Despite decades fighting the drug wars, millions of Americans use cannabis just as others use alcohol. When listening to arguments opposing its legalization, substitute ‘alcohol’ for ‘marijuana’ and you’ll hear the same words that were exchanged almost 100 years ago.
Now that the Fast and Furious controversy has once again opened the discussion on Mexican violence, perhaps it’s time we discuss one of the greatest failures in American public policy. What are your thoughts on the War on Drugs?
From The Atlantic
The Policy That Killed 100 Times as Many Mexicans as Fast and Furious
For political reasons, GOP partisans suddenly care a lot about dead foreigners. They should turn their attention to the war on drugs.
Self-serving political considerations can have the salutary effect of spurring Congress to investigate wrongdoing in the executive branch, as in the House GOP’s Fast and Furious investigation.
It can also bring out the partisan’s inner humanitarian.
Before Fast and Furious, I never recall the conservative movement giving much thought to dead Mexicans. But now that the body count can be attributed to a bureaucracy run by Democrats?
The right is invoking the tragic deaths of foreigners with great frequency.
Said Texas Governor Rick Perry, “We’ve had over 300 Mexican nationals killed directly attributable to this Fast and Furious operation, where they brought those guns into Mexico. A former Marine and a Border Patrol agent by the name of Brian Terry lost his life. With Watergate you had a second-rate burglary.”
Mark Steyn brought up the body count while complaining about the liberal reaction to the investigation. “Insofar as they know anything about Fast and Furious, it’s something to do with the government tracking the guns of fellows like those Alabama ‘Segregation Forever’ nuts, rather than a means by which hundreds of innocent Rigoberta Menchús south of the border were gunned down with weapons sold to their killers by liberal policymakers of the Obama administration,” he wrote.
There has been enough commentary of that kind that political satirists are starting to notice. Said Bill Maher on his HBO show, “First of all, let me just say, Republicans don’t care about dead Mexicans.” His comments spurred outraged posts in the conservative blogosphere. But the problem isn’t that he was wrong, so much as that his biting remark ought to have been broader. Democrats don’t care about dead Mexicans either assuming a reasonable definition of “care.”
Abstractly, do they regret it when foreigners die?
Sure. So do Republicans.
Does either party put forth any effort to change the American policy that results in more dead Mexicans than any other?
They talk about how tragic it is that 300 Mexican nationals were killed by Fast and Furious. But they keep right on supporting the war on drugs. President Bush and President Obama both insisted that our southern neighbor to keep fighting it, and our Latin American allies too, though they’re despairing.
Since the 2006 crackdown on cartels that the United States urged on, between 35,000 and 40,000 people have been killed by drug violence in Mexico alone. The drug cartels are powerful enough to cause that kind of carnage only because Americans keep buying their drugs, even as U.S. politicians and voters back domestic policies such that all narcotics transactions take place on a black market that inevitably empowers murderous criminals. It’s an unintended consequence, to be sure, but after all these decades is that really an excuse anymore?
We all know that prohibition fuels violence.
When the prohibitionist worries that legalizing drugs would increase drug use and addiction, that U.S. productivity might fall, and that it would send a bad moral signal, their argument is effectively, “The harm legalization might do is worse than tens of thousands of foreigners dying, worse than decades-long wars with cartels, worse than whole regions being destabilized.”
It’s a very easy calculation to make when the dead people are mostly far away, in foreign countries or in bad neighborhoods you don’t pass through.
Everyone seems to agree, for purposes of arguing on cable news, that Fast and Furious was indefensible — that it was illegitimate to risk the lives of Mexicans in an effort to bring down the cartels.
I certainly concur.
I also think the policy that killed tens of thousands of Mexicans over the last few years is illegitimate. But both political parties are inextricably implicated in that policy, so no one cares about those dead foreigners. (They don’t think much about the Americans prohibition kills either.)
Our drug policies do far more to cause violence in Mexico than Fast and Furious ever did. That doesn’t mean gun-walking wasn’t scandalous. It just means the bigger scandal has yet to be addressed.
From The Economist
The path to decriminalisation
Jun 1st 2012 by E.G. | AUSTIN
ON TUESDAY, Beto O’Rourke, a former city councilman from El Paso, defeated the longtime incumbent Silvestre Reyes in the Democratic primary for Texas’s 16th congressional district. It was probably the biggest upset in the state, and an outcome that has attracted national attention, for a simple reason: Mr O’Rourke, who will almost certainly win the general election in November, supports legalising marijuana.
While not entirely unprecedented, this is an outlying opinion among politicians. Polling shows that fully half of Americans now support legalising marijuana. Yet among national office-holders, the figure is about 0-1%. As Paul Waldman argues, the disparity might arise from the fact that there aren’t really any electoral incentives for the politician who wants to go to bat on this issue, but there are plenty of risks—the risk of being seen as soft on crime, the risk of being seen as a crank, etc. Mr O’Rourke is perhaps insulated from these risks, because this is manifestly an issue that affects the district he hopes to represent, rather than some kind of dilettantish libertarian thing. He and Susie Byrd, also a former city representative, published a book last year describing the devastation of Mexico’s drug war, particularly in El Paso’s twinned city of Juarez, and arguing that decriminalising marijuana would be the best way to dismantle the black market that fuels the trade. The Economist supports decriminalising drugs for similar reasons, and such arguments are more compelling than complaints about personal freedom which, while valid, can come across as tasteless and self-absorbed. You can’t open a paper from Juarez without reading about somebody being beheaded or disemboweled.
It would be wrong to interpret the race as an up-and-down vote on drug policy: as suggested before, this was a local election between two prominent local politicians, and the outcome might have hinged on turnout. And it would be surprising if a freshman representative single-handedly changed America’s drug policy. Still, Mr O’Rourke’s win is significant. The debate over decriminalising marijuana might have similar contours as the debate over legalising gay marriage, albeit for different reasons. Ten years ago, that is, gay marriage was widely seen as an extremely marginal issue, if it was seen at all; five years ago it was a mainstream but controversial issue; today, a majority of Americans are in favour, and top-level politicians (often a lagging indicator of social change) are coming out in favour of the cause too. At every step of the way, proponents helped their friends and neighbours get used to the idea, not just by making reasoned arguments, but by serving as living proof that the cause in question was not alien. With regard to drug policy, having elected officials who support decriminalisation or other alternatives to the war on drugs means that the spectrum of mainstream public opinion is expanding. That will make it easier for others to come around too.