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April 28, 2010

Arizona Backdraft (v1)

A week has now passed since the passage and signing of the most stringent anti-illegal immigration law in the country, Arizona SB1070. With outcries of racial profiling and unconstitutional, Republicans and Democrats alike are lining up in this Congressional election year to deal with this lightening rod issue. As expected, those who have not responded to the need to defend our border from the swarm of "undocumented" workers across the Southern Border, are now clamoring to position themselves in opposition. But do they really understand what it is that they oppose?

For the moment, put aside the question of the Constitutionality of the new Arizona law and quell the fears over racial profiling (just for the moment). When in recent memory has the question of illegal immigrants been so top-of-mind on the airwaves and on the front pages of American newspapers.

There are terrible truths. Cheap labor is driving businesses to hire the cheap labor of illegal immigrants. The dangers of crossing the border illegally are recounted often enough to know that people lie of starvation and dehydration. At the same time, the porous border is open to people who are "other than Mexicans." We know of many stories of people from Middle Eastern countries being able to cross into this country without proper procedure.

It is easier to politicize this issue by claiming that it is unconstitutional or that is promotes racial profiling. However, what about the facts of the situation?

This is a lightening rod issue that it will probably eventually be heard in the SCOTUS. Governor Brewer said in this article

"Border-related violence and crime due to illegal immigration are critically important issues to the people of our state," she said on Friday after signing the immigration bill. "We cannot sacrifice our safety to the murderous greed of drug cartels. We cannot stand idly by as drop houses, kidnappings and violence compromise our quality of life." The absolute fact is that people are screaming that it isn't Constitutional. While I am not a lawyer or expert in any way in the Constitution, as far as I know, the "exercise of concurrent power" has never been applied to immigration. One of the questions is whether the Constitution allows for a state to reform immigration on its own under the same premise as levying taxes. Some estimates peg the illegal population at 9% of all people living in Arizona.

Those who are shouting "racial profiling" are the ones who fear being profiled. Actually, as stated in the Declaration of Independence, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." All of that does not enable illegal activity.

All it takes is a drivers' license or a verifiably valid social security card.

Until this Arizona bill was passed, the policy in many municipalities was to look the other way when it came to an illegal immigrant UNTIL that individual committed another crime. It actually appears that those most outspoken about the Arizona immigration law are what are known as "sanctuary cities.

There is a lot more to be written about Arizona SB1070, including the fact that a number of other states including Utah, Colorado, Texas, Ohio are considering similar actions. In the coming weeks we will also see how the Administration deals with the Arizona legislation that it characterizes as a shortcut that will merely inflame the immigration debate "instead of solving the problem.''

Perhaps what is being missed here is that Arizona and other border states may be acting in the best interests of their citizens. That the federal government is uncomfortable in this exercise of power to govern locally is interesting in itself. That Mexico is telling its citizens to not travel to the US is among the wonderful ironies of national policy and world politics.

At the bottom line, it is essential to understand that in reality the "Arizona Problem" is a result of more than a decade of inaction regarding US border security. Policy setting for immigration was never "PC." What we're watching now is the exercise of states rights & concurrent exercise of power to push the federal government to action. The question then is, "what action will the federal government take?" Will it lean toward stronger security of the border or "forgiveness" and "amnesty" for those already here illegally?

April 23, 2010

Its Happening in Arizona

The very recent passage of Arizona Senate Bill 1070 (SB1070) is raising the emotions of pro-immigration activists because of the appearance of profiling. Yet, without being a legal or Constitutional expert, it seems that the bill is an exercise of state's rights to enforce a law that is also part of the federal law enforcement tool kit. This comes under the premise of the exercise of concurrent powers and whether the States have any rights over the federal government when it comes to immigration.

Today, the Governor of Arizona faces a deadline on what could be a watershed piece of legislation that would make it a crime under state law to be in the country illegally

A Saturday deadline for Brewer, a Republican, to act on the bill was set on Monday when the legislation arrived on her desk. She can sign, veto or allow it to become law without her signature. Civil rights activists have said the bill would lead to racial profiling and deter Hispanics from reporting crimes. Hundreds of Hispanics protested the legislation at the State Capitol complex on Thursday.

It has often been argued that among the roles of the federal government are that of taxation, building highways and the defense of the Nation. It also has the power to protect the security of our international borders and the control of immigration into the United States. But the question now being raised by the passage of this bill in Arizona, a border state in the 21st Century sense of the term, is whether the States now have the right to identify and prosecute (and have deported) any person found to be an illegal immigrant. The bill enables Arizona police to detain anyone on "reasonable suspicion" if they aren't carrying " valid drivers' license or other form of identity papers"

Some see this as racial profiling while others see this as a way to force the issue of enforcement of existing measures to stem the flow of illegal immigration. It would be very interesting to see Governor Brewer sign the bill into law and watch the Constitutional challenges as they go to the Supreme Court, and as other states consider following suit. So much depends on where you live. If you're in a border state and you have at least the illusion that illegal immigrants are committing crimes in addition to being in this country illegally, Arizona Senate Bill 1070 (SB1070) is not only an issue of public safety, but also one of State's Rights.

April 21, 2010

From the Holiday Inn (Monterrey Mexico)

Nothing too overwhelming here unless you think that as many as 50 masked gunmen raiding the lobby of the Holiday Inn in Monterrey Mexico and abducting four guests and potentially three more staff members is inconsequential.

Monterrey used to be known as the industrial center of Mexico, and the location of a number of universities including the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education.

"Unchecked, violence and instability could cause corporations to rethink their business strategy of locating in Mexico," he said at a dinner of the Monterrey Chapter of the American Chamber of Commerce in Mexico..."Monterrey used to be so dynamic that there was a joke that the official bird was the building crane," Mr. Grayson said. "Now, there's the beginnings of an exodus and it's 'last one out, turn out the lights.' "

No kidding.

April 19, 2010

Barak's Bridge To Barack

So if the Obama administration wants a new Israeli prime minister, who are they eying? And, conversely, who is eying the Obama administration for nods of support? Prepare to learn at least one answer.

The Obama administration's snubbing and outright unseemly disrespect to Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has been well documented. Regarding an apparently planned and arranged ambush involving Turkey and Egypt during the president's nuclear summit, I asked on behalf of the Israelis, "Et Tu, America?"

While Israel exposed and avoided the intended hostile ambush centered around its ambiguous nuclear deterrent, the hostility continues unabated, much of it from the Obama administration.

This lead me to expand on the subject and conclude: The Obama administration is seeking to discredit Netanyahu both within American and Israeli audiences. The aim, it would appear, can only be to weaken him to the point that Israelis begin calls for a new election and select someone that the Obama administration sees eye to eye with on their version of the peace process.

Who might that be? Try Ehud Barak, part of Israel's political left wing Labor Party and a Netanyahu cabinet choice that had that squarely in mind. Ehud Barak beat Netanyahu and won the Israeli prime ministership in 1999, only to lose it to Ariel Sharon in 2001. This puzzle piece begins to fit very nicely with the well-founded theory above.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said there is no reason for a war to break out this summer, but Israel must recognize that the world will not put up with decades more of Israeli rule over the Palestinian people.

In a Memorial Day interview with Israel Radio on Monday morning, Barak said "there is no other way, whether you like it or not, than to let (the Palestinians) rule themselves."

Barak said Israel has enough power and security to allow for a two-state solution, and if such a solution should fail, the world will know that it was not Israel's fault.

In addition, Barak told Israel Radio that the recent alienation from America is harmful to Israel, and must be stopped. Growing gaps with the United States, Barak explained, can be narrowed by embarking on a peace initiative that tackles all the big issues that divide Israelis and Palestinians. [Emphasis added.]

It should not be lost on readers that it was Ehud Barak who campaigned on and eventually enacted the Israeli withdrawal from Southern Lebanon, now dominated exclusively the Hizballah terrorist group. Keep that in context of his above quotes.

Is this the gentle beginning of the domestic Israeli move on Netanyahu by the country's political left? The Obama administration constructed the "gaps," and Ehud Barak is appearing to begin positioning himself as the bridge. The "Netanyahu Crossing" must be closed, the logic will more directly begin to spell out, in favor of "Barak's Bridge to Barack." Others will likely test the waters seeking support and ultimately unofficial endorsement from the American administration. But for now, Ehud Barak is the front runner.

During the campaign, Candidate Obama relentlessly derided the Bush administration's foreign policy as "arrogant" and "meddling." Such criticism was always hollow, just like wails against "special interests" in Washington. The term is always used when the speaker has presented specific "special interests" he believes the audience dislikes. Said speaker's own "special interests" are, of course, something else entirely.

So too evidence of this administration's own "arrogant" and "meddling" foreign policy moves. They're really not that. They're something else. Which is about like saying you're drinking ale, not "beer." In order to buy into the mess, you've certainly got to be drinking something.

Whether it's one man's ale or another man's beer, we should hope that Israelis abstain entirely.

Mistrust of the Government

In news that is not too surprising a new poll by the Pew Research Center shows that only 22% of the population trusts the government to do what is right. Of course, given recent discussions both here and in public, none of this is shocking.

Economic uncertainty, a highly partisan environment and overwhelming discontent with Congress and elected officials were all factors contributing to the current wave of public distrust, the report said.

The real problem is that this is a continuing trend that sees "trust" in the government steadily declining since the days of Eisenhower when nearly ¾ of the American public trusted government. And while it is a personal opinion, what we now see is the end result of a decade of the polarization of America. Witness what is happening (or has happened) in this country. It isn't just the politicization of issues, but the social implications of some of the things that have occurred in this country over the last few years. America has become polarized beyond all comprehension to those who during the 1960's and 1970's worked for freedom and the right to protest.

Labels like Democratic or Republican or liberal or conservative aren't the issue as much as it is that the extremes appear to be the leading edge of American thinking. While it probably started long before the Presidential election of 2000, the political landscape of this country has changed because people who might never have had an outspoken political position in their lives suddenly had greater access to the Internet, and therefore to discussion groups where it is not too hard to find like-minded people who share one's strongly held beliefs, however misguided or slanted they might be. Political discussion groups have proliferated the Internet.

Thus, this is a country divided, not by race, not by religion, not by income, but by extreme ideology. In the year 2000 it became fashionable to use labels as weapons. So the "staunch conservative" right said the word "liberal" with all of the venom that could be mustered as though it was a dirty word instead of an honored political philosophy. Today, the word "liberal" has moved so far to the left that people who might have grown up being "anti-war" and admiring Jacob Javitts (R-L Senator from New York), John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy (D Senator from New York), or Al Lowenstein (D-L, Rep. From NY) and many others could not possibly find a place in any group that called itself "liberal" in today's use of the word.

Disagreement with public policy is now branded as racist and un-American because of who we elected as President and because the levels of discontent are so high and so disparate across social groups and geography. Indeed, we are a country divided, not by race, not by religion, not by income, but by extreme ideology. Even if slightly out of context, we should remember the words of Abraham Lincoln: "A house divided against itself cannot stand."

April 18, 2010

The "Other" Side of the Mexican Border

For all of the articles written here about the dangers and security threats of the Mexican border and the on-going drug wars, there is another side of the issue.

Dozens of families have fled the Mexican side of the border to seek asylum in the United States. Some seek political refuge because of the positions they have occupied in the government or in business. Others are "simply" leaving because they are caught in the middle of the violence of the drug wars raging in Mexico, and the fact that adults and children alike are tired and traumatized by the overwhelming brutality of the cartels as they battle for dominance of the drug trade.

The killing is often for no reason other than witnessing things that occur in the streets. Children of families involved in the drug trade have been threatened, even as they now live in the United States. But the exodus is nothing but striking in some areas.

In El Paso alone, the police estimate that at least 30,000 Mexicans have moved across the border in the past two years because of the violence in Juárez and the river towns to the southeast. So many people have left El Porvenir and nearby Guadalupe Bravos that the two resemble ghost towns, former residents say.

Actual grants of asylum are few and far between with only 183 requests for asylum being granted of over 9000 applications by U.S. immigration judges since 2007.

There is a humanitarian side of the Mexican drug wars and our border security. But it could easily be argued that the Mexican government is doing little to quell the violence even after the last years of President Calderone's deployment of force to fight the cartels.

It is argued by some that American's romance with illegal narcotics and the availability of guns and ammunition are fueling the drug wars. However, no matter how valid that might be, there is also no doubt that the plight of the Mexican citizens is functionally a problem caused by the government and by the corruption that plagues the country.

Of course, there are others like an unarmed man driving a pick-up truck an unarmed man who was shot after he tried to avoid being sent to a secondary check point at San Ysidro crossing.

Domestic Terrorism - "America Unhinged?"

American history is filled with protests and acts against the government. It is our heritage. Starting with the first protests against the King of England in the 1770's and the original Boston Tea Party, Americans have established and exercised their rights to speak out against what they've seen as injustice. Tom Paine's treatise, "Common Sense," spoke to the people, questioning the authority of the British government to rule from afar and openly posed the concept of independence from Great Britain. From those foundations of protest and outcry grew a great Nation.

Today we face a new era of protest. Ironically, the Tea Party Movement, a loosely linked group of citizens speaking out against large government and taxes, is by some, being branded as everything from troublemaking radicals to racists while protesting big government and high taxes. Walking a thinly defined line, former President Clinton raised an uncomfortable parallel between the Tea Party Movement and the unsettled domestic environment that he implied led to the McVeigh-Nichols attack on the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City fifteen years ago.

"This Tea Party movement can be a healthy thing if they're making us justify every penny of taxes we raised and every dollar of public money we spend," Clinton said. "But when you get mad, sometimes you wind up producing exactly the reverse result of what you say you are for."

Terry McVeigh was a militia sympathizer and sought revenge for the earlier FBI confrontation with David Koresh's Branch Davidans in Waco Texas. Suggesting that the Tea Party Movement might lead to another Oklahoma City bombing however, is at best, a premature concern even if it is true that anti-tax and large government protests could lead to civil unrest. At least for now the Tea Party Movement is a political one, seeking to position candidates for local, state and national office who are aligned with and share the anti-tax/large government sentiments.

