Tag Archives: Drug War

NYTimes a Mouthpiece Advocating Disastrous Afghan Narco Policy

This week’s NYTimes Sunday Magazine had a silly/destructive article titled “Is Afghanistan a Narco State?”  Quick answer: obviously yes.  It was written by Thomas Schweich, a professor at Wash U and a drug warrior extraordinaire who seems to believe that advancing America’s failed drug war policies in Afghanistan is more important than stabilizing that troubled nation.  Shweich is another delusional  drug warrior and his presence in the NYTimes shows, once again, that the newspaper of record is asleep at the wheel.

This poorly argued and illogical article should never have made it to the Times.Schweich five pages are summed up when he complains how “an odd cabal of timorous (nervous) Europeans, myopic (lack of imagination) media outlets, corrupt Afghanis (including nearly everyone in the current Afghan government), blinkered (?) Pentagon officers, politically motivated Democrats and the Taliban were preventing the implementation of an effective counterdrug program.”  It’s true: everyone is against his plan to implement an aerial eradication program to destroy Afghan poppis.  But why?  First, it’s important to note that when he says ‘effective counterdrug program’ he is using the $5 billion Columbia eradication program as a benchmark of success.  The same day this article was published the NYTimes also published this interesting article that deems the Columbian eradication program a failure. Second, you can ask any New York hipster about the price of blow on the street and they’ll smile very big.  More surprising than his faith in his silly/destructive program is his near comic confusion as to why all these forces won’t allow him to use planes to spray herbicide over thousands of areas of Afghani farms.

To him, the calculation is simple:
Less poppy = less opium = less money for the Taliban and fewer drugs on the street.  Unfortunately the world is slightly more complex.

The Army hates his plan because they know that:
American led destruction of Afghan property = angry Afghans = more Taliban sympathizers = more dead American soldiers and a more difficult war.

Economists hate his plan because they know that:
Less Afghan poppy = unmet demand for opium = more south Asian poppy = no change on the street.

Clearly Schweich isn’t familiar with that economic reasoning because he was surprised when the South Asia Office in the Pentagon ‘made an about face’ and resisted his aerial eradication program.  Obviously, they didn’t want to watch their hard work evaporate as the poppy crop rushed back into their area of responsibility.

I’d like to leave the reader with the following undisputed information.  The Netherlands, like many developed nations, had a growing number of heroine addicts.  Instead of increasing the jail time for addicts or venturing around the word trying to kill other people’s crops, they began selling heroine themselves and even helped addicts administer the potentially lethal drug.   The number of addicts has been going down ever since.  The Dutch realized that if addicts get their fix from health care professional instead of back alley drug dealers, addicts are many many times more likely to be convinced to enter treatment.  They have the best of both worlds: less heroine addicts and less taxpayer expense.  That policy is now being used in British Columbia, Switzerland and Germany.

Finding English language mainstream media information about such programs is difficult but the NYTimes mentions them here, the alternative press here and the medical press here.

At the end of his article, Schweich proposes a ‘simple plan’ to eliminate heroine productions in Afghanistan:
1. Force Karzai to have a zero tolerance policy.  (Everyone paying attention knows this will lead to Karzai’s defeat in the next election to a candidate who resists US destruction of his constituents’ property.)
2. ‘Enable force-eradication.’  (This would entail the Afghan army spending its resources and risking their lives to destroy the crops of their fellow countrymen.)
3. Increase the amount of DEA in Kabul. (Shocker.)
4. Fund development and education projects.  (I advocate this one.  Smoking opium is a sin in Islam and the culture should prevent more farmers from planting it.)
5. Ask the allies to help.  (The allies hate US drug policy so I won’t hold my breadth.)

I have a simpler plan.
1. Treat Afghani opiates like we treat the multinational pharmaceutical companies’ opiates (OxyCodone, Vicodin, Codine and the hundreds of others).  Regulate it, tax it and follow the Dutch plan for distribution.

As soon as you regulate instead of criminalize drugs, the (violent) black market disappears.  The Taliban would lose their primary source of revenue and the Afghan people would respect us because we would be respecting them.  Of course, Thomas Schweich would prefer the US government legislating international morality (and legislating it ineffectively) instead of winning the war in Afghanistan.  He needs a little perspective.

I suggest reading the article on Colombian eradication of cocoa.  It shows, once again, that the black market is creating violence in Columbia and, now that FARC is on the decline, smaller groups are filling the void with their own drug-money-fueled armies.  It’s a sad state of affairs.

Where are the Solutions to the Drug War?

The “War on Drugs” is a term that encapsulates all of the drug prohibition policies of the US. It’s a horrible policy.

First, there is no statistical evidence that says putting people in jail for drugs reduces the total number of drug users. In fact, residents of Amsterdam smoke less than half as much weed as Americans do despite the fact that you can buy the drug in stores. Drug use rates respond to shifts in culture, not criminal policies.

Second, there’s tons of statistical evidence that show that the societal harm caused by drug criminalization is extremely high.

So if criminalization doesn’t reduce drug use within the population but it does create more societal problems, why does it continue?

Who cares! Drug policy warriors love to talk about all the problems. We need to seek solutions.

The most effective drug treatment programs convince drug addicts (people who have decided they’d rather use drugs and die than live a sober life) that they should want to live; that they can help each other survive and educate people so other don’t make the same mistakes.

The most effective way to keep kids away from drugs, a venture worthy of government resources, is to tell them true stories about drug use and addiction. Meeting a person who has destroyed his own life and the lives of those that love him because of the slippery slope of drug use is much more effective than ads that suggest that if you smoke weed, you might shoot your best friend in the face.

So… a solution: Instead of sending drug addicts to prison, send them to rehabilitation and to schools to talk to kids about drug use.

What sounds crazier?

1. Sending drug addicts to schools to talk to kids about drug use?

2. Incarcerating 750,000 non-violent drug offenders every year?

This isn’t a full scale drug policy solution, but it’s a step in the right direction.

The world is not insane. Balances may be hidden but they do exist. We need to seek them. We need to find solutions. Instead of talking about all the very real socio-economic correlations between drug arrests and economic opportunity let’s talk about solutions. Instead of talking about the prison-industrial complex let’s talk about solutions. Instead of complaining about how the mainstream media has failed us all, let’s come up with solutions.

When John Lennon said: “There are no problems, only solutions” he meant that discussing problems doesn’t fix them. Solutions exist. Let’s create them, then publicize them, then implement them.

The drug war will be the next civil rights issue.