Commentary by Susan Estrich: We can argue until we are blue in the face about Mexicans crossing into our country illegally. But what about our responsibility for the guns that cross into their country?
Reasonable people can disagree about whether Mexico's president should criticize the Arizona legislature in front of a joint session of Congress. What he said was nothing new. Whether it was good manners to say it (as if the Capitol is the home of good manners) is something else.
But nearly everyone stood and applauded when he affirmed his government's commitment to fight drugs and try to restore the rule of law in Mexico. Who could be against that?
The short answer, of course, is that we are.
We are the ones to whom they sell the drugs. It is American demand for illegal drugs that is the engine for the drug gangs operating in — and destroying — Mexico. And it is American assault rifles, bought at all the gun stores on the border, that are used in the killings.
We can argue until we are blue in the face about Mexicans crossing into our country illegally. But what about our responsibility for the guns that cross into their country? What about our responsibility for the demand for drugs, which cannot be fought by putting the Mexican army on the streets there?
Why do so many Mexicans risk their lives to pick our fruit and cut our lawns? They are fleeing a country where life is cheap and honest jobs are getting harder to find. And that, without question, is partly our fault.
We have a right to enforce our own laws. Every country does. But we have an obligation not to arm the gangsters who are destroying the quality of life in Mexico, scaring away tourists (and in turn taking away decent jobs) and gunning down innocents — all in the hopes of making money from our insatiable demand for illegal drugs.
Standing on the floor of Congress applauding someone else's effort to fight the drug cartels is easy.
No partisan divide. But what are all those cheering members doing to help? For that matter, what is the Obama administration doing?
Eighty percent of the 75,000 assault weapons seized by Mexican authorities in the latest chapter of the drug war were traced back to the United States, many of them to the gun shops that proliferate along the border. Once a great city, Juarez, Mexico, right across the border from El Paso, Texas, is now the murder capital of the world.
Maybe what Arizona and Texas and the nation as a whole really need is a ban on assault weapons, more than divisive (and almost certainly unconstitutional) laws that leave children afraid that their paperless parents will be sent away (the question one little girl asked of Mrs. Obama this week).
If Barack Obama could convince Congress to pass the biggest health care reform since Medicare and the biggest financial reform since the Great Depression, why can't he push through a bill supported by police departments everywhere to ban assault weapons? Assault weapons are not used by sportsmen. You don't hunt deer with an assault weapon. You don't need one to protect your home against a robber.
For years, we waged a so-called "war on drugs" that was doomed from the outset. So long as drug-hungry Americans were willing to pay billions to get high, the supply would be there. If we want it, it will be there. If not in Colombia, then in Mexico. And supplying the Mexicans with the guns to kill each other and thousands of innocents in the crossfire only adds insult to injury.
I understand that some folks, especially in Arizona, will take offense at the criticism of a foreign leader. But before we throw too many stones, we should take a look at just what we're doing to destroy their country and foster the very migration about which we legitimately complain. We're living in a glass house. Applause comes cheap. Where is the action?
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