(NewsNation) — Former Attorney General William Barr is calling for an aggressive American law enforcement effort inside Mexico to combat drug cartels which he says are more like ISIS than the mafia.
In a recent op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, the former AG blamed the cartels’ growing influence on Mexican administrations, which he said have been unwilling “to take them on.”
For that reason, Barr said the U.S. must get more involved to stop the flow of deadly drugs pouring over the southern border. He voiced support for a recently proposed joint resolution that would give the president authority to use the U.S. military against cartels in Mexico.
“The country being harmed has the right to take direct action to eliminate the threat, with or without the host country’s approval,” he wrote.
Barr’s call to action comes at the same time many Republican politicians are asking President Joe Biden to designate the Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations.
Earlier this month, attorneys general for 21 states called on Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to make that designation, which they say would give them more power to freeze cartel assets.
The former AG said the U.S. needs to go a step further.
“Merely designating the cartels as terrorist groups will do nothing by itself,” Barr wrote. “The real question is whether we are willing to go after them as we would a terrorist group.”
On Wednesday, current Attorney General Merrick Garland told senators he wouldn’t be opposed to the State Department declaring cartels terrorist organizations but emphasized that the U.S. needs cooperation from the Mexican government.
DEA sources told NewsNation that designating the cartels as terrorist groups could tarnish economic relations with Mexico, the United States’ number two trade partner.
In 2019, former President Donald Trump threatened to make the designation but ultimately decided against it.
At the time, a contributor for The New York Times pointed out that labeling cartels as terrorist organizations could bolster asylum claims for those crossing the southern border. At present, it can be difficult for Mexican asylum seekers to win their cases because they’re not escaping an active war zone, journalist Ioan Grillo pointed out, but those arguments could become stronger if they’re fleeing terrorist violence.
In 2021, drug overdoses killed more than 100,000 people in the U.S., and almost two-thirds of those deaths were related to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.
That’s more than the number of Americans killed in action during the bloodiest year of World War II, Barr pointed out.
“We can’t accept a failed narco-state on our border, providing sanctuary to narco-terrorist groups preying on the American people,” he wrote.