The past two weeks have certainly provided a glimpse of the absurdity and the impact of the War on Drugs. In part: A nine year-old child is suspended from school for giving a mint to a classmate; journalists are not safe amid massive corruption in Mexico -- which, apparently, engulfs the police, the military and the federal bureaucracy; the democratically elected Colombian government is fighting a civil war that it admits it cannot win, against adversaries who are at least partially financed with drug money; Pakistan's former Prime Minister is accused of having millions of dollars in drug profits; illegal methamphetamine labs are killing children and endangering entire neighborhoods; 6 American ex-lawmen are arrested for drug dealing; a Mexican priest lauds wealthy drug traffickers - and reporters are physically attacked by church officials in the aftermath.
Now in its 9th decade, Prohibition, far from delivering on the promises of its lobby, has given birth to a world-wide epidemic of crime, corruption, violence and political instability. Criminal organizations are more powerful, vicious, and heavily armed than ever, and the billions which have already been laundered back into the world economy have nearly obliterated the line between the illicit and the legitimate. Many of the world's governments are powerless against an industry that has become entrenched in their societies to the point of being ubiquitous.
In source countries, the level of corruption is such that it is nearly impossible to find a single branch of a single government which is not infected with drug money. Candidates for office who oppose the criminals are kidnapped and murdered, and Big Brother USA sits in ivory-tower judgment, "certifying" only those nations which have sufficiently bled and died and sacrificed their chance at stable democracy in service to our profitable war.
Here at home, Drug War Inc., has become an industry unto itself, with profiteers in both the public and private sector who are willing to both finance and stoke the public hysteria upon which prosecution of the war depends. Prisons are filled to capacity -- primarily with young African American and Latino men -- and more construction is planned and carried out as a virtual jobs program for depressed, rural towns. Our own institutions have been corrupted, perhaps to levels we dare not even imagine. Underground alchemists, turning dangerous chemicals into black-market gold endanger the lives of their unsuspecting neighbors. Brutality reigns as law enforcement at all levels becomes more militarized for the "battle" and new weaponry, widespread surveillance and more deadly tactics are sought and endorsed.
And yet, even as we banish nine year-olds from school for virtual thought crimes, over 80% of our high school students claim that they can get drugs easily. So when, we must ask, does the time come to reexamine our strategy? When will the citizens of this great nation stop accepting the disastrous consequences of the Drug War as rationale for more of the same? When will the profiteers, the generals, the moralists and the politicians finally be held accountable for the fact that they have turned our world upside down? When honest governance is impossible, when being Black is tantamount to probable cause, when church officials assault journalists, when heads of state are beholden to criminal enterprises, when 9 year-olds are the enemy, something is very, very wrong. And when the policy behind this perversion of morality cannot claim to have even approached its stated goals, after 60 years of ever-increasing effort, how long until it is time to tear down the wall?
Adam J. Smith