Drugs and Terror Don't Mix
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Author: Glenn Backes
Published: Friday, January 17, 2003
Copyright: 2003 San Francisco Chronicle - Page A - 23
Contact: [email protected]
It is one thing to have our intelligence insulted by advertisers attempting to separate us from our money. It is quite another when our own government uses our tax dollars to spread disinformation, as with new TV ads linking drug use in America to terrorism.
In the latest attempt to bolster public support (and funding) for the failed war on drugs, the White House has unleashed a slick ad series featuring fictional debaters, Nick and Norm, two middle-aged white businessmen dining at an expensive restaurant, talking drugs and terror. In four 30-second vignettes, their argument plays out.
After initial resistance, the dark-haired one concedes a connection between drug money and terror. He maintains, however, that the amount is "peanuts" and that "If I buy drugs, I might be supporting terror. Might is the moral loophole."
The gray-haired hero, appalled by this rationalization, responds, "If you buy drugs, you might be helping drug dealers shoot little kids -- and you might be helping terrorists do things so awful that we cannot conceive of them yet."
What is especially galling about this campaign is that it propagates lies about not one, but two of the Bush administration's priorities: a moral crusade to end drug use in America, and a military crusade to control the Middle East. It suggests that our allies, the good guys who helped depose the Taliban and search for bin Laden don't deal drugs (they do), and that Americans who buy drugs fund terrorism (they don't).
In the days before the attack on the World Trade Center, the Taliban was an ally to the Bush administration in the war on drugs. Less than four months before al Qaeda's horrifying attacks in 2001, officials of the State Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration certified that the Taliban had effectively eradicated opium production in the sections of Afghanistan that they controlled, with remaining production coming primarily from sectors under control of the Northern Alliance.
After the attacks, the Bush administration chose to ally itself with the Northern Alliance. Since the fall of the Taliban, opium production in Afghanistan has reached levels never before seen in that country.
The State Department getting into bed with Afghan drug dealers is old hat, of course. In the 1980s, the United States turned a blind eye to the drug money commingling with our tax dollars in the fight against the Soviets. In Central America, the Reagan covert war machine condoned (if not facilitated) cocaine trafficking to the United States in order to fund the Contras against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua.
Bush's claim that U.S. drug use funds terrorism is not only hypocritical, it is untrue. The illegal drug Americans prefer is marijuana, grown for the most part within our own borders by American citizens with no connections to international drug cartels, much less terror networks. Ecstasy and LSD are either made here or imported from Western Europe. Cocaine, and to a growing extent heroin, is imported from South America and Mexico. Heroin continues to flow into the United States from Southeast Asia.
Both Bush's foreign enemies (such as the Marxist rebel FARC in Colombia) and allies (the Northern Alliance and numerous officials of all Latin American governments) gain wealth from the drug trade. But if the FARC and Northern Alliance were destroyed and every corrupt official from here to the tip of Chile died of old age, the drug cartels would still prosper, enriched by the drug prohibition economy.
What "moral loophole" justifies Bush's lies and hypocrisy? Does he think that if he tells us that drug use is as bad as terrorism, we might let him waste billions more again next year on prisons in pursuit of his utopian vision of a drug-free society?
The American public is clearly sick of the failed drug war. The majority of us support alternatives to prison for nonviolent drug offenders and other alternatives to this cruel and expensive farce.
Glenn Backes is director of the California capital office of the Drug Policy Alliance
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