Sen. Graham: We Will 'Unleash the Fury and Might of the U.S. Against These Cartels'

( — On Mar. 7, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John Kennedy (R-La.) announced that they are introducing legislation to designate the Mexican drug cartels as “Foreign Terrorist Organizations” (FTOs). If approved, this would allow the U.S. military to destroy the cartels’ drug labs in Mexico and “to go after these organizations wherever they exist,” said Graham. 

“Drug cartels in Mexico have been terrorizing Americans for decades,” said Graham. “We are going to unleash the fury and might of the U.S. against these cartels.”

“We are 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 this decisive action,” he added.

Graham and Kennedy cited the destructive impact of fentanyl in the United States as a major factor in labeling the cartels FTOs. 


According to the CDC, among all overdose deaths nationwide in 2020, synthetic opioids (primarily fentanyl) were the main driver in 82.3% of the cases. In 2021, 106,000 Americans died from drug overdoses. 

“What drives this? It’s fentanyl,” said Sen. Graham.  “It has been a game changer. More people died in the United States from fentanyl poisoning than car wrecks and gun violence combined. Fentanyl is becoming the leading cause of death for Americans ages 18 to 45.”

“Two hundred Americans die every day due to fentanyl overdoses,” he added. “Fentanyl overdoses cause the equivalent of a new September 11th every two weeks.”

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid. It is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Very tiny amounts can be lethal.

The ingredients to make fentanyl are largely supplied to the Mexican cartels from criminals in Communist China and India.  With the ingredients, the cartels process the drug and often press it into pills for smuggling into the United States.  

Fentanyl as a powder is often mixed with other drugs to heighten their potency, such as heroin and cocaine, but can also be pressed into pills to make fake Xanax or fake Oxycodone. As a result, people do not always know exactly what they are buying and this often leads to overdose and death.

According to DEA Administrator Anne Milgram, “Fentanyl is the single deadliest drug threat our nation has ever encountered.”

Commenting further on the issue, Sen. Graham said, “I think [Senator Kennedy] and I believe that if there were an ISIS or Al Qaeda cell [operating] in Mexico that lobbed a rocket into Texas, we would wipe them off the planet. They [Mexican drug cartels] are doing that times thousands and our response is inadequate.”

By designating the cartels as Foreign Terrorist Organizations, it would give the U.S. military the authority “to go after these organizations wherever they exist,” said the senator. “Not to invade Mexico. Not to shoot Mexican airplanes down. But to destroy drug labs that are poisoning Americans.”

Graham also called on the president of Mexico, Andres Lopez Obrado, to help the U.S. in stopping the cartels. “[F]entanyl is a weapon of mass destruction being unleashed on America from your country,” said the senator.  “It’s coming from your country. You’re allowing safe havens for these groups to operate with impunity. Because what you’re doing is not working. Your country is being used by narcoterrorists to poison America. We ask you to help us.”

In a commentary pubished in the Wall Street Journal on March 2, former U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr said the cartels need to be treated as “national-security threats, not a law-enforcement matter.”

“These narco-terrorist groups are more like ISIS than like the American mafia,” he said. 

If the Mexican government will not help us, added Barr, America has “the right to take direct action to eliminate the threat, with or without the host country’s approval.”

The Mexican cartels cited by Graham and Kennedy as worthy of being designated FTOs are,

Sinaloa Cartel

Jalisco New Generation Cartel

Gulf Cartel

Los Zetas

Northeast Cartel

Juarez Cartel

Tijuana Cartel

Beltran-Leyva Cartel

La Familla Michoacana

Graham and Kennedy are expected to introduce their bill in the coming days. 


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