Perry's Anvil, Mexico's Hammer.
by Sito Negron
Posted on February 27, 2009
Everything that's wrong with the Drug War, Reason No. 5259.
What's everything that's wrong with the Drug War? Well, we have new examples almost daily. This week, we had Texas Gov. Rick Perry calling Texas the anvil to Mexico's hammer in a brief news conference at the Chamizal Memorial on Tuesday.
We all know whatever gets between the hammer and anvil gets crushed.
Ain't life grand here on the border?
Let's put some context to Perry's remarks.
-- He's asking for millions of dollars in federal aid to build Texas law enforcement and border security apparatus to essentially use the border as the face of the anvil.
-- He said he didn't care if the U.S. military operated on the border, as long as soldiers are properly trained.
-- When asked whether he supported legalizing marijuana, he said it was an easy question and a short answer. No.
In a totalitarian state, something is a crime just because the government or the esteemed leader calls it so. In a freedom-loving country such as ours, the government has the burden to prove something ought to be considered a crime. Some things are obvious, such as physical harm to another. Other things are less obvious and must be carefully evaluated. Marijuana, in particular, has not been. It's criminal because the government says it is.
There is no evidence anyone has ever overdosed from marijuana. There is no evidence marijuana is more addictive than coffee, and there is ample evidence it is less addictive than alcohol, tobacco, or heroin. It is not a narcotic, although it often is referred to as one. This is simply made up language, which is irrational. Public policy based on stuff that's made up is on its face bad public policy.
Prohibition has given rise to a massive police apparatus, a massive prison apparatus, and immense profits the Mexican cartels now are benefiting from. They have made, literally, billions.
In a cost-benefit analysis of what it costs us to maintain marijuana prohibition v. the potential harm to society if it were decriminalized or legalized, it seems like a real conservative would realize, quickly, that something about this doesn't add up in a freedom-loving country like the U.S. of A.
As a good conservative, Perry ought to understand that the awesome power of government, ESPECIALLY its police powers, ought only be used in extreme circumstances.
Clearly, we ought to go after criminals who harm others, and criminal organizations that threaten civil stability. At the same time, we ought to take a hard look at how the threat to stability evolved. We have played a role in giving the cartels greater power, and harmed our own traditions -- or at least our ideals -- of civil liberty, through the ever-escalating Drug War.
War? Hell, yes. In capital letters.
Perry said this on Tuesday, when asked how long the violence would last: "The issue of how long this will last I think is really directed more to the federal government of the United States and if they're going to engage in a substantial way. I think this could be put to bed rather quickly. When you think about the number of billions of dollars the United States government has committed to a war in Iraq and a war in Afghanistan, a very small amount of that directed to this war against these drug cartels could end that war very quickly."
A few days later, Mexico announced it was sending 5,000 more troops to Juarez. They might have success in killing or capturing cartel soldiers, but there's something else: Reports of human rights violations skyrocketed in Juarez in 2008, when the military first was sent to the city. (Click here and here for background stories.)
Human rights? Who cares? We're at war. In war, innocents, by definition, become collateral damage. Maybe you're hanging out with the wrong friend. Or you're on the wrong street, or take the wrong phone call or shop at the wrong market during a firefight or have the wrong relative during a round of house calls. There's no way to avoid it.
So Perry is saying, the human toll is worth it. Why? Well, we don't exactly know. We know drugs can destroy lives, but do we know how many more lives they would destroy under a different approach? Do we know how many lives might be saved by taking profits and power away from the drug gangs who turn regions of Mexico -- not to mention many inner cities in the U.S. -- into war zones?
We don't, because Perry and others can only say 'no,' even to marijuana, for which there is overwhelming evidence to allow adults the personal choice to use.
There is an old adage in journalism. Follow the money. If we follow the money, we can easily find some clear winners in the Drug War: The pandering politicians trying to look tough; the expanding bureaucracy of police and military and jailers; and of course, the cartels.
The rest of us, well, we're just caught between the hammer and the anvil.
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