Adam J. Smith, Associate Director, [email protected]As war rages in Europe this week, scattered reports have popped up claiming that the KLA, the armed forces of the Kosovarians, have been linked to major European drug trafficking. The KLA, of course, is on NATO's side, and so we shouldn't expect to hear President Clinton or Barry McCaffrey publicly crowing about the matter, as they have done for several years when the subject of the Colombian rebels has come up.
The issue, however, is not whether the groups raising money off the drug trade are "good guys" or "bad guys," but rather that the drug trade is funding political and quasi-political groups all over the world. Some of those groups, like the KLA, are aligned with official US interests, but many others are not. In fact, for terrorist groups, fringe movements and dictator wannabes, the drug trade, courtesy of prohibition, is the fastest and easiest way to raise money for arms and other instruments of mayhem.
This fact has not been lost on American agencies either. The CIA, for instance, knows well the convenience of the drugs for weapons matrix from its involvement with the Contras, and perhaps even before that. Easy cash, lots and lots of it, is temptation in the extreme, making it difficult for even well-funded spooks and arms of state to resist dipping their fingers into the contraband pie. Imagine then the choice faced by any wacko with a "cause." It's a no-brainer, really. Drugs have become the currency of choice in a world where the prospect of a nuclear bomb in a suitcase or anthrax in a subway station is no longer the stuff of late night science fiction.
What to do? Well, we can go on pretending that we're addressing the problem, running lengthy and elaborate undercover operations designed to pick off these operations one by one, but of course, we'd only be fooling ourselves. The UN reports that narcotics now account for 8% of all global trade. And while America's prisons are filled with two-bit dealers and strung-out addicts, the real money is being made by people and groups who stand little risk of ever being called to account for something as trifling as drug trafficking. Prohibition has turned poppies and coca into money trees, and anyone with the wherewithal to move cargo from point A to point B under the protection of arms or payoffs can make a killing. Literally.
So on we go. This week's shocking -- if unconfirmed --revelation is that the KLA has (gasp) funded itself to one extent or another via the drug trade. Well, given the scope and the nature of that business, they'd have been stupid to have turned down the opportunity. When you are involved in or planning armed struggle, or to blow up a passenger jet or to poison innocent commuters, are you likely to find the immorality of supplying a much-in-demand product too high a price for your soul to bear? Not likely. Today we can be thankful that the newly exposed KLA-drug connection was not perpetrated for the purpose of buying a nuclear device from a renegade Russian general, or rocket launchers to take down a planeload of tourists. These drug dealers are on "our" side. But make no mistake, our precious drug war is lining the pockets and building the arsenals of plenty of groups whose sworn enemies are not named Slobodan Milosevic. We do have the power to de-fund them. All at once.