“You are not going out with that boy unless his parents are driving and that's that. I'm not just Spitting Grits here, young lady!”

. . . My father, John Thomas Cravey, USAF, to me in 1956.

The Return of Scarface: Militarization of the Drug War

In the forty-two years of America’s Drug War, we’ve – you, me, all the taxpayers alive and dead in those years – have spent, are you ready, $1012.

Ten to the twelfth power; a one and twelve zeroes; $1 trillion. We’re at a number that when many of us were born, few had heard of it.

. . . .The July 18, 2013, post to Spittin’ Grits

Thanks to the artist at pagetutor.com, here is what $1 million looks like in $100 bills:

 

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Next tax day, when you’ve got an amount you owe on taxes, why not sit and wonder how much you’ve paid since 1971 toward the Drug War’s $1 trillion tab. How much will you continue to pay on the nearly$52 billion a year?

And now, drumroll, he presents $1 trillion in $100 bills. See the guy in the red shirt above? Notice the same guy in the red shirt on the lower left at the red arrow below.

 

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How did the American War on Drugs come to this?

When President Richard M. Nixon announced his “new, all-out offensive” in 1971 and pronounced it “public enemy number one,” he in essence criminalized this new version of drug use in America. By golly, drug fiends weren’t going to get away with it. We’d throw them all in jail.I don’t know what Nixon’s grades were in his history classes, but the irony was then and is now that we had already done this once and, boy, did that effort crash and burn. It was called Prohibition. About the only good thing to come of it, besides the “Roaring Twenties” response to outlawed booze, was the great movies and television shows about Eliot Ness and his efforts to enforce the laws prohibiting alcohol, fight with Al Capone, and save the U.S. from its devastating alcohol use. I doubt I ever missed an episode of The Untouchables with Robert Stack. What a hunk he was. The series started in 1959 and ran for four years and 119 episodes.

Then Brian De Palma directed the 1987 movie The Untouchables with a whole host of hunks – Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Robert De Niro, Andy Garcia, and others.

Remedial History 101

Criminalization/militarization of an effort is EXPENSIVE, but history lessons be damned. First, in the initial 25 years of the Drug War, the U.S. in its desperation and devotion to the “tough on crime” ideology, passed and implemented hard-nosed anti-drug laws; in turn, state law enforcement offices and personnel had to be outfitted to handle the crime wave. Law enforcement became more and more “militarized.” If you think that must have been expensive, just wait.

Blast Furnace Down

Second, Nixon’s criminalization of drug use finally transformed into an all-out war, with other nations (some being homes to cartels of suppliers) getting involved. War requires the military. And military we got. The militarization of the Drug War began in 1986 with 160 American soldiers, each with an M-16 rifle, a big cargo transport plane filled with Black Hawk helicopters, another with troop planes, landing in Bolivia to carry out Operation Blast Furnace. The mission was to burn plants and cocaine labs and to seize a bunch of money and weapons belonging to drug smugglers, and blah, blah, blah. It fizzled. The drug kingpins knew the Dogs of War were coming and, poof, the bad guys were gone.

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Since then, the U.S. has thrown at America’s drug problem and war our entire military arsenal short of the atom bomb. The arsenal has included Captain America, and most recently, drones.

 

Drugs on the Moon?

The rest of the story of the mega-militarization of the Drug War continues to be comic book material. Except that it is and has been such a pathetic attempt to stop the very War it feeds.

This past spring, the international edition of Spiegel Online presented a five-part series about the global Drug War, beginning with an interview with Pablo Escobar’s right-hand man, Popeye. Only a psychopath could love it; it’s scary and horrible.

Popeye explains to the writer about shooting people:

You can survive one shot, but never two. I cut up the bodies and threw them in the river. Or I just left them there. I often drove through Medellín, where I kidnapped and raped women. Then I shot them and threw them in the trash. . . . I've killed about 250 people, and I cut many of them into pieces. But I don't know exactly how many. Only psychopaths count their kills.

