Just Say No To More Money For Colombia Drug War

Just Say No To More Money For Colombia Drug War
Posted by FoM on April 29, 2000 at 07:39:24 PT
By Kevin B. Zeese
Source: Wall Street Journal 
No Interdiction Program Has Had Any Serious Impact On The Supply Of Illegal Drugs In The U.S. Rather, These Campaigns Have Spurred New Source Countries, New Trafficking Routes And New Drugs. Current congressional consideration of a $1.7 billion military aid program for Colombia is the most recent escalation of the U.S. government's war on drugs with a total federal budget of over $250 billion since 1980. 
Each administration has fought the drug war aggressively, using the military, spraying herbicides, extraditing leaders of cartels, providing intelligence and other assistance to the military and police forces of the Americas. The results have been dismal. The street price of both cocaine and heroin has dropped to one fourth what it was in 1981 while the potency has increased dramatically. Drugs arriving from Colombia today are practically pharmaceutical grade, and they've never been easier to get. According to a government survey 35% of high school seniors now say heroin is readily available a proportion that has doubled in two decades. A policy failure this spectacular would normally call for rolling heads or at the very least a congressional hearing. But instead of questioning a course that is steering us onto the rocks, we're about to push the throttles to flank speed. No eradication or interdiction program in the past 35 years has had any serious impact on the supply of illegal drugs in the U.S. Rather than cutting off the supply, these campaigns have consistently spurred new source countries, new trafficking routes and new drugs. Yet the White House and Congress are assembling a military aid package for Colombia that ignores this history. Among the many examples of the law of unintended consequences are several disasters that illuminate the problem. In the early 1980s South Florida was the entry point for Colombian marijuana, and the Reagan administration moved marijuana interdiction to top priority. For the first time in history the Department of Defense was drafted for drug war duty, complete with troops and high tech resources.The Colombian traffickers responded almost overnight. Since marijuana is bulky and easily seized, they needed something more compact. And since smuggling was now more dangerous, they needed to up the profit margin. Cocaine was the obvious choice almost as easy to produce, much more profitable, and compact enough to be hidden in the normal stream of commerce. Thus, the cocaine explosion of the 1980s which also brought us crack can be viewed as a direct consequence of drug enforcement efforts directed at the marijuana supply.This lesson should have been obvious from catastrophic experience with a previous interdiction campaign. In 1969 the Nixon administration virtually shut down the Mexican border in an effort to stem the tide of marijuana and heroin. U.S. Customs was ordered to search one out of every three vehicles entering the U.S. The backups stretched for miles, Mexico was outraged, and the policy was soon shelved.But the brief disruption of normal drug traffic lasted long enough to spur fundamental changes in the dynamics of drug trafficking and use. There are indications that prescription drug use filled the temporary void. Seizure reports demonstrate that traffickers adapted to the land blockade by switching to boats and planes. And Asian drug lords saw an opportunity to expand their heroin markets. Thus the end result was increased use of prescription drugs, expanded supplies of "China White" and the development of sea and air routes by the Mexican cartels. The rapid escalation of drug use in the 1970s can be directly connected to this effort. It's not only interdiction efforts that have backfired. Eradication programs have an even worse track record. When President Carter decided to nip marijuana and heroin supplies in the bud by spraying herbicides in Mexico in 1977, the Mexicans simply shipped the stuff anyway. Health, Education and Welfare Secretary Joseph Califano announced that contaminated marijuana showing up in the U.S. posed a significant health risk. American pot smokers responded. Instead of throwing the seeds