Former Deputy Assistant to President Donald Trump Sebastian Gorka and Breitbart Border and Cartel Chronicles Director Brandon Darby discussed the designation of Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations (FTO). While acknowledging that many on the right have differing opinions on how to go about FTO designations, both Gorka and Darby agreed the fact that this issue is being talked about is historic.
“We have pushed for certain factions of certain cartels to be designated as foreign terrorist organizations,” said Darby. “Some on the right who are in the know are pushing for that, some are really pushing for more to be designated, and a lot of folks on the right — think that there are other ways to handle them besides designating them as foreign terror [organizations].”
“But regardless of the differences, how big of a deal is it that that is what we’re talking about?” he added. “That we have the President of the United States talking about going after Mexican cartels, and that the right is now taking up this messaging, and taking up this issue as one of their core issues?”
Gorka and Darby discussed the designation of Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations at Turning Point USA’s annual Student Action Summit in West Palm Beach, Florida, over the weekend.
“I think that’s what we have to recognize first, the significance of that being the topic is huge,” said Gorka. “After decades of us not grappling with this issue — I have a certain take on why I don’t think using the FTO designation liberally is a good idea — it really has to do with taxonomy, with being accurate.
Gorka went on to elaborate on his position:
I’m a conservative. I grew up under Margaret Thatcher, I looked at Ronald Reagan as a hero. For me, truth is where everything begins. If you’ve got a very serious problem — and this is a massive one — 72,000 people dead of drug overdoses last year. That’s 20,000 more than died in the Vietnam War. That’s in one year. When you have a problem of that magnitude, you better get the diagnosis right.
And for me, I spent two decades in the counter-terrorism field — call me professorial, [but] what is terrorism? If you want to be able to deal with it, you have to know what it is, and terrorism is not the same as the Cosa Nostra. Terrorism is not the same as a serial killer. Terrorism is a very special kind of political violence. Political violence. Terrorism is about intimidation, and terrorism, whether you’re the IRA — a bunch of Catholic extremists — whether you’re al-Qaeda or ISIS, you must have one commonality.
The commonality is that the group must have a political end state they wish to achieve. Whether it’s creating world communism, whether it’s creating the caliphate, it has to be an ideologically-defined end state. If it’s just about making money, they’re not terrorists. And you have to have different tools, because different tools come into play. You don’t deploy the same kind of tools to treat cancer as you use to treat the flu. Therefore, the diagnosis is crucial.
FTO designation is the one of the most powerful things a federal government can do, because when you designate a foreign entity as a terrorist organization, a whole Pandora’s Box of tools opens up — so you better be defining that organization as a terrorist organization because it is. So, for me, the threshold is very simple, does that group have political end states it wishes to achieve?
“Now, in the case of Mexico,” continued Gorka, “I think, especially along the border area, there are cartels that swim in politics. They want to control a political area, not just a smuggling route. Do they want to become the president of Mexico? I’m not so sure. If they did, easy, that’s an FTO. If they want to kill people, and kneecap them, and become the government, that’s terrorism.”
“But at the end of the day, you nailed it,” added Gorka. “The fact that we are talking about this — that’s historic.”
Darby then brought up representatives, such as Chip Roy (R-TX), introducing legislation to designate specific Mexican cartel factions as FTOs.
“Chip Roy introducing that — does that then pave the way and make it seem a lot more reasonable for people to take lesser actions but still very strong actions that would have taken place otherwise?” asked Darby.
“Yeah,” said Gorka. “When that kind of legislation or approach is recommended by somebody who has a constituency, you’re broadening the aperture of the Overton window, so absolutely.”
“And it’s very significant,” he added, “because, look, this is one of the issues that got the president elected. Immigration reform. The wall. The border. So, this is important to him.”