War Footing

By Mark David Blum, Esq.

The rhetoric is ramping up. Billions of dollars are being earmarked. Troops by the hundreds are being deployed. I speak not of the middle east nor the surge planned for Afghanistan. Instead the focus is on the Mexico / U.S. border.

It starts with words. Drug cartels are now being referred to as insurgents. Weapons and money are being amassed by the enemy. The Mexican government is being projected as unstable and about to fall. Border State governors are calling for mobilization of the National Guard. Hundreds are dying in the cartel vs cartel and cartel vs government battles that run amuk throughout a growing lawless society south of our border. President Obama has pledged over a billion dollars in new spending and the Department of Homeland Security is deploying assets throughout the region. Our Secretary of State already has her boots on the ground.

Over what will Americans be dying and dollars be spent? Drugs. Not just any drugs but it the mobilization and combat will be over marijuana. It is marijuana and the lucrative U.S. market that creates the demand and it is marijuana that is at the heart of the unrest in Mexico.

Our forty year war on drugs has proven a failure. It is such a monumental failure that use is up, prices are down, and anybody who wants to use the drug has no problem accessing it. States are lining up to legalize it. Our prisons are bursting at the seams with half of the beds being occupied by drug related convicts. Police are working harder to intervene and strip away our Fourth Amendment protections and for as many as we arrest and prosecute, there is a long line of people who are going to be next.

The situation has gotten so out of control that private armies now battle with the establishment in Mexico and the violence is spilling over onto American soil. President Obama does not bat an eyelash in throwing yet more billions of dollars and risking thousands of lives to further an obviously failed national policy.

We must call and end to this travesty. American foreign policy is predicated on zero tolerance (except for Afghan poppy farmers) and we demand that other nations follow suit. Current and former Presidents of five Latin American countries have called the Drug War a failure and demand and immediate end to the policy.

According to ABC News, U.S. officials tell ABC News that President Obama has been told the Mexican cartels have become a criminal insurgency, threatening to turn Mexico into an Iraq or Afghanistan. The powerful drug cartels have increased their use of paramilitary terrorism with guerilla tactics, including car bombs, grenades and roadside IED's. ”There is in fact an insurgency on both sides of the American-Mexican border and it's stepped up a lot in the last several years because the Bush administration ignored it and put its focus on Iraq," said ABC News counterterrorism consultant Richard Clarke. "We have to do something now along the border, but just doing these little things that the administration announced today won't solve the problem in the long term," said Clarke.

Tearing a page from the Viet Nam war and the widespread use of Agent Orange which poisoned so many thousands of American soldiers, U.S. Border Patrol plans to poison the plant life along a 1.1-mile stretch of the Rio Grande riverbank as soon as Wednesday to get rid of the hiding places used by smugglers, robbers and illegal immigrants. If successful, the $2.1 million pilot project could later be duplicated along as many as 130 miles of river in the patrol’s Laredo Sector, as well as other parts of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Bloomberg News is reporting that Homeland Security will double the number of teams on the southwestern border that track illegal immigrants who are convicted of crimes in the U.S. and quadruple the number of border officers who work with Mexican law-enforcement authorities. The plan also calls for doubling the number of U.S.- Mexican border task forces and tripling the Homeland Security intelligence analysts working on the border. Also, it will increase examinations of southbound rail cars and involve collaborating with the Mexican government to uncover the cartels’ money-laundering operations. Secretary Napolitano said she will discuss with Texas Governor Rick Perry his request for 1,000 National Guard troops or border agents to be stationed along the border to ensure that violence in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, doesn’t spill over into the U.S.

Escalation is the wrong response, however; drug prohibition is the cause of the violence. Al Capone, public enemy #1 was the unhappiest man in America when the nation ended alcohol prohibition. Ending the current prohibition will leave the cartels and drug gangs with nothing over which to do battle. The shift will go from a drug market being underground to one where buyers and sellers resolve their disputes with lawsuits, arbitration or advertising. No longer will they need high powered weapons on street corners.

Prohibition of drugs corrupts politicians and law enforcement by putting police, prosecutors, judges and politicians in the position to threaten the profits of an illicit trade. This is why bribery, threats and kidnapping are common for prohibited industries but rare otherwise.

Eradicating coca plants in Colombia or poppy fields in Afghanistan, prohibition breeds resentment of the United States. By enriching those who produce and supply drugs, prohibition supports terrorists who sell protection services to drug traffickers. Keeping the products illegal fuels terrorist funding and turns otherwise law abiding citizens into common criminals. At the same time, prohibitions breed disrespect for the law because despite draconian penalties and extensive enforcement, huge numbers of people still violate prohibition. This means those who break the law, and those who do not, learn that obeying laws is for suckers.

Prohibition is a drain on the public purse. Federal, state and local governments spend roughly $44 billion per year to enforce drug prohibition. These same governments forego roughly $33 billion per year in tax revenue they could collect from legalized drugs, assuming these were taxed at rates similar to those on alcohol and tobacco. Under prohibition, these revenues accrue to traffickers as increased profits.

Two factors should be of paramount concern to all Americans. First, we must consider whether in times of dire distress, we can truly afford to fund a third battle front on our homeland with the huge expenditures of money and resources better needed elsewhere. The second concern is whether the financial loss of investing in the new war as opposed to ending a totally failed policy is costing the nation too much in lives, dollars, and reputation.

This is not about advocating drugs or saying drugs are good. To the contrary, drugs are bad and people should not do them. But the unrefutable fact of the matter is that there is a huge demand for drugs and our policy of prohibition simply does not work. Until we come to that consensus and realization, thousands more are going to die, millions more are headed to prison, more nations are going to collapse, billions of dollars are going to be wasted, and the situation is going to remain the same.

We need to have this debate. Ignoring the issue and throwing more money at eradicating the evil weed is just plain insanity. Everybody who has looked at the issue agrees. Only the politicians refuse to discuss the issue because after all, nobody wants to be seen as being an advocate for drug use.

Ending prohibition is not advocating for drug use. It is instead a demand for a rational and sane national policy that recognizes the realities of the modern world. I simply cannot justify paying my taxes on April 15 when I know they are going up in smoke at the escalating border war between the United States and Mexico. Maybe dumping a few hundred pounds of tea into the Rio Grande will get the message across.

Back to the MarkBlum Report

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