In yet another signal of the semantic slippage that is gripping Washington as it attempts to use its battle against Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda as a pretext to advance US interests across the board, DEA administrator Asa Hutchinson Tuesday tried to slap the "terrorist" label on Mexican drug trafficking enterprises. It now appears that for purposes of domestic political consumption, the word "terrorist" and its variants are being unmoored from any real world referent and are instead being used by highly-placed demagogues as polemical labels to attack their chosen enemies.
"Terrorism is traditionally defined as an act of violence with political ends," Hutchinson told a gathering at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC. Noting that 13 Mexican police or judicial officials had been killed by presumed drug traffickers in the last three months, the former Republican Arkansas congressman qualified those crimes as terrorism. "Surely, these crimes would be considered as acts of terrorism," said Hutchinson. "Without a doubt, it is an act of violence, but I consider it as an act of terrorism," he explained. "In this case, when one attacks judicial officials, public security officials, that is a political end, in my judgment," he said.
Hutchinson's remarks did not make it into the US mass media, but were reported by several Mexico City newspapers, including La Jornada and La Cronica de Hoy, from which this transcription of his comments was translated.
Hutchinson's comments Tuesday come on the heels of similar remarks last week directed at Colombia. During a visit to Colombia as part of the Bush administration effort to expand its military effort in that country beyond counter-narcotics to include a direct challenge to the leftist rebels of the FARC, Hutchinson said: "It is clear that there is not really a distinction between the drug traffickers and the terrorist organizations." Then he dropped the other shoe: "So I'm optimistic that the Congress of the United States will broaden the support for Colombia." With his remarks in Colombia and Washington, as well as earlier testimony to Congress, Hutchinson has become a point man in the Bush administration's effort to blur the line between terrorism of the bin Laden variety, criminal violence, and political violence surrounding civil wars and rebellions.
"There is no difference between a terrorist who kills a police officer and a trafficker who protects a coca field," said Hutchinson on Tuesday.
But when queried by reporters, Hutchinson said the DEA would not press to have the Mexican organizations added to the US government's official list of foreign terrorist organizations. That would be up to the State Department, he said.
Mexican drug trafficking organizations, operating in an underworld created by a global drug prohibition regime in which only the most ruthless survive, unquestionably are directly responsible for hundreds of murders. Nevertheless, they are criminal organizations, not terrorist organizations. Any political agenda the Mexican drug traffickers have is limited to being left alone to reap their black market profits.