Why the Drug War Won’t Be Terminated

Central America has become the most dangerous place on Earth. The prevalence of organized crime, corruption, and inordinate rates of homicide has “metastasized,” as this new report from the Council on Foreign Relations describes it. The U.S. has flooded the region’s states with security assistance and aggressively pushed for a militarized approach to organized crime and drug trafficking. Together with prohibitionist drug policies which significantly increases profits for cartels, the “ironfisted” war-like approach has compounded the problem and intensified violence. Even as the report concedes that much about the dominant U.S. approach to Central America has “ultimately failed to ensure greater public security,” it recommends essentially that same approach, only tweaked.

The report does point to specific U.S. policies that exacerbate the problem. “Lax gun regulations,” it claims, along with “U.S. inaction on comprehensive immigration reform” and domestic drug consumption are preventing constructive progress. It even has the gall to suggest “U.S. government agencies should seriously consider the role that Americans who consume illicit drugs play in fueling criminal violence in Central America,” and make it known. I don’t doubt these contribute to the problem, but the author seems to be going a long way around to avoid the crux of the issue.

Completely absent from the report’s recommendations is of course the obvious, most comprehensive solution: decriminalization and/or legalization of drugs. Not only is such an approach an elementary part of understanding the problem the region faces, but Central American leaders have come out explicitly in favor of such a shift. Only to be met with stiff vetoes from the U.S.

“It’s worth discussing, but there is no possibility the Obama/Biden administration will change its policy on [drug] legalization,” he said after meeting with President Felipe Calderon….

Biden’s trip [to Mexico and Honduras] takes place amid unprecedented pressure from political and business leaders to talk about decriminalizing drugs. The presidents of Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Colombia and Mexico have said in recent weeks they’d like to open up the discussion of legalizing drugs.

Guatemalan President Otto Perez, while he came into office vowing to wage war on drug gangs and organized crime, has been the foremost advocate of decriminalization. Just in the last few days, a conference he helped organized to consider decriminalization was suddenly boycotted. Perez suspects the hegemon is at fault.

Guatemalan President Otto Perez accused Washington on Thursday of pressuring Central American leaders to boycott a summit he convened last Saturday to discuss changes on drug policy in the region, including decriminalization of narcotics.

“The boycott was because of fears in the United States that our region could unite around decriminalizing drugs,” Perez, a right-wing retired general, told reporters.

Washington’s refusal to consider decriminalization is a mix of a number of things, standard political paralysis and ideological stubbornness being included. But the military component to this is important. As Gen. Douglas M. Fraser, Commander of SOUTHCOM, told the House Armed Services Committee in early March: “The key to our defense-in- depth approach to Central America, South America, and the Caribbean has been persistent, sustained engagement, which supports the achievement of U.S. national security objectives by strengthening the security capacities of our partner nations. Militaries in our area of responsibility (AOR) are increasingly capable, professionalized, and rank among the most trusted institutions in many countries in the region.”

Even the CFL report disputes that last part: the militaries Washington supports are not professionalized or trusted, for obvious reasons. But the point is that Washington’s military dominance in Central America is long-standing and embedded into the policy structure. Resistance to solving the problem through decriminalization, I think, is similar to the State Department’s recent refusal to reduce aid to Egypt due to human rights concerns. As the New York Times reported “A delay or a cut in $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt risked breaking existing contracts with American arms manufacturers that could have shut down production lines in the middle of President Obama’s re-election campaign and involved significant financial penalties, according to officials involved in the debate.” The military-industrial-congressional-complex relies on the status quo.

If only the Obama administration and the Council on Foreign Relations would take seriously the evaluations of people in the know:

8 thoughts on “Why the Drug War Won’t Be Terminated”

  1. Excerpts from the Australian Drug Policy report titled: "The prohibition of illicit drugs is killing and criminalising our children and we are all letting it happen."

    “For us, when we lost our son, we did not seek sympathy, we saw the injustice and craziness of our drug laws. We wanted people to focus on that, not on our suffering.” – Marion and Brian McConnell are founding members of 'Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform'.

    “Many people who think of themselves as the beneficiaries of prohibition are really net losers. Parents are much more at risk of losing their children under prohibition than they would be if there was some kind of system where we had some measure of control over illicit drugs.” – Hon Professor Peter Baume AC, Former Chancellor of the ANU and Minister for Health in the Fraser Government

    “I think the idea that prohibition kills is an important one. So my plea is how can we get governments to buy into this issue? I think they need to see that what they are doing and not doing, is causing a lot of the harms. At some stage they have to be held accountable for allowing this to happen.” – Hon Professor Geoff Gallop AC, Former Premier of Western Australia

    “What we want governments to do is feel quite uncomfortable about the predicament they have put us in. They are running a system that is causing a whole lot of harm." – Hon Michael Moore, CEO Public Health Association of Australia and former Minister of Health for the ACT

    “I am strongly in favour of legalising, regulating, controlling and taxing all drugs." – Nicholas Cowdery AM QC Director of Public Prosecutions for NSW from 1994 to 2011

    “The key message is that we have 40 years of experience of a law and order approach to drugs and it has failed.” – Hon Dr Michael Wooldridge, Former Health Minister in the Howard Federal Government

    "The current policy of prohibition discredits the law, which cannot possibly stop a growing trade that positively thrives on its illegality and black market status. Like the failure of the prohibition of alcohol in the USA from 1920 to 1933, the current prohibition of illegal drugs is creating more harms than benefits and needs to be reconsidered by the Australian community."

    "The move against prohibition is gathering momentum in other countries across the ideological spectrum as communities around the world place responsibility for the costs of prohibition where it belongs: with those legislators who continue, by default, to support the international prohibition approach."

    "Beneficiaries of the current approach include the law enforcement industry, those who benefit from the occupancy of prisons and a thriving insurance industry that insures residents for the high rates of household crime. The converse of this is that law-abiding citizens are the biggest losers."

    "Because the issue is trivialised in sound bites such as “Tough on Drugs” or “Soft on Drugs” the realities of prohibition are not seriously discussed and the major harms that result from this failed policy are not being addressed."

    "By maintaining prohibition and suppressing or avoiding debate about its costs and benefits, it can be argued justifiably that our governments and other influential sectors of the community are standing idly by while our children are criminalised."

    "It is time to reactivate Australian debate on this matter, drawing attention to the accountability of governments for allowing an unacceptable situation to persist , and the fact that the community has allowed this to happen."

    "Drug taking undoubtedly produces serious harms to individual drug users and their families. Many of the harms to them, to others and to society at large are a result of the national policy of prohibition and criminalisation which, arguably, increases, rather than decreases, the risks of more people becoming drug dependent."

    The discussion included 24 former senior state and federal politicians, experts in drug policy and public health and former law enforcement officers.

  2. No, Glazer. the drug war won’t be terminated not because drugs aren't ltgalized, but because Queen Liz's secter services and criminal banks are traditionally engaged in drug production, trafficking and money-laundering. It is one of the chief sources of their profit. Besides, it is not terminated, because some high-positioned and well-established US drug mafia has had no strongmen in the administration to crush them. If drugs are 'decriminalized'= legalized, institutionalized, the productionand traffic will finally be Queen Liz's, as well as the US high-positioned mafia's, legal enterprize. They will legally hold opium plantations in countries occupied and destroyed by them, the way it was in India during the Opium Wars, Their methodone factories will also thrive and gain fabulous profits for the addicted populace worldwide. Their cherished dream of diminishing the world population at the expense of 'lower races' will finally come true. That's what will happen with the so-called drug 'decriminalization.'

  3. We don't even need to go so far as to legalize currently illegal drugs: just cease drug testing; the boondoogle nobody talks about.

  4. They can't legalize drugs in America – our country is so corrupt, so unequal, and so ready for financial collapse, that millions of "serfs" that still can be counted upon to work their crappy jobs and eake out a living just might drift off in a haze of pot smoking and no longer bother to voteRepublican, wave the flag, or show up for work at 4 AM. And, then where will that leave our "masters of the Universe". Washing their own dishes? Fixing their own cars? Heaven forbid. Plus there are the pharmaceutical companys making Zanax, Ambien, etc. to consider.

  5. The most successful narco state in history was the British Empire. The founder of Skull & Bones, William Russell made his fortune shipping opium. And many within Skull & Bones are the among the country's ruling elite. While Glaser makes some good points he misses the larger issue here. Drug prohibition creates the lucrative illicit drug trade, the primary beneficiaries of which are corrupt and bankrupt banks who launder the "dirty" money and thereby get access to much needed liquidity, governments that use the pretext of the drug war to expand their powers, and various intelligence agencies using drug money to finance their black ops. This has been written about extensively. Now before one criticizes Glaser for overlooking these elements one should realize it was a very short piece.

  6. A single cannabis user, be it for medical or rec reasons, smokes under 12 ounces a year.
    Which is the same weigt as one can of legal beer, yet the single beer is more toxic then a years supply of a plant criminally mislabeled, criminally misrepresented,

    The entire war on non violent tax paying voters in America is nothing more then discrimination based on greed for profit at the expense of truth and justice for all. Those elected officals who have not tryed to change the corrupt laws are guilty of many crimes just for not trying. Treason is the largest, following by being party to corruption, obstruction of justice, and using legal terrorism hidin under repressive laws created to profit a few at the expense of the rest.
    Page one of the BIble says it all, and those who do not follow page one, have no authority to claim any divine relationship with GOD.

  7. I am curious to find out what blog platform you happen to be working with? I’m having some minor security issues with my latest site and I would like to find something more safeguarded. Do you have any suggestions?

Comments are closed.