Pubdate: Sat, 23 Dec 2000
Source: Plain Dealer, The (OH)
Copyright: 2000 The Plain Dealer
Contact:  1801 Superior Ave., Cleveland, OH 44114
Authors: Robert Sharpe, Jason Palmer


Letter # 1:

Regarding the Dec. 10 article on U.S. funding of Colombia's drug war: 
Plan Colombia could very well spread both civil war and coca 
production throughout the region. Communist guerrilla movements do 
not originate in a vacuum. U.S. tax dollars would be better spent 
addressing the underlying causes of civil strife rather than applying 
military force to attack the symptoms. Forcing Colombia's guerrillas 
to the bargaining table at gunpoint will not remedy Colombia's 
societal inequities.

We're not doing the Colombian people any favors by funding civil war. 
Nor are we protecting Americans from drugs. Cut off the flow of 
cocaine and domestic methamphetamine production will boom to meet the 
demand for cocaine-like drugs. Rather than waste resources attempting 
to overcome immutable laws of supply and demand, policymakers should 
look to the lessons learned from America's disastrous experiment with 
alcohol prohibition. The drug war finances organized crime while 
failing miserably at preventing use.

With organized crime comes corruption, and the United States is not 
immune. The former commander of U.S. anti-drug operations in Colombia 
was found guilty of laundering the profits of his wife's 
heroin-smuggling operation. Entire countries have been destabilized 
because of the corrupting influence of organized-crime groups that 
profit from the illegal drug trade. Drug laws fuel crime and 
corruption, which is then used to justify increased drug-war 
spending. It's time to end this madness and start treating all 
substance abuse - legal or otherwise - as the public-health problem 
it is.

ROBERT SHARPE Washington, D.C. Sharpe is program officer for the 
Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation.

Letter # 2:

Why is the United States again preparing to spill blood and waste 
another $1.3 billion in the name of our war on drugs? When Operation 
Colombia begins in January, Colombian women and children will die in 
vain. He cites American "vital interests" as an excuse for the futile 
exercise. These interests can only be keeping cocaine off American 
streets. For 20 years we have fought cocaine cartels with everything 
we've got, yet the drug remains more readily available and cheaper to 
the American consumer than ever. Hasn't two decades of ineffective 
interdiction taught us anything? American-financed machine-gun fights 
in Colombia and neighboring countries barely scratch the surface of 
what is wrong with our drug policy. The war on drugs has spilled over 
into a war on the civil liberties and human rights of millions of 
Americans and people around the world. We have a four-star general 
employed to solve a health and social problem, not a military one. 
The fighting - and cocaine production - will admittedly spill over 
into Peru, Brazil and other countries. Our policy only adds fuel to 
the fire.

When McCaffrey steps down in January, it will be time for the new 
administration to pause and rethink our drug prevention policies. I'm 
sure we can find better uses for more than $20 billion annually.

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