Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

Blood from Stones

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A Disturbing Pattern that Benefits Terrorists
There is a disturbing story in today's Washington Post on the role the U.S. weapons market plays in arming Mexican drug cartels.

"You're looking at the same firepower here on the border that our soldiers are facing in Iraq and Afghanistan," Thomas Mangan, a spokesman in Phoenix for the ATF.

The army of "ants" described in the story, carrying weapons south through the same routes they use to bring drugs north, is not new. What appears to be new is the sheer volume of weapons these criminal groups are able to acquire that move directly to the hands of the drug cartels, who can pay well for the merchandise.

It is interesting to note all the tricks used to distract border guards and others as the weapons traffickers, usually carrying small amounts of weapons purchased legally at U.S. gun shows, move across the border. These include using young women to carry the weapons, standing behind a young man that is clean but might arouse suspicion, and other tricks.

It is hard to believe that those from other groups-particularly Hezbollah, which has already had several militant arrested crossing into Texas, have not studied the MO and know how the system works as well as the traffickers. And if they don't, they can pay to have experienced hands lead them.

It is erroneous to think of the drug pipeline purely in terms of drugs delivered to those willing to pay for it in this country. The pipeline is the same one that moves illegal human traffic, be it those seeking work, those indentured to work as prostitutes or low-wage serfs in factories, or terrorists seeking to enter the country.

There is the reverse flow of merchandise was well-weapons, cash and stolen cars primarily.

Much has been written recently about the brutal wars among the different drug cartels along the U.S.-Mexico border. And the enormous drug profits are certainly a major force.

But much of the fighting is also over a harder to define commodity: the pipeline itself, which generates a huge amount of revenue because it can move so many products.

He or she who controls the pipeline controls the trade. It is that simple. As the cartels have fragmented and specialized, these groups specializing in movement and transportation take on an additional importance, but remain little understood and relatively unmonitored.

If thousands of guns a year can move south virtually undetected it is hard to imagine that goods-nuclear, biological or chemical-can not move the other way, along with the people trained to use them.

That is why the pipeline matters, even if one does not place a high priority on the interdiction of illicit drugs. We will all pay a high price for the rivers of illicit goods these pipelines carry back and forth with virtual impunity.

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