US Drug Czar Woefully Out of Touch With Reality

Picture: Public Domain

At the end of July, US Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske announced that in the potemkin villages he visits, it looks like the War on Drugs is working. As the Tico Times Reports:

[Kerlikowske] The drug czar, who has more than 37 years of law enforcement under his belt – including stints as police chief in Seattle (Washington), Buffalo (New York) and various cities in Florida – said “the security threat Colombia and the United States faced in 1999 is gone, and it has been accomplished without offsetting those results elsewhere. These lessons provide a model for dealing with challenges throughout the world, particularly in Central America.”

The knowledge that the threat from cartel violence is over in Bogota and that the FARC is severely weakened in the jungles of Peru and Bolivia must be great comfort to the dozens murdered in the two weeks since he made that statement. But of course, the ongoing nationwide turf war between the Mexican Zetas and Sinaloa cartel to whom the Colombians outsourced the job of trafficking their product over the last decade is because the cartels are violent criminal organizations. Not because the military intervention in Columbia made it more profitable for the Columbians to move their coke, weed, and morphine up through Mexico into the Southwestern US rather than flying it in to Miami Johnny Depp style. Those two facts, in Kerlikowske’s world, apparently bear no relation to one another.

Kerlikowske’s arguments, in classic drug warrior fashion, mistake cause for effect. His speech, given to the centrist think-tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies, also attacked the notion that decriminalization could play a part in ending drug violence in Latin America on the spurious grounds that “these groups are in business for money and power, and there is no limit to the schemes they will employ to extract illegal proceeds from our societies.” This line of argument seems willfully blind to the direct link between the increased power of the Narco Cartels in Mexico and the military intervention in Colombia over the last two decades. It was that intervention which made it unprofitable for the Colombians to move their own product through the Miami corridor, and gave rise to the flood of Columbian Narco money in Sinaloa, Juarez, Tijuana and along the Gulf Coast. It is that money from trafficking which made it possible for the cartels in Mexico to flower and for the entrepreneurial spirit of the Narco heroes to branch out into human trafficking, extortion, and kidnapping. Moreover, Kerlikowske’s failure to recognize that the paramilitary cartel Los Zeta’s probably wouldn’t even exist if US Drug War money had not created the elite special forces units in the Mexican Army from which the organization first emerged would seem like gross incompetence, if it weren’t so typical of the retired cops routinely selected to run the US War on Drugs.

But drugs are bad, and so apparently for Kerlikowske the brutal, endless, violent deaths that are all directly attributable to the US’s irrational drug policy are acceptable losses in the battle to achieve his fantasy of a postmodern tea-total society. After all, the coke on the streets is less pure now, so the fiends need more of it to get high, in turn raising wholesale demand and profits to traffickers. And that’s a victory for the Drug Warriors because . . . Gil Kerlikowske says so apparently.

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  • Aungsan

    Quackenbush, though well-intentioned, your critique needs more substance: 
    First of all, is Colombia, not Columbia; 

    Second, FARC has never operated in Peru nor Bolivia; 

    Third, FARC is not the only group exporting cocaine from Colombia, not even the most important, narco-paramilitary groups with ties to government institutions are, Uribe was and is deeply supported by these groups, something the USG knows as their intelligence community has him on a list of people involved in narcotraficking (see attached image), of course, this clown of a “zar” won’t tell you this; 

    Fourth, the fact that an US ally in the fake “war on drugs” is actually tied to trafficking makes this an exercise on hypocrisy, obviously the objective is intervention, not to stop the trafficking; 

    Fifth, this is not the first time this happens, Noriega in Panama was a US ally that was also a trafficker, not to mention that Reagan used the Mexican cartels to move weapons to the Contras during his wars against the people of Central America; 

    Sixth, the approach mentioned by this “drug zar” which involves the peasants to change their crops is nonsensical and just plainly stupid, while the prohibition remains in consuming countries there is absolutely no way that the peasants can have a more profitable product, while demand remains for these “illegal” drugs, offer will as well;

    Seven, the “zar” doesn’t mention that the so called “success” of Colombia, which is a lie, has come with gross human rights violations from security forces, like the false positives scandal, where army operatives killed thousands of civilians and dressed as guerrillas, or the biggest mass grave in the hemisphere in La Macarena, just by the side of the army base, where around 2000 dead bodies remain.

    And many more criticisms can be made of this absolute failure of pretext for intervention in the region.

    • http://twitter.com/jfqbsh Jason F Quackenbush

      I have a native english speaker’s blindspot on the spelling of colombia, I’ll get that correct.

      But I stand by the statement, as has been reported by all manner of reporters, that in recent years the FARC’s narcoproducing network extends at least to bolovia and peru. I left it out, but you could reasonably add Venezuela, Paraguay, Brazil, and Panama to the list of nations in which the FARC either operates or has operated. Go to google. You’ll find a load of references.

      As for the lack of substance, it’s a <500 word blog post aimed at the weakness of Kerlikowske's understanding of the drug war as a US law enforcement and border security issue, not an expose on the failures of the drug war stretching back to Jimmy Carter. That kind of coverage can, and does, take up multiple volumes of intense research and writing. This post is about the immediate weaknesses of Kerlikowske's understanding of the war he's supposed to be conducting as revealed by how he talks about certain aspects of it.

      That's how we know what Kerlikowskie was talking about the security threat from narcoterror in Colombia, because in US drug warrior-speak that's the FARC, just like if he was talking about Peru it would be the Shining Path, regardless of the real situation on the ground. You're right that there are corrupt members of the Colombian government who are participants in narco trafficking. You're also right that the US tends to ignore that when it's useful in grooming intelligence sources. That's just not what this post was about.As for the rest, there's nothing there I would particulary disagree with but to point out that it's spelled Czar or Tsar, not zar. Which is only fair because you zinged me for being soft on Colombia. (A mistake that I hope I will never make again, but probably will). And I'm not sure you're right about the La Macarena being the largest mass grave, whatever the truth of the rest of that particular story, on which, I think, reasonable people can differ. I think you're right about it being the largest massacre in the hemisphere in recent memory, but I'm relatively certain that there are open pit mass graves outside of Juarez being populated by the Juarez Cartel and Barrio Azteca that top that number.Thank you for the response, it adds a great deal of food for thought.

  • http://buzzcoastin.posterous.com BuzzCoastin

    Ya can’t listen to that due; he’s obviously on drugs.

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