The Lost War On Drugsby Doug Mataconis
Sunday’s Washington Post has an article which highlights the extent to which we’ve been fighting a losing war for 36 years:
Thirty-six years and hundreds of billions of dollars after President Richard M. Nixon launched the war on drugs, consumers worldwide are taking more narcotics and criminals are making fatter profits than ever before. The syndicates that control narcotics production and distribution reap the profits from an annual turnover of $400 billion to $500 billion.
And it’s not just criminal syndicates like the Mafia that are reaping the profits of the War on Drugs, terrorists are getting into the game too:
Poppies were the first thing that British army Capt. Leo Docherty noticed when he arrived in Afghanistan’s turbulent Helmand province in April 2006. “They were growing right outside the gate of our Forward Operating Base,” he told me. Within two weeks of his deployment to the remote town of Sangin, he realized that “poppy is the economic mainstay and everyone is involved right up to the higher echelons of the local government.”
Poppy, of course, is the plant from which opium — and heroin — are derived.
Docherty was quick to realize that the military push into northern Helmand province was going to run into serious trouble. The rumor was “that we were there to eradicate the poppy,” he said. “The Taliban aren’t stupid and so they said, ‘These guys are here to destroy your livelihood, so let’s take up arms against them.’ And it’s been a downward spiral since then.”
Despite the presence of 35,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan, the drug trade there is going gangbusters. According to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Afghan opium production in 2006 rose a staggering 57 percent over the previous year. Next month, the United Nations is expected to release a report showing an additional 15 percent jump in opium production this year while highlighting the sobering fact that Afghanistan now accounts for 95 percent of the world’s poppy crop. But the success of the illegal narcotics industry isn’t confined to Afghanistan. Business is booming in South America, the Middle East, Africa and across the United States.
In other words, the War On (Some) Drugs is putting money into the hands of the people who would use it to buy weapons that would kill Americans, at home and abroad. The War On (Some) Drugs is corrupting the very regime we’d hoped to put in power to replace the Taliban. And, it’s sacrificing the liberties of American citizens.
Think about it this way. If drugs were legal, the Taliban and Al Qaeda wouldn’t be profiting from their illegal production. If they were legal, street gangs in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, wouldn’t be profiting from their distribution. And, if they were legal, the Fourth Amendment might just be a little more secure.