Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Narco-terrorism or the war on drugs

The news has been flooded with corrupt US politicians of late, from Arnie to Weiner (the latter being just too easy to lampoon). In the midst of these political imbroglios, it is easy miss some bigger issues that don't quite make the headlines.

A report by the Global Commission on Drug Policy is calling for the legalization of some drugs. The report recommends instead of punishing users (and costing the taxpayers millions of dollars), governments should seek models to legalize drugs and undermine the drug cartels.

BBC World News

The war on drugs (now more commonly called war on narco-terrorism to reconcile the two campaigns) has not dented opiate production. According to the Global Commission's report, the UN estimates that opiate use increased 35% worldwide from 1998 to 2008, cocaine by 27%, and cannabis by 8.5%. The war on drugs seems to have had little impact on production which also means usage increased or at least remained consistent.

Opium is produced from poppies grown in Afghanistan. The Taliban (al Qaeda) control opium production and one can't but wonder if the US military presence wasn't in part to try to curtail opium production. If a terrorist group controls the production of drugs, then it is easy to conclude drug money funds terrorism. Nothing new here really as most terrorist groups active during the 1980s had to find a new funding source once the Soviet Union folded.

The al Qaeda now is active in Honduras. The United States history in Central America is abysmal. From the United Fruit Company to the Sandinistas, the United States has backed some of the most violent groups in the region. As a result, Honduras has a very weak economy. Al Qaeda has money and trafficking opium through Honduras offers both advantages. Honduras can receive some badly needed money and Al Qaeda gets closed to targets in the United States.

My original inclination was to right a cautionary piece about Al Qaeda renewing its efforts but then I read where US military construction in Central and South American has doubled in the last two years (source: "Pentagon Using Drug Wars as an Excuse to Build Bases in Latin America", News America Media Jun 3, 2011).

"Congress approved a $25 million expansion of barracks for enlisted troops at the U.S. base in Soto Cano, Honduras, located 50 miles north of the capital in Tegucigalpa. The base houses about 500 U.S. troops, as well as support personnel, and served as a way-station for the aircraft that whisked President Manuel Zelaya out of Honduras during the June 2009 military coup, according to Zelaya and a leaked State Department cable. Zelaya had proposed making the base intro a commercial airport in 2008. Now, a new operating center for U.S. Special Forces troops is being built on the base. "

News America Media

Most Americans think US bases overseas have drawn down. That is because most think of overseas bases as those in Europe where the US presence has drastically reduced over the last 20 years. However, the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq created a boom in overseas constructions through Southwest Asia (Iraq, Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Bahrain). US military are often based on existing military bases so those in Colombia and now Central America don't show up on a list of bases since those facilities are not owned by the United States.

The United States continue to spend money on bases and policies that have not produced results (especially in regards to drugs). The building of bases in Central America seems to only increase the likelihood of Al Qaeda spending more money in the region. The Southwest border is extremely porous despite efforts to the contrary. The drug wars in Mexico seem like the perfect compliment to Al Qaeda operations.

We need to refocus on these issues no matter how much fun it is to read about a politician's self-destruction.

No comments: