Friday, May 13, 2005

MS-13 and U.S. Foreign Policy

The recent article - “Federal anti-gang bill draws sharp debate” - in the Bridgewater Courier-News, barely scratched the surface of America’s growing gang problem and its relationship to the war in Iraq. In the early 1980s, John Negroponte was Reagan’s ambassador to the Honduras. In that job, he helped coordinate the delivery of $6 billion worth of funding, guns, and training for brutal paramilitaries in El Salvador that terrorized the entire population and killed 70,000 El Salvadoran citizens between 1981 and 1992.

Thanks to that American support, fueling protracted civil wars, many civilians fled from El Salvador and other Central American countries, bringing their children north through Mexico to California, where they settled as refugees, traumatized by witnessing torture, rape, shootings and other terrible violence. These children started gangs like Mara Salvatrucha-13 (MS-13) in Los Angeles. After the 1992 LA riots, America began deporting young gang members back to El Salvador, where they had no way to connect to the culture and even fewer opportunities to build decent lives than in the ghettos of American cities. Recruiting has continued both in Central America and in the U.S., forcing the whole region to deal with crimes committed by violent young men – a problem created by U.S. policy.

About six months ago, reports stated the Pentagon was preparing to fund a similar paramilitary program in Iraq, as a means to fight the “insurgents” – Iraqi fighters killing members of the American occupying force and Iraqis, and blowing up the parts of Iraq’s infrastructure left standing after two years of American “shock and awe.” At the time, John Negroponte was the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. So it goes: our blind leaders try over and over again to stop violence with more violence, and in 10 years or so, the brutalized children of Iraq will be full-grown international terrorists.

There are no “quick fix” solutions; throwing young gang members in jail or deporting them to be jailed abroad won’t help. We need to look at the problems in the same generational way they were created, and start caring for children in real ways, so they don’t grow up twisted into believing that slaughtering is power. Hard to do when slaughter-power is the only example our national foreign policy ever sets.


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