The writer calls the interview “opening the door to Hell.” But Popeye does explain why you can’t stop people like him:

People like me can't be stopped. It's a war. They lose men, and we lose men. They lose their scruples, and we never had any. In the end, you'll even blow up an aircraft because you believe the Colombian president is on board. I don't know what you have to do. Maybe sell cocaine in pharmacies. I've been in prison for 20 years, but you will never win this war when there is so much money to me made. Never.

In a later part of the series and after having researched and interviewed, the writers are told why not even the military can stop this War:

The best way to imagine the drug war is as a never-ending arms race. The customs agents are given psychological training. The drug cartels have schools for their smugglers. The coast guard is given speedboats that can travel at 50 knots. The dealers buy boats that can go 60 knots. The navy patrols in the Pacific. The dealers build submarines that can cover 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles) without surfacing. The drug war expands with each new battle. If there were demand for drugs on the moon, the launch of the first cocaine rocket would probably be imminent.

Cold War II – Run Amuck

So what we have here is the philosophy of the Cold War with Russia, mutually assured destruction, with a twist: the joke this time will be on the U.S. The domestic and international militarization of law enforcement is the most expensive slice of the Drug War pie. And it’s all for naught.

A recent Associated Press story examined U.S. arms export authorizations, defense contracts, military aid, and exercises in the region.

In the most expensive initiative in Latin America since the Cold War, the U.S. has militarized the battle against the traffickers, spending more than $20 billion in the past decade. U.S. Army troops, Air Force pilots and Navy ships outfitted with Coast Guard counter-narcotics teams are routinely deployed to chase, track and capture drug smugglers.

The story reported on:

l $2.8 billion worth of guns, satellites, radar equipment and tear gas going to Western Hemisphere nations in 2011

l defense contracts that jumped from $119 million to $629 million, “supporting everything from Kevlar helmets for the Mexican army to building airport runways in Aruba

l $830 million, almost $9 out of every $10 of U.S. law enforcement and military aid spent in the region, for countering narcotics

Scarface, Jr.

Whatever the total cost or annual cost for the domestic and international militarization of the Drug War – and maybe we can’t really know – continuing the same efforts is getting crazier. Two pieces of recent information, déjà vu all over again, would be crazy if they weren’t scary.

First, remember that the primary route for drugs into the U.S. from South America, particularly Columbia, used to be through Miami. That fact created a lot of stories for the entertainment industry, the worst/best of which was Bran De Palma’s Scarface, written by Oliver Stone and starring Al Pacino; no wonder it was one of the worst/best, with those names involved.

Next, remember (if you’re old enough) these 30-year-old names and words: Nicaragua, Sandinistas, President Ortega, and Russia. Well, they’re baaaaaack.

An April Time International on-line piece reported that the good news for Nicaraguans is that they’re renewing a relationship with Russia, which is supplying millions of dollars for military stuff targeted at drug traffickers.

Here’s what a high ranking state department official said about this development:

The truth is that we want collaboration, and if the collaboration comes from Russia in our hemisphere or if it’s the United States in Russia’s hemisphere, then I think that is positive,” Assistant Secretary of State William Brownfield, the Obama Administration’s point man on Central America’s drug war, said in response to Russian drug czar Victor Ivanov’s recent visit to Nicaragua.

Am I nuts or does this sound like something off The Colbert Report on Comedy Central?

As for the drug route: Brownfield says that as we put the squeeze on Central America, the cartels will feel the pressure and decide to route their goods to Europe.

WHAT??? And turn their backs on the U.S. market? What kind of business school did Brownfield attend?

Furthermore, he says, “last year about 9 percent of all illicit drugs that entered the United States came from the Caribbean, compared to about 4 or 5 percent in 2011,” and “logic suggests drug cartels will return to trafficking routes used during the 1980s and 1990s.”

Get ready, Hollywood.

So, let me get this straight: After spending $1 trillion toward America’s War on Drugs, most of which is spent to militarize domestic and international law enforcement, we will have come full circle in pressuring the cartels to move their drug route back to Florida. I think I’ll check my tax return from last year and figure out how much I paid to this insanity.

 

 

Cry ‘Havoc’: America’s Drug War

And Caesar’s spirit, ranging for revenge,
With Ate by his side come hot from hell,
Shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice
Cry ‘Havoc,’ and let slip the dogs of war;
That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
With carrion men, groaning for burial.

. . . Marc Anthony speaking in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, predicting what would follow Caesar’s murder.

 

On Thursday, July 18, 2013, at 12:20:14 p.m. central time, the United States had spent $22,443,911,046 on the Drug War. This is not millions you’re looking at; it’s billions. The Drug War Clock is spinning so fast – at something like $600 per SECOND – that it won’t be long before that $22 billion–plus rolls over to $23 billion and in the blink of an eye, $24 billion, $25 billion, 26, 27, 32, 46, 360, 770. . . .

The U.S. spends $51,000,000,000 annually on the Drug War. That’s not millions either. We’re just over halfway through the year; it looks like we’ll break our own record and reach or exceed $52,000,000,000 by Christmas.

The Drug War Clock looks something like the screen of a slot machine; instead of cherries, oranges, and bananas spinning too fast for your eyes to perceive them, it’s dollars: Cha-ching, and the numbers whirl and whirl, and whirl.

In the forty-two years of the Drug War, we’ve – you, me, all the taxpayers alive and dead in those years – have spent, are you ready, $1012. Ten to the twelfth power; a one and twelve zeroes; $1 trillion. We’re at a number that when many of us were born, few had heard of it. And I don’t know what comes after a trillion.

The Twelfth Power Cartel

Forty-two years ago, on June 17, 1971, President Richard M. Nixon identified public enemy number one – drugs in the U.S. Hippies all over the place were smoking pot, tripping on acid, and dropping out; Viet Nam vets were coming home hooked on heroin; drugs were becoming easily accessible on college campuses. The drug culture had reached middle America, so Nixon announced a “new, all-out offensive.” Money would be no object. He added, “As far as the new money is concerned, incidentally, I have made it clear to the leaders that if this is not enough, if more can be used, if Dr. Jaffe, after studying this problem, finds that we can use more, more will be provided.” It began with $350 million.

The cry of “havoc” went up. Nixon’s “initiative” quickly became known as the War on Drugs, and the “dogs of war” were let loose. Just as chaos, murder, and devastation followed the dogs of war as Marc Anthony predicted in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, so they followed Nixon’s announcement of the War on Drugs. Despite all the war money, personnel, weapons, and tactics – some wacky to the extreme -- drugs and the War on Drugs are ravaging the United States. However well intentioned, the War on Drugs has turned into a “foul deed.”

At this point, the War on Drugs begs the question: Who in their right mind wants to continue this craziness?

Good question, right?

The fact is that this war has become so costly, so entangled with special interests, other governments, politics, policies, so mired in corruption, money, murders, horror stories, and maybe most of all DENIAL, that getting out of this war makes getting out of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars look like a picnic. The Drug War problems have transformed into the very thing they have meant to solve by gobbling up everything in sight and turning into a behemoth cartel of its own.

Where would we start?

The Mirror

First, let’s start with the truth, which is the only real weapon anyone has to fight denial.

Americans make up the highest number of users of illegal drugs in the world. Yep, us. It’s a hard fact to face, but it’s true. So when we see images of or hear about South Americans growing cocoa plants or the Afghan drug lords growing poppies, we have to say, “They are doing it for the American market.”

Yet we have financed policies of the U.S. military and other forces flying in to these countries in black choppers to napalm the plants. THE PLANTS!

Yet when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went to Mexico in spring 2009 to try to patch up U.S.-Mexican relations and she copped to the U.S. role in engorging the drug violence in Mexico, we react as if she chopped up the U.S. into pieces and gave away the pieces to the world’s most gruesome dictators. What she said is TRUE.

So now we have looked into the faces of the enemy and saw him and her staring back at us from our own mirrors – a difficult fact to face.

 

Note: More on the War on Drugs will follow. I hope you will stick with me if for no other reason than you, I, we have spent and are spending a TON OF MONEY on this failed war.

 

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