Source:    Chicago Tribune 
Published: March  30, 1997 COMMENTARY; Pg. 18; ZONE: C;(letter).
Contact:   Chicago Tribune  

by Peter B. Bensinger, Former administrator (19761981), U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. 

 A great deal of attention in Congress and in the
international press has been paid to whether the U.S.
should "decertify" Mexico for failures in the  drug war. 
Maybe we should decertify the United States as well because
we are the cause of the drug problem. It is not the
financiers in Mexico who have poured money into promoting
the medical  use of  marijuana.  It is not Mexican business
that has cut by 30 percent the funds for the Partnership in
a Drug Free America. It is not Mexican censors who have
allowed our television and movies to glamorize violence and
drugs and guns. The U.S. lowered its guard against  drugs 
after the Gulf	War in 1991, and we have not yet recovered.

   If Mexico is decertified by Congress or the president,
it should be done only if it affects NAFTA (North American
Free Trade Agreement) and U.S. and Mexican businesses.
Cutting off aid will do neither. Cutting off tradenot
aidwould get the attention of our industry leaders,
politicians and working families who would be affected by
our inability to import certain fresh vegetables or
lowcost assembly items and other products manufactured
below the border.

   If Mexico is to be decertified, for it to have any
impact on drug availability then the decertification must
impact directly on U.S. and Mexican commerce and American
and Mexican consumers. Law enforcement lives are at stake
both here and in Mexico because of this issue.

   The level of corruption in Mexico is unacceptable and
creates tremendous problems, here and in that country. But
we need to look within our own borders for the causes of
our increasing demand for drugs and for the inconsistencies
in the messages we send. The State of Arizona is now
willing to make heroin, PCP, LSD and  marijuana  available
for  medical  use. The State of Sonora in Mexico may have
corrupt officers, but they are not telling their citizens
that it is okay under certain circumstances to use heroin,
LSD or marijuana. Mexico's top health official did not
within the last three years talk about legalizing
marijuana, as did former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders.

   No, the answer is not as simple as "Let's blame Mexico,"
although the impact of their drug cartels is deadly.
Business leaders here need to invest more time and money in
our city schools, more job opportunities for the young
unemployed and more funds for prevention and treatment as
well as law enforcement, to reduce crime and drugs in this
country. And parents need to strengthen their networks.

   Business and labor have recognized the hazards of drugs
in the workplace, and the steps taken have paid off in
reduced absenteeism, fewer accidents and increased
productivity. But industry's commitment needs to reach
beyond the assembly line and into our school systems,
parks, entertainment industry and criminal justice system.
If battle lines are to be drawn, they should not be focused
solely on Mexico's cooperation but also on our own
complacency and readiness to blame other countries.

Copyright (c) 1997, Chicago Tribune Company