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At this point, it is highly unlikely that we’re going to solve the fentanyl problem in the United State by the end of this decade, and certainly not by the end of Joe Biden’s term, be it in 2024 or 2028. To do so would require a U.S. government willing to take all of the steps necessary to address the multi-faceted crisis, and as much as both sides talk a half-decent game, neither the Republicans nor the Democrats seem eager to try to fix the crisis.
And, as I’ve mentioned here repeatedly, this is definitely a problem that has taken several presidential administrations to grow into the problem it is now. Part of the problem came under the Obama administration when it kept fentanyl under the umbrella of the larger “opioid epidemic” umbrella, despite the that that your standard opioids were 1) nowhere near as devastating to people at fentanyl is and 2) largely a problem of the medical community while fentanyl is a problem of the illegal drug trade.
Under Trump, the focus on fighting the fentanyl crisis was on China and the chemicals coming in that make fentanyl. But at the time, the chemicals began shifting to Mexico and the cartels were taking over the majority of the production south of the border. So while Trump was focused on his wall and beefing up security, his administration was focused on illegal border crossings, and not paying as much attention to seemingly legit crossings bringing pills into America.
And now, under Biden, it’s a mix of an open-border policy (in all but name), lack of commitment to protecting American interests from the cartels and from China, and a bumbling, reactive administration with seemingly no plans, just responses.
Merrick Garland admitted as much in his last hearing before the U.S. Senate in a couple of exchanges with Senator Lindsey Graham. At one point, he admits that the fentanyl crisis is “a horrible epidemic, but it’s an epidemic that has been unleashed on purpose” by the Mexican drug cartels flooding American streets with the drug.
Lindsey Graham: "Do you support mandatory minimums for people dealing in fentanyl?"
AG Garland: "I think we already have mandatory minimums.. "
Graham: "Do you think they should be increased?"
AG Garland: "We have more than enough ability now to attack this problem." pic.twitter.com/IyfCsZRvV9
— Real Mac Report (@RealMacReport) March 1, 2023
In the clip, however, Garland says he thinks “we have more than enough ability now to attack this problem,” but then turns around and admits it’s not enough.
Garland is the head of the Department of Justice, and acts as the arm of criminal justice in the Biden administration. That he has really no decent answer for increasing the legal ramifications for dealing fentanyl is bad enough.
But there is another tool that the Biden administration has, and it’s one they don’t need Congress for. Biden has the power to declare those cartels terrorist organizations, which opens up a variety of options for dealing with them. But, when asked about this, Garland’s answer was less than satisfactory.
GRAHAM: "Would you oppose some of us trying to make [Mexican drug cartels] foreign terrorist organizations?"
GARLAND: "I want to point out, there are diplomatic concerns. We need the assistance of Mexico in this…" pic.twitter.com/DZKNNUX7WE
— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) March 1, 2023
“Diplomatic concerns” keep Garland from agreeing that these cartels – which he has already said have unleashed fentanyl on Americans on purpose – should be labeled as terrorists. He says we are partnering with Mexico while also claiming that Mexico needs to help.
Garland’s view represents the lack of commitment from the Biden administration on doing everything possible to fight this crisis. The Mexican government is equal parts terrified of the cartels and in the pocket of the cartels. They are not going to help in any way. It’s on the U.S. to handle this problem.
At POLITICO recently, there was an op-ed arguing that Biden needed to take this step.
But one tool to combat fentanyl has been overlooked. If members of Congress or the Biden administration really want to take on this deadly drug, there is an opportunity to seriously debilitate the organized criminal syndicates that make, import and distribute it to the American people: Secretary of State Antony Blinken should designate these narco-syndicates as Foreign Terrorist Organizations.
Using his existing authority, Blinken could make the determination that these organized criminal cartels are, according to the law, “foreign organizations engaged in terrorist activity that threatens the security of U.S. nationals or the national security (national defense, foreign relations, or the economic interests) of the United States.”
By designating producers of fentanyl as FTOs, the U.S. federal and state law enforcement bureaucracies would have expanded powers to freeze the assets of U.S. citizen collaborators of the cartels. They could be prosecuted under terrorism statutes which carry stiffer sentences. The deterrent factor would be palpable.
It’s important to understand who these people are. They are the Main Street small business owners of trucking firms, warehouses and stash houses. They are the accountants, lawyers and bankers, as well as the street level dealers. Imagine if they were all now viewed by the American people and the justice system as being just as deadly as a jihadist with an explosive vest. The cartels need American citizens and U.S. residents to make their fentanyl enterprises run.
And the authors of that piece are absolutely correct. Declaring the cartels foreign terror organizations opens up a variety of options that can be used to fight them and the fentanyl crisis.
The White House, however, wants you to believe they are already doing everything they can. “Designating these cartels as [foreign terrorist organizations] would not grant us any additional authorities that we don’t really have at this time,” Karine Jean-Pierre said on Wednesday.
Many of the GOP candidates and would-be candidates for 2024 agree, however, that declaring the cartels FTOs is the way to go, according to RealClearPolitics’ Phillip Wegmann.
Former President Donald Trump, who is running again in 2024, promised in January that he would “designate the major drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations” and then deploy special forces to “inflict maximum damage” on their infrastructure and operations.
Citing the need to cut off the money supply, Pompeo told RCP that Biden “is making a clear mistake in refusing to designate Mexican cartels as a terrorist organization” and missing an opportunity to “hit them where it hurts.”
A spokesman for the Nikki Haley campaign told RCP that the former U.N. ambassador also supports designating cartels as foreign terrorist organizations.
But the Biden administration seems to have no interest in taking the step. As a result, there are countless Americans whose lives will be upended (or just ended) by the drug and the devastation it causes. All because feelings are more important than facts.