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Mexican troops target drugs

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Boston Globe
URL: 
http://www.boston.com/news/world/latinamerica/articles/2006/12/13/mexican_troops_target_drugs/

U.S. Drug Czar Advises Canadian Officials On How To Destroy Canada

On the heels of reports that the U.S. is breaking its own incarceration records, The Vancouver Sun announces that Canadian officials are consulting with U.S. drug warriors in the hopes of revamping Canada's drug policy.

Canada's new Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who apparently doesn't read U.S. newspapers, seems to think we've got all the answers:

The strategy will focus on "a few key priority areas that the current government could focus and build on," such as "clandestine labs, marihuana grow operations, synthetic drugs," the document states. "Another key element of the proposed national strategy is the national awareness campaign for youth."

Yeah nothing scares kids away from drugs like government-sponsored propaganda. Possible ONDCP recommendations for a youth awareness campaign:

1. Switch it up periodically. Spend a few years telling kids that pot will make you shoot your friends, run over toddlers and get pregnant at parties. Then nail 'em with a "couch" ad claiming marijuana is "the safest thing in the world."

2. Don't answer the phone. It could be other branches of government calling for an update on your performance measures. Never let anyone measure your performance except you.

3. Make desperate appeals to pop culture. Start a blog, podcasts, online magazines and youtube videos. Find the Canadian Al Roker and get him to talk to the kids. Encourage people to use these resources by claiming they are popular.

4. Say awesome stuff. If government reports show that the program isn't working, try to confuse everyone by saying this: "It’s very difficult to tell whether Britney Spears bopping around on some Coca-Cola ad actually sold a single bottle of Coca-Cola. The groups that promote marijuana wouldn’t be criticizing it so much if they didn’t think it was effective."


To clarify, I'm in favor of discouraging young people from using drugs. But if I were implementing such a program, John Walters is the very last person on Earth whose input I would solicit. He voluntarily limited his ability to prevent real-world harms by focusing on the least harmful drug. And he demonstrated a lack of interest when results showed that the ads were counterproductive.

But it gets worse:

Harper also called for mandatory minimum sentences and large fines for serious drug offenders, including marijuana growing operators and "producers and dealers of crystal meth and crack."

Mandatory minimums
!? Even Drug Czar speech-writer Kevin Sabet is coming around on that. Mandatory minimums have nearly destroyed our criminal justice system. They take away judicial discretion, making grave injustices commonplace. They bloat our prisons with non-violent offenders and burden tax-payers with the costs. They empower bullying prosecutors and encourage innocent people to accept plea-bargains. And you just don't need mandatory minimums to send scumbags to jail.

Stephen Harper needs to slow down and familiarize himself with the problems we're having here before asking for drug policy advice from some of the most callous and willfully ignorant people to ever contemplate the subject. The problem with a terrible drug policy is that it's really hard to turn back the clock. Ever susceptible to drug hysteria, American politicians have repeatedly succumbed to the temptation of quick-fix lock-em-up solutions. Once implemented, destructive policies are sustained by the knowledge that a "soft on crime" label may await any legislator brave enough to question the status quo. Meanwhile, the world's wealthiest nation functions at a shrinking fraction of its potential.

And where will the Canadian people turn if the nightmare of American drug war barbarism is unleashed in their communities? They already live in Canada.

Location: 
United States

Mexico launches drugs crackdown

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
BBC News
URL: 
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6174469.stm

US Anti-Drug Chief: Afghan Poppies To Be Sprayed With Herbicide

Location: 
Kabul
Afghanistan
Publication/Source: 
Associated Press
URL: 
http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2006/12/09/asia/AS_GEN_Afghan_Drugs.php

Poppy Business Booms in Western Burma

Location: 
CH
Myanmar
Publication/Source: 
Mizzima News
URL: 
http://www.mizzima.com/MizzimaNews/News/2006/Dec/08-Dec-2006-16.html

Medical Use of Marijuana Divides Italy

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
Inter Press Service News Agency (Italy)
URL: 
http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=35769

Pentagon Resists Pleas for Help in Afghan Opium Fight

Location: 
Afghanistan
Publication/Source: 
Los Angles Times
URL: 
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-afghandrugs5dec05,0,6275736.story?coll=la-home-headlines

Police Caught in Cross Hairs of Tijuana Violence

Location: 
Tijuana, BCN
Mexico
Publication/Source: 
San Diego Union-Tribune
URL: 
http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/mexico/tijuana/20061204-9999-1n4afo.html

Queen's guards 'fail drugs test'

Location: 
London
United Kingdom
Publication/Source: 
BBC News
URL: 
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/london/6197938.stm

Feature: World Bank-UN Report Offers Grim Assessment of Afghanistan Opium Battle, Says Winning Will Take Decades, Not Years

The effort to wipe out opium production has achieved limited success at best, hurt the poorest Afghans, and riddled the government with corruption from top to bottom, according to a comprehensive report released Tuesday by the United Nations and the World Bank.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/worldbankreport.jpg
World Bank report
"Afghanistan's Opium Economy" says the counter-narcotics effort in Afghanistan is failing and the presence of opium in the national economy is so great that it infiltrates not only the economy, but the Afghan state, politics, and society. Providing a real alternative will take decades, not years, the study warns.

Afghanistan produced 6,100 tons of opium this year -- enough to make 610 tons of heroin -- and is line to produce even more next year. Opium accounts for at least one-third of the Afghan GDP, and profits from the trade end up in the pockets of government ministers, warlords, traffickers, and Islamic radicals alike. But with opium employing 13% of the workforce, it is also farmers, rural laborers, transporters, and gunmen -- and their families -- who earn a living off the trade.

Efforts to eradicate opium crops have the greatest adverse impact on the poor, the study found. If alternative development is going to take hold in the country, planners must keep that in mind, said Alastair McKechnie, World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan.

"Efforts to discourage farmers from planting opium poppy should be concentrated in localities where land, water, and access to markets are such that alternative livelihoods are already available," he argued. "Rural development programs are needed throughout the country and should not be focused primarily on opium areas, to help prevent cultivation from further spreading."

"The critical adverse development impact of actions against drugs is on poor farmers and rural wage laborers," said William Byrd, World Bank economist and co-editor of the report. "Any counter-narcotics strategy needs to keep short-run expectations modest, avoid worsening the situation of the poor, and adequately focus on longer term rural development."

"History teaches us that it will take a generation to render Afghanistan opium-free," said Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of UNODC, who used the release of the report to argue for a dual approach of aid and repression. "But we need concrete results now," he said, proposing to double the number of opium-free provinces from six to 12 next year. "I therefore propose that development support to farmers, the arrest of corrupt officials and eradication measures be concentrated in half a dozen provinces with low cultivation in 2006 so as to free them from the scourge of opium. Those driving the drug industry must be brought to justice and officials who support it sacked."

Despite his tough talk, what Costa did not say was that his proposal amounted to a recognition that effective eradication is impossible in the primary opium-producing provinces of the country this year. Although the World Bank-UN report barely mentions them, a resurgent Taliban, grown rich -- like everyone else -- on the profits of protecting the trade, has been a big reason why.

"Now that the control is more in the hands of the Taliban and their supporters, there is less hope for eradication and more people are involved and looking to make money, so the chances for success are not good," said Raheem Yaseer of the University of Nebraska-Omaha Center for Afghanistan Studies. "I am less optimistic than I was even a few weeks ago," he told Drug War Chronicle. "The British were talking a lot about concentrating on eradication in Helmand province, but they didn't do much because they were too busy fighting the Taliban. If nothing is done, it will be worse next year."

Those trying to get rid of opium will be up against not only the Taliban but also elements of the government itself. "This report emphasizes the way counter-narcotics efforts have been manipulated and perverted to result in a concentration of power," said Brookings Institution expert on illicit substances and military conflict Vanda Felbab-Brown. "Governors, provincial chiefs, district police chiefs -- people like these were tasked with eradication or interdiction, but they used their power to target their opposition or competition," she told the Chronicle. "Essentially, local actors were able to capture counter-narcotics efforts and use them to not only consolidate control and power over the drug industry, but also increase their political power. Counter-narcotics policy is being perverted to help create a new distribution of power in Afghanistan."

The report also confirms some emerging trends that signal even more trouble in the future, Felbab-Brown noted. "One of the things confirmed in the report is the increasing concentration and hierarchical organization of the drug economy in Afghanistan," she said. "This has been a trend that the report confirms is taking place. The warlords and commanders are vanishing from the visible drug economy. They no longer trade directly; these guys with positions of power inside the government are instead now taking protection money. They are not directly participating in the trade, but they are still participating."

The UN's Costa can call for six more opium-free provinces and the Americans and the Karzai government can daydream about success through chemical eradication, but this sobering document from the sober people at the World Bank and the UN is just the latest to send a strong signal that the global drug prohibition regime has tied itself in knots in Afghanistan.

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