After cars carrying the families of two U.S. Consulate employees were shot, many are beggining to see the impact of the Mexican drug war on America. America also has a big role in the Mexican drug war. Given that the casualties of the Mexican drug war are mostly Mexicans, the thousands of deaths caused by the war are largely ignored.
Drugs are a serious problem in America but, unfortunately, so is the war on drugs. Drugs mess up peoples’ lives, but not as much as the war on drugs where blacks and Hispanics are scapegoated for America’s problem. Despite the fact that studies show that blacks and whites use drugs at the same rate, blacks are incarcerated for drugs at a rate 6 times that of whites 4.2% vs. 0.7%.
By arresting minorities, America tries to show that it’s fighting the drug problem while whites in the suburbs stay free to use and abuse drugs without solid police interference. In fact, while use of the stereotypical drugs associated with African-Americans (i.e. crack and marijuana) is declining, there are major meth and prescription pill epidemics occurring across poorer rural and more affluent white communities. This problem has gone virtually ignored even though this level of drug addiction has become a silent killer in many of these areas.
One of the biggest problems with the war on drugs is the level of guns and violence involved. By criminalizing drugs, the US puts the distribution and manufacturing of drugs in the hands of violent, competing criminals. Gangs like the Bloods and the Crips all get their guns from US manufacturers. Often these guns are bought by gun runners who buy or ‘steal’ the firearms from Virginia and then sell them up and down the east coast. Most guns used in drug related gun violence are illegally sold, but there has been no action by the US government to crack down on these illegal sales and, whether legal or illegal, all firearm profits somehow still get into the hands of gun manufacturers.
American gun laws not only fuel the drug war at home but also around the world. Recently on 60 Minutes, Mexican officials complained that most of the guns used in Mexico’s drug wars were bought in the USA. The Mexican drug wars are caused by American need for drugs as the cartels fight over who gets to service American addictions, leaving thousands of Mexicans dead, injured or kidnapped. The high level of money that American drug addiction brings into the United States makes it impossible for the Mexican government not to be corrupted. When the only Third World billionaire is a drug dealer, it’s obvious that drugs have become that part of the world’s major industry.
And, even when it’s about fueling these international or suburban addictions, drug violence often stays isolated in our local black and Latino communities. In the film Traffic, the actor Topher Grace gave an excellent speech to Michael Douglass about this phenomenon.
America’s drug addiction and drug laws have also created narco-states in Jamaica, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Guyana, which serve as ports for cocaine between South America and the US. All of these countries have large amounts of drug related violence facilitated by American weapons. American drug addiction, drug laws and weapons have fueled the wars in Colombia which have resulted in thousands of deaths and on on-going civil war. (Europe is no better: European heroin addiction has helped fund the Taliban as well as other Afghani and Pakistani warlords in the middle east. European cocaine addiction has turned African countries like Guinea into narco-states.)
America’s problem is not the availability of drugs. Cocaine is cheap and plentiful in Colombia yet they do not have an addiction problem like ours. Heroin is cheap and plentiful in Afghanistan yet they do not have a heroin problem like ours. The American problem is the desire for drugs. Drugs have become entrenched in American culture.
The correct way to solve these problems is through education and treatment, not incarceration. Incarceration only fuels the drug war. Addicts have no problem finding drugs in jail and drug dealers come out of jail stronger and smarter criminals with better connections for gun and drugs. The Mexican mafia, which controls a good deal of drugs on the west coast has most of their leadership in jail and their progress has been helped not hindered by their centralized leadership.
In order for America to stop the violence it is causing at home and abroad, it must drastically change its drug policies and national and international gun laws. Shouldn’t the gun makers bare some responsibility for the carnage caused by their product? We need more anti-drug messages like those commercials that present other activities and sports as their “anti-drugs.” It is also past due for America to legalize marijuana, a drug that has given proven relief to many long suffering cancer patients in California and elsewhere. This de-criminalization would cut off a significant portion of the drug war and lessen the amount of gang violence and incarceration rates. By criminalizing drugs, America is putting control of an extremely lucrative business in the hands of criminals and our ineffective drug laws have led to civil wars in the third world and gang violence at home.