ORLANDO, Florida — Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL), one of the two lead sponsors of legislation that would authorize the use of military force against Mexican drug cartels, told Breitbart News exclusively that the U.S. needs to begin treating the cartels like terrorist cells like Al Qaeda or ISIS to effectively defeat them.
Waltz, who along with Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) introduced a resolution that is an Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against Mexican drug cartels, told Breitbart News that he does not envision a U.S. military invasion of Mexico but he could see selective targeted strikes against key cartel personnel if his resolution is adopted.
“We’re not talking about an invasion of Mexico. That’s just a bunch of nonsense,” Waltz said. “Could we be talking about very selective special operations targeting of key personnel or kill/capture? Yes, absolutely. Again, we got to begin thinking about them differently. In the 90s, we were running around the world trying to arrest Al Qaeda. After 9/11, we were killing or capturing Al Qaeda. So that is the mindset and that is the actual authorization from Congress we’re trying to get passed for the administration.”
Waltz’s comments came during an interview here at the House GOP conference retreat last month. He said that the AUMF against the cartels would allow the use of resources from the Pentagon that current law enforcement agencies combatting the cartels do not have access to, like U.S. space assets and satellites for targeting purposes and cyber assets to disrupt cartel operations.
“It essentially authorizes military resources,” Waltz said. “So, space assets for targeting. Your Border Patrol—our law enforcement and border entities don’t have their own space assets. The military does. Offensive cyber—as opposed to just defending our networks here at home, but actually getting inside somebody else’s networks and start disrupting their money, their logistics, their ability to communicate. That all sits inside the Defense Department. So, this would authorize the use—this would authorize the use of military force, but I think it’s more accurate to call it resources.”
In response to Waltz’s proposal, Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador said he is opposed to it—and threatened to urge Mexican Americans to vote against Republicans in American elections.
“In addition to being irresponsible, it is an offense to the people of Mexico,” Lopez Obrador said in March.
Asked about this threat, Waltz told Breitbart News that he thinks U.S. lawmakers have gotten Mexico’s attention for sure.
“Look, whenever you have a leftist like AMLO calling you out by name and threatening to interfere in our elections, I think you’ve gotten their attention,” Waltz said. “He said this was a violation of Mexico’s sovereignty, that this kind of intervention is this militaristic talk that is going to force him to get involved in American elections and tell Hispanic Americans and Mexican Americans not to vote Republican. Okay, let’s talk about sovereignty for a minute. These cartels effectively control our border. According to many estimates, they control as much as 30 to 40 percent of Mexico. Essentially, AMLO has lost control of whole parts of his country. In accordance with international law, you have an obligation as a nation to not allow transnational terrorists or criminal actors to destabilize and kill the citizens of your neighbor.”
Waltz said he welcomes a discussion with Mexico’s president about sovereignty.
“That’s my response to AMLO: If we want to talk sovereignty, let’s talk sovereignty,” Waltz said. “Terrorist organizations operating from Mexican soil are poisoning our cities and control our border well into inside our border. It’s a human rights issue. It’s a sovereignty issue. We have to defend our citizens.”
In addition to comparing the cartels to terrorist groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda, Waltz noted that the U.S. in the 1990s under then-Democrat President Bill Clinton engaged in successful military operations in cooperation with the Colombian government against cartels operating in Colombia. The operation, called Plan Colombia, was successful in neutralizing two major cartels.
“The bottom line is if Al Qaeda and ISIS poisoned 80,000 Americans through chemical weapons or fentanyl, what have you, we would be mobilizing everything we had to take them out. We would be doing the same thing,” Waltz said. “We did it in Colombia in the 90s with Plan Colombia with the Cali and the Medellin cartels. There’s no reason we can’t do the same with the Mexican cartels.”
Waltz said the measure is getting lots of support among Republicans—former President Donald Trump endorsed a similar idea when he was president but never did it, and has called for this type of policy again if elected in 2024—but no Democrat support publicly as of yet.
“We’re getting a heck of a lot of Republican support,” Waltz said. “We’re having conversations with some Democrats that I think eventually will get on board and then we’ll put it through committee and see if we can’t get it to the floor.”
Waltz noted that when Trump first suggested this he thought it was a great idea even though much of the establishment laughed it off at the time.
“The national security establishment just scoffed, and this came out in Mark Esper’s book and everybody kind of scoffed at it [when Trump suggested this] but I think it was a damn good idea,” Waltz said.
To make it through this current Congress, especially the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate, the measure would need to get Democrat support. Waltz said he and other backers of this proposal are talking to senators and believes there is a pathway to adopting an AUMF against the cartels in both chambers of Congress.
“Yeah, we’re having [some conversations]. I think you’re going to see first from the Senate the terrorism designation,” Waltz said. “So I’ve talked to a couple of key senators and they want to actually label them as terrorists and then come in with the authorization of the use of military force. So that’s their process, but I do think you’re going to see a parallel process on this.”
Waltz added that things are getting so bad with the cartels that he thinks some Democrats will have no choice but to join the effort to fight back.
“It’s unbelievable and I eventually think you’re going to see some Democrats get on board,” Waltz said. “These cartels are smuggling humans, they’re smuggling drugs, they’re smuggling weapons, they are in cahoots with manufacturers in China, and these are multimillion dollar enterprises. What people need to understand is that it is beyond the scope of law enforcement to handle anymore. The Mexican Army is being fought to a standstill. A couple weeks ago, they took 50 casualties including some of their aircraft shot up from armored vehicles with these cartels. These are terrorist organizations terrorizing us and our neighbors and I want to start treating them that way.”
As for whether current Democrat President Joe Biden would do anything even if Congress passed an AUMF against the cartels, Waltz is not optimistic. But he hopes a Republican will win the 2024 presidential election and would take the work Congress has done now and by then to act where Biden has failed to.
“I don’t think Biden is going to do a damn thing,” Waltz said. “You would think he would because politically it would make him look a little more tough than he does, but at the end of the day I think they’re fine with an open border. I think as you saw when he went down to Mexico and he barely brought up the border that their priority is DEI and climate, so it’s just not going to be [something Biden focuses on] but however this is also setting the stage for next year and I hope to see a Republican president in the White House in 2024.”