Dec 4, 2010

MexicoBlog Editorial: Collateral Damage

Another theme that has emerged over the past few weeks in stories about the war on drugs is that of "collateral damage. " In early November, Reuters published story entitled, "'Collateral damage' grows in Mexico’s army-led drug war". It described recent, and increasing, deaths of Mexican civilians at the hands of the Mexican army: a family shot in their car, an architect shot while surveying some property, the students killed at Monterrey Tech.

We do not like the term, "collateral damage." It is one of those military - and governmental - euphemisms for the supposedly inevitable and unavoidable side-effects of military battles, the deaths of innocents. But perhaps it is the most readily available term, not only for such deaths, but also for every form of damage done by war to a society and its people. At its broadest, "collateral damage" is the destruction of a society by war.

In Mexico "collateral damage" means the destruction of the social and economic fabric of whole cities: Ciudad Juarez, Reynosa, Nuevo Laredo, Tijuana, and of whole states such as Tamaulipas. It means the loss of a generation of youth. It means educated and wealthy Mexicans fleeing the northern cities for safety in the U.S. It means the virtually complete abandonment of small pueblos such as Ciudad Mier and others along the Rio Grande. It means honest police and newspaper reporters fleeing for their lives. It means medical personel becoming afraid to treat the wounded and basic government serivces to citizens being interrupted.

"Collateral damage" means the end of what was normal bi-national life along the border, a life in which people commuted daily from one side to the other - to visit family and friends, shop, go to work or attend college - "as if they were commuting across the Hudson from New Jersey to New York." It means people living in fear in Monterrey, Cuernavaca, PueblaMorelia, Acapulco and other cities in northern and central Mexico. It means the dulling of moral sensibility, such that sociopathy becomes the norm.

"Collateral damage" also means the violation of human rights by military and police. It means the destruction of the freedom of the press in cartel-controlled cities to report what is actually happening. It means the flow of corrupting drug money throughout every level of government and the economy. It means the loss of income from tourism as norteamericanos become too afraid to visit their southern neighbor and the loss of cross-cultural exchange as colleges stop sending students to study Spanish and '"sister cities" break off  long-standing inter-changes.

So we are establishing a new topic,  "collateral damage," to identify these stories of the social destruction of Mexico. Thereby it will be possible for our readers to follow, over time, this theme - the pernicious consequences of the war on drugs in all its forms.

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