Drug War, Or Class War?

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has told Mexicans she backs President Felipe Calderon’s battle with the drug cartels. Apparently, according to Clinton, there’s ‘no alternative’ to the 15,273 Mexican citizens gunned down in drug-related incidents on Mexico’s streets last year; slaughtered by American guns purchased with American dollars.

And it’s all so El Presidente Calderon can continue to be funded by his US ally to the tune of around $1.7bn.

According to the BBC, Clinton told reporters:

It is messy. It causes lots of terrible things to be on the news. The drug traffickers are not going to give up without a fight”.[1]

The drug traffickers are not going to give up at all. They cannot be beaten by force of arms. America’s been trying for over forty years. Already, Calderon’s intensified actions are sending the cartels deeper into Central America where small nations like Guatemala or El Salvador could easily become narco-states. Indeed, it’s likely that, by intensifying the drug war in Mexico, Calderon is deliberately attempting to drive the cartels further south.

Mrs Clinton says ‘it is messy’. She’s absolutely right. It’s messy because of the hardline, blinkered, policies of successive US administrations, ever since Woodrow Wilson’s approved the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act in 1914. The Obama administration has continued prohibition policies that in 1920 allowed Mafia activities to explode, giving Al Capone’s syndicate total rule over Chicago throughout the 1920’s.

Alcohol prohibition ended on December 17th 1933, and with it the illegal cartel’s control of its manufacture and marketing.

The demand for what is known as ‘street, or recreational, drugs’ is huge. Figures are not easy to come by, for obvious reasons. The Rand Corporation issues statistics but they’re ludicrously low. Most people, when asked if they use illicit drugs, will simply answer, ‘No’.

Drugs are marketed on a class basis. Cocaine has always been the choice of the wealthy and powerful. The poor tend to ‘make-do’ with low grade heroine, requiring intravenous injection to be effective. High grade heroine can be smoked or snorted, but its street value is much higher, making it inaccessible to many. Smoking or snorting is also much less addictive than injection. Estimates of the numbers of American servicemen in Vietnam who regularly smoked heroin were as high as 85%. Less than 5% continued to use the drug when they returned home.

The impression of drug use, as portrayed by political establishments in America and the western world, portrays sad individuals hanging around street corners, girls pressed into prostitution to bankroll their habit, seedy pushers, and shoot-outs between rival street gangs over territory. This is the scenario projected by the political establishments to justify their “War on Drugs”.

It’s an accurate picture, but only for one portion of society.

The other side of the coin can be viewed on our television screens daily: well-to-do stars of film and TV, wealthy politicians and their entourages, successful business people, lawyers, doctors, lobbyists. Of course, not all of them use recreational drugs, but those that don’t are probably in the minority.

Only recently, footage was viewed on British television of the late Dodi Fayed (he of Princess Diana infamy) hosting a private party in a nightclub where around a hundred people danced wildly as cocaine powder showered over them from above. (Fayed is reputed to have spent $15,000 a week on cocaine for himself and his friends).

The unfortunate young prostitute, heroine-fueled by her pimp in return for renting her body to strangers, is a world away from the jet-setting rich and powerful of which Fayed was a member. Yet, both worlds obtain their supplies from the same illegal cartels the US is paying $1.7bn to have Phelipe Calderon push further south, away from America’s borders.

The only way to clean up Hillary Clinton’s self-confessed ‘mess’ is to legalize (not just de-criminalize) all recreational drugs and make them available in a similar manner to alcohol. Production would then become a legitimate business; taxes could be levied on the product (sufficient, it’s been calculated, to clear national deficits in a relatively short period of time), regulation would keep them out of childrens’ hands, the illegal cartels would find themselves out of business, and thousands of people will live to become old rather than die prematurely from a bullet through the brain.

The saddest part of the whole issue is that it’ll never happen.

Whenever the subject is raised we’re told there ‘isn’t the political will to legalize street drugs’. But, that lack of enthusiasm doesn’t emanate from ordinary Americans. It’s those at the top of society who don’t want it to happen. In fact, they’d much prefer it didn’t happen. Cost is not a factor in their lives, and quality of product is assured. Dodi Fayed was bankrolled by his father to the tune of $400,000 a month. If he spent $60,000 on cocaine, it still left $340,000 for the odd Ferrari, or whatever took his fancy.

And what did he, or any of his ilk, ever care about the skinny young kid shooting a $20 hit into her groin before meeting the next street client; or the Mexican mother shot through the back of the head as she hangs out her washing?

[1] “Hillary Clinton backs Mexico drug war” BBC, January 24th 2011

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4 Replies to “Drug War, Or Class War?”

  1. You’re just too logical and rational. This stupid war on drugs has cost us trillions and to what benefit? Nada.

    We are enamored with the word ‘war’. Notice, however, we don’t carry on a war against the deficit. Is that because the deficit would go away if we were not a warring nation that spends more than all other people combined?

  2. I cerainly think marijuana ought to be legalized. I’m not so sure about the other drugs you mention though, RJ. I know too little about them to judge, but they sound scary to me, and very dangerously addictive. Are they more addictive than alcohol or tobacco though? I don’t know.
    Are the effects of over-indulgence as bad or worse as liver or lung cancer?
    I don’t know. Would the effects of over-indulgence put other people at risk – passive smoking – or would it be more like someone going mad with a firearm or worse?
    I don’t know. Marijuana seems like the only fairly safe one to legalize from the little I know.

  3. Al – logic and rationale seem to have little place in politics these days.

    Twilight – legalizing marijuana on its own would have no effect on the drug cartels. There are a myriad other concoctions they can peddle. It really isn’t a question of which ones are ‘safe’ to legalize. The issue is much broader than that. It’s more to do with how society handles its drugs issues. We know prohibition doesn’t work; the jails are full of drug users, the streets are awash with drugs, and prohibition creates business for the cartels. Society must accept that people use drugs – they always have done and they always will. While a degree of control is necessary to keep them out of the hands of children (something that governments have woefully failed to do in the case of tobacco and alcohol) legalization is the only way to take drug control away from the cartels and into the hands of society. How we then decide to distribute and control those drugs, and its subsequent success or failure, would be society’s responsibility, not that of some Colombian drug baron.
    You question the addictive properties of certain drugs. There are some authorities who consider nicotine the most addictive of all. Here’s an excerpt from the University of Minnesota’s website on nicotine addiction:

    Tobacco is as addictive as heroin (as a mood & behavior altering agent).

    * Nicotine is:
    o 1000 X more potent than alcohol
    o 10-100 X more potent than barbiturates
    o 5-10 X more potent than cocaine or morphine
    * A 1-2 pack per day smoker takes 200-400 hits daily for years. This constant intake of a fast acting drug (which affects mood, concentration & performance).. eventually produces dependence.

    Pressures to relapse are both behaviorally & pharmacologically triggered.

    Quitting involves a significantly serious psychological loss… a serious life style change.

    If a drug that’s ‘as addictive as heroin’ can be sold openly in society, why are many other frequently used, yet less harmful, substances only available from illegal sources that often contaminate their product with cheap chemicals, dangerous to health, solely to boost their profits? We know the dangers of cigarette smoking, but we also know what goes into cigarettes; equally so with alcohol. That sort of control is totally lacking with all drugs manufactured and sold by the illegal cartels.

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