Let’s recognize a free Palestine and look homeward America…

May 19, 2011

For my part, I would be pleased if our president concentrated more on domestic issues, such as how to pay off the national debt and to eliminate deficit spending, and of course to get the work force back to work. But since he seems interested in foreign relations at the moment, I applaud his call in a speech on the Middle East today for the creation once and for all of an independent Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 borders.

I’m not as up on the history as I should be, but I am certainly well aware of the Six-Day War back in 1967. I was a senior in high school then, and it being in June, I was just about out of school. I don’t think many of my classmates were interested in this sort of thing, but I recall at least one of my social studies teachers was. He was obviously pro-Israeli (I think he was Jewish), and I think based on the comments he made and the tone of the news reports I heard, the Israelis were the good guys and those dirty nasty Arabs were the bad guys. Well, in reality there is/was probably plenty of blame to go around. My quick internet research tells me that both sides were expecting war and troops from each side, the (Israelis and the Arabs) were massing on the borders. Both sides initially claimed the other side attacked first, but in the end, Israel admitted it made a pre-emptive air attack.

The Arabs had wanted (and still do) to eliminate the modern state of Israel, created in 1949 with the support of the United States and Western European governments over guilt and/or sympathy over the Holocaust (the murder of some 6 million Jews — along with assorted Gypsies and others, by the Nazis of Germany). But in the end, instead of being eliminated, Israel took over some new territory as the result of its pre-emptive attack and subsequent victory in the Six-Day War.

Well right there, that should not have been allowed. Israel should have been pressured by the western powers, upon whom it depends ultimately for survival in a hostile land, to cede back the overtaken territories. I wish after all these years the western powers, to include the United States, most notably, would simply demand that Israel recognize a fully-independent state of Palestine, based on pre-1967 borders, and at the same time let the Arabs know that Israel will continue to be a reality, so get used to it.

On a related subject, while I think the Libya intervention (remember that?) was a mistake, now that we are in it (by our support), let’s get Gaddafi and then let the Libyans do what they will with their own country, even if they have to fight among themselves to sort it out. Bin Laden is gone, and he was not in Afghanistan (surprise, surprise), and most or all of Al Qaeda is said to be out of that nation and the Taliban there are not as hot on Al Qaeda as they once were some experts say (they don‘t want to go the way of Bin Laden). So let’s hand that nation back to the people there and let them take care of things as they have for centuries in their tribal fashion.

Let’s say good riddance to out false friend Pakistan. No more money to them. (And really, if I understand it right, most of the so-called aid that goes to them is military and is really just a boon for the armaments industry.)

And let’s ignore Iran already. We should (this is something I always assert and will not stop now) secretly send Iran a message that we will stay out of its affairs but we will not tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran. Same with Pakistan and North Korea. These nations cannot be trusted. And, in fact, the world does not need any new members of the nuclear weapons club.

I wish all the best in the so-called Arab Spring democracy movement. But that is their business and who is to say their version of democracy will be like ours? It’s not as sexy or glamorous, but the United States would do better to refurbish its relations with the nations of its own hemisphere. I’m not aware of any particular problems with Canada, but I do know that Mexico, a major commercial trading partner, is in the throes of a catastrophic drug war that threatens civil society there and here as well and that the U.S. is partly responsible in that the drugs come north because of the market here and contraband weapons from the U.S. go south .

And we would do well to strengthen relations with the nations of Central and South America.

Look homeward America!

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Are we all oblivious to what is happening on our own border and south of it while our government wastes its efforts in the Middle East?

November 26, 2010

I know the Mexican Drug War is real and I know the U.S./Mexico border can be a dangerous place, but if I had not read about the whole thing I would be oblivious to it while I was on the border several times recently.

I’m not complaining. I don’t want to experience it.

But it is strange. In my job as a long-haul truck driver, hauling a lot of produce, I often take loads down to the border for transfer south into the Mexican interior. I make these drops right on the border. In fact, one place I go to has me park to wait for an open dock door right on the actual border itself. I back my truck up to the fence that separates the two nations.

Sometimes I arrive in the dark of night before the places even open. When I think about the drug wars and the wanton violence associated with them and the fact that innocent people, thousands of them, sometimes even north of the border, get caught up in the drug war violence, it makes me a little apprehensive.

But I am not really scared or highly nervous because fortunately for me things have always been terribly calm on my trips to the border.

Actually, the only time I ever had a somewhat nervous encounter was I think in the late 90s when I was still relatively new to the trucking job and before the current drug war got under way (the drug war, not drug smuggling, which has a longer history).

I had picked up a load of potatoes in northern New Mexico and was instructed by dispatch to meet some folks at the border, just south of San Diego. When I got to the place I was instructed to go it was dark and I could not see well. No one was around and there were no buildings, just an empty field. And I was right on the border. I could see the fence.

