- - Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The United States of America is under attack.

Across the vast desert landscape of the U.S.-Mexican border, the cartels are exploiting the immigration crisis by recruiting gangs, transporting terrorists, distributing drugs and facilitating sex-trafficking while diversifying their businesses into oil theft, piracy and illegal mining and laundering their stolen money through commercial banks.

According to the FBI, the cartels are already operating in more than 1,000 cities across America, and the U.S. State Department reports that Mexican trafficking organizations earn between $19 billion and $29 billion annually from selling marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines on the streets of our cities.

The result of this highly orchestrated, vicious criminal enterprise is the collapse of law, order and safety as our nation lives in fear — proof positive that the Mexican cartels have become a clear and present danger to the sovereignty of the United States.

Like al Qaeda, the cartels are operating on a level equivalent to terrorists and illegal combatants, and the time has come for President Obama and Congress to hunt cartel leaders with the same determination that America hunted Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden in the war on terrorism.

It’s time to eradicate the cartel leadership once and for all. We must seek and destroy their headquartered bases in Mexico just as we sought terrorist training camps in Afghanistan.

Anything short of wrought military force will fail to resolve this crisis. Because of Washington’s failure to use the U.S. armed forces to resolve the emergency in Mexico, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has had to resort to defending his state with the National Guard.

Already, the membership of the transnational MS-13 Mexican street gang has reached 70,000. MS-13’s ultraviolent, sadistic tactics have earned them a close alliance with the Sinaloa Cartel, the world’s most powerful crime syndicate. They have created a heavy presence in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago and San Francisco, as well as in our nation’s capital.

The Gulf Cartel has actively recruited gangs just south of the Texas border and has helped provide transportation and protection to gang members into the United States while the Tijuana Cartel continues to occupy major cities in California and Nevada.

The cartels are violating human rights not only in Mexico and Latin America, but here in the United States. They finance sex- and human-trafficking in addition to drug trafficking, making these kinds of trafficking organizations indistinguishable.

According to the Covering House, a human rights watch organization, human trafficking is generating $9.5 billion a year in the United States, and 300,000 children in America are at risk of being prostituted — oftentimes coerced into drug addictions that hold them hostage to the sex-slave trade.

This moral decay has placed a heavy burden on our overtaxed health care and social service systems, which cannot keep up with the high demand of providing safety nets for victims of human- and sex-trafficking as law enforcement struggles to protect our youth from forced child prostitution.

Tragically, drugs, street violence and prostitution are not the only signature hallmarks of these invading forces.

The cartels are now financing terrorist activities overseas and helping terrorists cross into the U.S. border.

Mike McConnell, director of national intelligence, has reported that Iraqi terrorists have been captured coming into the United States from Mexico and that groups such as al Qaeda and others are in the midst of regrouping and marshaling ways to enter the country through the southern border, using existing criminal routes.

Terrorist organizations from the Middle East are working alongside Mexican drug-trafficking organizations, furnishing the cartels with weapons and helping them distribute drugs in Europe and the Middle East. Groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas have received huge amounts of money from drug sales facilitated mainly by Mexican and Colombian narcotics dealers. As a result, these terrorist organizations have targeted western influence.

The cartels have even found ways to begin veiling their activities in seemingly legitimate businesses.

A recent Associated Press report discussed how Mexican cartels are diversifying their businesses, moving into fields that include oil theft, piracy and even illegal mining. As a result of these illegal business operations, the cartels pose a risk to our financial institutions. The Sinaloa Cartel, headquartered on Mexico’s northern Pacific Coast, is constantly exploring new ways to launder its gargantuan profits, and recent news reports indicate that the Los Zetas cartel is even laundered its profits through the Bank of America.

There is no doubt that the Mexican cartels pose a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States and the safety of her citizens. It is time to go to war against the cartels, just as we waged the war on terrorism in the wake of Sept. 11. The wrath of America’s military firepower should be unleashed upon every cartel compound in Mexico and destroy their infrastructure, once and for all.

Jeffrey Scott Shapiro is a legal analyst for The Washington Times. T. Michael Andrews is a former counternarcotics official for the Department of Homeland Security and the author of “The Border Challenge: An Insider’s View of Stopping Drugs at America’s Borders.”

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