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Fmr. AG Barr calls for US military to fight Mexico’s ‘terrorist’ drug cartels

Attorney General Bill Barr and FBI Deputy Director Bowdich at press conference announcing charges against 4 Chinese military hackers on Feb. 10, 2020. (U.S. Department of Justice/Released)
March 08, 2023

Former Attorney General Bill Barr published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on March 2, sharply highlighting the massive American casualties caused by illicit drug trade.

The op-ed opens with a strongly-worded call for the United States to take immediate action on “narco-terrorist cartels,” pointing to a joint resolution proposed by Republicans that would allow President Joe Biden to employ military forces as an avenue of defense.

“America can no longer tolerate narco-terrorist cartels. Operating from havens in Mexico, their production of deadly drugs on an industrial scale is flooding our country with this poison. The time is long past to deal with this outrage decisively,” Barr wrote.

The Authorization for the use of Military Force to Combat, Attack, Resist, Target, Eliminate, and Limit Influence Resolution (H.J.Res.18-AUMF CARTEL Influence Resolution) was introduced in Congress in January by Representatives Michael Waltz (R-FL) and Dan Crenshaw (R-TX).

The bill specifically targets cartels that import fentanyl or fentanyl-related substances, listing nine known cartels: Sinaloa, Jalisco New Generation, Gulf, Los Zetas, Northeast, Juarez, Tijuana,  Beltran-Levya and La Familia Michoacana/Knight Templar.

READ MORE: Rep. Crenshaw introduces bill to use military against Mexican cartels

Barr also cites that over 100,000 Americans have died from drug overdoses related deaths annually, a figure that is confirmed by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), which lists more than 106,000 deaths in the year 2021, an increase of just over 30,000 deaths from the year 2019.

The dramatic increase in illicit drug trade in the U.S. and the resulting increasing death toll has spurned action from government officials and drug enforcement agencies.

On Feb. 23, Secretary of State Andrew Blinken released a statement that the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control was issuing sanctions to the Sinaloa Cartel, as well as six Mexico-based entities, for trade in methamphetamine and fentanyl.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), drug overdoses remain a leading cause of injury and deaths for Americans, with opioid products like fentanyl responsible for the 81.9 percent of overdose deaths in 2021.

The DEA released a report in 2020 that cited most illicit drugs are entering the U.S. through the southern borders, which has become less secure.

Barr called for strict, pointed action against these cartels:

What will it take to defeat the Mexican cartels? First, a far more aggressive American effort inside Mexico than ever before, including a significant U.S. law-enforcement and intelligence presence, as well as select military capabilities. Optimally, the Mexican government will support and participate in this effort, and it is likely to do so once they understand that the U.S. is committed to do whatever is necessary to cripple the cartels, whether or not the Mexican government participates.

Second, the danger cartels pose to the U.S. requires that we confront them primarily as national-security threats, not a law-enforcement matter. These narco-terrorist groups are more like ISIS than like the American mafia. Case-by-case prosecution of individuals can be a part of an overall effort, but the only way to defeat them is to use every tool at our disposal inside Mexico. Merely designating the cartels as terrorist groups will do nothing by itself. The real question is whether we are willing to go after them as we would a terrorist group.