Pubdate: Fri, 20 Jun 2003
Source: Chicago Sun-Times (IL)
Copyright: 2003 The Sun-Times Co.
Author: James Gierach


Former Mayor Dean Koldenhoven of Palos Heights expresses the thoughts and 
frustrations of many Americans when he categorizes heroin and the poppy 
fields of Afghanistan as weapons of mass destruction [''Pretty poppy is 
most obvious weapon,'' featured letter, June 10]. And he mimics the 
sentiments of many more when he argues that the president and men and women 
in Congress ''refuse to do anything'' to stop drugs at the source.

''We don't have airplanes, helicopters and ships. We don't bring the drugs 
into the states''--is a refrain heard from African Americans frustrated 
with the lack of drug war results and suspicious that government officials 
are corruptly in on the failure.

The facts, however, are largely to the contrary. The president and Congress 
spend money on the drug war as if it grew on drug trees. America's drug war 
budget is now pushing $20 billion a year. Since 2000, American political 
leaders have spent $2.5 billion in Colombia alone on the eradication, crop 
substitution and interdiction of drugs. And while the former mayor vilifies 
the poppy fields of Afghanistan (rejuvenated since the onset of the U.S. 
war on terrorism and the Taliban), former Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.) said last 
year, ''Plain and simple, the heroin that is flooding the United States and 
killing our citizens comes from Colombia.''

And while heroin is killing some Americans, cocaine is much more popular in 
the United States than heroin. And marijuana is more popular than cocaine. 
And ecstasy and methamphetamines are becoming epidemic in the United States 
while LSD, PCP and ''bennies'' are on the wane. What's really with the drug 
war? And is an attack on the source the answer?

The problem is not that the president and Congress refuse to attack drugs 
at their source. No, the problem is that no matter how much money is spent, 
no matter how draconian the punishment, no matter how many drug dealers are 
killed, no matter how many years prohibition policies are tried -- zero 
tolerance prohibition as a national and international drug policy is a 
loser, and the loser policy is the source of the drugs. In that respect, we 
ought to go after the source.

James E. Gierach, Oak Lawn
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