November 21, 2004


Quietly, the war on drugs gains ground: The effort is changing into a terror war of its own. (Rachel Van Dongen, 11/22/04, CS Monitor)

[S]tatistically, at least, it's being won. Yet behind the numbers, the drug war is changing - into a terror war of its own. And the success of that fight is harder to quantify.

When President Bush visits the seaside city of Cartagena Monday, he and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe are sure to tick off the latest figures: crops of coca, the main ingredient in cocaine, were reduced in Colombia by 16 percent in 2003, to 213,000 acres, according to the United Nations. That's a 47 percent decline over three years, from a high of 403,000 acres in 2000. US figures, which rely on different methodology, are slightly less optimistic but still significant - a 33 percent decline since 2001. Production of poppies, the source of heroin, is down by 33 percent in the past two years, the US government says. With US help - to the tune of $3.3 billion - Colombia in recent months has seized record amounts of cocaine headed to US ports, approved the extradition of infamous drug barons like Cali cartel chief Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela, and confiscated scores of luxurious properties belonging to notorious narcotraffickers.

Also, under the hard-charging Mr. Uribe - perhaps the firmest US ally in Latin America and a strong supporter of the Iraq war - Colombia has launched an unprecedented military drive called Plan Patriot against the leftist rebels known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). And Uribe is in peace negotiations with the right-wing paramilitaries, who are heavily involved in the drug business. Up to 3,000 troops in the 20,000-man army are expected to demobilize by year's end.

The drop in drug production is largely due to the aggressive coca fumigation program, mostly executed by US planes and pilots. In 2003 they sprayed 328,500 acres, the UN says. So far in 2004, according to the Colombian government, 310,600 acres have been sprayed, a slight drop from this time last year.

Uribe said last week that he would ask Mr. Bush to maintain aid levels even after Plan Colombia, the massive antidrug plan created under President Clinton, expires at the end of 2005. He predicted that Colombia would finish the year with 160,500 acres of coca - 25 percent less than last year. "We can't leave the eradication of drugs half completed," he told local radio. "The battle needs to be fought until Colombia has defeated drugs."

Since Uribe took office, the war on drugs has rapidly evolved into a full-scale battle on terror. With enthusiastic US backing, Uribe has gone after FARC rebels, who often rely on drug proceeds to fund their armed struggle. Plan Patriot has dispatched 17,000 Colombian troops into remote southern areas to capture territory and top leaders.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 21, 2004 7:49 PM

Yes, spending $ 800 billion over the past fifteen years to cut cocaine and heroin availability by 1/3 is surely the very best possible use that we could have put that money to.

Meanwhile, methamphetamine manufacture and use, once primarily an American west coast problem, is exploding across the US. Great job, drug warriors.

It's quite easy to be victorious when the standard is "Complete 1/3 of the old task, and ignore any failure to effectively deal with new threats".

Let's check back in ten years and see if there are any illegal drugs available in America, shall we ?
Or, here's a better idea for "The War on Drugs": Declare victory and disband.

Let the medical model prevail. It certainly can't do worse than the utterly incompetent and corrupt "drug warrior" model.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at November 21, 2004 8:21 PM

What drugs? You don't see them used casually anymore on tv or in the movies. Workplace use is down. The city violence associated with drug dealing is down. We won.

Posted by: oj at November 21, 2004 8:26 PM

Well, "won", I guess, is relative. In starting up my law practice I've been taking assigned indigent defense cases in Superior Court, and I've handled a bunch of minor drug possession felonies -- mostly crack so far. And some very damaged, crack-addled people.

That said, I have zero romance for the notion of legalizing anything stronger than backyard skankweed.

Posted by: Twn at November 21, 2004 9:13 PM


Was it worth $ 800 billion to end drug references on TV ?

There is nothing else that might have been addressed with such money ?

The "War" model was the most effective ?

While you may enjoy watching movies without seeing anyone use illegal drugs, that's not an accurate depiction of reality.
See my point about quickly expanding meth use.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at November 21, 2004 10:55 PM


The Drug War isn't about saving crack heads, but the middle classes and protecting same from crime. It has.

Posted by: oj at November 21, 2004 11:01 PM


yes. Put it on the ballot and you'll get 70% to vote for spending another $800 billion to get homosexuality off tv.

Posted by: oj at November 21, 2004 11:08 PM

Couple of my crackheads used to be middle class.

Posted by: Twn at November 21, 2004 11:17 PM


Posted by: oj at November 21, 2004 11:20 PM


Hyperbolic rubbish.

I double dog dare you to ask the American public to spend $ 800 billion on such a thing. It can only be done piecemeal and covertly, as the "noble" drug warriors did.

Further, Will & Grace was quite a commercial success; is it your contention that the producers paid $ 800 billion to keep it on the air ?

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at November 22, 2004 2:07 AM


You can't argue with a Nanny Stater. OJ just loves big government when it impinges on the private ambit of ordinary people. Where did that $800 billion go?


If cocaine were legal, crack would cease to exist as its sole purpose is to be a more cost-effective way to enjoy cocaine. As cocaine would be about the same price as Bazooka bubblegum in a free market, the need for crack would end. Crack really does rot people's brains, I've seen it done with neighbors and acquaintances.

If we were to legalize drugs, the entire financial structure of the FARC would crumble, ending their terror. The most effective way to fight the war on terror is to legalize drugs, taking away the excess profits that the terrorists make from being protectors and agents of the 'drug lords.' If the drug lords have no money, they can't afford protection.

Posted by: Bart at November 22, 2004 7:11 AM

The ambitions of drug users?

Posted by: oj at November 22, 2004 7:16 AM

$800 billion was Nancy Reagan's pin money.

Posted by: oj at November 22, 2004 7:32 AM

Didn't drug use go down before there were major efforts at enforcement?

Posted by: Joseph Hertzlinger at November 22, 2004 2:49 PM


No. In the 70s and early 80s there were significant legalization movements and drugs were becoiming socially acceptable.

Posted by: oj at November 22, 2004 3:02 PM

There was a decline in the early 1980s. The increased enforcement was an effect of the decline, not a cause.

Posted by: Joseph Hertzlinger at November 23, 2004 2:39 PM