Thursday, August 27, 2009

anti-drug operations are about power, not drugs

When a local "drug task force" dresses up in black military gear, arms up with assault rifles, breaks down someone's door, forces the occupants to the ground at gunpoint, shoots their dogs, and vandalizes their residence, this is not about drugs. It is about projecting the power of the state into someone's home and terrorizing that person, along with anyone else who might be visiting or looking on from across the street, etc. It is a statement. It says, "We are powerful and you are powerless. So keep that in mind as you go about living your life."

Similarly, when the federal government pours billions worth of military resources into a podunk South American country ostensibly for purposes of assisting "drug interdiction efforts", it isn't about drugs. It is about projecting American military power into that country and intimidating its neighbors. In this case, the federal government is completing an agreement to base troops and military aircraft in Colombia "in a battle alongside Colombian forces against Marxist guerrillas and drug traffickers".

First, I don't know exactly who these "Marxist guerrillas" are supposed to be, or whether they actually exist outside the imaginations of politicians and journalists, but assuming there are such people, this appears to signal U.S. intervention in a Colombian civil war. And all I have to say to that is: WTF?

But back to the point: I do actually know who is referred to by the term "drug traffickers". These are farmers and the middlemen who transport their crops to market. Since 2000, the federal government has spent $6 billion -- in Colombia alone -- to inundate their farmland with herbicides and to shoot at them from helicopters. The result? Colombia's share of the cocaine production market has fallen from 74% to 54%. Great. Of course, the overall production of cocaine in Latin America has risen by 16% over roughly the same time period. Oops.

It might surprise many of the folks in the various sectors of our Anti-Drug Industrial Complex here in the U.S.A., but South America is a big fucking place. It has lots and lots of remote areas, many many many square miles of which are perfectly suited for growing coca. South America is furthermore full of many thousands and millions of poor people, many of which are suited for becoming (relatively) wealthy coca farmers. Quite simply: if, tomorrow, you withdrew all American forces from Afghanistan, Iraq, Germany, South Korea, and all the other dozens of countries in which our far-flung military might be stationed on any given day of the week, and then you instituted a draft and conscripted about a million more soldiers, and then transported the entire sum of all American soldiers and military hardware down to South American and ordered them to "assist in drug interdiction efforts", you would still barely make the smallest dent in the amount of cocaine available on the streets of the United States. You would make a small dent, that is, for just as long as it took for some enterprising Africans to learn how to farm coca.

But notice I said it might surprise many of the folks in the anti-drug industry. Most of them, up to and including our Drug Warrior In Chief, President Obama, know this quite well. Why, then, would they embark on the pointless project outlined above (i.e., stationing soldiers and military aircraft in Colombia for purposes of drug interdiction)? Because it's not about the drugs. As in the hundreds or thousands of neighborhood drug raids conducted each day across America, drugs are merely the excuse.

And perhaps if Hugo Chavez wasn't such a loon, and hadn't become known as the Leftist Kook Who Cries Wolf, someone might pay attention when he says he "sees the base plan as U.S. 'imperialist' aggression".


Anonymous said...

Did you read where Castro said all brown people are now being called socialists. I guess that is why they are "Marxist Guerrillas." I have always wondered why no group was ever called "capitalist guerrillas?" I guess we just call them NarcoTerrorists instead.

Gleemonex said...

[Lucas clap]

rap music said...

I'd say you were dead on. Good Article.

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