The Republican Primary Consensus for Sending the Military Into Mexico

When Sen. Tim Scott (R–S.C.), a comparatively affable chap in the context of contemporary GOP politics, announced his 2024 presidential bid on Monday, the speech was predictably full of the upbeat, anecdotal, ain’t-America-grand stuff that Scott, like generations of Republicans before him, has made central to his political career.

Then things suddenly turned dark.

“When I am president, the drug cartels using Chinese labs and Mexican factories to kill Americans will cease to exist,” Scott vowed. “I will freeze their assets, I will build the wall, and I will allow the world’s greatest military to fight these terrorists. Because that’s exactly what they are.”

Scott’s bellicosity was no mere bolt from the blue. As Reason has been documenting for six years now, Republicans, even while otherwise souring on U.S interventionism abroad, have increasingly concluded that the alarming spike in domestic fentanyl overdoses would best be treated by sending the military into Mexico.

Donald Trump first floated the idea, while he was president, of designating drug cartels as terrorist organizations—thereby allowing for extraterritorial prosecutions, enhanced investigative powers, and increased penalties for domestic drug-related crimes—in March 2019, but held off after the government of Mexico repeatedly objected on grounds of sovereignty while making uncooperative noises about transnational migration policy.

But the appetite for corralling cartels into the otherwise-unpopular war on terror was only beginning to rumble in the conservative belly. Trump himself in the summer of 2020 twice asked then–Defense Secretary Mark Esper whether “we could just shoot some Patriot missiles and take out the labs, quietly,” according to Esper’s 2022 memoir. Notable MAGA politicians Sen. J.D. Vance (R–Ohio) and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R–Ga.) have both suggested violent interdiction south of the border, as have a bevy of more traditional hawks. There are a handful of escalatory bills bouncing around Congress.

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Cops say they’re being poisoned by fentanyl. Experts say the risk is ‘extremely low’

Last December, Officer Courtney Bannick was on the job for the Tavares, Fla., police department when she came into contact with a powder she believed was street fentanyl.

The footage from another officer’s body camera shows Bannick appearing to lose consciousness before being lowered to the ground by other cops.

“I was light-headed a little bit,” Bannick later told WKMG, a local television station. “I was choking, I couldn’t breathe.”

Other officers can be heard on the tape describing Bannick’s medical condition as an overdose. They administered Narcan, a medication that reverses opioid poisoning.

“She’s breathing,” a cop says. “Stay with me!”

The Tavares police department blamed the incident on fentanyl. Local officials declined NPR’s requests for an interview, as did Bannick. Speaking with WKMG, a television station in Orlando, she said she felt lucky to be alive.

“If I didn’t have backup there, I wouldn’t be here today,” she said soon after the incident.

Reports of police suffering severe medical symptoms after touching or inhaling powdered fentanyl are common, occurring “every few weeks” around the U.S. according to experts interviewed by NPR.

But many experts say these officers aren’t experiencing fentanyl or opioid overdoses.

“This has never happened,” said Dr. Ryan Marino, a toxicologist and emergency room physician who studies addiction at Case Western Reserve University. “There has never been an overdose through skin contact or accidentally inhaling fentanyl.”

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Prohibition Gave Us Xylazine in Fentanyl. The Solution, Drug Warriors Say, Is More Prohibition.

The emergence of the animal tranquilizer xylazine as a fentanyl adulterant, like the emergence of fentanyl as a heroin booster and substitute, has prompted law enforcement officials to agitate for new legal restrictions and criminal penalties. That response is fundamentally misguided, because the threat it aims to address is a familiar consequence of prohibition, which creates a black market in which drug composition is highly variable and unpredictable. Instead of recognizing their complicity in maintaining and magnifying that hazard, drug warriors always think the answer is more of the same.

