Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Stopping Narcoterrorism at the Root

In an odd turn of fate, US Marines are protecting opium growers in Afghanistan, not because the US government is pedaling heroin. The Marines leave the opium farmers alone because to destroy the only livelihood of the Afghani farmers would only alienate the population and drive them into the arms of the Taliban. It's the only reasonable military move in a bad situation.

Last week, the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit moved into southern Helmand province, the world's largest opium poppy-growing region, and now find themselves surrounded by green fields of the illegal plants that produce the main ingredient of heroin.

The Taliban, whose fighters are exchanging daily fire with the Marines in Garmser, derives up to $100 million a year from the poppy harvest by taxing farmers and charging safe passage fees -- money that will buy weapons for use against U.S., NATO and Afghan troops.

Yet the Marines are not destroying the plants. In fact, they are reassuring villagers the poppies won't be touched. American commanders say the Marines would only alienate people and drive them to take up arms if they eliminated the impoverished Afghans' only source of income....|Rubin: Marines Stuck Protecting Opium in Helmand - Informed Comment:GA|
Perhaps this odd turn of events in the never-ending war or terror should cause us to reconsider our strategy in the never-ending war on drugs

Elsewhere I've blogged about the narcotics fueled violence engulfing Mexico and threatening the southern United States, but the situation has escalated with the drug gangs decimating the leadership of Mexican law enforcement.
Gunmen assassinated the acting chief of Mexico’s federal police early on Thursday morning [May 8, 2008]...Commander [Edgar Eusebio Millán Gómez] had served for the last year as the federal police official in charge of the antidrug operations throughout the country...His death was the 10th assassination of a federal police official in the last two months. Last week, gunmen also shot and killed the head of the organized crime division in the public security ministry, Roberto Velasco Bravo. |Gunmen Kill Chief of Mexico’s Police - NY Times|
It turns out the Mexican drug czar was killed through the assistance of a corrupt Mexican police officer.
Investigators said the group that carried out the assassination was led by a federal police officer, José Antonio Montes Garfias, 41, who was arrested with several incriminating documents. Among them were lists of cars used by top commanders in the federal police and records of drug shipments in and out of Mexico City’s international airport, said Gerardo Garay Cadena, the coordinator of the antidrug division of the federal police.|NYT|

Looking at the dire situation in Mexico, criminal justice professor Peter Moskos suggests that the only sensible solution is to decriminalize and regulate drugs.
The war on the drugs is not being won.

Killing police chiefs [in Mexico] is not a sign of desperation and defeat. It's a high-stakes sign of domination and control...

Drug dealers defeating the police force of Mexico is not funny. It is entirely possible that drug cartels will take over the Mexican police and to some extent, the entire elected government.

Losing Mexico is a price way too high to pay for the privilege of continuing to fight the endless war on drugs. Especially when the solution--legal drug regulation and an end to drug prohibition--is so simple.|Losing the drug war - Cop in the Hood|(emphasis added)

I saw the following item on Google News and at first I thought they agreed with me and Professor Moskos. But no.
The single most effective thing the United States could do to help Mexico's emerging democracy prevail over drug cartels would be to legalize recreational drugs. We are not advocating that. Not now.|They fight our war - Arizona Republic|(emphasis added)

How long must we persist in this pyrrhic struggle? How many nations must we destroy in our national hypocrisy? Colombia, Mexico, Afghanistan, Lebanon... how many other nations have suffered from our slash and burn policy of drug interdiction rather than dealing with our domestic demand for drugs.

How long will we keep denying the laws of supply and demand?

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