Hardly a week goes by without me seeing another think piece on the question: “Are we winning the war on drugs?”
That depends on who “we” is. The War on Drugs has certainly served some very powerful interests in our society. Between the Drug War and the War on Terror, we’ve militarized police culture with SWAT teams, turned the Fourth through Sixth Amendments into toilet paper, and created the biggest prison-industrial complex in the world. From the standpoint of those who push the Drug War the hardest, these are all — as Martha Stewart would say — good things.
The Drug War has handed over the entire country to organized crime gangs fighting over control of the drug trade. And one of the biggest gangs involved in this turf war is the one in police uniforms. Big city (and increasingly, small city) law enforcement is a wretched empire of entrapment, warrants sworn out on false pretenses, perjured testimony by jailhouse snitches, coerced plea bargains, and civil forfeiture robbery.
Internationally, by far the biggest drug cartel of all is the CIA. It’s used the global drug trade, from the Golden Triangle to the Northern Alliance territory in Afghanistan, to fund black ops that wouldn’t even pass the smell test of the U.S. Congress — and that’s saying a lot.
Just consider the real story behind Afghanistan. One of the reason the Taliban was so unpopular, and the population was so eager to throw off their rule, was that they really did hate drugs — they virtually stamped out the poppy cultivation that had been a main source of income for dirt-poor Afghans. Meanwhile, the opium trade flourished in Northern Alliance territory (a lot like the good ol’ boy sheriff here in Arkansas who turns a blind eye to the farmer with a mortgage who cultivates a little wacky weed to make ends meet). And now that the Northern Alliance has become the Afghan national government — that’s right, you got it — Afghanistan is once again the center of world opium production. If you believe Our Troops are really trying to stamp it out, you probably still look under your pillow for a dime from the Tooth Fairy.
So the Drug War is every bit a success in furthering the interests of America’s real government: The unholy alliance of the intelligence community, the drug cartels, the big banks that launder drug cartel money, and the domestic police state apparatus.
My guess is that the most hard-core drug warrior politicians, sincere or not, whether they’re aware of it or not, get most of their campaign funds from laundered drug cartel money — just as bootleggers used to be the biggest campaign contributors to teetotaling Baptist preachers running for office.
I would guess, further, that any major party presidential candidate who offered a credible promise to end the War on Drugs would find himself buried deeper than Jimmy Hoffa, with more fingerprints on the operation than a million Warren Commissions sitting for a million years could make sense of.
So in the War on Drugs, the important thing to keep in mind is that the public isn’t the customer — it’s the product. On second thought, maybe you better forget it and go back to watching “Dancing with the Stars.”