Sen. Lindsey Graham is calling on President Biden to “unleash” the full force of the U.S. military against Mexican drug cartels as patience for carnage just south of the southern border wears thin on Capitol Hill in the wake of the recent kidnapping of four Americans, leaving two dead.
The South Carolina Republican is joining forces with Sen. John Kennedy, Louisiana Republican, in introducing legislation to designate nine Mexican gangs as foreign terrorist organizations and to authorize the use of military force in Mexico to bring the cartels to their knees.
“Drug cartels in Mexico have been terrorizing Americans for decades,” Mr. Graham said Wednesday. “We are going to unleash the fury and might of the United States against these cartels. “We’re going to destroy their business model and their lifestyle because our national security and the security of the United States as a whole depends on us taking decisive action.”
Mr. Graham‘s proposal adds to growing concern in Congress over the Biden administration’s lax security at the southern border, which Republicans say has emboldened the cartels.
The senator’s proposal echoes similar calls in Congress for President Biden to crack down on the powerful gangs.
“The cartels are at war with us — poisoning more than 80,000 Americans with fentanyl every year, creating a crisis at our border and turning Mexico into a failed narco-state,” Rep. Dan Crenshaw, Texas Republican, said in January in a statement accompanying his legislation to create authorization for the use of military force to target Mexican cartels.
SEE ALSO: Two Americans killed in cartel crossfire across Mexican border, raising fresh security fears
He added, “It’s time we directly target them. We cannot allow heavily armed and deadly cartels to destabilize Mexico and import people and drugs into the United States. We must start treating them like ISIS — because that is who they are.”
Mr. Crenshaw was joined by Rep. Mike Waltz, Florida Republican, in introducing the House proposal to authorize such force.
Those calls have grown more urgent after four U.S. citizens were kidnapped at a Mexican border town by a local drug cartel last week.
The four Americans had entered Mexico Friday so one of the group could have cosmetic surgery.
Their minivan was caught in a crossfire from an apparent battle between rival gangs on the streets of Matamoros, Mexico, just across the border from Brownsville, Texas. A 33-year-old Mexican woman was also killed in the clash, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar said in a statement Monday.
Two of those captured were confirmed dead this week.
“[Two] of the 4 Americans kidnapped by the cartels in Mexico were murdered, and we still haven’t declared the cartels a military target,” Mr. Crenshaw said on Twitter Monday. “It’s time we authorize military force against them.”
Rep. Troy E. Nehls, Texas Republican, on Tuesday warned that the cartel’s ruthlessness in Mexico would soon seep into the U.S. unless Mr. Biden takes decisive action.
“I recommend we take the fight to the cartel and use extreme prejudice because they are killing Americans,” he told Fox News on Tuesday.
Despite growing pressure from Congress, Mr. Biden is unlikely to deploy the military to Mexico even if authorized to do so by Congress.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby cautioned on Tuesday that it was “just too soon” to discuss “any policy changes or vectors as a result of” the kidnapping and murders by the drug cartels.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Tuesday said the president takes the rise in violence in Mexico “very seriously” but declined to comment on the “military and how it’s being used.”
“The FBI and other agencies have been on top of this from day one,” she said. “And so that’s what he’s going to continue to do.”
Mr. Graham called on the Biden administration to “up the ante” in bringing the fight to the cartels.
“It’s time now to get serious and use all of the tools in the toolbox,” he said. “Not just in the prosecution lane, not just in the law enforcement lane, but in the military lane as well.”
The Pentagon has raised concerns that any proposal to deploy the military south of the border would be met with staunch opposition from Mexico that would threaten future cooperation on efforts to hold the cartels at bay.
“I do worry, based on signals, very strong signals we’ve gotten from the Mexicans in the past — concerns about their sovereignty, concerns about potential reciprocal steps — that they might take to cut off our access if we were to take some of the steps that are in consideration,” Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Hemispheric Affairs Melissa G. Dalton told the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday.
“I think we need to be really clear-eyed about weighing those trade-offs,” she said.
Mexico‘s leftist President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has gone on the attack against those pushing for U.S. military intervention in his country.
In a press conference Tuesday, Mr. Lopez Obrador lashed out at Mr. Crenshaw, accusing the congressman of using the kidnapped Americans as political pawns.
“What has this [congressman] done?” the Mexican president said of Mr. Crenshaw. “I don’t know, but some senators even receive money for their campaigns from the arms factories of the United States. Enough of the hypocrisy and of seeing nothing more than the speck in the other’s eye and not the beam in one’s own.”
Mr. Graham was unfazed by the Mexican president’s attacks.
“To the president of Mexico: You have let your country slide into the hands of narco-terrorists,” Mr. Graham said Tuesday. “Your capability or your will doesn’t exist to stop what is, I think, the poisoning of America. You’re leaving us with no other choices.”