Xylazine was first identified as a fentanyl adulterant in 2006, and today it is especially common in Puerto Rico, Philadelphia, Maryland, and Connecticut. In Philadelphia between 2010 and 2015, according to a 2021 BMJ article, xylazine was detected in less than 2 percent of drug-related deaths involving heroin and/or fentanyl. Its prevalence in such cases had risen to 31 percent by 2019. According to a 2022 Cureus report, “up to 78%” of illicit fentanyl sold in Puerto Rico and Philadelphia contains xylazine. In 2022, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports, xylazine was detected in 23 percent of fentanyl powder and 7 percent of fentanyl pills analyzed by its laboratories.

Xylazine is a sedative, analgesic, and muscle relaxant that is not approved for use in humans but is commonly used by veterinarians. It is chemically similar to phenothiazines, tricyclic antidepressants, and clonidine. But like fentanyl and other opioids, xylazine depresses respiration, so combining it with narcotics can increase the risk of a fatal reaction. Unlike a fentanyl overdose, a xylazine overdose cannot be reversed by the opioid antagonist naloxone.

Xylazine also seems to increase the risk of potentially serious skin infections and ulcers that have always been a hazard of unsanitary injection practices. According to a 2022 article in Dermatology World Insights and Inquiries, “the presumed mechanism” is “the direct vasoconstricting effect on local blood vessels and resultant decreased skin perfusion,” which impairs healing.

Why is xylazine showing up in fentanyl? For the same reasons fentanyl started showing up in heroin. As a 2014 literature review in Forensic Science International notes, “illicit drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, are often adulterated with other agents to increase bulk and enhance or mimic the illicit drug’s effects.” Because xylazine and heroin have “some similar pharmacologic effects,” the authors say, “synergistic effects may occur in humans when xylazine is use as an adulterant of heroin.”

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GOP embraces a new foreign policy: Bomb Mexico to stop fentanyl

A growing number of prominent Republicans are rallying around the idea that to solve the fentanyl crisis, America must bomb it away.

In recent weeks, Donald Trump has discussed sending “special forces” and using “cyber warfare” to target cartel leaders if he’s reelected president and, per Rolling Stone, asked for “battle plans” to strike Mexico. Reps. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) and Mike Waltz (R-Fla.) introduced a bill seeking authorization for the use of military force to “put us at war with the cartels.” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said he is open to sending U.S. troops into Mexico to target drug lords even without that nation’s permission. And lawmakers in both chambers have filed legislation to label some cartels as foreign terrorist organizations, a move supported by GOP presidential aspirants.

“We need to start thinking about these groups more like ISIS than we do the mafia,” Waltz, a former Green Beret, said in a short interview.

Not all Republican leaders are behind this approach. John Bolton, Trump’s third national security adviser who’s weighing his own presidential run, said unilateral military operations “are not going to solve the problem.” And House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Mike McCaul (R-Texas), for example, is “still evaluating” the AUMF proposal “but has concerns about the immigration implications and the bilateral relationship with Mexico,” per a Republican staff member on the panel.

But the eagerness of some Republicans to openly legislate or embrace the use of the military in Mexico suggests that the idea is taking firmer root inside the party. And it illustrates the ways in which frustration with immigration, drug overdose deaths and antipathy towards China are defining the GOP’s larger foreign policy.

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“Grandma of the Police Officers Association” in California Arrested for Importing Fentanyl From China and Other Countries

As the drug crisis in America rages on as opioids and fentanyl pour across our unsecured border from the Mexican drug cartels supplied by Chinese “pharmaceuticals,” an unsuspecting trafficker has emerged.

San Jose Police Officers Association police union executive Joanne Marian Segovia was arrested on Wednesday for attempting to import a synthetic opioid called Valeryl fentanyl.  If convicted, she faces up to 20 years in federal prison.

Police union president Sean Pritchard told the New York Post that Segovia was like “the grandma of the POA…this is not the person we’ve known, the person who has worked with fallen officers’ families, organized fundraisers for officers’ kids…”

Segovia was allegedly importing packages of drugs from China, Canada, India and other countries and disguising them as common items such as makeup, chocolates, and food supplements.  She has received at least 61 packages at her home from 2015 through 2023.

