Pubdate: Wed, 16 Jan 2002
Source: Independent, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2002 Conolly Publishing Ltd.
Author: Sheldon Richman, Special to The Independent
Note: Sheldon Richman is senior fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation 
( in Fairfax, Va., and editor of Ideas on Liberty magazine.
Bookmark: (Terrorism)


Readers would no doubt be distressed to learn that the U.S. government 
helped finance the terrorist attacks that killed so many people in New York 
and Washington.

It's not such a far-fetched thought.  According to House Speaker Dennis 
Hastert, terrorist organizations are financed in part by profits from 
trading in drugs.  "The illegal drug trade is the financial engine that 
fuels many terrorist organizations around the world, including Osama Bin 
Laden's," Hastert said.

But what makes the drug trade so profitable?  Just one thing:  The U.S. war 
on drugs.  How ironic!  The war on drugs is now necessitating the war on 
terrorism.  War does indeed beget war.

This is a particularly sordid example of what the CIA calls "blowback," the 
backfiring of an official operation.

Drugs in themselves are fairly cheap to produce.  Growing marijuana, poppy 
for opiates, and coca for cocaine is no big deal.  Poor people do it all 
over the world.  The processing of those crops into usable drugs is also 
relatively inexpensive.

What makes the drug industry so lucrative is the U.S.-led effort to stamp 
it out.  With prohibition comes high risks and thus elaborate efforts to 
hide drug-related activity - the black market.  Black markets always 
produce high profits, because high profits are the premium needed to 
compensate those who undertake great risk to produce the prohibited product 
in defiance of the authorities.

This is nothing new.  It is the well-grounded economics of black markets. 
Opponents of prohibition have long held that the way to remove the 
exorbitant profits from drug dealing is to end prohibition. Few in the 
policymaking world would listen.

Now it is clear, if it wasn't already, that drug profits are used to 
finance abominable operations, such as terrorist organizations that seek to 
kill  innocent people.  This should surprise no one.

Black markets tend to be run by the most ruthless and despicable characters 
around.  Because black markets are outside the law, the standard forms 
of  resolving disputes are unavailable to their personnel.  If 
a  multimillion-dollar drug deal goes awry, the wronged party can't sue the 
offender.  The courts are not open to him.  So he's likely to take matters 
into his own hands.  That means violence.

For obvious reasons, then, the drug trade will attract those with the 
fewest scruples about using violence.  Indeed, it will reward those who are 
best at it.  Enter those who wish to engage in terrorism.

It has long been known that violent groups in Latin America have made money 
by protecting coca farmers from government agents, both American and 
indigenous.  It should come as no surprise to learn that the same happens 
in Asia and the Middle East.

Make no mistake about it:  it is U.S. policy that creates a harmony of 
interests between violent guerilla organizations and poor farmers trying to 
make a living by growing crops needed for the production of drugs.  The 
U.S. government has foolishly hoped that those farmers could be encouraged 
to grow legal crops.  It has even tried to poison the illicit crops.  But 
those efforts are futile, because the financial reward for producing drugs 
is so large.

In fact, the reward is so large that often the U.S. government's foreign 
partners in the anti-drug effort are also involved in the black market. 
Nothing is better at corrupting the law-enforcement establishment than 
prohibition.  Let's not forget history.

But the U.S. government persists in its worldwide war on drug producers and 
traders despite countless failures and "blowbacks." Let's be blunt: every 
U.S. drug czar has been an unwitting financier for terrorists.

No one is saying that drugs are the only source of money for terrorists. 
But the multibillion-dollar industry is undoubtedly a major source.  Denied 
that money, the terrorists would have to operate at a far more modest 
level. And the lives of many innocent people would be saved.

Here, then, is another good reason to end the absurd war on drug producers, 
sellers, and users.  There were plenty of good reasons already.  But this 
one might finally get people to reconsider this truly stupid policy. 
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MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager