Uncle Sam’s Bloody Fingerprints on Mexican Drug War Violence

Federal officials are pointing fingers at one another over a ludicrous plan to infiltrate Mexican drug smuggling groups that went totally awry. Under Operation Fast and Furious, the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Bureau allowed top Mexican drug dealers to purchase weapons, hoping to trace them back to kingpins. They lost track of these weapons, some of which were later found at the scene of violent crimes. The ATF’s chief is blaming the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration for not notifying it adequately of the armed dealers who happened to be informants of the latter two agencies. So we have two federal law enforcement organizations keeping poor tabs on drug dealers with whom they’re in cahoots and another U.S. law enforcement organization allowing these people to get weapons in a totally misguided attempt to find and stop criminal higher ups.

Of course, this only scratches the surface. Under Obama, U.S. financing of the Mexican drug warriors has reached record heights. Obama asked for $15 billion last year—far, far more than was spent under the Bush administration. And it is this overt activity, along with domestic drug war enforcement, far more than the ATF’s covert shenanigans, that is the real problem.

In the last five years, over 37,000 have died in Mexico’s drug violence. And many Mexicans recognize the ultimate cause: Drug prohibition. It was not a big news story in the United States, but a few months ago thousands of Mexicans took to the streets protesting the drug policy being enforced by Mexican authorities and sponsored, actually imposed, by Washington, DC.

It is the ban on drugs that causes drug violence. It really is as simple as that. Just as alcohol prohibition led to turf wars and Al Capone and organized crime, prohibitions on other substances lead to similar black market violence. But it is much worse in the case of the war on cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and other illicit drugs than it ever was with alcohol prohibition, because the U.S. government has effectively strongarmed and bribed the rest of the world in support of its utopian and impossible crusade to rid the world of drugs. This has skewered U.S. diplomacy to the most degenerate depths. In Afghanistan, the U.S. was sending tens of millions of dollars, all the way up through 2001, to the Taliban in support of its was in opium. In Thailand, the U.S. government supported the regime as it conducted a policy of outright murdering drug suspects by the thousands. In Colombia, the U.S. has poisoned peasants’ food crops in an effort to stamp out cocaine. Perhaps Mexico is just the worst example of Washington’s horrendous drug policy spreading the bloodshed internationally.

There is no reason for all this drug violence other than the fact that the markets are illegal. Many Americans want to blame the Mexican drug violence on something else, but this really is the explanation: Washington DC’s war on drugs has created a wave of terror and mass destruction within the borders of our neighbor to the south, which has also bled over somewhat into the United States. I cannot think of any other government or organization that has unleashed as much havoc with its policies inside the United States as the U.S. has, through its drug polices, brought about in Mexico.

Americans often want to blame the problem on something else: Mexicans, or the drugs themselves. They call for more crackdowns on illegal aliens and harsher penalties and more paramilitary forces funded with U.S. tax dollars. But these are all counterproductive approaches. If you truly want to stop this violence—which is a moral imperative, given what is happening in Mexico—you must support the end of drug prohibition in America and particularly the policy of forcing and subsidizing other nations to do America’s drug war bidding. Just like Trotsky thought Communism could not work in one nation, and so had to be spread, country by country, until it consumed the world, so do the drug warriors believe their equally unattainable dreams of drug central planning cannot be achieved without spreading their violent collectivism to other nations. Instead, it is time to end the Progressive project of drug prohibition altogether.

One last note for conservatives: U.S. politicians have used the Mexican drug violence as a rationale for calling for more gun control. This happened in the 1920s too, in regard to the organized crime that resulted from alcohol prohibition, and culminating in the first federal gun laws. They can take away all our freedoms, tens of thousands will continue to die in the drug war, and drugs will still be readily available. Drugs are notoriously available in prison, despite the totalitarian controls and surveillance inflicted upon the inmate population. The drug warriors can turn all of America into a prison and the drug war will be no closer to being won. Our neighboring countries can descend into full-blown war zones, and the drug war will be as futile a program as ever. Anyone pretending to care about the huge loss of life on the border and in Mexico, the rapacious violence of gang activity, the loss of our freedoms in this country, or fiscal sanity, has to confront the truth head on: The drug war is an absolute and inevitable disaster on every level, and it must be ended immediately and completely.

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