EspañolLast month, still further proof emerged not only of the failure, but the uselessness – and absurdity – of the war on drugs.
The Office of the Inspector General of the US Department of Justice published a report in which it denounced members of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for participating in sex parties paid for by Colombian narco-traffickers.
As it stands, the war on drugs has not only failed to end of the cultivation of drugs, or block trafficking routes, or still less impeded the distribution and consumption of illegal narcotics by international markets.
Not only has it generated huge corruption in countries like Colombia, and converted simple chemical substances into fuel for Colombia’s civil war, key for explaining the longevity, reach, and brutality of the 50-year nationwide armed conflict.
Not only has the war on drugs become a war waged by states, not against narco-traffickers, but against their own citizens. The traffickers are left untouched because states negotiate with them, both in the United States as in Colombia, issue them pardons, and let them carry on their criminal activities as before.
The war on drugs also implies that the state can take away citizens’ freedoms for simply doing what they want.
The drug war is waged against citizens: they’re the ones who serve huge jail terms for consuming or selling drugs, or for working for the criminal structures associated with the chain of production. But citizens are also the principal victims, losing their lives, be it willingly or otherwise, as a consequence of drugs.
The war on drugs has become an excuse for states to restrict basic freedoms. The merest hint of a threat to national security brings with it the restriction of all kinds of civil liberties in the name of clamping down on the supposed threat.
The war on drugs also implies that the state can take away the freedom of those citizens who simply chose to consume what they want, even if it does them harm, and create the businesses that they want.
The war on drugs not only leads to all of the above, it has become an international tragedy. On the one hand, it hasn’t achieved any of the objectives for which it was launched. On the other, it’s also become a weight, a 10-ton anchor, around the world’s neck.
This yoke around global progress is evidenced by our political systems running on autopilot, perpetuating themselves. We see it in the creation of bureaucracies such as the DEA, and the wheeling out of politician’s speeches to justify their failures through condescending and foolishly optimistic rhetoric. They continue to insist that the chaos isn’t due to mistaken policies or the impossibility of solving certain issues, but because of a lack of resources.
This process of entrenchment has, at the same time, led to an accumulation of unexpected consequences. Violence has spiraled in countries such as Colombia, where drugs are or were the dominant business. In the same way, it leads to the inevitable decay and corruption of governments and officials.
The authorities are unable to stop the drug trade because it’s impossible to do so, as well as immoral.
The news about the DEA agents shouldn’t surprise us. And the problem won’t be resolved with a simple punishment. Although punishments were issued to make examples of the officials, they’ll only end up creating different strategies to better hide their relationship with drug traffickers and the illicit gifts they receive.
The US federal government should now, despite the sense of shame it must feel, recognize the failure of the war that it’s led since the 1970s – kicked off by one of the worst, if not the worst president in its history, Richard Nixon.
Many US states are legalizing marijuana, just as another nations are doing around the world. The US judiciary has been negotiating with narco-traffickers for a long time, and there’s a growing international discussion about how to change track. And now, we have more proof that those who are supposedly in charge of pursuing the drug traffickers are making friends with them and joining in their revels.
Meanwhile, those who want to consume drugs, and those that want to produce, traffic, or sell them, do so. The authorities are unable to stop it because it’s impossible to do so, as well as immoral.
Now they should step back, with the little dignity they have left, and dedicate their efforts to the tasks they’ve neglected for so long – all because they believed that the state is best equipped to decide what the rest of us should and shouldn’t do.
Translated by Laurie Blair. Edited by Guillermo Jimenez.