The execution of seventeen recovering addicts in last week's shooting in Juarez struck me as one of the most perverse crimes I have ever heard of in my life. Despite having read about a wide variety of atrocities in war -- the killing of pregnant women and children in Rwanda, or the dragging of charred American bodies through Fallujah -- this act struck me as something so cold as to be sub-human. Yet it was the not first time either. Fifteen others have been killed previously in this exact way in Juarez in the last two years.
The violence in Juarez seems to be ignored by most of the media, yet this is truly one of the world's prime war zones right now. A recent New York Times video report stated that in 2008 a civilian was more likely to be killed in Ciudad Juarez than in Baghdad.
Wednesday's attack came on the same day that at least twenty-three others were killed around Mexico, including the number two security official in President Felipe Calderon's home state of Michoacan. It also came just a week or two after Mexico officially decriminalized personal use of many formerly illicit drugs. The new orders for police are that they are to refer addicts to treatment clinics rather than take them into police custody. After Wednesday's attack though, that option may no longer seem so safe.
It seems clear that we Americans share some of the blame for this violence; though perhaps there have been good intentions in criminalizing marijuana, cocaine and other substances, when our prohibitions are combined with our high demand, we have ended up giving these cartels incentive for their work. And now apparently, the weapons that have come through our borders have allowed them to create carnage in their country.
This is a war many of us can can shut our eyes to on a daily basis, because we are not losing anyone there in Mexico. Yet this war is so close to us at the same time: the war zone of Juarez stands a few miles across the border from the relatively safe city of El Paso, Texas.
We can try to keep this violence and chaos out though militarizing the border, and perhaps that will allow us to continue turning a blind eye to this bloodshed. However, it will not absolve us of the responsibility and obligation to help search for an end to this conflict. Some cartels may be brought down, and the centers of violence may move from one city to another, as they seem to be moving now towards Central America. However, as long as the economic incentive exists for these cartels' work, can we really expect to see an end to this violence?