It’s a universal principle.Push something into the shadows, it gets stronger and metastasizes into something far worse–usually by orders of magnitude. It’s true with personal psychology, and it’s certainly true with the ‘drug war.’ It’s hard to imagine a more textbook case of a policy having the exact opposite result as was intended.
From the Washington Post (please go read the whole thing):
Despite the presence of 35,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan, the drug trade there is going gangbusters. According to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Afghan opium production in 2006 rose a staggering 57 percent over the previous year. Next month, the United Nations is expected to release a report showing an additional 15 percent jump in opium production this year while highlighting the sobering fact that Afghanistan now accounts for 95 percent of the world’s poppy crop. But the success of the illegal narcotics industry isn’t confined to Afghanistan. Business is booming in South America, the Middle East, Africa and across the United States.
Thirty-six years and hundreds of billions of dollars after President Richard M. Nixon launched the war on drugs, consumers worldwide are taking more narcotics and criminals are making fatter profits than ever before. The syndicates that control narcotics production and distribution reap the profits from an annual turnover of $400 billion to $500 billion. And terrorist organizations such as the Taliban are using this money to expand their operations and buy ever more sophisticated weapons, threatening Western security.
The narco-terrorism connection has been around since the 80’s and before. I briefly worked on a film back then documenting how drug profits were funding terrorist organizations and destabliizing governments all over the world. Today it’s become institutionalized. $500 billion GDP would place the “drug nation” at #24 in the world–just behind South Africa. In many countries, drugs are the #1 cash crop. And the money is going to people who are accountable to no one and are many times intent on causing havoc.
Worse, the drug war has built a constituency in the U.S.. Big business from the defense to the prison industry loves prohibition. They have righteous indignation on their side, and the country will spare no expense:
According to the Government Accountability Office, 70 percent of the money allotted to Plan Colombia never leaves the United States. It is used to buy U.S.-built helicopters and other weapons for the military, and a large chunk is paid to the security firm DynCorp. Britain and other E.U. countries have so far resisted spraying Afghan poppy fields with chemicals. But for several years, DynCorp has been spraying the herbicide glyphosate on thousands of acres of coca in Colombia.
Every dollar we spend on the drug war makes our enemies stronger. Every prison we build takes money from schools. We are making a terrible choice, and our nation and society are paying a heavy price for this monumental and self-righteous stupidity. Legalize all drugs now.
Others argue that the only way to minimize the criminality and social distress that drugs cause is to legalize narcotics so that the state may exert proper control over the industry. It needs to be taxed and controlled, they insist.
In Washington, the war on drugs has been a third-rail issue since its inauguration. It’s obvious why — telling people that their kids can do drugs is the kiss of death at the ballot box. But that was before 9/11. Now the drug war is undermining Western security throughout the world. In one particularly revealing conversation, a senior official at the British Foreign Office told me, “I often think we will look back at the War on Drugs in a hundred years’ time and tell the tale of ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes.’ This is so stupid.”
How right he is.