We have a problem. There have been threats against Congressmen. There are white supremacists, "constitutionalists," tax protesters and religious soldiers determined to kill people to uphold "Christian" values. This problem has been building for some time, however. There is high unemployment, while others find themselves following the rules and paying their bills, yet watch as people who are defaulting on their mortgages and facing foreclosure are being bailed out. Large companies on the brink of failure and bankruptcy have been bailed out by the government. And there is a proliferation of Internet sites that spew hate and unsubstantiated opinion to feed the biases of the masses of people who seek answers or reinforcement for their own slanted ideas. To attribute these protests solely to who is the President of the U.S. is at best, incomplete logic.

The very real problem though, as Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post writes, is that while nearly all people will protest at the ballot boxes in November, there is a danger that the rhetoric of Tea Party Protest could lead one individual to take a radical action. Is there a Joe Stack out there who could be moved to a greater evil because of words heard on the radio or read on the Internet?

Earlier this week the FBI released information regarding a new threat of domestic terrorism, "Sovereign Citizens Movement." Sovereign Citizens are people who believe that they are sovereign from the government of the United States, despite the fact that they live within our borders. The result is that they believe that they do not have to answer to any government authority, court, tax, motor vehicle department or law enforcement.

According to the FBI, "Sovereign citizens" should not be confused with militia movements. While guns are a part of their anti-government, anti-tax agendas, they are not the focus of their movement. However, that view would be different from that of the ADL . According to the ADL, the "sovereign citizens" movement had its origins in the 1970's and has in the past resorted to Paper Terrorism.

The "sovereign citizen" movement is a loosely organized collection of groups and individuals who have adopted a right-wing anarchist ideology originating in the theories of a group called the Posse Comitatus in the 1970s. Its adherents believe that virtually all existing government in the United States is illegitimate and they seek to "restore" an idealized, minimalist government that never actually existed. To this end, sovereign citizens wage war against the government and other forms of authority using "paper terrorism" harassment and intimidation tactics, and occasionally resorting to violence.

The Guardians of the Free Republics have been associated with the sovereign citizen movement.

"Sovereign citizen extremists are individuals who reject all forms of government authority and believe they are emancipated from the responsibilities with being a U.S. citizen," the FBI told the Des Moines Register. "These extremists advocate for their views through the use, support and facilitation of violence or other illegal conduct." The sovereign-citizen movement doesn't necessarily follow political party lines. Stack, for example, criticized President Bush in his antigovernment screed published before his death. The Guardians of the Free Republics website proclaims a "Restore American Plan" that includes a "bold achievable strategy for behind-the-scenes peaceful reconstruction of the de jure institutions of government without controversy, violence or civil war."
One thing is pretty clear. While the Tea Party Movement is demographically narrow, it is also adamant that the system isn't working, at least from their view. Peaceful protest of government policies, programs and positions is our right and part of our heritage. Characterizing protest as radical or dangerous delegitimizes the essence of any valid message of dissent. Yet, the concern over violence is valid. Again, we may well be facing a long hot summer of discontent with the culmination coming in November when the ballot box might speak volumes about the sentiments of the American citizenry.

April 16, 2010

Our Leaky Border

Even though immigrant rights activist Salvador Reza protested the action as a publicity ploy to coincide with political announcements in Arizona, consider that the raids on shuttle companies arrested 47 people running shuttle van companies moving illegals across the border.

The organization targeted in the raids is accused of illegally transporting more than 80,000 immigrants into the U.S. in the past 10 years. They brought daily van loads of undocumented migrants into the country, using Phoenix as a primary hub.

Using phony bus tickets and fake border crossing cards, the criminal human trafficking organization charged people as little as $700 to travel to the US.

On March 27th, Arizona rancher Rob Krenz was murdered on his property in Arizona by a suspected illegal immigrant.

Last night's local news featured video tapes from hidden cameras on the border taken over the last few months. The latest is shown here. These videos tell a story and show how easy it is for illegals to cross the border on foot.

Indeed, we have a problem. Of course, it seems that a new euphemism has been created, Mexicans living abroad, and there are movements afoot to stop immigrant arrests and deportations.

"We clearly state that Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano has an anti-immigrant history as Governor of Arizona and that she has worsened the circumstances of the undocumented worker," stated Arango.
It's interesting how opinions of Secretary Napolitano differ depending on which side of the border you're on.

April 14, 2010

Facial Recognition Security System to be Deployed in Mexico

Almost unnoticed, last week a company was awarded an $8 million contract to install a "surveillance monitoring" system in Mexico (no apparent indication of source of the contract in the press release).

To speed their installation of the pilot program, the company, Safeguard Security Holdings is partnering with a large Mexican cable television provider and will train Mexican Security/Police Officials on how to use the system. Unclear what this system is beyond a series of IP cameras. But the company President did say:

"The system is designed for general security surveillance in city-wide public areas with certain locations equipped with facial recognition technology."

"Train Mexican Security and police officials"?

?Fox/Hen House?

April 13, 2010

Et Tu, America? Abandoning Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancelled his trip to Washington and, effectively, his participation in President Obama's nuclear security summit. Why? In order to avoid a political "ambush" from Turkey and Egypt. The idea is to force Israel to disarm itself and divest of its nuclear capability, accepting the disingenuous notion of a "nuclear-free Middle East" among Arab states.

But answering why Netanyahu pulled out of Obama's nuclear security summit is of far, far less import than answering why he felt the need in the first place. Noah Pollack asked precisely that at Commentary.

But there is an important follow-up question that is of far greater consequence: why do Egypt and Turkey, both American allies, feel at liberty to show up in Washington D.C. at a conference organized by the U.S. president and dump on one of America's closest allies?

There have been many published reports that Egypt is denying that it ever intended to "ambush" Israel over its nuclear deterrent. But burried deep into this Reuters report is a stark admission from Turkey that, indeed, the rout was on.

But the Foreign Ministry in Ankara confirmed that Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who has sharply escalated criticism of Israel since last year's Gaza war, would demand at the summit that [Israel] disarm as part of a nuclear-free Middle East.

And the rout may still well be on, but with the daggers thrown at a lower level Israeli representative now attending in Netanyahu's stead.

Without doubt, the question of why American allies Turkey and Egypt feel comfortable in doing this to one of our (historically) closest allies in the presence of the President of the United States is, disturbingly, rhetorical. For the answer lies in our president's own rhetoric.

His "strategic nuclear vision" as delineated and expressed in this week's Nuclear Posture Review is one in which American nuclear capabilities are wound down and eventually eliminated. The new START treaty is grossly favorable to the Russians, who will watch America dismantle no fewer than two hundred launchers while Russia builds more. The Bear is smiling.

But Middle Eastern Arab states are also smiling at President Obama's craftily chosen language. For, in declaring that the United States - as official policy - will not use nuclear weapons to attack a Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty-compliant nation, the smoke signals are clear, especially in the context of the rash of ire doled out by the Obama administration to the Israelis on a range of issues. The signal is that, with an American president who shares their ier toward Israel and, importantly, seeks "a world wuithout nuclear weapons," they can wade into Israel over its undeclared nuclear arsenal just as President Obama waded into his own nation's.

Americans commonly and rightly cry out for leadership by example and actions not words. President Obama is indeed leading by example. But it's Turkey, Egypt and the rest of the Arab Middle East states keying off his example.

Never in the short history of modern Israel has it been so truly isolated and alone on the international landscape. Et tu, America?

The "Attack of the Clones"

Showing once again that the terrorists are adaptive (whether of the jihadist or the narco variety), another problem has arisen on the border. According to a report released by DHS in March, drug cartels are using look-alike border patrol vehicles to get passed U.S. Border Patrol agents to smuggle drugs into the United States.

The report, sent by DHS to law enforcement in Webb County, Texas, alerted them to the existence of "a suspected cloned marked Crown Victoria" the same vehicle type used by the agents. This represents a danger to Border Patrol, law enforcement and citizens, especially as threats of violence and assassination increase.

U.S. Representative Ted Poe (R-2nd CD Texas) sees this as another example of how porous our border with Mexico truly is, and calls it America's Third Front. He serves on the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime Terrorism, and Homeland Security and Judiciary's Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security.

"People who say that the violence on the border won't come into the U.S. live in never-never land," he said. "They don't see what's happening now. We should not wait until something tragic happens before we do something about it."

As discussed in February 2009, America is at war, not a War on Drugs, and not the War on Terrorism. We, as our neighbors to the South of the border, are at war with the drug cartels.

April 11, 2010

"Atleast No One was Hurt"

The American Consulate in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico was attacked by "unknown" people this weekend when they tossed an explosive device over the protective wall surrounding the building.

The attack happened Friday night and consulate officials now indicate that it will remain closed indefinitely.

It's a small building surrounded by a metal fence mounted in cement. But that flag flying over it is our flag and it indicates that at least in that small space, it is the United States. Maybe the "small" explosive device was thrown over the fence as a prank. Maybe the incident was a response to the State Department announcement last week that "investor visas" (Mexican citizens wishing to buy businesses or real estate in the United States) had been shortened from the previous 3 to 5 years to one year. Or just maybe, it was a "small warning."

April 7, 2010

Cartels influence in Texas

They are here. Despite all of the denials to the contrary, they are here. "They" are the Mexican drug cartels operating in the visible background of American gangs, both in our prisons and on our streets. They have names like Barrio Azteca, Mexican Mafia; the Texas Syndicate; Tango Blast; Hermandad de Pistoleros Latinos (Brotherhood of Latin Gunmen;) and Raza Unida (People United). They are aligned with the cartels.

The relationships building between Mexico's cartels and Texas gangs are in many ways a natural progression since the Mexican drug cartels took over for the Colombians back in the late 1980s. They began pushing more and more drugs across the U.S.-Mexico border rather than trying to sneak them in from the waterfront edges of the country.

And they did it with U.S.-based gangs.

All told,15,795 gang members have been identified in Texas, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety, which maintains a Web-based database to help police agencies share information. Last year, the system, known as TxGang, was enhanced to add photos of gangsters faces and tattoos.

They operate in North Texas, not just on the border. Earlier this week, two local drug lords who go by the names of "Rica" and "Chato" pled guilty to working with La Familia, the cartel located in Michoacán, Mexico. They were taken in the October 2009 federal Drug Enforcement Administration-led "Project Coronado" along with 100 others.

Maybe even more troubling than all of this is that federal officials acknowledged that Austin Texas, the State Capitol and home to the main campus of the University of Texas, is now a distribution hub for the drug cartels.

The City of Austin Public Safety Commission called upon local leaders of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Austin Police Department to update the city regarding concerns about how the changing dynamics of the drug war in Mexico is affecting the Austin area.

Agent Greg Thrash of the federal DEA indicated that operating in Austin were members of La Familia, the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas. Austin Police Department Commander Chris Noble said that it is estimated that there are more than 2000 gangs members in Austin, a 20% increase versus 2008. Austin Texas is now designated as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.

"What is Austin being used for? We're being used for two things: commanding control and transit and distribution hub. We know that through our investigations and through actual empirical data," Thrash said.

We have a problem. Denial is not the solution. It is, however, a matter of perspective.

Rising Civil Unrest in America

Before things get completely out of hand, it's time to examine what is happening in American society today. And before someone gets the idea that this is "liberal" versus "conservative" or Republican versus Democrat, it is essential that labels alone do not begin to describe the serious danger in which we find ourselves. If you aren't watching, this is a very troubling tendency. It goes beyond Joe Stack and his plane flying into a building housing the IRS in Austin Texas.

Clearly, we have entered a new era in American society. Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post makes the point that the Hutaree cannot be "Christian" because of their intent to murder .

The arrests of members of a Michigan-based "Christian" militia group should convince doubters that there is good reason to worry about right-wing, anti-government extremism -- and potential violence -- in the Age of Obama. I put the word Christian in quotes because anyone who plots to assassinate law enforcement officers, as a federal indictment alleges members of the Hutaree militia did, is no follower of Christ.

But the Hutaree aren't the full story. According to Professor Jeff Addicott, director of the Center for Terrorism Law at the St. Mary's University School of Law in San Antonio, this marks a significant change in the landscape of domestic terrorism. It has been nearly fifteen years since the attacks on the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995.

"This is the first far right wing, anti-government terrorism case since the 1990s. That's at least 15 years," Addicott said.

One of the important questions is whether the Hutaree are a radical right wing militia, a conservative Christian movement or a group of "citizens" calling for change in America? Of course when Brittany Bryant , who is engaged to David Stone Jr., son of the Hutaree's leader , one of the Hutarees arrested in Michigan says, "that if group members had had plans for violence, they would have done it already" it places a cloud of the ominous onto the situation. After all, the Hutaree are accused of threatening use IEDs to kill local law enforcement officers. Like the lady said, they were harmless:

Going after a group like the Hutaree can be dangerous, ABC News consultant and former FBI agent Brad Garrett said. "This crowd tends to be heavily armed and they are all conspiracy theorists that the government is trying to take over," he said. "And so you have to be very careful and cautious when starting arresting people like this because you can walk right into an ambush."

Of course, then you need to consider the Guardian of the Free Republics, a group that compares themselves somehow to Gandhi and mailed ominous letters to governors. They actually sent letters to over 30 governors that in essence told them to "Straighten up and fly right" and without specifically threatening them, the letters clearly concern the F.B.I. who believe that the letters could prompt violence.

The FBI is warning police across the country that an anti-government group's call to remove governors from office could provoke violence. The group called the Guardians of the Free Republics wants to "restore America" by peacefully dismantling parts of the government, according to its Web site. It sent letters to governors demanding they leave office or be removed.

It is pretty hard to misconstrue the intent of "leave office or be removed."

And finally, we are faced with the threats made against Congressman Eric Cantor by Norman LeBoon who has already been declared incompetent to stand trial.

Threats against Congressmen, White supremacists, "constitutionalists," tax protesters and religious soldiers determined to kill people to uphold "Christian" values. We have a problem. Indeed, this is as Eugene Robinson wrote, "The Age of Obama." But it is more than that because some of this has been building for some time. There is high unemployment, while others find themselves following the rules and paying their bills, yet watch as people who are defaulting on their mortgages and facing foreclosure are being bailed out. We are even about two weeks away from the airing of a news special by MSNBC's "The McVeigh Tapes: Confessions of an American Terrorist." In this social environment, while it might be constructive to "understand today's extremists," this could also incite some others to try to replicate what he and Terry Nichols did in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995..

The proliferation of Internet sites that spew hate and unsubstantiated opinion to feed the biases of the masses of people who seek answers or reinforcement for their own slanted ideas has as much to do with this as who is the President of the U.S. Fearfully, we may be facing a long hot summer of discontent in this country.

NOTE: This writing of this article was delayed a few days by the intrusion of the "day job."

April 5, 2010

On Terror Targets: Hard & Soft

Regarding the terror attacks In Pakistan and Iraq in the past 48 hours, a thought on the terrorists' chosen and parallel targets.

I began to succinctly spell this out via Twitter earlier today. You can follow my regularly updated Twitter stream here: Steve Schippert on Twitter.) The stream of thought warrants a bit more elaboration.

In both Iraq and Pakistan, there were two sets of targets: Hard and soft.

The hard targets in Iraq were the embassies of Germany, Egypt and Iran. In Pakistan, it was the US consulate offices in Peshawar. Striking at these targets usually nets smaller terrorist returns in the attacks themselves, though success can be great carnage. It's like a high risk, high reward poker hand. You're probably going to have lost more than gained, but if you gain, you can gain big. The idea behind such attacks on hard targets is to grab international headlines, make a statement of force and, ultimately, effect the policies of the governments targeted. In essence, the targets are hard, the returns on terrorist investment are soft.

The soft targets struck in Pakistan was a large gathering of the secular Awami National Party (ANP) active in the Pakistani government and relatively popular, oddly enough it may seem to some, in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas dominated by the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Reports of anywhere from 30 to 41 killed are published. In Iraq, the soft targets were the homes and families of members of the Iraq Awakening - the anti-al-Qaeda Sunni group rooted in Anbar province that was instrumental to the defeat of al-Qaeda in Iraq and the success of the US surge circa 2007. Assassination teams of terrorists armed with silenced weapons and laser sites made their way through neighborhoods, complete with American uniforms and an English-Arabic speaker posing as a translator telling locals that the "American troops were on a mission." In that mission, the terrorists killed 25, including at least two women and two young girls in the families of the Iraq Awakening members targeted.

When terrorists attack soft targets such as these, they are seeking to intimidate and bring to heel populations where terrorist support simply does not exist. This is how they forge territories within which to operate. This is how al-Qaeda in Iraq dominated central and western Iraq and how the Taliban and al-Qaeda dominate their established lairs in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan.

And attacks on these soft targets is cheaper and far easier to carry out - with chilling effects - than those on hard targets. A single suicide bomber and a vest can rip apart dozens of bodies and strike palpable and understandable fear among a population, bringing them to heel. In essence, the targets are soft, the returns on terrorist investment are quite hard.

So when you see rampant headlines of big things that go boom, know that al-Qaeda and other terrorists are looking for that attention - yours.

Likewise, when you see headlines about assassination squads in neighborhoods or suicide bombers attacking a gathering, know that the principal target audience is not you, but the communities of the brutally slain.

And that's just the way it is.

Tale of Two Terror Attacks In Pakistan

The Pakistani Taliban (Tarik-e-Taliban Pakistan - TTP) have claimed responsibility for today's attack on the US consulate offices in Peshawar that left 6 dead according to the latest reports. Al-Qaeda's Pakistani terrorist allies said US drone attacks on al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban are the cause.

According to reports, the attack was of the bomb and swarm variety, where a truck bomb blasts through the security perimeter and armed gunmen then follow through the breach. But with only six dead, likely all or nearly all from the blast itself, the swarm that followed was of little effect. Whether this was because of the terrorist's ineffectiveness or alert security or both is a matter that is currently being analyzed by counterterrorism officials in the US and in Pakistan. Two of the dead were Pakistani security employees of the US consulate.


The US drone attacks are indeed very effective and often even crippling to the Taliban and al-Qaeda inside Pakistan. It is believed that many of the terrorists have been forced from their comfortable lairs in North and South Waziristan and elsewhere and into cities like Kirachi out of fear of drone attacks. While troubling for Kirachi, Pakistani security forces operate with dominance there, not the terrorists in their Waziristan backyards.

This is why, regardless of terrorist threats and attacks, drone operations should continue without pause or regret. The effectiveness of the "Drone War" has pushed the Taliban and al-Qaeda from their once comfortable lairs, in conjunction with commendable effort on the ground by the Pakistani military - an effort not seen by Pakistan until Pakistan's military leader General Kiyani and CENTCOM commander General David Petraeus had direct meetings and saw eye to eye on the matter at hand.

Peshawar is the gateway city on the edge, lying between the largely Anglicized and civilized majority of Pakistan and the wild west that is the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). It is a hotbed of terrorist activity and has been for decades.

Traveling in Peshawar, shops can be seen flying the black jihadist flag of al-Qaeda. But this is more often than not done by the shop owners for protection against reprisal rather than a belief in the ideology. Fear in Peshawar is deep and real, and al-Qaeda's presence is no mystery. And the city lies at the edge of to spheres of influence - the Pakistani government and terrorists - including al-Qaeda and the Taliban, which have been waging a usually slow-motion insurgency against the government of Pakistan for years.