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Don’t Let Police, Media Mislead You About Fentanyl Exposure Overdoses

Once again, media outlets are rushing to sow panic by blindly accepting a police department’s claims that an officer may have accidentally overdosed by being in close physical proximity to fentanyl, reinforcing the false message that you can potentially overdose on the drug even if you don’t intentionally consume it.

This time we head to Tavares, Florida, where the Tavares Police Department distributed to the local press body camera footage of Officer Courtney Bannick appearing to collapse and pass out after encountering what turned out to be fentanyl and meth in a rolled-up dollar bill she found in a routine traffic stop.

Local news outlets lapped it up (the story, not the fentanyl) and the video footage ran on WESH (the local NBC affiliate), FOX 35, and elsewhere. In none of the initial stories does anybody so much as question whether what they’re seeing is actually being caused by exposure to fentanyl. The officer was wearing gloves, but it was windy, and police argue that it’s possible she breathed the fentanyl in. Officers on the scene say they gave her three doses of Narcan. They brought her to the hospital, where she fully recovered. She is now fine.

The Tavares Police Department is very clear that it’s releasing the body camera footage for the purpose of scaring people about fentanyl.

“Officer Bannick really wants others to take away that this drug is dangerous,” Tavares Detective Courtney Sullivan told WESH. “It’s dangerous for not only yourself but others around you. Something as simple as the wind could expose you and just like that, your life could end.”

This just isn’t true. Add it to the pile of many, many examples of police attempting to convince the public that any possible exposure to fentanyl may be deadly. It does not simply pass through the skin when you touch it. As for the claim that the officer might have inhaled it, a study from the American College of Medical Toxicology and American Academy of Clinical Toxicology calculated that a person would have to stand next to a massive amount of fentanyl for two and a half hours to feel its effects.

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No Treats, Only Tricks: Republicans Try to Ruin Halloween With Fake Rainbow Fentanyl Threat

group of Republican senators has released a video warning parents that Mexican drug cartels have begun targeting children by disguising fentanyl as candy, despite actual experts claiming its bogus.

The public service announcement, a portion of which was aired on Fox News Friday morning, said that “by working together and being on high alert this Halloween, we can help put an end to the drug traffickers that are driving addiction.” 

Halloween this year falls exactly 8 days before the November midterms, and what better way is there to drive home your tough-on-crime, war on drugs-electoral messaging than to convince parents that the cartels are in the house down the block and are handing out synthetic opioids to your kid? 

“Rainbow fentanyl comes in a variety of bright colors, shapes, and sizes, including pills powder and blocks that resemble sidewalk chalk,” said Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy. “Even just handling these pills or powders…can kill a person,” added Senator Steve Daines (R-Mon.), alluding to the myth that touching fentanyl can cause an overdose. 

Nebraska Senator Deb Fisher warned that “according to the DEA, these pills are a deliberate effort by drug traffickers to drive addiction amongst kids and young adults.”

However, experts, who at this point are exasperated at the “poisoned Halloween candy” myth’s yearly resurgence, are again reiterating that drug dealers are not handing out narcotics to children en masse. In fact, the use of colors is typically a way for producers to distinguish their products from other manufacturers and to make them identifiable to existing consumers, not a way to market them to children. Mariah Francis, a Resource Associate with the National Harm Reduction Coalition, criticized the GOP lawmakers misrepresentation of the ways drugs circulate in communities. “Drug markets are based off profit gain and profit margins,” explained Francis. Drug dealers “are not making money giving free fentanyl tablets […] to small children.”

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Scientists Expose “Laughable” CDC Misinformation Video Currently Up On Their Website

Within the CDC there is a smaller department known as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). NIOSH claims to promote productive workplaces through safety and health research. But as the following video on their website shows, the last thing they appear to be interested in is research.

According to the CDC, this video helps “emergency responders understand the risks and communicate what they can do to protect themselves from exposure to illicit drugs.”

But it does nothing of the sort and actually does the opposite.