Then I heard voices and saw some light in the distance and some trucks. So I drove over to it all. I told someone who I was and what I had and asked them if I was at the right place. No one spoke much English as I recall, but they did indicate I was at the right place. I had been told by my dispatcher that I was to pay them a specific amount of money for them to transfer the load from my trailer to one of theirs. I forget the exact figure, but I will say $80. I had that much in cash on me from wired money through my company and maybe a little more of my own personal money. When I double checked with one of the men there on how much I was to pay them, he named that figure ,$80, but added that I would have to pay each unloader extra money.

I was a little nervous, but I was not about to be robbed. So I said, no, I was instructed to pay $80 and that it is it. I told them that was all the money I had.

The man just shook his head. It was a standoff.

But in a while a big car drove up. From out of a back seat a man stepped out. He had the typical thin mustache many Latin men wear, and he was wearing a kind of Mexican western (as in cowboy) cut and designed suit and wore dark glasses (and this in the middle of the night).

“I understand you have a problem,” he said to me.

Now I was a bit more nervous, to say the least.

“No, I don’t have a problem,” I said. “It’s just that I was told by my dispatch that I was to pay only $80 and that is all I have.”

He looked at me with a serious expression for a moment and then said:

“Okay, I’ll take care of it.”

And that was it.

More recently, only a few weeks or a couple of months ago, I arrived down near the border in the town of Nogales, Arizona, again late at night. I could not find the warehouse at which I was supposed to unload the next morning. I spotted a man coming out of a warehouse and asked him directions. He was just getting off work, he said. He said he thought the place I was looking for was just down the street back from the way I had come. Then he offered to give me a ride in his SUV and go down there and check the address so that I would not have to go to the trouble to turn my rig around on the narrow street for nothing.

He seemed innocent enough, but I was a little apprehensive, this being on the border. But I did and it was the place and he brought me back to my truck safe and sound and I thanked him and he told me no problem.

Just a couple or so days ago I delivered a load down at the border. I showed up just before my appointment time and had the luck that the receiver showed up at the same time in his car and he took my paper work and not long after that I was unloaded and gone. Nice people, I thought — better than the next previous time when I spent 12 hours waiting without any logical explanation — but that’s normal for trucking anywhere.

Anyway, I’m glad we have this legitimate trade with Mexico in produce — it helps me make a living. Some might be surprised or at least interested to know that not only does produce (a lot of it) flow north out of Mexico, the U.S. ships a lot down to Mexico. I deliver apples and pears out of Oregon and Washington state to the border.

Mexico is a major trading partner to the United States for all types of goods and services. Mexican labor, the illegal alien controversy aside, is vital to our economy north of the border. We have close cultural ties with Mexico, with the Hispanic population and influence so abundant north of the border.

The bribe, the payoff, the favoritism to friends, is often the way business is done in the Hispanic culture (although they do not necessarily have a total lock on that method). But I have also noticed that Mexicans by and large are hard workers — that is one reason they are so much in demand.

At any rate, when I read about the violence south of the border (with some spilling over north of the border) due to the drug war, with the bodies in the streets, birthday parties being shot up, and innocents along with government officials being murdered, I question why our own government is not more concerned about peace in our own neighborhood than things halfway around the world.

It is estimated that some 28,228 people, again many of them totally innocent of the goings on in the war between the drug cartels, and the cartels’ war with authorities, have been killed since 2007.

Having a real job (beyond this blog) I must tend to, I am just now trying to research what this drug war is all about, but as I understand it, things got under way when due to the loss of power by Colombian cartels with the arrest of some of their leaders and the loss of the PRI political party Mexico, who had deals with the cartels, a new rivalry for control of the drug trade was set off in Mexico.

The insatiable demand for drugs in the U.S. creates the market for the illicit trade and the violence south of the border is augmented by the flow of illegal weapons from the U.S. to Mexico. Weapons can be purchased legally in the U. S. but are prohibited by Mexican law. Signs at the border warn you that guns are illegal in Mexico. And I guess that kind of serves to prove the point of gun rights supporters north of the border who are fond of saying: “when you make it criminal to have guns, only criminals will have guns”.

Adding to the problem, the corruption in Mexico’s government at all levels hampers the effort against the cartels.

Back when the old PRI party was in complete control in Mexico, although it was corrupt, it kept a check on things, taking its own payoffs from the cartels to look the other way. But when a new, non-PRI president took control and vowed to fight the cartels all hell broke loose, as I understand it, although I do not mean to suggest that the war would not be taking place if the government simply cooperated. There was already an inter-cartel war that was affecting everyone in and out of the cartels themselves.

I imagine a major factor in all this strife is the lack of a strong middle class in Mexico (although there is more of one than their used to be, as I understand things). There is a lack of opportunity in Mexico which causes people to turn to the drug trade or to become illegal aliens north of the border.

At the same time, the middle class in the United States is shrinking due to economic upheaval and the fact that corporate fat cats control our government with their unlimited payoffs to politicians and the fact that Washington elites, no mater what their supposed ideology, seem to be more comfortable being around and serving the interests of economic elites than the common man (example: Obama promising to help the poor and middle class but falling all over himself to bail out the fat cat bankers). We only have to look south to see what the eventual consequences of this could be.

The Mexican Drug War and its causes and the possible solutions to it need to be addressed.

We would do better to take care of things in our own neighborhood than halfway around the world.

It should not really be beyond imagination that with our own economic crisis in the U.S. and the continued erosion of our own middle class, this ongoing drug war might consume much of the North American continent.

While we fight a war for questionable reasons in the Middle East with no identifiable things to be gained, our own security deteriorates here at home.


South of the Border Down Mexico Way more important than Afghanistan or Iraq…

March 15, 2010

One of the biggest threats to the security of the United States is not in Afghanistan or Iraq; It’s on the southern border of the U.S. itself.

Mexico is essentially a failed state. No one is safe from the violence of the drug cartels.

I’m surprised American tourists even go there anymore. Tourists have been caught in the crossfire and killed and injured.

In the latest incident, two American consulate employees and a spouse were gunned down, apparently by drug gang gunmen.

One couple had their seven-month-old child in the backseat. The incident happened in broad daylight in the border town of Juarez, just accross the border from El Paso, Texas. The mother was an employee at the consulate and her husband worked at the jail in El Paso. They were shot dead in sight of the bridge over the Rio Grande that separates the two nations at that point. The woman was said to be pregnant. In another incident just previous to that the body of a consulate employee was found in a car, his body riddled with bullets of the same type of automatic weapon used in other drug murders.

In the ongoing drug war thousands of people, many of them no more than innocent bystanders, have been killed and maimed and tortured.

Some of this violence extends into the United States. And the reach of the Mexican drug cartels extends way beyond the border and well into interior of the U.S.

In Mexico police of the various law enforcement agencies there have been killed, from the lowest level to the highest level, and high government officials have been victims too.

To add to the problem, Mexican law enforcement and the government itself is riddled with corruption. Of course this has been the case throughout the history of Mexico. But it has gotten to a point where it is no longer a nagging problem or even a joke, but instead a crisis that not only threatens the existence of Mexico but the security of the U.S.

From all reports, Mexico’s current president, El Senor Felipe Calderon, is doing his best to clean up the problem. And that may be exactly what is behind the major escalation in the ongoing drug war. The cartels are fighting back — and at present they seem to have the upper hand, intimidating the citizenry and government officials and law enforcement.

Some 2,500 people died in Juarez alone last year in the violence attributed to the drug war.

For my part, I believe the U.S. would do better to pay more attention to what is happening on its own border rather than expending so much blood and treasure in the sands of the Middle East.

We need oil out of the Middle East. But oil, as valuable as it is, is worth nothing unless it can be sold. As long as the U.S. can buy oil there I don’t see why it should be of particular concern who runs the governments there. I realize that there are forces — Al Qaeda — that could (and have to some extent) take control there and make things rough for the U.S., but that is the way of the world and that problem can be dealt with when need be. You really don’t want to mess around too much with a super power (the U.S.).

But the violence in Mexico is too close to home and is already spilling over into the U.S.

Providing that President Calderon is sincere in his efforts, and I have no reason to believe otherwise, the U.S. should help him in any way feasible.

And the U.S. military should be on the alert to the threat from this nation’s immediate south.

Now with all this danger in mind, I have to note that in the past week or so I was down at the border myself and felt as safe as I would anywhere. As a truck driver I delivered a load for transshipment into Mexico at the border town of Nogales, Az.

I even slept over night in my truck there in a darkened warehouse district and things were as peaceful as could be. The people there, primarily Hispanic, were as friendly and hospitable as can be. It is not Hispanics that are the problem. It is the drug cartels — they threaten all law abiding folks.

However, I will also say that from my reading and observation, the culture south of the border, the paternalistic society, with its custom of using bribes in every facet of business and daily life, and the lack of a large middle class (although it is growing) is a large part of the problem.

I think maybe that after all these years in a society where it has been so hard to rise above poverty and where the wealth has been so tightly concentrated, some elements are striking back, making millions or billions of dollars in the illicit drug trade. That of course is not an excuse, just an observation.

As we all know, illegal guns are shipped from the U.S. into Mexico and the drugs flow north — that is the drug trade.

More emphasis needs to be put on stopping the flow of those weapons, although, then again, as long as there is a market for drugs north of the border, I‘m sure they could get weapons from somewhere.

(And in any ongoing violent struggle or insurrection, whether it be in Mexico or Afghanistan, don’t you always wonder where all that firepower comes from? )

I would not advocate fighting another Mexican-American war — the U.S. doesn’t need another nation to take over and try to re-make in its own image.

But foreign policy should concentrate more on matters closer to home.

P.s.

The Mexican people are our friends. Many of our citizens came from there and have relatives there. And Mexico is vital to our economy. It is our largest trading partner. Heck, much of my income depends upon that trade. I’m a lot more concerned about Mexico than Afghanistan or Iraq.

P.s. P.s.

And I wish I did not repeat myself so much. I think I posted a blog quite similar to this months ago. But things don’t really change, except for getting worse, it seems.