Chapter 1 : GOING TO THE SOURCE 1
Chapter 2: Drug Enforcement AS COUNTERINSURGENCY 11
Chapter 3: Narcotics AND COMMUNISM 29
Chapter 4: Narcotics Enforcement AND THE CIA 35
Chapter 5: CONCLUSION 63
End Notes 75
Millions of Americans who smoke marijuana, snort cocaine or shoot up heroin take for granted the long supply lines that deliver the mood-altering chemicals they demand. From foreign fields, across seas and through borders, the drugs reach America's streets despite the Herculean efforts of police, prosecutors and judges. As the media remind Americans almost daily, the country is awash in illegal drugs of every kind.
Politicians and police, frustrated by the impossibility of patrolling every alley and arresting every pusher, blame the countries of origin for America's drug epidemic. In a major report to the nation in 1989, drug czar William Bennett declared that "we must... disrupt the transportation and trafficking of drugs within their source countries, since the interdiction of drugs and traffickers en route to the United States is an immensely more complicated, expensive, and less effective means of reducing the drug supply to this country." Or as Sen. William Cohen of Maine remarked in 1989, "Shouldn't we be looking at ways in which to invoke the military...to go to the source or go to where the machine gun nests are as opposed to trying to catch the bullets that are being fired into the United States?"1
Like Cohen, other federal officials routinely adopt military metaphors to describe their efforts to suppress illicit narcotics. Since President Reagan signed a directive in 1986 defining drugs as a threat to "national security," Washington policy makers have exploited the image of war to quiet public dissent and mobilize support for dizzy increases in drug enforcement spending.
In the Third World, thanks in part to U.S. political pressure and military aid, the "war on drugs" is not merely an overworked metaphor. It is fast becoming a bloody reality. Green Beret trainers are at work in Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia and much of Central America. Congress has appropriated unprecedented levels of military aid to
Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia, mostly for fighting the drug traffic: $118 million in fiscal 1991, on top of a nearly equal amount in 1990. As we shall see, such aid often goes to forces that either serve the drug lords or control the traffic themselves. And sometimes, we shall further see, American leaders accept that outcome as the price of achieving other aims sold to the nation under the false banner of drug enforcement.
Just as war is the continuation of politics by other means, so the "war on drugs" has become an extension of foreign policy by other means. The ideology and practice of drug enforcement have served too often to advance the goals of counterinsurgency, cold war propaganda and U.S. covert operations in the Third World. These goals do not fairly characterize all U.S. narcotics programs overseas nor the motives of many individual government officials or drug agents. But the frequent distortions of drug policy documented here illustrate the dangerous potential for cynical leaders to misdirect programs whose overwhelming popularity discourages critical oversight.
This brief study does not focus on the political economy or culture of drugs in the Third World, topics already scrutinized by numerous other writers and scholars. Nor does it pretend to offer an insider's account of the bureaucratic politics of drug policy making in the U.S. government. Instead, it explores the ways in which drug enforcement has been systematically subordinated to larger foreign policy objectives. The American people, and Congress, cannot meaningfully debate national drug policy in the face of ignorance or silence about those true objectives.
Many people contributed valuable information or insights to this study. I would like to thank in particular Jack Blum, Bob Callahan, John Hill, John Kelly, Ted Rubinstein, Peter Dale Scott, Bill Walker, Dave White, Coletta Youngers, and the Data Center in Oakland. I would also like to thank the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy in San Francisco, for permission to reprint and rework portions of my essay "Drugs and U.S. Foreign Policy," in Ronald Hamowy, ed., Dealing with Drugs: Consequences of Government Control (San Francisco, 1987). And I thank my family for their love, support, and patience.
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