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Saturday, February 6, 2016

At the intersection of Crime and Terror

  • Terrorist groups accumulate profits from drug trade to fund their movements.” Do you agree? Why/why not? Do terrorist groups have reasons besides financial funding to indulge in the drug trade? If so, what are they? If not, why not?
The definition of narco-terrorism is similar to the definition of terrorism in it's ambiguity. Björnehed asserts that “it has different focus and implications depending on what part of the composite word is emphasised” (2004, p.306). Some terror groups use drug trafficking to finance their operations, just one example of many such groups are the Marxist terrorists in Columbia; “the three largest of which are the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the United Self-Defense Groups of Colombia (AUC), and the National Liberation Army (ELN). Revenue that they receive from narcotics cultivation, taxation, and distribution provides at least half of the funding that the FARC and AUC rely on to support their terrorist activities” (Department Of State.2003, para. 19). Indeed, the Taliban terror group that once banned drug trafficking on religious grounds has turned to it as “they benefit from it financially and use revenues generated by it to purchase new weapons, [and]sponsor new Madrassas in Pakistan”(Schmidt, 2010, p.63).
Other terror groups use terrorism to facilitate their drug trafficking. The most commonly known of these are the drug cartels of Latin America, primarily Mexico. In the debate over icluding drug cartels as terror groups, Longmire and Longmire make a case for such inclusion; “The tactics, strategy, organization, and even (to a limited extent) the goals of the Mexican drug cartels are all perfectly consistent with those of recognized terrorist organizations”(2008, p.35).
Terror groups that fall under the narco-terror categorization use trafficking for other purposes as well. In the failed state of Afghanistan, opium is more then a revenue source. Schmidt quotes Kreutzmann, “Opium is not only a commodity, but also a currency at the same time” (2010, p.63). In Mexico, it is not the drug trade that is the primary concern of the cartels, but the control of the routes of illicit trade in toto, including the smuggling of illegal aliens. Morris contends that ”The most brutal dto [drug trafficking organizations] battles are not over customers or suppliers but over ports and trade routes” (2013, p.31).
Finally, narco-terrorism may have political implications. Walser maps out just how such a relationship works in which narco-terrorism is partially state supported. First he discusses evidence of an alliance between FARC and the Venezualn government (2008, para 2, 30, 35). Then Walser outlines the “radical populism” and socialism of the Venezualan government, including an anti-American ideology (2008, para. 9, 12-20). Venezula's support of the drug trading FARC terror group is based on a shared Leftist basis. “Drug trafficking often has a two-fold purpose for some terrorists. Some terrorists not only obtain operational funds through drugs, but also believe they can weaken their enemies by flooding their societies with addictive drugs” (Department Of State, 2003, para. 11).
  • The involvement in terrorism by drug traffickers can be especially worrisome because of the immense wealth and access to weaponry that drug traffickers have at their disposal.” Do you agree that drug traffickers are involved with terrorist groups? Why/why not? Explain your reasoning and provide examples to support your answer.
The relationships between terror organizations and drug trading organizations have long been documented. Björnehed states “That a link exists between the narcotics trade and terrorist organisations, as implied in the term narco-terrorism, has been known to exist for decades” (2004, p. 305). “In 1993, for example, Pablo Escobar, allegedly hired the National Liberation Army (ELN) to construct car bombs, since no one in his organisation possessed this knowledge” ( Björnehed, 2004, p. 310). Other mutually beneficial arrangements have been made, such as the case in which “The Peruvian terrorist group Shining Path continues to derive substantial income from providing security to Peruvian traffickers transporting drugs out of the main coca cultivation areas of Peru” (Department Of State, 2003, para. 21).
  • Do you think a conspiracy between organized crime, drug farmers, and
    anti-U.S. terrorists is natural? Why/why not? Be sure to include references and examples to support your answer. 
In some cases, such as the Leftist goup FARC discussed above, the conspiracy is natural. In other cases, the link is opportunistic, such as the Taliban trading in the same drugs it once banned. The potential for such conspiracy is another concept to be considered. Valdemar warns of the danger of street gangs with connections to the DTO's. “They are potentially a vicarious surrogate army to be used by international terrorists” (2012, para. 10). Declaring that such conspiracy is universally natural is perhaps overstating the natural similarities between DTO's and terror organisations, as well as the aforementioned and ubiquitous relations between the two types of groups.

Björnehed, E. (2004). Narco-Terrorism: The merger of the War on Drugs and the War on Terror. Global Crime, 6(3-4), 305–324. doi:10.1080/17440570500273440

Department Of State. (2003, May 20). Narco-Terrorism: International drug trafficking and terrorism -- A dangerous mix. Retrieved February 3, 2015, from http://2001-2009.state.gov/p/inl/rls/rm/21129.htm

Longmire, S. M., & Longmire, J. P. (2008). Redefining terrorism: Why Mexican drug trafficking is more than just organized crime. Journal of Strategic Security, 1(1), 35–52. doi:http://dx.doi.org.southuniversity.libproxy.edmc.edu/10.5038/1944-0472.1.1.4

Morris, E. K. (2013). Think again: Mexican drug cartels. Foreign Policy, (203), 30–33,8. Retrieved January 30, 2015 from

Schmidt, F. (2010). From Islamic warriors to drug lords: The evolution of the Taliban insurgency. Mediterranean Quarterly, 21(2), 61–1. doi:10.1215/10474552-2010-005

Valdemar, R. (2012, May 12). Gangs and terrorism. Police: The Law Enforcement Magazine. Retrieved February 3, 2015, from http://www.policemag.com/blog/gangs/story/2012/05/gangs-and-terrorism.aspx

Walser, R. (2008, June 30). Terrorism, insurgency, and drugs still threaten America’s southern flank. The Heritage Foundation. Retrieved February 3, 2015, from http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2008/06/terrorism-insurgency-and-drugs-still-threaten-americas-southern-flank

It is interesting how things are linked that you normally wouldn't connect on a face level.  I personally support ending the War on Drugs on a level of personal liberty.  At one point, I also thought that would end the cartels' grip on power.  However, Morris argues that the illegal drug flow is just one of the sources of income that the cartels get from the illicit flow of goods, as there other revenue sources such as smuggling illegal aliens and women for enforced prostitution.  Morris states that ”The most brutal dto [drug trafficking organizations] battles are not over customers or suppliers but over ports and trade routes” (2013, p.31).
Morris, E. K. (2013). Think again: Mexican drug cartels. Foreign Policy, (203), 30–33,8. Retrieved January 30, 2015 from

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