candidate who is exploring this possibility: Congressman Ron Paul.
His starting point is the recognition that the U.S. Constitution does not authorize the federal government to engage in any federal war on drugs. Instead, as Alex Newman observes in a related article, the flawed legal foundation for the federal war on drugs is our acquiescence in the U.N.'s 1961 "Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs," which was a "treaty forcing governments to ban drugs." In contrast to our unconstitutional federal war on drugs, "many countries around the world have defied the UN drug treaty and approached the problem of substance abuse from other angles. Portugal and the Czech Republic, for instance, have both legalized all drugs. And studies show that the efforts have actually decreased problems such as addiction and use of drugs among minors — not to mention crime."
Perhaps a thoughtful re-examination of certain relevant parts of our own American history will help to confirm the suitability of this alternative approach to replace our unconstitutional federal war on drugs.
It would be extremely interesting and instructive to compare the social atmosphere of our time with the social atmosphere in America during the years leading up to the Repeal of Prohibition by the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. There are sure to be many similarities between then and now. Most high school students have at least heard of the 1929 "St. Valentine's Day Massacre," involving rival bootlegging gangs in Chicago. Fewer high school students understand that when the Prohibition of alcohol effectively removed law-abiding distillers from the market, and thereby opened up the market to ruthless gangs who had no scruples about killing for profit — the gangland fights were totally predictable. The proper constitutional solution to the problem of the emergence of gangsters like Al Capone was to repeal Prohibition — not to rely on an increasingly powerful federal government, and certainly not to rely upon, and thereby to legitimize, federal prosecution of bloodthirsty criminals through enforcement of the politically dangerous but sometimes erroneously praised federal income tax.
By analogy, it would seem that the proper constitutional solution to the escalating drug cartel war is to take the profit out of currently illegal drugs by gradually phasing out the ill-conceived (not to mention unconstitutional) federal war on drugs while relying more and more on parents, instead of government, to raise their own children properly.
But shouldn't our government be doing something to protect us from dangerous drugs?
In "Ron Paul Bill Attacks Federal Marijuana War," Alex Newman briefly summarizes the division of authority in our system of federalism by pointing out that "the U.S. government does not have any authority under the Constitution to ban substances, harmful or otherwise. That's why alcohol prohibition required a constitutional amendment. So, under the Tenth Amendment, regulation of drugs necessarily falls under the purview of the states or the people."
In "The Other Unconstitutional War," Lawrence Vance sketches out some of the implications of our system of federalism:
If any war on drugs is to be fought, it will have to be on the state level. Any laws or regulations relating to the production, sale, distribution, possession, or use of drugs — whether we agree with them or not — should be passed by state legislatures, not the U.S. Congress or its agents like the FDA, DEA, or the Office of National Drug Control Policy. No American who has any respect for the Constitution, federalism, and the limited government established by the Founders should endorse, support, or defend the federal war on drugs, regardless of his political persuasion, religion, or moral code.
In conclusion, our response to the escalating drug cartel war will go a long way toward determining our nation's choice between two diverging pathways. One pathway leads to bigger government that culminates in tyranny, as our constitutional liberties are systematically erased in the name of "security," and as our unconstitutional federal government slowly but surely enslaves the population. The other pathway leads to smaller government, constitutionalism, and liberty, along with a greater degree of personal responsibility that will be required from every citizen. Beyond all of the distracting commotion of this decisive presidential election year, we — the voters — will have the opportunity to deliberate about, and finally to choose between, these two pathways.
T. Dan Tolleson
The New American
December 22, 2011
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What to Do as the Drug Cartel War Moves into the U.S.