Newshawk: Kevin Zeese

In rushing to approve a 1.7 billion dollar Colombian military aid package Congress is ignoring drug enforcement history which shows this approach will actually make America's drug problem worse.

There has not been an eradication or interdiction program in the last 35 years that has reduced the supply of illegal drugs. Indeed such efforts actually increase drug supplies by spurring new source countries, new trafficking routes and new drugs.

1. The French Connection of the 1960s. Officials believed destroying the Turkey-French-US supply line would destroy the heroin market. In fact the heroin market expanded to sources in Mexico and Asia. The Mexican and Southeast Asian heroin markets are still with us today. Also, Turkey and other Eastern European sources now supply much of Europe.

2. Operation Intercept. President Nixon's first drug war effort was an offensive against Mexico that included searching one in three vehicles crossing the border. This spurred an increase in prescription drug use and traffickers switched to boats and planes. The Mexican effort also expanded the Southeast Asian drug markets which were already making inroads thanks to the Vietnam War. The border searches disrupted commerce and therefore could not be sustained. Thus the result was increased use of prescription drugs, expanded Southeast Asian supplies and Mexican traffickers not only had land routes, but also sea and air routes.

3. The Paraquat Spraying Program: This mid-70's herbicide spraying program attempted to eradicate marijuana and poppies in Mexico. Paraquat tainted marijuana created the US marijuana market, which now accounts for at least 25% of marijuana consumed here, and the Colombian marijuana market, which evolved to include cocaine and heroin.

4. Reagan's Florida interdiction program: In the early 80s Florida was the entry point for marijuana. President Reagan involved the military in marijuana interdiction. The result Colombian traffickers realized they would get caught less often and make a larger profit if they switched to the less bulky cocaine. The also developed trafficking lines along the west and gulf coasts and through Mexico. The result purity increased, price decreased and cocaine problems soared.

5. Bush's Andean Strategy. President Bush increased military and other law enforcement involvement in the Andean Region to seize cocaine. The result the cocaine market is still there.

6. Invasion of Panama: President Bush invaded Panama to arrest Manuel Noriega. The military succeeded in making this arrest but the money laundering and transhipments never stopped. They removed Noriega, but not the drug problem.

7. Peruvians Shoot Down Strategy: During the Clinton years the US provided intelligence to Peru so they could shoot down suspected traffickers. The result, traffickers increased their activity in Colombia creating the problem we are facing today.

8. Clinton's Colombian eradication program. Colombia has been the site of the most aggressive herbicide spraying program in the world and the largest recipient of military aid outside of the middle east. The result we need to escalate the war because it has not worked.

Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey recognizes that winning the war in Colombia is improbable and is already making excuses. Recently he said that lack of AWAC air support makes success in Colombia unlikely. Not only does this allow the drug czar to point blame for failure at DoD, it greases the skids for more direct involvement of our military in the Colombian civil war. The quagmire many fear is becoming more likely.

Since 1980 the federal government has spent over $250 billion on the drug war. Why do advocates of the Colombian escalation think that this $1.7 billion appropriation will succeed? Are these last few billion going to be more effective then the first $250 billion?

We should learn the lessons of drug wars past. Failure to do so is likely to result in a greater drug problem. For example, right now there are signs of an initial development of expanding methamphetamine use. This is a domestically produced speed. If, by chance, the Colombian drug war resulted in a drop in cocaine availability this would be a natural replacement drug. Thus, we would have spurred a more dangerous alternative, more difficult to interdict because it will be produced locally and, as history shows, in a brief time the cocaine market will move elsewhere to neighboring countries. Already, Peru is reporting that the price of raw coca has tripled and there has been an expansion of 1,500 hectares of new coca cultivation in 1999.

It is time to seek effective alternatives to expanding the drug war. For less then the cost of international drug efforts we could have treatment on request so addicts who want to stop can do so. The RAND Corporation has concluded that treatment is 10 times more effective then interdiction. We could also institute effective prevention programs for American youth. After school programs would do more to stop adolescent drug use then the drug war. The US spends $600 million on after school programs, the Children's Defense Fund recommends $2.5 billion.

These two programs would take away current consumers and reduce the number of new consumers. If we want to undermine Colombian drug cartels we should take care of our problems at home.

TO Learn More Contact
New Drug Policy..www.csdp.org

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