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Untitled Document

Evidence of Failure

A review of Charles Bowden's book, Down By The River

By Deitra Lied, November Coalition, El Paso, Texas

Many different worlds collide in the dusty, sprawling metropolis of El Paso/Juarez, igniting a culture of chaos. This conflagration is fueled to levels of heroic proportions by economic opportunity. The biggest opportunities arise from the official American goals of stopping the illegal drug trade, the so-called War on Drugs.

Profits previously unimaginable are within reach for the daring; profits in a black market created by drug prohibition laws. Consequently, 'greed' violently governs lives on both sides of the border with the protection, or camouflage, of law enforcement and government on both sides of the border. In Down by the River, Charles Bowden investigates and records for history a collage of bizarre events at the frontlines of a war that can never be won.

I'm from El Paso. I have encouraged people for many years to open their minds to the murderous results of this war on drugs - but with limited success and much frustration. Now others comment readily because this eye-popping book is available as credible social research. Charles Bowden has provided facts, names, dates, researchable footnotes, and irrefutable grounds to support what we already know and feel.

Most everyone around here remembers the story of the Jordan family, around whom the book centers. Many people agree with Phillip Jordan, the eldest brother of this local family, who believes his youngest brother Bruno was killed with an Uzi in a carjacking as a warning from the Juarez cartel to 'back off.'

Was this a nasty hint for Phil to drop his announced plans to increase DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) success in his hometown? Anyone who has heard the story has an opinion similar to mine, and I feel it was a dire warning. His brother's murder occurred as Phillip Jordan was in the process of filling his promotion with the DEA to head the El Paso Intelligence Center, or EPIC.

Seeing in print the details of local daily newspaper stories supported with what I've only heard in whispers is at the same time affirming yet even more frightening. With so much documentation available to so many, why aren't we approaching these issues with more realism? Why are so many people paying so dearly with their lives or time in prison?

The borderland that surrounds the Rio Grande is like a test tube for corruption. What happens here can happen anywhere if left unchecked. We cannot continue on our current path and expect to achieve any success, nor can we abruptly legalize the most popular illegal drugs without major global repercussions. We need to see the truth and deal with it.

According to Bowden, pragmatic patriotism may be at the heart of many of the sophisticated and driven businessmen, narcocorridos, when they employ thousands and build roads, churches, schools and more. Ironically, here in the United States public funds continue to be routed away from education and public health and towards law enforcement and harsher punishments. Our leaders must be plagued with self-protective amnesia or hysterical blindness to allow a system of honor and integrity to be replaced with practices of conspiracy and deceit. The snitch culture of coercion and lies, undercover agents, and entrapment prevalent in our law enforcement and judicial system today is a far cry from "protect and serve" slogans of most police departments.

The drug economy has grown so powerful that human lives are often a business expense, where torture and murder are 'business tools.' The drug trafficking business represents 20% of the American economy and over 60% of the Mexican economy, tying the hands of presidents, law enforcement, and politicians to payoffs and bank transactions of unprecedented scale. Who can dispute that when an entire nation depends on a profitable enterprise, legal or not, there will be no real effort to curb it? In Down by the River Bowden introduces policy makers and US operatives who know and accept this reality. The balance of blood lost in this clash of public policy and real life is monumental.

Relentlessly, Charles Bowden compels the reader to see the true colors of the growing economic force of a global black market. He took great personal risks to be involved within the shadowy collision of trafficking and enforcement groups. Down by the River is a documentary illuminating the bloody reality of a 30-year war, and a feat of unparalleled journalism.

Down by the River may be a difficult book to read for some, yet Bowden's unyielding prose hammers out new consciousness, making it difficult to put down. He captures the diversity of the Mexican/US borderland with all its contradictions and magic in lustrous vivid imagery. It is a complete exposé of government propaganda and its mystification of rampant mind-numbing corruption.

Telling the truth in a time of universal deceit is an act of revolution. Thank you, Charles Bowden.

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