The Harrisburg Patriot
As I See It, 29 October 1996
To Fight Drugs, US Must Drop Double Standard
The United States must eliminate the double standard we cultivate in the drug war. We should concentrate on the two areas that seem to have the greatest implications toward an effective anti-drug campaign. These are the supply and demand of drugs and our inconsistent moral response.
There is no denying that the United States is fighting a war on drugs. Law enforcement officials battle all aspects of the drug war daily. Hospitals and clinics see the all too "ordinary" effects drugs have on the population every day. Society has come to accept and ignore many aspects of drug use. Over 70 percent of all violent crime in America is drug-related.
The United States cannot shift narcotics accountability in this country onto other nations. A large majority of drugs are imported to the United States because demand is present. The drug market has skyrocketed in the United States. Drug use has risen well over 250 percent in the last four years. If the United States attacks drugs in their source countries, then supply would decrease. This decrease in supply would drive drug prices upward. Studies have shown that this increase in price would have immense impact on most recreational drug users. They would turn away from usage because the cost would be too substantial. While a rise in price would not deter the hard-core addicts, a smaller supply would displace a large percentage of casual drug users from the market.
Attacking the supply of drugs at their source also reduces the total amount of drugs that could be smuggled into the United States. One example of a source attack method is crop erradication. Crop erradication programs would eliminate drug crops at their source. Safe, environmentally friendly compounds have been developed to achieve this task.
An example of one such compound is Tebuthiuron (Spike), a herbicide. Spike has been used in Peru and Colombia and has proven extremely successful in eradicating the coca plant, while producing no environmental damage. Spike did not cause any harmful side effects on the surrounding plant or animal life, including humans. As demand continues to increase, in the United States, proven drug source intervention programs, like crop erradication, must be started again and given full support. The double standard that seems to prevail in the United States has ramifications that handicap the effectiveness of the war on drugs.
The United States declared this war in 1989. Not only did the United States embark on this mission but we enlisted the help of other nations. One such nation, Colombia, that joined the fight to combat drugs is being abandoned by the United States. The Colombian National Police and the Colombian military have been engaged against the overwhelming forces of the narco/guerrillas since the declaration of this war.
The Colombian National Police and the Colombian military are fighting narco/guerrillas that are supported by drug money. This money comes from the pockets of drug users in the United States and the drug empires in Latin America. The narco/guerrillas are supported better financially and militarily than the police and the military.
In September 1996, 212 Colombian national policemen were killed by the narco/guerrillas. Since 1991 more than 4,000 Colombian national policemen have been killed. The United States has fallen far short of our pledged support from Colombia. The Clinton administration is withholding support from Colombia. The White House decertified Colombia March 1, which effectively killed the promised support. The reduction of Drug Enforcement Administration agents in the United States embassy in Bogota also has signaled to the Colombian National Police (not to mention the narco/guerrillas) that the United States is pulling back instead of facilitating assistance.
As support for the Colombians is being withheld, continuous drug money still finds the narco/guerrillas. The National Defense Council Foundation reports, "The money comes from the United States out of a drug trade that the people in our country are helping to support. Money is coming into Colombia to support the narco/guerrillas, at a time when President Clinton canceled US military assistance to the forces that fight the narco/guerrillas and the drug trade at its source." This is just another example of how the double standard that seems to prevail in the US prevents a positive effect in the drug war.
Reducing the supply and demand for drugs and having a consistent moral response should have a noticeable and beneficial impact in fighting the drug war. In turn, the double standard that the United States fosters would finally be adequately diminished.
Carson A. Nightwine Jr., formerly of Harrisburg, is a research associate at the National Defense Council Foundation in Alexandria, Va.