What should be done?  What can be done?  According to investigative journalist Les Zaitz, in a series of articles on the subject that appeared recently in The Oregonian, Mexican drug gangs control a virtual ocean of drugs that are washing over Oregon with bombings and shootings, regularly and disdainfully displaying destructive savagery.

Most of us are not in law enforcement work.  We couldn’t know that the pipe bomb explosion in Canby in December 2011, that killed Ivan Velasco Rodriguez, a 31-year-old landscaper, was intended for a witness  who once listed the Canby address as his own. Law enforcement investigators concluced it to be the work of a Mexican drug cartel.

It has been learned, too, that Mexican cartels, including the powerful Sinaloa and the brutal Los Zetas (there are seven main cartels), have infiltrated almost every corner of Oregon.  At last count, authorities were aware of no fewer than 69 drug trafficking organizations selling drugs in Oregon, nearly all supplied by cartels.

Cartels and their allies control nearly every ounce of heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine flowing into the area, smuggling drugs up I-5 by the ton with millions of dollars from American customers going back down I-5 into Mexico.  Although legalizing marijuana could bring relief on this front, at present, the cartels also tear up Oregon forests to plant and harvest marijuana.

The folks responsible for distribution of the carnage live under our very noses.  Some of them are caught and we hear about their arrests, incarcerations and deportations but these events are reported by police as isolated homicides and drug busts.  In fact, they are mainly and mostly the work of cartels operating to produce and distribute their poisons from hundreds of miles away in Mexico.

More information is now coming out from law enforcement agencies because they believe that the Oregon public needs to know and better understand the growing threat Oregon and the Northwest faces.  Assistant U.S. attorney John Deits, who oversees federal drug prosecutions in Oregon, has been quoted to say, “Oregonians are totally naïve, totally out of touch with what is happening.”  A more appropriate comment from him might be that we are uninformed rather than “naïve.”

In 2000 law enforcement officials  first noticed signs that Mexican cartels had arrived big-time into the Pacific Northwest.  Investigators tell us that Mexican traffickers are nowadays grossly exploiting Oregon’s close ties to Mexico by following family and friends who have moved here and are recruited to do their business and keep their mouths shut or face retaliations in the form of killings that will happen to those they know still in Mexico.

The Mexican cartels are expanding their control of drug distribution networks in Oregon, using many of the folks who cooperate out of fear for themselves and loved ones in Mexico.  Sometimes, unfortunately, they are not disinclined to cooperate as that is a quick means to make big money fast while they have no concern for their American neighbors.

We have an illicit drug problem here that is immense and growing exponentially.  The U.S. Senate has addressed immigration, allowing citizenship to those seeking it and bringing military-like border controls.  Meanwhile, the House of Representatives may vote down any new order of things having to do with the undocumented.  The bottom line is that it looks an awful lot like nothing out of D.C. will happen to forestall the significantly worsening drug problem in the states of Oregon and Washington.

Yet, if something could be done then it would seem decidedly interventionist if more border guards were hired.  It would make a huge difference, too, if the money being spent for U.S. troops deployed overseas was spent here at home for training in preparation to find and destroy the Mexican drug cartels inside the U.S.  Most certainly it’s doable: only lack of adequate investments stand in the way while shoot-to-kill offenders when caught practicing their nefarious deeds (they are truly enemy combatants after all), much like we deal with enemies overseas, may be the only way to proceed—as in any war and this is, mind you, a real war, one designed to bring the United States to its ruin.

What would we do with the millions of Americans who are addicted to heroin, meth and cocaine, if their supply of these drugs was cut off, is a problematic matter of the highest challenge. Many would like to get off that terrible stuff, but can’t control their addiction.  More would have to be done along the lines of state-supported rehabilitation while the availability of appropriate training and subsequent job opportunities would be fundamentally important to success.

As bad as the drug problem is at present, it promises by every indicator to get worse and, with its destructiveness, more and more innocent Oregonians and other Americans are going to get hurt.  How bad it has to get before we take serious action remains to be seen.  Yet, most assuredly, drastic action should be underway now but appears from all reports inadequate and failing to stem the cartel tide.

Based on the way things are going these days, it looks like each of us is mainly on his own with only that proverbial ‘wing and prayer’ to save us.

(Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer.)