Pubdate: Sat, 14 Feb 2009
Source: Orange County News (US TX)
Copyright: 2009 Hearst Communications, Inc.
Author: Steven Greenhut
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Drug Prohibition Lies At The Heart Of Violence In Mexico.

When it comes to foreign affairs, Americans are used to debating
progress or setbacks in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or on the
Israeli invasion last month of the Gaza Strip. We're used to thinking
about death and destruction thousands of miles from home and, as a
result, tend to debate these matters based more on glancing
impressions, quick reads of newspapers and Web sites and sound bites
rather than personal knowledge or the knowledge of those who live in
the countries at issue.

What if I mentioned that thousands of people have been killed - 7,337
at last count - since 2007 in open warfare just a short drive from
here? Or that the grisly violence has reached close to areas within
the readership of this newspaper?

What if I noted that the violence has altered the lives of many of our
neighbors, friends and co-workers, who have family members who dwell
in the heart of the war zone? What if I added that, because of this
war, we place our lives in jeopardy by simply visiting some of our
favorite vacation spots? Would that cause you to think twice about
your foreign-policy priorities?

I am referring, of course, to Mexico, which has turned into a horror
show in the past couple of years.

There's been sporadic news coverage of these events.

But the average American - and the average politician, for that matter
- - doesn't seem attuned or interested in a human tragedy that's
starting to spill not just across the border, but deeply into the
American interior, to cities such as Dallas, Atlanta and Sioux Falls,
S.D., where Mexican drug gangs have murdered and abducted people.

I still receive many phone calls and e-mails from readers upset about
the "Mexican" situation, but they aren't talking about the beheadings,
murders, kidnappings, assassinations of newspaper editors, gunfights
in town squares between drug lords and the military, killings of
bystanders and children, or about the huge numbers of Mexican police
who work for the cartels.

No, they are referring to the immigration situation, and they
generally are upset at the number of Mexican nationals who come north
mainly to escape grueling poverty.

But, as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich pointed out at a recent
speech to an Orange County trade association, there isn't a wall big
enough to keep out the nasty problems now destroying Mexico. Americans
need to think more broadly about this matter.

Since hearing Gingrich, I've been reading about, and fuming over,
these horrors.

American policy - in particular, the federal government's insistence
on funding and fighting a drug war here and in pushing the Mexican
government to battle the drug cartels down south - has exacerbated the
carnage in Mexico. That's not to reduce the responsibility of the evil
folks committing evil acts. But as Ted Galen Carpenter of the
libertarian Cato Institute explained in a 2008 article for The
National Interest, "U.S. policy seems to assume that if the Mexican
government can eliminate the top drug lords, their organizations will
fall apart, thereby greatly reducing the flow of illegal drugs to the
United States." But Carpenter notes that cutting off the head of one
drug Hydra leads only to more heads sprouting.

He gets to the real problem: "If Washington continues to pursue a
prohibitionist strategy, which creates the enormous black-market
profits in drug trafficking, violence and corruption will become a
dominant and permanent feature of Mexican life."

Unfortunately, not many Americans on the political Left or Right are
willing to even discuss the real answer, which is the
decriminalization of drugs.

Indeed, it's hard to even get any support for the modest goal of
allowing people to sell small amounts of marijuana to terminally ill

Yet it's the illegality of drugs that makes them so lucrative, and
which assures that only the most vicious gangsters will thrive as the
price goes ever higher.

Even those Americans who see Mexico merely in terms of illegal
immigration ought to broaden their horizons.

If the lawlessness down south isn't reduced, pressure will increase
for immigration, legal or otherwise, as more Mexicans seek refuge from
the violence outside their doors.

Americans need to stop being so childish about drug

Yes, drugs are bad, but some people will always use them. Government
cannot stop this desire, and government interdiction efforts only
succeed in raising the price of the contraband, which leads to an even
bigger reason to violently fight it out over the market.

It provides the money needed to buy off cops and corrupt an entire
justice system.

We don't see Budweiser dealers shooting it out on Main Street with
Miller dealers to control the beer trade.

That's because beer sales are legal.

That may seem absurd, but consider that the same sort of battles took
place in the United States between bootleggers when alcohol was
illegal in the 1920s and early 1930s.

"During Prohibition, there were undoubtedly people . claiming, 'Booze
consumption is down. We're winning the war on booze.

Al Capone is in jail. We've got to keep on waging the war on booze
until we can declare final victory,'" wrote Jacob Hornberger,
president of the free-market Future of Freedom Foundation.
"Fortunately, Americans living at that time finally saw through such
nonsense, especially given the massive Prohibition-related violent
crime that the war on booze had spawned.

They were right to finally legalize the manufacture and sale of
alcohol and treat alcohol consumption as a social issue, not a
criminal-justice problem."

If Americans can't figure out that the drug war is no different from
the booze war, then we are destined to read more headlines such as
these, which were taken from recent newspaper articles: "Mexican drug
violence spills over into the U.S."; "Bloodshed on the Border: Life
in Juarez, where drug violence has created the equivalent of a failed
state on our doorstep"; "Mexico vs. drug gangs: A deadly clash for
control"; "Drug war mayhem instills a new fear: Drug-related killings
have taken thousands of lives, but now those uninvolved in the cartel
battles are falling victim, even children"; "Mexican police linked to
rising kidnappings: Many are afraid to contact authorities about
abductions, fearing officers could be involved."

I think back to ancient history - the early days of the Bush
administration. Our new president touted America's special
relationship with Mexico and met several times with
then-Mexican-President Vicente Fox in an effort to bring about a more
open border and better relationships between our two democracies. The
idea seemed sensible, especially from the vantage point of Southern
California, with its close connections and proximity to Mexico. The
issues of the time - illegal immigration, Bush's proposed guest-worker
program and the plan to make it easier for Mexican trucks to travel
into the United States - were contentious, but seem like minor-league
stuff compared to today's goings-on. Now Tijuana and even Rosarito
Beach are war zones.

This is from the L.A. Times in
October: "As Tijuana's latest flare-up in the drug war rages into its
fifth week, with the death toll approaching 150, violence is
permeating everyday life here, causing widespread fear, altering
people's habits and exposing the city's youngest to carnage."

I'd hate to think of this going on for years, but it probably will.
The root of the problem - drug prohibition - seems obvious, but for
some reason Americans and Mexicans are unwilling to consider an end to
it. But even if few people are willing to discuss the solution, it's
high time that Americans pay more attention to this problem.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin