Jihad on Drugs

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A Mexican federal policeman stands guard in a street in Nueva Italia, state of Michoacan, Mexico, on January 17, 2014. Mexican federal forces have taken over police duties in some 20 towns in the restive state of Michoacan, where vigilante groups are fighting a drug cartel. (Photo: AFP - Hector Guerrero).

By: Belén Fernández

Published Monday, January 20, 2014

In a recent ThinkProgress article called “What Everyone Should Know About Legal Pot and Terrorism," Zack Beauchamp warns that “there’s a clear and increasingly tight relationship between illicit drug profits and terrorism."

Offered in support of Beauchamp’s thesis is the alleged fact that Hezbollah “pockets millions by distributing drugs from South America in Africa and the Middle East … Because illegal drugs flourish in the same places and spaces that terrorist organizations do – the poorly governed, poorly policed global shadows – a mutually beneficial relationship between drug dealers and terrorists emerges with alarming frequency."

This analysis acquires slightly different implications in light of this week’s confirmation of the longstanding mutually beneficial relationship between the US government and certain Mexican drug cartels. According to an investigation by Mexico’s El Universal newspaper, the United States collaborated for years with the notorious Sinaloa cartel – among others – against rival outfits.

Of course, such revelations stand little chance of altering the drug war discourse of the US regime, which slams its international enemies with narco-trafficking accusations while conveniently permitting US corporations to profit from the perpetuation of the drug trade and the alleged war on it.

The global proliferation of narco-terrorists – both real and imagined – also justifies other forms of imperial meddling, such as the US-directed militarization of Latin America.

In terms of hypocrisy, it’s fitting that the vanguard of the effort to place Hezbollah in the narco-terror category contains veterans of the Iran-Contra scandal, in which the United States facilitated the enrichment of right-wing paramilitaries in Nicaragua via the cocaine trade.

A sub-component of the neoconservative-Zionist project to criminalize Iran and everything associated with it, the anti-Hezbollah smear campaign is an underappreciated source of comic relief.

In a Ynetnews article titled “Hezbollah's cocaine Jihad," for example, Israeli reporter Eldad Beck discovers that the Party of God is “helping … drug lords build smuggling tunnels under the US-Mexico border and satellite images show that they are nearly identical to the maze of tunnels running under the Gaza-Egypt border."

Never mind the US Homeland Security Department’s own admission that “most of the existing tunnels [between the US and Mexico] are concentrated in large urban centers where they are difficult to spot with satellite images."

Undeterred, Beck insists that the presence of “some 4,000 Muslims” in Mexico should “cause concern” not only in the United States but in Israel as well.

The narco-tunnel hype has also been taken up by the likes of former US Congresswoman Sue Myrick, who in a 2010 letter to then-secretary of homeland security Janet Napolitano pinpointed additional alarming trends:

“Across states in the Southwest, well trained officials are beginning to notice the tattoos of gang members in prisons are being written in Farsi. We have typically seen tattoos in Arabic, but Farsi implies a Persian influence that can likely be traced back to Iran and its proxy army, Hezbollah. These tattoos in Farsi are almost always seen in combination with gang or drug cartel tattoos."

This latest Persian conquest was in turn reiterated at a 2011 hearing about “Hezbollah in Latin America," held by the Committee on Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence. The reiterator, Douglas Farah – currently a national security consultant – spoke not only of Iran’s alleged influence on the skin of arrested gang members but also of factors said to facilitate Hezbollah's involvement in the transnational drug trade, such as “Venezuela’s geographic proximity to West Africa."

To be sure, non-factoids are always useful when constructing robust arguments.

Incidentally, Farah’s testimony includes a different version of the drug tunnel story, this one avoiding references to the Gaza-Egyptian border:

“There is some concern about Venezuela providing the technology for the increasingly sophisticated narco tunnels now being found along the US-Mexican border that strongly resemble the types used by Hezbollah in Lebanon."

Rather than observe reality as it exists, Farah and his ilk operate according to the idea that the more birds that can be hit with one stone – or the more US enemies that can be conflated into a single bird and then hit with a stone – the better. Hence the forging of one malevolent nexus of socialist narco-jihad.

As for what happens when US enemies are revealed to be not so unfriendly, it’s difficult for news of government collaboration with the Sinaloa cartel, for example, to break through the fortified good-versus-bad narrative behind which the country exists.

But seeing as the US-prescribed drug war in Latin America has so often entailed the intimidation and punishment of civilian populations for political purposes – while over 60,000 people have been killed in Mexico since 2006 as a result of supposed anti-drug operations there – it seems that there may indeed be a better-qualified contender than Hezbollah for the role of narco-terrorist.

Belén Fernández is the author of The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work, published by Verso. She is a contributing editor at Jacobin magazine.

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