away, they planted them, and with typical Yankee know how they refined the humble weed into a potent plant that made the Mexican stuff look like dandelions. The National Drug Intelligence Center now reports marijuana is cultivated in every state in the union.In the unlikely event that the Colombian campaign has any impact on the cocaine trade, it could trigger an even more dangerous backlash. Methamphetamine, far more dangerous, is a less expensive, domestically produced substitute that can be manufactured in a motel room. Another likely impact is increased coca production in other countries. Peru reports that the price of raw coca has tripled and new coca cultivation expanded by 3,700 acres in 1999.Since the problem we face today can be traced in large part to our misguided enforcement campaigns, a rational person might ask why we are about to commit once again to a program that is probably doomed at the outset and almost certain to make everything worse. One might also ask why we are ignoring the mountains of data that show us a better way. The White House says there are five million serious U.S. users who need treatment. It is this group addicts who have to get drugs several times a day that drives the narcotics market. Studies by the RAND Corp. tell us that treatment is 10 times as cost effective as interdiction, yet U.S. treatment facilities have room for only 43% of these hard core addicts. The government could also be a lot more effective in preventing drug abuse in the first place. The best prevention programs for American youth are after school and alternative activity programs. The U.S. spends $600 million on after school programs, and they help kids "just say no" by giving them something to say "yes" to. If there is a decision to be made between spending more resources on eradication and interdiction or on youth programs, the latter should be chosen. It has proved to be far more effective. These simple steps involve no military hardware, but they could have a major impact on the drug market. For anyone who cares to look, the evidence is unequivocal. Focusing on demand reduction at home is the most effective way to undermine the Colombian drug markets. Military intervention cannot repeal the laws of supply and demand.MAP Posted-by: Richard Lake Contact: letter.editor Address: 200 Liberty StreetNew York, NY 10281Fax: (212) 416-2658Copyright: 2000 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.Note: (from the WSJ) Mr. Zeese is president of Common Sense for Drug Policy, based in Falls Church, Va.Also: A biographical sketch of Mr. Zeese is at: CSDP: News Article Courtesy Of MapInc. Articles On DrugSense & MapInc.:
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Comment #3 posted by kaptinemo on May 01, 2000 at 09:08:36 PT:
Many thanks for the link, J. Bills!
Having witnessed first-hand the editorial practice of 'spiking' news that doesn't jibe with an editor's personal biases of what constitutes reality, this link and others like it are especially welcome. The questions raised in the article and your comments are the kind that should be raised in every press room, and every TV studio, but never are... for exactly the reasons mentioned above. Frankly, if you bother to check your local newspaper, you will find that very little of it is actually all that local. And as far as national news is concerned, the 'news items' are all little more than regurgitated pap courtesy of an increasingly small pool of news agencies... which are composed of very large megacorps. Which are major contributors to political parties. Which are so bloody gung-ho for this DrugWar that they view honest dissent as sedition and criticism as treason. Which is why you will rarely have any of them standing up and saying very loudly that the emperor is buck naked. But they are begining to come around... because of people like this Giordano fellow; the *real* jounalists are shaming the trenchcoat-and- blowdrier set into re-examining how far they've prostituted themselves.
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Comment #2 posted by Freedom on April 30, 2000 at 10:51:40 PT
Kevin, in the WSJ? Interesting.I think I know what kind of demand reduction the WSJ favors, and it would not be treatment on demand, and education. It would be arrest and incarceration.
