Pubdate: Tue, 12 Mar 2002
Source: Bangor Daily News (ME)
Copyright: 2002 Bangor Daily News Inc.
Author: John Buell
Note: John Buell is a political economist who lives in Southwest Harbor.
Bookmark: (Terrorism)


The United States is in the midst of two wars. Both enemies are elusive, 
and end games are hard to discern.

What better way to ease the doubts and anxieties implicit in these wars 
than to merge them. And what better time than the premier showcase of 
American popular culture, the Super Bowl. With two ads in last month's 
Super Bowl, the Bush administration commenced a campaign to convince us 
that the purchase of illegal drugs was more than an act of personal 
irresponsibility. As one of the ads put it: "Where do terrorists get their 

If you buy drugs, it might come from you."

An administration so intent on making the connection between drugs and 
terrorism has been remarkably reticent about providing evidence of this 
connection. Are all illegal drugs implicated? Much of the marijuana smoked 
in Maine is also home grown.

Unless Maine citizens are al-Qaida members, it is hard to see how these 
purchases reach terrorists.

If the Bush administration were truly interested in the economic foundation 
of recent Middle Eastern terrorism, Saudi Arabia would be a better target.

And surely some of the Saudi millions channeled into terrorism derive from 
this nation's appetite for imported oil. Perhaps a Super Bowl ad 
highlighting SUV owners as supporters of terrorism might have made a 
fitting counter to the usual barrage of auto ads in our football telecasts.

The Bush drug ads are equally forgetful of history.

Looked at from a longer perspective, many recreational drugs have become a 
source of black markets and pools of hidden capital.

Yet as AlterNet columnist Geov Parrish points out, two aspects of this 
story are revealing: "From Afghanistan to Southeast Asia to Latin America, 
the CIA has for decades been accused (often irrefutably) of reaping huge 
profits from illicit drugs, money which - as with its illegal arms sales in 
the '80s that went to anti-Nicaraguan contra operations - has tended to go 
directly into funding our terror campaigns.

If the U.S. does it, it's no surprise that al-Qaida et al would, too. The 
effort to eradicate certain popular drugs has literally created and 
perpetuated the very black market now accused of being a source of cash for 
al-Qaida's jihad. Ending drug prohibitions would do far more to thwart 
terrorism than the War on Drugs ever could.

If the Bush administration's major concern were the health and security of 
our citizens, cleaner, more fuel-efficient vehicles and mass transit would 
be national priorities. In addition, studies by the Rand Corp. have 
provided strong evidence that rehabilitation and drug education are far 
better ways to reduce dangerous forms of drug use than police actions and 
foreign interdictions.

Yet we will likely wait a long time for government ads targeting SUVs and 
promoting honest public health approaches to drugs.

The War on Terror, just like the drug war, is at least as much about 
affirming the worth and sanctity of mainstream culture as it is about 
fostering real security.

Toward that end, all who differ from the most widely celebrated values are 
not merely different but evil. Recreational drugs associated with the urban 
poor or the counterculture are decried on the very same telecasts that sell 
us beer and now even hard liquor. In addition, the war on terror has 
morphed into a selective attack on every nation that our national security 
elites see as a threat to U.S. hegemony.

Despite two decades of drug war, success remains elusive.

Some of the population has tired of the war, either because they regard it 
as unwinnable or because they have gained a more nuanced appreciation of 
the range of harms occasioned by various drugs.

Years of exaggerations and scare stories have taken their toll.

For its part, the war on terror can point to shattered caves in 
Afghanistan, but Osama apparently remains at large.

And even were we to have irrefutable proof of his demise, just how many of 
al-Qaida's hydra-like cells would remain?

Both drug and terror warriors need a powerful enemy to grease their psyche, 
but an enemy against which tangible progress can be made. Merging of the 
two concerns is a natural for both. How convenient it is to provide drug 
warriors and skeptics a new incentive to renew the drug wars. And the war 
on terror becomes both more tangible if apprehension of the drug user down 
the street can now be seen as crippling Osama.

Unfortunately, the merging of these wars carries risks to the rest of us. 
Each war has already been an occasion for myriad threats to our civil 

Fusing the two poses even greater risk. In addition, these vast campaigns 
drain resources from more evident and pressing threats to our health and 
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