Drug War Kabuki Theater

In George Orwell’s 1984, three global superpowers (Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia) engaged in a constantly shifting pattern of wars and alliances, two against the other. Oceania was always at war with either Eurasia or Eastasia. But as described by the fictional Emanuel Goldstein, the very distinction between war and alliance was meaningless. It was the state of permanent economic and military mobilization, and the psychic benefits of an ever-present foreign “threat,” that propped up the totalitarian system of domestic power in each country. The three superpowers were really de facto allies that propped each other up through the pretense of perpetual war, like three sheaves of wheat.

The ostensible opposing sides in the so-called Drug War have a similar relationship. In the real world, private drug cartels derive their power from the existence of a lucrative black market which the state plays a central role in maintaining. And the state itself is just another drug cartel which profits from controlling — rather than eliminating — the drug trade.

You can be sure that, if anyone presented a plausible threat of actually ending the production of all illegal narcotics, the black ops people in the national security state would “neutralize” them, and that right quickly. Without the drug trade, how would the CIA fund its global network of death squads and other criminal thugs around the world?

In a diplomatic cable published by Wikileaks (as quoted by Ginger Thompson and Scott Shane at the New York Times“Cables Portray Expanded Reach of Drug Agency,” Dec. 25),  we see a long list of examples of the Drug Enforcement Agency acting not so much to eradicate illegal drugs but to determine the balance of power between government and private drug cartels.

When you look at the “friendly” governments the U.S. colludes with, and the drug cartels it’s allegedly trying to suppress, it’s hard — as with men versus pigs in Animal Farm — to tell the difference between them.

The Panamanian president presented the American ambassador with a demand “that the DEA go after his political enemies: ‘I need help with tapping phones.'”  An attempted prosecution of cocaine traffickers in Sierra Leone “was almost upended by the attorney general’s attempt to solicit $2.5 million in bribes.” The “biggest narcotics kingpin” in Guinea “turned out to be the president’s son, and diplomats discovered that before the police destroyed a huge narcotics seizure, the drugs had been replaced by flour.”

So DEA and the friendly governments it works with can be most accurately described as drug cartels in their own right. Their goal is not to stamp out the drug trade as such, but to control the terms on which it takes place.

Al Giordano of Narco News Bulletin argues (“Telling the Whole Truth About the ‘Drug War,'” Sept. 22)  that the very term “drug cartel” is an inappropriate label for private drug traffickers. Unlike genuine cartels (for example OPEC), the drug traffickers can’t control drug supplies. They depend entirely on helpful governments like the United States and its allies to control supply and drive up prices. The real drug profiteers are not the common organized criminals who fight the turf wars on the street, but politicians and bankers living the high life on laundered drug money. “The real bosses of the illegal drug trade wear suits and ties, give big donations to all the political parties and their candidates, and get invitations to state dinners from Los Pinos to the White House.”

So it’s safe to say the drug cartels don’t see DEA’s activities as a threat.

Back in 2009 Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera, the chief of Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel and worth an estimated $1 billion, “officially thanked United States politicians for making sure that drugs remain illegal.” In a heartfelt expression of thanks, he stated: “I couldn’t have gotten so stinking rich without George Bush, George Bush Jr., Ronald Reagan, even El Presidente Obama, none of them have the cajones to stand up to all the big money that wants to keep this stuff illegal. From the bottom of my heart, I want to say, Gracias amigos, I owe my whole empire to you.” (“Mexican Drug Lord Officially Thanks American Lawmakers for Keeping Drugs Illegal,” Huffington Post, March 29, 2009).

So to all you drug lords out there: Have you thanked a cop today?

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