Western and Pakistani government buildings and personnel in Peshawar are relatively easy targets for al-Qaeda and the Taliban for proximity reasons. Similar attacks deeper into Pakistan proper require much more effort, including more discrete bomb making and enhanced secrecy of planning and execution. The terrorists are capable - as they have demonstrated in the past - but it is a higher hurdle to clear than Peshawar, even in Pakistan. There is that to draw on in the aftermath of the attacks.

The bombing came just hours after another suicide attack deeper in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in Dir. There, a suicide bomber detonated himself amidst a crowd that had gathered for a Awami National Party (ANP) rally. The ANP is a secular party much hated by the Islamists of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. And Dir is an area where Osama bin Laden was once thought to have long taken refuge after fleeing from US forces in Afghanistan. That attack, carried out by the same murderous Islamist animals, had nothing to do with drone attacks and everything to do with killing secularists for being secularists. And it was notably deeper into the tribal areas, not Pakistan proper.

It's also worth mentioning that the same terrorists have again attacked NATO supply convoys making their trek from the Pakistani port city of Kirachi to the forces in Afghanistan.

The al-Qaeda and Taliban terror attacks and threats will continue. But attacks against US installations will continue to prove less fruitful for the terrorists than those directed at the Pakistani people. Look at the cost/benefit for the terrorists in yesterday's attacks in Peshawar vs. Dir. One was immensely expensive and achieved little aside from headlines. The other required one suicide bomber and smote 30 Pakistanis from this earth. For that reason, we will continue to see much more of one than the other.

April 3, 2010

A Matter of Perspective

If we simply take the view of Mexican Ambassador to the U.S. Arturo Sarukhan that "Texas elected officials are disingenuous or naïve to believe drug violence is spilling across the border into the United States.", then we are all safe and secure North of our porous border with Mexico and should not fret about the "renewed" upsurge in Mexican on Mexican violence on the "other side." Yes, then we are "disingenuous and naïve" and should ignore the obvious.

Instead, let us consider all signs that the violence is ramping up again and in fact, is changing in nature. While it appears that the drug cartels have become concerned with the Zetas, the paramilitary group that once acted as enforcers for the Gulf Cartel, the brazenness of the cartels led to a series of seven attacks against Mexican military installations last week in the northern states of Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon.

This is Easter weekend. Traditionally, many Mexican families cross the border to shop and spend time with friends and family. Instead, earlier this week It was reported that children are being targeted by the cartels, with some reports from the El Paso area that protection money of 5000 pesos is being "requested." So the Northern flight of Mexican families now, to avoid threats against their children, also threaten to bring the violence to Texan border cities' schools.

We are indeed disingenuous and naïve. Yet with an understated concern, the US Consulatein Monterrey, Mexico warned Americans to avoid travel on highways to Reynosa and Nuevo Laredo.

A firefight between Mexican military and drug traffickers occurred on March 19th near the Monterrey TEC University, resulted in the deaths of two students.

Innocent bystanders were also wounded and killed in confrontations between criminals and Mexican authorities in late March in the neighborhood of San Jeronimo in Monterrey and the city of Santa Catarina, a suburb of Monterrey.

Ten students ages 8-21 were killed March 28 at a roadblock set up by criminals near Pueblo Nuevo, Durango.

Yes, it is obvious that Americans and Texans are over reacting to the expanding violence in Northern Mexico. It is clear that the potential for "spill over violence" is non-existent and that the Mexican government has full and total control over the drug cartels. Are we that naïve?

No, we are not, and Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw

told lawmakers this week that in his opinion, the violence in Mexico had transcended that which plagued Columbia during the 1980's and 90's - "Colombia was never threatened like the government of Mexico is with the level of violence." And still, there are those who continue to disagree with this bleek outlook.

While McCraw said the violence will get worse before it gets better and has already outpaced the scariness of Pablo Escobar's Medellín cartel in Colombia, at least one border expert disagreed, saying that the United States would never let the situation in its neighboring country devolve into the lawlessness that plagued Colombia. "I think maybe he's exaggerating," said University of Texas at El Paso professor Howard Campbell.

The overall problem is Mexico lies not only in the narco-terrorism and the inability of the federal government (in Mexico) to control the violence, but also in the fact that the cartels battle among themselves for control over territory and drug routes into the U.S. Further, as noted by Alex Posey of STRATFOR, Columbia allowed American military assistance against the Medellín whereas Mexico will not permit U.S. military intervention.

McCraw's view is that it will get worse before it gets better. Probably the most intriguing aspect of this entire discussion though is that it is the State of Texas and not the U.S. federal government that is taking the more protective approach to this very real problem.

Post Script: Proving that "all is well" South of the Border, the University of Texas-Austin has ordered all of its exchange students attending the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education to leave.

"Due to the deteriorating security situation in Monterrey, the university recalled students in the program," Clarke Casarez said. "The university is committed to securing the safety of our students wherever they are in the world."

It seems like the stack of evidence is tilted opposite to the opinion of Ambassador Sarukhan.

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