Opinion | Criminal Justice

Snow, sand, Marxists and Mexicans: Our transcontinental cartel problem

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

President Trump again has wielded Occam's Razor to the national interest with his elegant instruction to the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism to consider the designation of drug cartels - currently transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) - as foreign terrorist organisations (FTOs) in accordance with Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 and the statutory criteria defined in that act and the Foreign Relations Authorization Act. 

The secretary of State, in consultation with the attorney general and secretary of the Treasury, will allow Congress time for a short review of the designation.

U.S. individuals who thereafter provide assistance to the cartels and their members would be providing material support for terrorism under the USA PATRIOT Act and would face the full force of U.S. law. The Authorization for Use of Military Force resolution of 2001 (AUMF) also would be triggered and would allow the use of necessary and appropriate force against the cartels.

South American politicians, trapped by lawless shadow governments, are unable to assist the president in his war on the cartels. The botched outcome of the arrest warrant for Ovidio Guzman Lopez, son of the infamous drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, is a stark reminder of where power is held south of the border; political protestations from down under should be taken with a pinch of salt. This is our problem to finally crack before it consumes us.

The combined cartels' products and their associated distribution activity into the U.S. kills an estimated 100,000 Americans per year, at least, while ruining countless lives and families, forever. We face a health, social and societal problem that dwarfs any in comparison. Fortunately, we have a bold president in the White House. President Trump has pulled the mask from the cartels; we will complete the picture of this collective abomination.

Aside from supplying and distributing various forms of cocaine, the cartels control the flow of chemical precursors from Asia, essential to the production of methamphetamine, heroin and synthetic opioids. They distribute all of these and Chinese-produced fentanyl into the U.S.

Transcontinental production, primarily from Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, descends to Venezuela, their global logistics hub, financing communist regimes and Cuban psychological operations know-how - consequential security, social and political interference in the United States and beyond.

European supply passes through the Sahel-Sahara region in Africa. The Sahel G-5 includes Chad, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania. As the Gaddafi regime in Libya fell by our collective hand, stockpiles of weapons were captured by non-state actors to fuel militant Islamic movements in surrounding states.

These movements have merged into al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), offshoots of terrorist entities that require no introduction. AQIM and ISGS are regional trafficking and organized crime businesses with political and religious recruitment processes that provide logistics services to the cartels. A line of cocaine in London or Paris facilitates the continuation of terrorist activity against the French and European Union/NATO member armies in Mali, who are struggling with an endless Operation Serval (2013), Operation Barkhane (2014) and many others from the West African Coast to the Horn of Africa.

The cartels have been paying for these logistics services in kind since the late 1980s, bringing by necessity the Islamic terrorists closer to the distribution operation as they look for cash. The entire illegal drug trade fuels the use of alternative money and payment platforms, be they crypto or otherwise.

Islamic terrorist entities such as Hezbollah have been identified operating at our southern border, controlling vast swaths of land in Venezuela and other Latin American states, trafficking drugs and economic migrants and doing the same from Africa into Europe. The Port of Turbo in Colombia reportedly holds 30,000 African migrants at a time hoping to gain entry into the U.S. 

This is more than an unusual coincidence - the cartels operate where the wild things are. It's a triangular trade of drugs, money, minerals, weapons and people, between Latin America, Africa and Europe, run by interwoven networks of organized crime, clans and religious extremists. They undermine not just our populations and the integrity of our nations but our Western way of life. 

The cartels' business activity, involving Marxist regimes and know-how, is funding the perpetuation of Islamic terrorist movements that attack its Western, involuntary client base of eventual victims.

The cartels are the ultimate embodiment of a terrorist entity, harming and killing more successfully than any ideological competitor to date, while enabling our known enemies to strike fear into our loved ones. It is our time to hit back - and President Trump's border wall proposal may not sound unreasonable when considered from this vantage point.

A coordinated, comprehensive transcontinental military, political, social, economic and intelligence operation is required to cut the arms from this vampire squid before it sucks more lifeblood from us. 

The National Security Agency should delineate the structural command and control hierarchy that propagates from Cuba and Venezuela; the CIA should prepare and implement an action plan to take it down. The Secret Service should declare anonymous cash and payment platforms illegal.

NATO should be tasked with a sea blockade of Venezuela, while securing the inter-tropical convergence zone in the Atlantic between the Americas and Africa, and at the request of France, with an air, sea and land command plan for West Africa and the Sahel, with clear objectives and rules of engagement, insulated from national political pressures. 

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) should contemporaneously provide the forum to decide on definitive, coordinated Northern Hemisphere action, including overseas legislation, to provide the requisite legislative and law enforcement teeth to take down their global operations network.

It is time for NATO to engage these wild cartels. 

Christopher Nixon Cox is a member of the board of directors of the Richard Nixon Foundation and a non-resident fellow at Princeton's Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination.

James Arnold is a British financier and geopolitical strategist.