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Comment #1 posted by J. Bills on April 29, 2000 at 18:31:22 PT:
The American Nightmare
The nations of Latin America -- each standing alone before the US imposed war-on-drugs -- are out-hollered and out-dollared, but not outsmarted."The badly informed North American public," as one Mexican columnist terms the phenomenon, has little idea to what degree the hemispheric "consensus" that certain drugs ought to be prohibited has collapsed in recent years.This newsletter relays what the Mexican and Latin American press is saying about the drug war. Many of these stories will appear to English-speaking readers as out-of-context to the media-driven "consensus" within the United States regarding the drug war. These stories are not reported in the United States or other world powers: the very nations that pride themselves on freedom of the press. Why not? Ineptness? Intent? The imposed silence of a market-driven media? Each of these ills is a factor and Narco News will take no prisoners in afflicting the comfortable members of the Fourth Estate, one at a time, for their role in the whole mess. Artificially created consensus - based on untruths and lack of information - always breaks. Each time it shatters, that fracture is called history.The Narco News Bulletin does not claim objectivity: we are out to break the manufactured consensus north of the border, where the illusion that the drug war is about combatting drugs remains the dominant discourse. In the South, as the stories we translate and summarize demonstrate, a new consensus, based on the reality of drug prohibition between nations and peoples, is already under construction. The Narco News Bulletin likewise seeks to comfort the afflicted members of the press who practice authentic journalism. Latin American journalists (and a very few conscientious gringos), living daily at the drug war front and facing greater danger than the desk jockeys of the mass media, are doing a better job at covering the problem than those who have grown soft in the land of the First Amendment.By alerting the English-speaking world to the work being done by many Latin American journalists (American journalists, Simon Bolivar might have corrected), Narco News aims to force these stories - and more honest drug war coverage overall - onto the docket of the US media. The American Dream of BolivarSimon Bolivar (1783-1830) was an historic figure akin to General George Washington of North America. He, too, liberated a large chunk of America from colonial rule. The country of Bolivia was named after him. The nation of his birth officially changed its name in 1999 to The Bolivian Republic of Venezuela. His ghost still rides.Bolivar had a dream that the nations of Latin America would put aside their differences and fight together against colonial invaders. He also sought the support of conscientious citizens of the invading nations to counter the imposed rule over the American hemisphere.Narco News seeks to reawaken his dream. And although the very lands where Bolivar fought - Columbia, Bolivia, Venezuela - are plastered under the boot of US drug prohibition today, NN places a special emphasis on another country: Mexico. As the first issue of Narco News goes to... cyberspace (we don't own a press, thus we don't claim freedom of it), the US Ambassador has just tagged Mexico as "the world headquarters of drug trafficking." Something is happening in Mexico that the officials in Washington DC don't like. But it's not drugs: it's the gallop of Bolivar's horse, pounding toward the north.Why We Focus on MexicoThe great mass of Latin American citizens have no illusion -- unlike their US neighbors -- that governments are sincerely fighting a war on drugs. The consensus-manufacturing machines broke in the latter part of the 20th century: the violence, corruption, collusion and dishonesty by State, media, banking and other powerful sectors are all too clear to the great majority of Latin Americans.Latin Americans (Americans!) are not in favor of drug abuse. The percentage of citizens in Latin American nations who use or abuse illegal drugs is far lower than in the United States, the great consumer nation. There is, in many parts of the America that still dreams, widespread support for legalizing drugs and managing the problem just as the United States legalized alcohol in 1933. But not all voices are heard, and -- as in the US -- many simply do not speak. The threat of loss of aid by Washington is shouted annually at dissenting nations. The United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund join in the threat of economic collapse toward any smaller nation that does not tow the prohibition line. And, as Colombia endures today, there is always the specter of superpower military invasion.Mexico, unique among American nations, has the power to call Washington's bluff. The US blusters against Mexico daily, but its threats are hollow. The US armed forces cannot invade Mexico: the turmoil and economic damage that military intervention would cause inside the United States would turn even US citizens against their government. Nor can the US impose an economic blockade or boycott against Mexico: Every time the peso falls in relation to the US dollar, another million Mexicans stream over the border. And immigration, for US politicians, is a far more deadly issue than drugs.The US press corps has missed the big story out of Mexico. A Mexican drug legalization movement is, by whispers, assembling into a critical mass. Its proponents understand what Simon Bolivar dreamed: the movement will be multi-national, involving many Latin American nations. History is in the making. And the "badly informed North American public" is, until now, the last to notice history's always surprising wave. Welcome to our DreamNarco News is a strange title, we agree."Narco," because that's what Spanish-speaking Americans call the illegal drug trade: The Narco. Its English roots have to do with the word "sleep." We are living the drug war nightmare because of a slumber imposed by the badly-informing US media."News" implies that something new is being said. The Narco News Bulletin's first task is to translate -- both words and sentiment -- for the US public the news and analysis that is being reported in Latin America, and in some pockets of the US media yet ignored by the mass media. What's "new" about democracy, dignity, sovereignty, or the dream of Bolivar? Yet, if these ignored drug war stories were to begin to be published and analyzed inside the United States, well, that would be news.              by Al Giordano of Narco News
The Narco News Bulletin
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