Friday, March 03, 2006

Bordering on insanity

Buzz Flash posts an interview with Charles Bowden, author of the book Down by the River. Bowden spent over seven years "embedded" in the seamy underbelly of the drug trade in Mexico researching this story. He reaches the same conclusion as every drug policy reformer, the war on some drugs is a sham. It's a war of propaganda never meant to be "won." In fact, should the US prohibitionists ever succeed in eliminating the drug trade, the economy of Mexico would surely collapse and then we would see what a flood of illegal immigrants really looks like.

And here's an interesting point for those who have been following the sightings of apparent Mexican army personnel breaching the border in the southern states.

BuzzFlash: We have an argument about immigration going on in the U.S., now, and there are the Minutemen. A couple of weeks ago, there were allegedly encounters between American immigration officials on the border and people who looked like they were in the Mexican Army.

Charles Bowden: They were in the Mexican Army. No drug dealer would try and look like the Army, they would try and blend in. The Mexican Army is in the drug business. The movie "Traffic" was not a complete fiction.
As to why our country has "fought" this war for decades without any apparent success:
Charles Bowden: Everybody that gets into the drug industry becomes corrupted. It doesn’t matter if you’re a cop or a robber. There’s just too much money. All you have to do is blink and you can get paid. You’re standing there waving cars through at the border. You’re a U.S. official. You wave cars through all day. All you have to do is wave one more through and you can make $50-100,000 in the blink of an eye.

I’ll give you an example. They busted a drug ring in 1989. This ring had moved 900 consecutive loads of cocaine into the United States through one crossing in El Paso – one bridge – without ever being detected. That's mathematically impossible unless you buy people.
And the black market is almost too big to comprehend
Charles Bowden: Well, the ring got busted. But it terrified DEA and I’ll tell you why. They took down 21 tons of cocaine in a warehouse in California in 1989, and after they did that, the price of cocaine did not go up. It had no effect on the market, so much was coming in. That was the first time that DEA really understood the magnitude of the drug use in this country, because it’s very hard to track. People don’t report how much coke they use every week.
Thousands of people have died in the border towns as a direct result of this war. As Bowden points out, only one got a book. Not unlike the "collateral damage" in Iraq, most go unnoticed and unmourned outside of their families.

If our society and our civility is to be judged by how we treat the least among us, I'd say we're failing rather badly on all counts. We can't rely on our politicians to solve this. It's up to us.

Update: An alternative view from Jules Siegel who has lived in Mexico for many years and literally wrote the book on Cancun. He contends the premise that the Mexican economy depends on the drug trade is false. He also has his own insights into the drug trade. It's a complicated issue and it appears the only real agreement is our government's current efforts to "control the problem" are only making it worse.


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