Shadow boxing in the drug ring
Christian de Brie
For the fourth time in less than 20 years, the United States recently announced it was embarking on a "drug war"- a total war against an absolute evil regarded by public opinion and the government alike as the greatest single threat to American society and security.
Following in the footsteps of Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, President George Bush has been forced by the pressure of events (an explosion of criminal violence both in Colombia and in large American cities) to try the same old recipe of stemming demand, suppressing supply and smashing the traffickers.
In a welter of macho propaganda, America has mobilized its forces and drummed up support from its allies. It says it is ready to do battle with the drug barons. Leading its troops is "drugs tsar" William Bennett, whose task is to slay the dragon by every means at his disposal.
The Bush plan has little chance of succeeding, in view of his predecessors’ humiliating failures and the lack of any genuinely new strategy or fresh resources. Nor does it even sound convincing. At best, Bush can hope to maintain the illusion for a while- indeed, that may well be precisely what American policy on drugs is designed to do, for other, more covert objectives as well.
The facts are apparently cut and dried. Drug experts brandishing
statistics tell us that drug use is increasing steadily throughout
the world, and with it drug production and trafficking. There are
a few countries, be they in the North or South, East or West, that
have not been affected.
For almost a century now, the community of nations and the countries concerned have been leading a crusade against drugs. They are committed to more and more repressive and prohibitionist policies. A huge arsenal of international agreements and emergency domestic legislation cracks down with ever increasing severity on the production, marketing and usage of drugs.
Tens of thousands of specially trained and well equipped agents with ever bigger budgets, helped by legions of police, customs officers and soldiers, are engaged in the task of eradicating crops, smashing networks, seizing consignments, destroying stocks and identifying, putting on file, hounding and arresting traffickers, dealers and addicts.
The people they catch, who are given harsher and harsher sentences
by the courts, swell already over crowded prisons, while doctors
and special hospitals do their best, at great cost, to detoxify
the worst cases. Despite their gigantic social and financial cost
and the serious infringements of individual freedom they permit,
repressive policies of this kind are - even on the admission of
those implementing them- failures.
As a result, there is a widespread feeling that those who are destroying the youth of the free world Sicilian, Latino, Chinese or Corsian drug barons, and Arab, black or Asian dealers who supply school children with opiate, sweet, hashish-filled biscuits or cocaine-packed ice creams and thus drive innocent victims into a heel of degradation, crime, prostitution and AIDS deserve only one fate: death.
The poisonous plantations farmed by the destitute peasants in remote regions of the globe are controlled by gangs of armed extremists. These are regularly wiped out by squads of incorruptible agents, who then burn the crops with napalm and hand out a fistful of dollars to their docile local collaborators.
Naturally, the facts are more complicated than that. In all its aspects, from production to trafficking and use, the drug problem is symptomatic of the modern world. In a distorted way, it reflects North-South tensions, the violent exploitation of the weaker by the stronger, the rifts that divide not only big cities but peaceful little towns, the market’s hidden nexus of profit and corruption, the duplicity of governments, and the crisis currently affecting anxiety-ridden societies which have lost their sense of identity and do not know the meaning of solidarity.
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