Pubdate: Thu, 15 Jul 2004
Source: Reason Online (US Web)
Copyright: 2004 The Reason Foundation
Authors: Dave Kopel and Mike Krause
Note: Rocky Mountain News columnist Dave Kopel ( 
) is research director at the Independence Institute, an attorney and 
author of 10 books. Mike Kraus is a senior fellow at the Independence 
Bookmark: (John Kerry)
Bookmark: (George Bush)
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Heroin)


Starve a Peasant, Feed a Terrorist

For those who oppose the federal government's disastrous war on drugs, 
there are many things to dislike about the Bush Administration, not the 
least of which is its shameless--and dangerous--use of the war on terror to 
prop up the failed drug war and the accompanying $18 billion dollar 
bureaucracy. And there is no indication that four more years of a Bush 
presidency will offer anything but more of the same.

But anyone who thinks a vote for John Kerry means a vote for a more 
liberalized approach to drug policy should think again. Candidate Kerry's 
choice for Homeland Security Advisor ( ), Rand Beers, is a seasoned drug 
warrior who has already shown his loyalty to the well being of the drug 
war, no matter how many lives it destroys, or how many narco-terrorists are 
enriched along the way. There are currently several drug-warriors serving 
in decision making posts within the Bush Department of Homeland Security; 
ex-DEA administrator Asa Hutchinson ( ) is now Under 
Secretary for Border and Transportation Security. And another ex-DEA chief, 
Robert Bonner ( 
), is Commissioner of the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection.

Beers' drug warrior credentials go way back. As he put it in a 2002 
deposition ( ), "I first 
began to work in the counter-narcotics area in 1988 when I was on the 
National Security Counsel staff."

More recently, before he quit ( ) his Bush White 
House position as Special Assistant ( ) to the President and 
Senior Director for Combating Terrorism and joined the Kerry camp, he 
served in both the Clinton and Bush Administrations' as Assistant Secretary 
of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs; the top 
cop and chief apologist for America's war on drugs in Latin America.

He is also one of the architects of "Plan Colombia," the multi-billion 
dollar militarization of the drug war in Colombia ( ) (which is now funded as part of 
the "Andean Counterdrug Initiative").

As Beers continued in his 2002 deposition, "There was a series of strategy 
developments dating back, in terms of my involvement, to a 1999 development 
of a regional strategy for the Andean region. I was involved in the 
development of that strategy, and I had bits and pieces to do with most of 
the further development from a variety of different positions."

The effects of Beers' proud achievement are worth looking at closely.

In 1996-'97, the Clinton Administration decertified Colombia as a 
"cooperating" nation in the drug war. To stave off trade sanctions against 
lawful industries and a loss of U.S. foreign aid, Colombia began U.S. 
backed coca-eradication efforts, including slashing and burning on the 
ground and aerial herbicide spraying of coca fields.

In 2000-'01, the U.S. cranked up financial aid to $1.3 billion and sent 
more CIA and Special Forcers "trainers" and civilian "contractors" to 
assist in further eradication and interdiction efforts. It has thus far 
been a smashing destroying the livelihoods of subsistence 
farmers, which bizarrely enough, Beers considers a victory in the war on drugs.

In 2001, Colombian peasants claimed that the herbicides the U.S. was 
spraying made them sick; complaining of skin rashes and diarrhea. But Beers 
had his own theory as to why already poor Colombian farmers were 
complaining. "The individuals who are being affected by the spraying are 
being affected economically," he told reporters, "If the spraying is 
successful, it kills their incomes."

In its "Global Illicit Drug Trends, 2003 ( )" the 
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime credits U.S. eradication efforts 
with a 37 percent decline in Colombian coca cultivation between 2000 and 
2002. The same report says this reduction came after a five-fold increase 
in Colombian coca production between 1993 and 1999.

At the same time as the 37 percent decline in Colombian coca cultivation, 
the UN report continues, "Combining the three source countries (Colombia, 
Bolivia and Peru) translates into an overall reduction of 22 percent of the 
area under cultivation between 1999 and 2002." In other words, a reduction 
of Colombian cultivation has led to increased cultivation in other areas.

In its 2003 narcotics control report ( ) on Peru, 
where the U.S. is also underwriting forced coca eradication, the U.S. State 
Department claims, "According to U.S. Embassy reporting, coca farmers 
received approximately $126 million from buyers for their coca leaf output 
in 2002. This total is only a fraction of the size of the total cocaine 
economy in Peru, which may equal 1.2 to 2.4 billion dollars or more 
annually (or 2 to 4 percent of Peru's GDP). Nearly all of the wealth 
derived from the cocaine economy accrues to narcotics traffickers and other 
criminal elements."

So while Beers was happily killing the crops (both licit and illicit) of 
Colombian farmers, narco-traffickers and the terrorists who feed off the 
drug trade continued to eat well, simply moving their operations elsewhere 
in response to eradication efforts.

The 2003 narcotics control report continues about Bolivia: "The successful 
reduction of coca cultivation in the Chapare (down 15 percent) was offset 
by a 26 percent increase in theYungas resulting in an overall increase of 
17 percent..."

And in Peru: "Due to the potential for social unrest, forced eradication 
was limited to non-conflictive areas" which consisted of abandoned fields 
and parklands while "...the extensive presence of high-density coca 
cultivation in the Monzon and Apurimac/Ene river valleys remains a major 

In the odd world of the drug warrior, this too is considered a victory. In 
2001, General Peter Pace, then Commander of the U.S. Southern Command (the 
U.S. military wing of the drug war) called Plan Colombia "successful" ( 
because drug producers are moving their operations elsewhere in Latin America.

We're just beginning to get a glimpse of the havoc this relocation of drug 
production can wreak on the civil and economic health of other Latin 
American countries, but Beers is ready to turn this, too, to political 

In November of 2001 Beers took his "at any cost" defense of American 
narco-policy to a new level by attempting (and failing) to connect 
Colombian coca and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), 
Colombia's largest communist terrorist group, with al Qaida.

Beers gave a sworn deposition in a lawsuit filed by Ecuadorian subsistence 
farmers in U.S. Federal Court against DynCorp--a private contractor 
carrying out aerial eradication in Colombia. (Arias, et al. vs. DynCorp , 
et al.)

The Ecuadorians claimed that herbicide sprayed over Colombia had drifted 
across the border and damaged both their health and crops. Beers argued ( ) that the case shouldn't go 
to trial because the fumigation program is vital both to the national 
security of the U.S. and the war on terror in Colombia, claiming "It is 
believed that FARC terrorists have received training in Al Qaida terrorist 
camps in Afghanistan."

The FARC--accurately listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State 
Department--have become wealthy and powerful off the Colombian drug trade 
through protection rackets for coca growers and traffickers, the production 
and distribution of narcotics and control of local coca base markets. 
Beers' theory seemed to be that starving coca growers also cuts off funding 
for the FARC.

In a later supplemental declaration, Beers recanted the claim ( ) of FARC terrorists training 
in Afghanistan, "I wish to strike this sentence. At the time of my 
declaration, based on information available to me, I believed this 
statement to be true and correct. Based upon information made available to 
me subsequent to the filing of the declaration, I no longer believe this 
statement to be true and correct."

Exactly what "information" Beers had available at the time of his false 
statements is a source of some mystery. "There doesn't seem to be any 
evidence of FARC going to Afghanistan to train," a U.S. intelligence 
official told UPI ( ). "We have never 
briefed anyone on that and frankly, I doubt anyone has ever alleged that in 
a briefing to the State Department or anyone else." According to a veteran 
congressional staffer: "My first reaction was that Rand must have 
misspoke... But when I saw it was a proffer signed under oath, I couldn't 
believe he would do that. I have no idea why he would say that." The 
"starve an Andean peasant to save an American cokehead" policy Beers 
defends has done nothing to protect the national security of the U.S., but 
rather is creating new political instability and terrorist alliances that 
can only serve to help along narco-terrorism in the Andean Ridge. In Peru, 
the communist terrorist group Shining Path, mostly crushed by Peru during 
brutal civil war in the 1990's is reportedly making a comeback. Beers 
himself, while still serving in the State Department told a 2002 Senate, 
"In 2001 the Shining Path had a slight resurgence in areas like the 
Huallaga and Apurimac Valleys, where cocaine is cultivated and processed, 
indicating the remnants of the group are probably financing operations with 
drug profits form security and taxation services." A February 8, 2002 
Stratfor intelligence brief reported that, thanks to an expanding alliance 
with Colombian drug traffickers and the FARC, "Shining Path is trying to 
re-build its numbers and weaponry by working in the heroin trade. Peru is 
poised to become one of the world's heroin producers.

According to the 2002 State Department narcotics control report ( ), "There have 
been multiple reports of border crossings by the Revolutionary Armed Forces 
of Colombia (FARC) into Peru. In 2002 there was the first report of gunfire 
being exchanged between FARC forces and the Peruvian National Police.

The 2002 report continues, "Organized coca growers (cocaleros) in Peru 
staged a number of large protests during 2002, which intimidated the GOP 
into signing agreements to temporarily suspend coca eradication in certain 
regions, as well as to include cocalero representatives in discussions on 
revising Peru's counternarcotics law." It also describes a new Peruvian 
political movement, Llapanchicc, formed in the Apurimac River Valley cocoa 
growing region to defend indigenous farmers against forced eradication 

U.S. drug policy has managed to create the first Peruvian indigenous 
political movement with the defense of coca growing as its central plank.

Bolivia, which over the past decade vigorously eradicated coca with over $1 
billion in support from the U.S., was considered the lone Latin American 
success story by American drug warriors.

Until 2002, that is, when the drug war changed the political face of 
Bolivia and Evo Morales, a Fidel Castro clone and the candidate from the 
Movement Towards Socialism (SAM) garnered 22 percent of the popular vote in 
the Presidential race with the backing of Bolivian coca growers, only 4 
percent shy of the winner.

In 2003, Bolivian President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada resigned and fled to 
the U.S. amidst violent protest. While the civil unrest that led to his 
leaving was partly due to income taxes and a natural gas export plan, it 
was also partly due to what columnist Robert Novak called, "The backlash to 
U.S.-sponsored coca eradication ( ) in 

In any event, what is undisputed is that coca cultivation is back on the 
rise in Bolivia, growing almost as quickly as anti-U.S. sentiment towards 
forced eradication policies. (Cultivation is up 17 percent in 2002 
according to the 2003 State Dept. narcotics control report.)

If policy makers were tasked with making a plan to ensure widespread 
instability, corruption, lawlessness and a steady flow of illegal wealth 
for narco-terrorists, they would be hard pressed to come up with a policy 
more successful than that already in place in Latin America.

That American drug-warriors are already in place in the new Homeland 
Security department should be worrisome enough. After all, American style 
liberty and the bill of rights are generally viewed as pesky impediments to 
the drug war mission, and counter-terrorism as secondary to the well being 
of the bureaucracy.

But that the presidential challenger intends to place at the top of the 
Homeland Security bureaucracy a key architect and defender of a failed, 
cruel, destructive war on some of the poorest people on this planet is 
especially depressing. Those trying to decide who to vote for based on what 
the next four years of drug policy may bring will find themselves in much 
the same position as a Colombian subsistence farmer--somewhere between a 
rock and a hard place.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake