To what extent is the United States, under the umbrella of the Drug War, helping the Mexican government develop Information Warfare capability?

This question serves as an anchor, as a starting point to launch an interrogation of the connections and inter-relationships between Information Warfare, the Drug War, U.S. - Mexico military and intelligence relations, counterinsurgency and Low Intensity Conflict, the Zapatista revolution, and the militarization of Mexico. Secondary questions of import are: what does the Information Warfare capability of the Mexican military mean for insurgent resistance movements like the Zapatistas or the Ejercito de Popular Revolución (EPR), and how will the synthesis of new Information Warfare technology with counterinsurgency and Low Intensity Conflict doctrine shape the future of struggle and resistance in the Third World, but as well, in the First World, the industrialized information-based North?

Fundamentally, this thesis is concerned with how technology, especially new computer-based communication and information technology, has become a tool of powerful elites to maintain social control over the populace. Yet, it also is concerned with how this very same technology can be used for social liberation.

Chapter One concentrates on critical method and theory. The theory section examines technology as a force of social control and domination. The chapter introduces the technological dialectic of control and resistance.

Chapter Two centers on Information Warfare, first by focusing on the antecedents to Information Warfare, such as earlier military uses of communication and information technology, the military-informational-complex, and the revolution in military affairs. The chapter then provides an overview of Information Warfare definitions. This is followed by an examination of technologies key to Information Warfare capability. It ends with some remarks about critical approaches to Information Warfare.

Chapter Three addresses the antecedents to the Drug War in Mexico and to current Mexican militarization for which the Drug War has been a driving force. It begins with a brief historical overview of the period from the Mexican Revolution to World War II and from the end of that war to 1968. The bulk of the chapter focuses on the period of military modernization and Drug War expansion after 1968 by looking at four distinct periods: 1968 to the 1980s; The Drug War in the 1980s; The Drug War under the Presidencies of Bush and Salinas; and the Drug War in an Era of NAFTA and Guerrillas. The final part of Chapter Three summarizes the sophisticated weaponry that Mexico has acquired vis-à-vis the Drug War.

Chapter Four consolidates the findings of this thesis, drawing conclusions that cast the Drug War as a form of Information Warfare, but also as a new high-tech form of low-intensity conflict, part of an overall transformation of war forms brought on by computers and other advanced technologies.

Developing The Research Agenda

Information Warfare is a subject in which recently I have become acquainted. The Drug War has dragged on tirelessly for years and I have known for quite some time that this so called war is another mechanism the State uses to marginalize and subjugate. Anyone conscious during the 1980s became familiar with the policy and practice of counterinsurgency and Low Intensity Conflict. (Klare and Kornbluh 1988) The overarching system that reproduces the Drug War or LIC campaigns, the U.S. military-industrial-complex – which now may be more aptly called the U.S. military-informational-complex – is an entity which I have observed since I became a thinking being. I grew up watching the Vietnam War on television.

I became aware of Information Warfare while a master’s student at the University of Texas at Austin. It is worth noting the path I followed that led me to it. It began with the Zapatista insurgency on January 1, 1994. On this day, the very same that the North American Free Trade Agreement went into force, members of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation, the EZLN, occupied San Cristobal de las Casas and surrounding communities in the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico and announced to the world their program for social transformation.

At this time I was living in San Francisco and was a student at San Francisco State University. Three years earlier, in January, 1991, I had been actively involved in the movement against the Gulf War. The rapid defeat of the Iraqi forces, the overwhelming power wielded by the U.S. military machine, and the seeming ineffectualness of our opposition movement, left many of us demoralized and confused. When the Zapatistas emerged on the international scene, it was for many a sign of hope and inspiration. I immediately directed my attention to their struggle.

The means through which I received the bulk of my news and information about the Zapatistas then – and this still holds true today – was the Internet. Because I was already connected to listservs with interests in Mexico, I started to receive EZLN communiqués and news, both in Spanish and English, as soon as they were posted on the Net. This first occurred just days after the January 1, 1994 uprising. This transmittal of EZLN communiqués and other news and information allowed for the rapid creation of solidarity groups all over the world. In San Francisco new groups and coalitions quickly formed around the Zapatistas. Protests at the Mexican consulate, public forums, and campaigns to distribute information about the Zapatistas were all facilitated by the use of the Net. This type of solidarity, in San Francisco, in other cities in the United States, and in locations throughout the world, is credited by both friend and foe as being extremely significant to the Zapatistas continued survival. (Halleck 1994)

A little more than a year and a half after the Zapatista uprising, I became a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin. In the fall of 1995, I learned of a campus group called Acción Zapatista. (See Appendix for Acción Zapatista’s web site address.) At one of their meetings I obtained a draft copy of The Zapatistas and the Electronic Fabric of Struggle, written by Harry Cleaver, a member of the group and an economics professor. (Cleaver 1995) This article not only described the process of how the Net has been instrumental in the creation of a global pro Zapatista movement, but demonstrated how this process was under the watchful eye of the State and key intellectuals within the military-informational-complex. A prime group of intellectuals within this milieu are situated at RAND, a pro-military think-tank in Santa Monica, California. RAND authors produced a document called Cyberwar is Coming! (Arquilla and Ronfeldt 1993). Through Cleaver’s references to this document in his article I first became aware of the concepts of cyberwar, netwar. This steered me to the literature on Information Warfare.

At the same time I was increasingly interested in the direct role the U.S. military intelligence community was playing in Mexico, in particular the way in which this “community” was assisting their counterparts in Mexico since the Zapatista uprising had occurred. The Lightening at the End of the Tunnel: U.S. Military Involvement in Mexico’s Quagmire Deepens by Peter Lumsdaine appeared on the Net in the fall of 1995. (Lumsdaine 1995) This article outlined the different ways in which the United States had been assisting Mexico militarily. Several months after reading this article, Lumsdaine and I were both participants on a Global Exchange Human Rights Delegation to Chiapas. Global Exchange is a San Francisco based group that has organized several human rights delegations to Mexico. Although not referring to the phenomena as an aspect of Information Warfare, Lumsdaine described to me his theories on how the U.S. military has been able to assist the Mexican armed forces, for example, with overhead satellite surveillance and global positioning system (GPS) technology. During this period, I also met and interviewed John Ross, author of Rebellion from the Roots, one of the first books to be published about the Zapatistas. (Ross 1995) Simultaneously, then, my interests in Information Warfare and U.S. military assistance to Mexico developed and converged.

In the spring of 1996 I focused my intellectual attention on Information Warfare, incorporating the subject into my graduate coursework. For the first time I used the World Wide Web to conduct research and discovered numerous Web sites devoted to Information Warfare. Little, if any, of the material on the Web or in hard copy was of a critical nature. The bulk of the Information Warfare literature was written by or from the perspective of the military and its adherents. Also in the spring of 1996 I wrote a proposal and obtained funding to spend a portion of the summer of 1996 in Mexico City, to engage in research based at the Colegio de Mexico. In Mexico City I was able to obtain some source materials difficult to find in the United States, such as theses and dissertations written at Mexican universities on U.S. military relations with Mexico. But I discovered that much of the primary source material referenced in Mexican journals originated in the United States. Nevertheless, through interviews and discussions with Mexican academics, journalists, and activists, I was exposed to important Mexican perspectives.

In addition to Mexico City, I spent several weeks during the summer of 1996 in Chiapas, where I attended the First Intercontinental Encuentro For Humanity and Against Neoliberalism, an international gathering called by the Zapatistas. Of relevance to this thesis, I met with other “Netwar actors” who are engaged in collecting, producing, and distributing, on the Net, information about the Zapatistas and about related struggles against neoliberalism.

By this time another important element had entered the picture: the Drug War. It became apparent to me that the war on drugs had become the major vehicle to transfer military funds, equipment, hardware, and training from the United States to Mexico and the rest of Latin America. In searching for data and information regarding United States to Mexico military transference, the war on drugs inevitably surfaced. I discovered that since the end of the Cold War, the Drug War had become the primary ideological rationale for continued U.S. military hegemony in the Americas. I began to see that while the Zapatistas and other armed insurgent movements in Mexico are objects of a new militarization in Mexico, the Drug War is the route or means used to acquire the sophisticated technological Information Warfare grade military equipment and training needed to combat these insurgents.

In September, 1996, I visited Washington, DC where I met and interviewed John Pike of the Federation of American Scientist's Space Policy Project. (Pike 1996) We discussed Information Warfare. He said that because there is still not widespread agreement on the terminology, it is difficult to speak clearly about the subject. But he was interested in my construction of the Drug War as a form of Information Warfare. I also met with staff at the Washington Office on Latin America, an organization that has produced important material on the Drug War in Latin America and that has been one of the organizations inside the beltway more attentive to U.S. military involvement in Mexico. (Call 1991; Olson 1996)

In this thesis I intend to show, in a detailed manner, how the United States is helping Mexico gain in Information Warfare capability and how the Drug War has become a convenient means to transfer military hardware and know-how to Mexico.

Although written for purposes of fulfilling graduation requirements, I hope my audience will include people outside of the university and that this project will become part of an ongoing conversation about the Drug War and Information Warfare in Mexico and part of the broader critical discussion about new computer-based information and communication technologies.