Ironically, the war on drugs has some interesting parallels with the war on terrorism and sometimes integrates with the war on immigrants.
Recently, Norberto Ramirez, a 44-year-old Mexican father of five in the isolated village of Nocupetaro, Mexico, was kidnapped and brutally tortured by Mexican soldiers. The reason? Drug lords recently ambushed a Mexican army unit whose mission was to implement a brutal crackdown in the war on drugs. According to an article in the Washington Post, after the ambush Mexican soldiers, angry and vengeful, swooped into the area, “strapped villagers to wooden posts and robbed homes…. Mexico’s human rights commission cited physical evidence that four girls, all under 18, were raped.”
Among the villagers taken into custody was Norberto Ramirez. The soldiers tied a plastic sack over his head and cinched it around his neck, tightening and loosening it to create the sensation of suffocating. He was beaten so badly that he had to undergo surgery to repair severe damage to his liver and intestines.
Now, one might be tempted to argue that the solution to such a travesty is simply to “rein in” the military, forcing it to conform to well-established norms of military and police behavior with respect to civil liberties and human rights.
Unfortunately, that type of solution doesn’t get to the root of the problem, which is the drug war itself. Making the possession and distribution of drugs illegal gives rise to the black market, which in turn gives rise to violent drug lords who are able to reap exorbitant black-market profits from drug operations. The government responds to the drug lords by waging war against them. The drug lords retaliate. The army is called in to smash the drug lords. The drug lords ambush an army unit. Soldiers go ape and kidnap, torture, sexually abuse, and rape the citizenry. The government blames it all on a few “bad apples.” The government inevitably apologizes and exclaims that accidents are bound to happen in any war, especially a violent war such as the war on drugs.
The real solution to all this is simply to repeal the initial intervention, which is the drug laws themselves. Legalizing drugs would immediately end the black market in drugs. That would restore a normally functioning market in drugs, immediately putting the drug lords out of business. No more war on drugs. No more military waging war on drugs. No more brutal assaults on the citizenry.
It’s really no different in the war on terrorism. In the wake of the CIA’s and Pentagon’s kidnapping, torture, sex abuse, kidnapping, and rendition scandals (which they sometimes blame on a few “bad apples”), one approach would be to rein in the CIA and military, forcing them to comply with the Geneva Convention and fundamental principles of human rights.
But just as with the war on drugs, that wouldn’t get to the root of the problem, which is the U.S. government’s foreign policy of empire and intervention. As part of such foreign policy, the U.S. government does very bad things to people overseas, including deadly embargoes and sanctions, support of brutal dictators, assassinations, coups, invasions, and occupations. The victims of such actions become angry and vengeful, and they retaliate with terrorist attacks. The government then declares a war on terrorism, which entails more of the same foreign-policy measures that gave rise to the terrorism (e.g., invasions, occupations, assassinations, coups, embargoes, sanctions, etc.) as well as such anti-liberty measures as torture and sex abuse, kangaroo military tribunals, infringements on civil liberties, denial of due process, cancellation of habeas corpus, domestic spying, and denial of trial by jury.
By dismantling the government’s pro-empire, pro-intervention foreign policy, the results would be similar to those that would be achieved through the dismantling of the government’s drug laws. Anger and hatred among foreigners against the United States would diminish. No more terrorism. No more war on terrorism. No more excuses to infringe upon or suspend people rights and liberties.
What about Norberto Ramirez, the Mexican man who was brutalized by the Mexican military as part of the war on drugs? His medical bills from the torture are so high that he plans to travel to the United States to look for work. If Mexican soldiers do not return the U.S. green card that allowed him to work in the United States, according to the Post, “Ramirez said he has another plan. He’ll jump into the Rio Grande and swim.” If he dies as part of the U.S. war on immigrants, I wonder how many people will realize that his death was rooted in the war on drugs.