You Call This a `War'?

You Call This a `War'?
Posted by FoM on May 07, 2001 at 13:58:12 PT
By Carl Hiaasen
Source: Miami Herald 
This is some war, this war on drugs. Tracked by a CIA jet, an unarmed Cessna carrying American missionaries is shot out of the sky by a Peruvian Air Force chase plane. Bullets kill Ronnie Bowers, 35, and her 7-month-old daughter, Charity. Oops, says Peru. Oops, says the United States. Bad mistake, folks. We're really, really sorry.But what if the Cessna had been ferrying dopers, as first suspected? Would the shoot-down have put even a spoon-sized dent in the mountain of cocaine that's shipped out of South America every month? Nope.
This is some war. U.S. taxpayers spend almost $2 billion annually to fight drug smugglers in Colombia, Peru, Bolivia and other producer countries.We've sent troops and ``trainers'' and some of our fanciest toys: ground radars, AWACs planes, Citations, Blackhawk attack helicopters, Huey transports, you name it.The results? Cocaine is as cheap and bountiful as ever. Heroin, made from Colombian-grown poppies, is going gangbusters.On the home front, pot is readily available in a smorgasbord of potent domestic strains. For clubbers, it's easier to score Ecstasy tablets than Altoids.The drug war has taken on an air of weary charade. Cops posing as crack dealers lock up buyers by the vanload. Other cops posing as buyers lock up the dealers. Next night, they go out and do it all over again.Not a week passes in Miami without TV reporters hustling to the scene of some ``late-breaking'' bust: another cargo container at the port, another rusty freighter on the river, another grow-house in the suburbs.It's the same old scene over and over: the seizure, the press conference, the dope laid out for trophy display -- as if it actually amounted to something.It doesn't. Walk out the door, and you still can find any drug you want, any time of the day, without burning more than a few gallons of gas. This is true almost everywhere in the country.Dope is still abundant not because the cops and the feds are inept; for the most part, narcotics officers are good at what they do.Unfortunately, the mission is utterly futile, no matter how many tons they intercept, or how much cash they seize.Nor has arresting people accomplished much except filling our jails and prisons beyond capacity. Twenty years ago, about 46,000 Americans were incarcerated for drug crimes. Today, there are 10 times as many. That number would be impressive if it had led to a commensurate reduction in trafficking, but it hasn't.Still, everybody's got a piece of the action -- the DEA, the FBI, CIA, Customs, the Coast Guard, the military and thousands of local police agencies.The anti-drug infrastructure is as vast as it is scattered, bureaucracy piled upon bureaucracy. Like most wars, this one has become a big business for both sides.According to the Justice Department, the DEA's budget has grown from about $75 million in 1973 to $1.55 billion last year. During that same period, the total federal anti-drug budget mushroomed from $700 million to $17.8 billion.By the government's own estimate, more than $185 billion in tax dollars has been spent trying to stamp out dope over the last 27 years -- with virtually no change in the illicit supply, or in the cost.To say the drug war is a failure is like saying the Hindenburg was short a few fire extinguishers.The only hopeful news on the drug front comes from the least glamorous approach -- education and rehabilitation. Recent surveys show that grass and cocaine use have leveled off or declined among teens.Meanwhile, many states have stopped jailing first- and second-time offenders because it costs too much, and it doesn't deter them from using again. Instead, special drug courts steer defendants toward treatment programs, sobriety and gainful employment.Attacking the demand for drugs is a slow and frustrating process, but it's more cost-effective than chasing after bandit suppliers, who are replaced as soon as they crash or get busted.There's exactly zero chance of stopping coca cultivation in Colombia and Peru as long as Americans back home are sucking down crack by the metric ton.Yet after all these years and billions of dollars, Washington still doesn't get it. We're still playing the star-spangled cowboy, chasing Cessnas acrossthe Amazon.This is some screwed -up war.Source: Miami Herald (FL)Author: Carl HiaasenPublished: May 06, 2001Copyright: 2001 The Miami HeraldContact: heralded herald.comWebsite: Articles:Lawmakers Seek End To Anti-Drug Contractors War Inc. - In These Times War Against The War on Drugs Drug War News 
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Comment #2 posted by schmeff on May 07, 2001 at 16:02:07 PT
I didn't know Carl was on our side!
Not only is he smart, he's tremendously talented as well. I would heartily recommend any of his several fiction novels (Lucky You, Sick Puppy, Double Whammy, etc.) He is the author of Strip Tease, which was maded into a movie starring Demi Moore (book far, far better than the flick) and is one of the rare novelists who is laugh-out-loud funny.And after reading some of any day's news here on CNews, we could all do with a good laugh.
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Comment #1 posted by Swagman on May 07, 2001 at 14:42:49 PT
This guy says it nice and blunt, I like it. :)
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