To save 13 minutes of boredom, there is no need to watch the video. It simply shows multiple cops enter a hotel room in which there is a tiny bit of fentanyl on the dresser. Within minutes of being in the room — and while wearing a respirator — one of the officers falls out. According to the video, the CDC, and the experts who conducted their “research,” this was due to fentanyl exposure — for merely being in the same room with the powder — and despite toxicology results showing negative for fentanyl.

Amanda D’Ambrosio, an Enterprise & Investigative Writer for MedPage Today interviewed several experts in the field about the CDC’s use of this video and their misinformed messaging on fentanyl exposure. She is warning that the CDC’s guidance is actually misleading law enforcement.

“No one has explained exactly what’s happened in that video, it’s all conjecture,” Brandon del Pozo, PhD, a drug policy and public health researcher at Brown University and former police chief told the outlet. “It is surprising to see something with such a basis in conjecture being presented by an agency that has a commitment to science.”

The NIOSH video provides little evidence confirming how these officers were exposed to the drugs, and no real explanation of the health effects that it aims to prevent, experts told MedPage Today. Drug researchers and scientists say that the video inflates law enforcement officers’ risk of overdose, incites fear within the police force, and ultimately, causes harm to people who use drugs.

As TFTP reported this week, overdose deaths in the U.S. have hit record numbers and of the more than 100,000 people who have died, roughly 70 percent of them involved fentanyl. Make no mistake, fentanyl is deadly but only when it is ingested.

You cannot overdose by merely being exposed to fentanyl.

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Despite Being Heavily Debunked, Dept. Releases Video Claiming Cop Nearly Died from ‘Exposure’ to Fentanyl

In case you’ve been completely in the dark for the last decade, you’ve likely noticed that the United States is currently in the midst of an opioid crisis. This crisis knows no demographic, no race, no gender, no age limit, and no occupation—it hits them all. Due to the government-imposed lockdowns, 2021 marked the deadliest year in history for fatal drug overdoses with fentanyl claiming the lives of countless individuals.

Because the state enforces a drug war which outlaws far safer alternatives, fentanyl has grabbed a large portion of the illegal drug market and these synthetic opioids that are extremely dangerous are flooding the streets. Make no mistake, fentanyl is dangerous and kills people by the thousands but the government’s response to it is causing far more harm than good.

Instead of realizing the dangers brought on by enforcing a war on drugs which has led to the thriving illicit fentanyl market, much of law enforcement resorts to violence, fear tactics and propaganda to unsuccessfully scare people into compliance. A video was released this week by the Thomasville police department and it is nothing short of “scary propaganda.”

According to the Thomasville Police Chief Mitch Stuckey, one of his officers nearly died after working a drug bust and was “exposed to fentanyl.”

“Our officer did everything right” but was still somehow exposed to the opioid and could have died, Stuckey told WKRG.

According to the chief, after the officer was “exposed,” he drove all the way back to the department — after wrapping up the bust — and only collapsed once he got in front of the department’s surveillance camera. The officer was then given Narcan and rushed to the hospital.

“The officers [who aided the victim] were shook up” by the experience, Stuckey said.

The department released the subsequent video and dozens of media outlets have since picked it up and have been spreading it around. The department has not released the toxicology reports, nor what the hospital has said.

“Fentanyl is the most dangerous drug,” Stuckey said, saying the officer must have touched it or had it on his clothes. “An amount as small as a grain of salt can be fatal.”

While it is certainly true that fentanyl is extremely dangerous, simply being near it or even touching it, cannot hurt you. It has to be ingested.

In reality, where the Free Thought Project chooses to live, it is not possible to overdose from coming in contact with the drug without actually ingesting it. It is not absorbed through the skin nor does it have deadly “fumes.” Though fentanyl is certainly dangerous, unless the Thomasville police officer ate it, snorted it, or injected it, his collapse was either faked or completely unrelated.

But don’t take our word for it, listen to Dr. Ryan Marino, MD Medical Toxicologist, Addiction Medicine Specialist and Emergency Physician Assistant Professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, who has called out reports like this before.

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