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      The Globalization of Gangs

      By 2000 it was accurate to speak of a globalization of gangs as well as drugs. This process was dramatized by the globalized cycle of uprooting, migration, arrest and deportation accompanied by cuts in government subsidies for social programs and, the development of social wastelands where banks and corporations simply would not invest. In the phrase of Mike Davis, drawing on UN statistics, we were becoming a planet of slums.

      In March 2005, a 40-page paper by Max Manwaring of the US Army War College, bearing the title "Street Gangs: The New Urban Insurgency", described the gangs as "a mutated form of urban insurgency", sure signs of the rising threat of "non-state actors" in a failed-state syndrome. Manwaring warned that the gangs would have to "eventually seize political power" to guarantee their environments, a wild exaggeration.

      The counter-terrorism blogger John Robb followed Manwaring with a supportive piece describing the gangs as "global guerrillas"[1], who "parallel the development of al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations [as] rivals of nation-states."

      Soon after, a Foreign Affairs article appeared under another inflammatory title, "How the Street Gangs Took Central America" [May/June 2005].  Its false premise was that Salvadoran gangs were responsible for most of the shooting and looting in LA in 1992, but no one contested the urban legend. The author, Ana Arana, using law enforcement data, claimed there were 30,000 gang members in El Salvador and 40,000 in Honduras, while LA police were claiming as many 100,000 gangsters on the city's streets, a number later cut in half.  Arana, added the shocker, that

      " In September 2004, US officials grew concerned when Honduran authorities reported citing in Tegucigalpa a known al Qaeda operative named Adnan G. El Shukrijumah, and rumors circulated of a meeting between the jihadists and the maras." 

      Sounding like the alleged meetings between al Qaeda and agents of Saddam Hussein preceding the Iraq War, Central American officials denied the conspiracy but Arana went on, citing the reasoning of one US official: "If they can smuggle people looking for a job [into the United States], they can smuggle people interested in terror."

      Not long after, an FBI gang suppression task force was integrated with immigration officials, US federal marshals, prison bureaus, and the Drug Enforcement Agency into an information-sharing and training agreement with Central American police, army and prison officials. Training in Central America was handled by the Justice Department's International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program [ICITAP], a kind of School of the Americas for local police.

      It was at the same time that Paul Wolfowitz, the primary intellectual architect of the Iraq War, said "It would be interesting if we could find some real experts on attacking gangs and send them to Iraq on this operation."[2]  Sure enough, the LAPD sent trainers to support US forces in Baghdad. This week's New York Times featured a long article on a Marine counterinsurgency operative, Captain Scott Cuomo, who was trained by the LAPD's anti-gang unit between tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. [NYT, May 24, 2010]. Numbers are not available, but many returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have returned to fill the ranks of local police departments. 

      It didn't seem to matter to the "drug warriors" that their 40-year crusade was costing, according to the Associated Press, "$1 trillion and hundreds of thousands of lives", while leaving drug use "rampant and violence even more brutal and widespread." [3]

      The neo-conservatives were prepared to tighten the linkages. Robert Kaplan, for example, predicted an apocaplyse where countries like India and Mexico would be "undermined by a volcano of unemployed youth in urban slums" as "armies of murderous teen-agers [rise] in West Africa", and terrorist cadre multiply among "hundreds of millions of unemployed young males in the developing world, angered by the income disparities that accompany globalization." These crazed teenagers were linked with global mafias, Middle Eastern suicide bombers, and al Qaeda, Kaplan reported. They were a wave of warriors driven by "the thrill of violence."[4]

      Kaplan's findings were reiterated by Michael Ignatieff, then at the Carr Human Rights Center at Harvard, in his advocacy of "empire light." Military intervention was necessary to stabilize markets where order "breaks down, and crime, chaos and terror take root in the rotten, unpoliced interstices."[5]  Ignatieff may have derived the concept of the interstices from the 1927 book on Chicago gangs by sociologist Frederic Thrasher, who recommended a gang peace process and social programs to fill the interstices rather than police suppression. [6]

      None of the neo-conservatives like Kaplan offer an economic plan to address the "income disparities that accompany globalization." This is because they are neo-Darwinians in both domestic and foreign policy, followers of James Q. Wilson who argues that poverty is moral rather than economic, the result of family breakdown and the decline of the Protestant Ethic. Wilson's doctrines were picked up by William Bennett and others during the Reagan era, who formulated the coming threat of the "super-predator."[7] (That notion, which was embraced by President Clinton, was later repudiated by its principle academic source, John DiIullio, as based on the distortion of his own data.[8])  Ultimately, the Wilson-neoconservaitve project was to restore the centrality of Evil as a force in human affairs, helping to justify a Christian evangelical awakening. Since Evil was caused by the Devil or implanted in the DNA, the spending of large sums on jobs or social programs was an irrelevant waste, a convenient doctrine for the Republican Party and nervous law-and-order Democrats.

      And so the gang and narco-terror phenomena grew in the new interstices of globalization, taking root in El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico City, Jamaica, Brazil, South Africa, the Muslim suburbs of Paris, the white housing projects of Poland, even among Maori youth in New Zealand. _

      [1]  John Robb,, Mar. 18, 2005
      [2]  Atlantic Monthly, July-Aug. 2005, p. 118
      [3]  AP, "After 40 years, $1 trillion US drug war has met none of its goals: Analysis", May 13, 2010
      [4]  Kaplan, Warrior Politics, Random House, 2002, pp. 136, 119
      [5]  Ignatief, Empire Lite, Penguiin, 2003, p. 124
      [6]  Frederic Thrasher, The Gang, University of Chicago Press, 1927, 1963.
      [7]  Bennett, DiIulio, and Walters, Body Count: Moral Poverty and How to Win America's War Against Crime and Drugs, Simon & Schuster, 1996, p. 26
      [8]  "Head of Religion-Based Initiative Resigns", NYT, Aug. 18, 2001.

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