Pubdate: Tue, 12 Feb 2002
Source: Houston Chronicle (TX)
Copyright: 2002 Houston Chronicle Publishing Company Division, Hearst Newspaper
Author: Thom Marshall


 From the Netherlands came a donation for the two-day international 
conference on drug policy planned for April by the James A. Baker III 
Institute for Public Policy at Rice University.

"Not a cheque, but a contribution to the debate," wrote Jan G. van der Tas, 
a former Netherlands ambassador to Syria and Germany, who included some of 
his comments that recently appeared in a publication by the Netherlands 
Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

His e-mail came after I mentioned in this space my determination to be a 
part of this important meeting being held to examine one of the biggest 
social problems in world history.

And, since I lack adequate credentials, knowledge or experience to 
participate in discussions, I figured the way to take part was by tossing a 
few bucks in the pot to help meet the funding needs.

I didn't ask anyone if I could do it, and nobody solicited.

The Baker Institute has funding sources to turn to, grants it can obtain to 
support its activities. The reason I sent a check is because of some strong 
feelings that expenses for this meeting should be shared by a great many of 
us making our small donations rather than coming out of just one or two big 

'What can we do?' Over the past few years I have talked with many people 
who have been victimized in some way by the drug war and others who are 
concerned about how the nation's drug policy is eroding the Constitution.

They ask, "What can we do to help change things?"

Trying to find some way to make a difference can be pretty frustrating. 
Rice professor Bill Martin, principal organizer of the event, said it will 
take about $150,000 to cover conference expenses.

My few bucks won't mean the difference between having a conference or not 
having a conference. But being a little part of this important event that 
may, indeed, help change policies makes a big difference to me.

Baker Institute at Rice University in Houston is the right place for such a 
meeting, and the timing is right. People in charge of the drug war have 
been linking it to the nation's war on terrorism (and spending millions of 
public dollars on TV commercials to promote that link).

In that conference contribution from van der Tas, he said, "we should 
really get worried when we see the war on drugs and the war on terrorism 
bracketed together in such a manner."

One reason is that, in fighting terrorism, "we cannot afford to be 
satisfied with such poor results as the drug warriors achieve in the war on 
drugs," he said. "But above all, because drugs and the drugs trade are not 
the real problem, like terrorism is. The real problem with drugs rests with 
drug prohibition and the fanatical, U.S.-inspired efforts to enforce it. It 
is indeed the war on drugs itself that produces -- unintentionally perhaps, 
but inevitably -- the almost limitless gains and illegal resources that can 
among other things be channeled into financing international terrorism."

Concern in many nations People in many countries of Western Europe, in 
Canada, in Australia and elsewhere, he said, "are beginning to understand 
that criminalizing a market where such huge demand exists must directly 
lead to undreamt-of opportunities for criminals."

You likely know that the fellow in charge of Baker Institute, the founding 
director, also is a former ambassador. Edward Djerejian represented the 
United States in Syria and Israel.

In addition to hearing from the former ambassador from the Netherlands, I 
got a package of information from Armin Meile, the consul general of 
Switzerland here in Houston.

"The Government of Switzerland has been searching for many years for a way 
to help the unfortunate human beings trapped in the vicious circle of drug 
abuse," Meile said in his cover letter. "Prevention, therapy, harm 
reduction and law enforcement are the pillars of the drug policy of 

This conference has attracted the interest of people whose careers focus 
upon international issues. It will involve people who are experts in 
discussing and negotiating complicated problems with political and social 
and moral facets.

It could be the start of something big.
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MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager