The War On Drugs: Smoke (and Mirrors) and the Plan Colombia

“[Plan Colombia is] not so much an aid program as another way to subsidize the Military Industrial Complex in the United States.”
—William Hartung

I’ve written a lot about the war on drugs, and I admit I know very little about the inner workings, the whys—and even less about what could be done about it. Further, undoubtedly there are many brave and conscientious individuals fighting against trafficking and drug use.

But whether by design or not, the so-called War On Drugs serves to marginalise certain groups of people—generally people of colour—while also helping to profoundly fund counter-insurgency wars, counter-terrorism and proxy wars all over the world.

To name a few examples, the Afghan war after the Russian Invasion (where drug money helped fund the solidarity movement of disparate extremist Islamic groups and individuals to fight the Russians), the Taliban now, the Contras in Nicaragua, Colombia, Vietnam etc etc.

INNER-CITIES AND CRIME

As for marginalizing certain already marginalized groups, here’s a thought: supposedly some twenty-five years ago, the incarceration rate in the United States was roughly the same, per capita, as much of Western Europe. Today the rate is something like five to ten times as high, per capita, as most of Europe, and much of that is to do with drug-related incarceration. How can that be?

I’m not saying one shouldn’t be against drugs, or believe whatever one believes to be right about drug problems. Countless lives are shattered by drugs, mostly booze and cigarettes. And it is the combination of the criminilization of drugs and the drugs themselves that shatters most lives in the illegal drug world—at the profit of many. A quick walk around the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver will reveal that.

I’m just saying don’t believe the political rhetoric on the drug wars.

ECONOMICS 101

Consider this from author Alfred McCoy:

“The UN report [1997, at the general Assembly] concluded that the global traffic in all illicit drugs represents 8 percent of world trade.

The traffic in illicit narcotics is larger than the trade in textiles, which is a human fundamental. Food, shelter, clothing are the three human fundamentals. Well, illicit narcotics as international trade is larger than one of those three human fundamentals.

So the attempt to apply crude instruments of repression—police, law and military—to a global narcotic traffic is simply irrational.”

For a further interesting primer, check out the film Plan Colombia: Cashing In On The Drug War Failure. Like the escalating incarceration rate, this plan really took hold during the Clinton years, I believe, and the Plan’s double purpose seems quite evident.

One watches this film and realises—even if what’s told is only partially true—that the real objectives of Plan Colombia are a far cry from the solely expressed objectives of erradicating cocaine trafficking out of Colombia.

Even oil rears its ugly spout yet again—though I rarely hear about Colombian oil.

Military strikes are largely targetted against guerilla groups in Colombia (where 20 to 30 million of the 40 million people are in deep poverty), while the major association of drug money appears to be with the paramilitary (government sponsored troops). Targeting the guerrilla groups, however, is to the great advantage of multinational oil interests.

Luis Murillo, ex-governor of the Choco region in Colombia, explains it this way:

“Over the past decade, Colombia went from producing 100,000 barrels of oil a day, to now producing close to 900,000 thousand barrels a day.

Colombia is now the seventh largest provider of oil to the US.

To give you an idea, Venezuela produces 1,600,000 barrels a day. Colombia, 900,000—and nobody pays attention.

And it is also a sweet deal for foreign companies because Colombia [unlike Venezuela, of course] went from having a fifty-fifty profit sharing with these companies, to offering now a seventy-five percent deal in favour of multinational corporations, with only 25% in favour of the Colombian government.”

And the banks—surprise, surprise—are also complicit. This from the film:

“An estimated 400 billion narco-dollars in solid cash are still freely moving about the world’s largest financial institutions every year, without anybody apparently noticing anything.”

And in trying to reveal what money is dirty (good luck), the US Banking Lobby has been militantly opposed to the passing of ‘anti-money laundering bills’ because—well, perhaps it’s because:

“About half of narco-trafficking dollars pass through US banks.”

WAR ON CAMELS

And, as I said, of course sincere people are working very hard and undoubtedly risking their lives to try and stop the import of drugs etc. But after reading the followng statistics, and the nature of comments in the Economist, who can take the War On Drugs line seriously?

I know some people don’t equate cigarettes with the War On Drugs. That is understandable. But then again, Tobacco companies don’t equate the two either, and who wants to be in step with their propaganda of death?

Further, the argument that cigarettes do not cause violence is only partially true. Death by smoking related diseases is often extremely violent—I’ve seen it first hand—and the cost of the habit is economically violent, both as a user and in terms of health costs—massively so with its full blown export to the developing world.

And the numbers of deaths by cigarettes dwarf all other deaths by drugs combined. Supposedly 2.3 million people die in Asia every year from smoking-related illness—its own sort of self-induced holocaust and misery. That’s a solid land war. What ever happened to “Never again!” there?

Consider this from the Economist article: How To Save A Billion People, where the writer lays out the death toll, and the Tobacco industry’s relentless invasion of the developed world, and yet calls California’s anti-smoking legislation “draconian.”

Typical. From the Economist:

“[Smoking] cuts short the lives of between a third and half of its practitioners.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), perhaps 100 million people died prematurely during the 20th century as a result of tobacco, making it the leading preventable cause of death and one of the top killers overall. Another 1 billion more may die from it in this century if current trends continue unchecked.

And then, although some 700 million Asians will light up today and smoking by women in Russia has doubled since the collapse of Communism in 1991, they go on to say:

The draconian curbs introduced by California in 1998 have been followed, at least in part, by well over half America’s states. But the number of smokers in China, India and other developing countries is continuing to grow, as addiction spreads faster than information.

And that’s all as legal as blowing your nose. That about says it all. I would counter that a five-to-ten fold increase in incarceration rates is a true draconian implementation, but maybe I’m naive. After all, profit is profit—which is one of the major forces that makes drug trafficking virtually impossible to decrease, let alone control.

The full article is here, and worth the read.

Don’t change your views on drugs, whatever they are, if you feel them. But don’t fall for the War On Drugs’ rhetoric. It’s been an abysmal, expensive failure for decades—for those who are sincere about it, anyway.

Time for a smoke break (kidding). I’ve actually got a cold, so it’s time for sleep. Lots of love to you and yours—and the potential of the human brain to figure its very own course in intellectual self-defense,

Pete xo

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2 Responses to “The War On Drugs: Smoke (and Mirrors) and the Plan Colombia”

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  2. [...] Fair enough. No taxes? Great. But does it matter at all where that money comes from? It has been suggested that 8% of the world’s wealth is from narco-trafficking. Great. You’re rich. Congratulations. And the banking lobbies continue to do all they can to avoid laws or bills being passed that try to uncover the origins of this dirty money, let alone stopping it from going through their system. [...]

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