The murder of Robert Krentz in late March erupted like a political volcano on the border landscape, spewing hot lava on the already incendiary issue of illegal immigration—and generating plenty of hot gas to go with it.
It must be affirmed that the death of Robert Krentz is a tragedy, no matter who killed him. If we are to make any sense of this tragedy, or retain any hope of preventing it from being repeated, we as a nation must forgo the propaganda and fear-mongering that have engulfed this crime, and have a frank, sober discussion based on a clear understanding of the facts of the matter and the context in which it occurred.
First and foremost, Krentz's murder had nothing whatsoever to do with illegal immigration, notwithstanding a particularly idiotic headline in the Arizona Daily Star that blared, "Illegal Immigrant Likely Killed Arizona Rancher." People attempting to immigrate illegally to the United States do not march 20 miles into the country carrying guns, shoot U.S. citizens, and then turn around and march 20 miles back to Mexico. The very notion is preposterous, yet that's what opportunistic haters such as former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo and wannabe senator J.D. Hayworth would have us believe. Shame on the Star for regurgitating such inflammatory nonsense, and shame on Tancredo and his ilk for picking at the corpse purely for their own political gain.
As facts emerged and replaced political fantasies, it became clear that Krentz was very likely murdered by a drug-trafficker, a different species altogether. If that is the case, it would make Krentz one of an estimated 18,000 people who have been murdered by Mexican drug syndicates over the past three years in an orgy of violence exacerbated by Mexican President Felipe Calderón's much-ballyhooed crackdown on the narcos. As with every other crackdown in the history of drug prohibition, this one has produced nothing more than a flood of violence and a reshuffling of the players. Never, throughout decades of crackdowns and hundreds of billions of tax dollars squandered on interdiction, has the quality, availability or price of illegal drugs been affected in any significant way. Never.
That Krentz has joined a very large and depressing statistic does not diminish the importance of his death or the terrible loss suffered by his friends and family. While it may be understandable that some call for vengeance and brute force in response, such a response would be worse than futile. There is simply no reason to believe that the interjection of the armed forces into this situation will do anything but beget more violence. It has not worked in Mexico—on the contrary, the armed forces there have simply been bought off or become directly involved in the violent drug trade—nor has it worked in Afghanistan or Iraq, where our troops are continually placed in no-win situations as they are asked to make war and keep the peace at the same time.
It is never a good idea for military personnel to carry out police work. Simply put, military units are trained to kill or be killed in the extralegal context of war, which makes them ill-suited for interacting with civilians in a law-enforcement capacity. But you needn't look to the horror stories of U.S. troops implicated in torture and murder overseas to understand this. Look up the more pertinent case of Ezequiel Hernandez, the 18-year-old Texas sheepherder who was mistakenly gunned down by his own country's soldiers as they conducted counter-narcotics operations on the border some years ago.
Mexican drug cartels derive their power solely from the profits of their trade, and somewhere between 60 and 70 percent of those profits are generated by marijuana. The best way—indeed, the only way, as history shows—to diminish the immense profits that fuel the corruption and violence is to eliminate their market share by legalizing the drugs. You want to stop traffickers from carrying guns and weed across U.S. ranches and shooting people who get in their way? Make it legal for people to grow their own marijuana or get it legally from sources here in the United States, and I guarantee you that the market for blood-soaked Mexican dirt weed will dry up and blow away like April wildflowers in the June sun—and the border will be well on its way to becoming a much safer place.