Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Nontraditional, Traditional Drug Threat and Drug War

The commander of the U.S. Southern Command warns that the U.S. is facing a “nontraditional threat” from the south in the form of “transnational organized crime.” Commander Douglas Fraser joined the chorus of military and administration officials warning of the new threat of transnational criminal organizations, and declared: “We’re trying to move our defense further and further from our border.”  

Yet this so-called nontraditional threat is not new at all. It’s just the same old drug war dressed up in the new language of transnational crime being promoted by the administration in its newly released Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime.

In an interview with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service, Air Force Gen. Douglas M. Fraser said Southcom’s job is working with the nation’s military partners and defending U.S. approaches from the south.

Southcom’s relationship with nations in its region, the general added, “provides us with stability and security on our southern flank and that’s in our interest, [and] it improves the economic vitality of the region and our ability to trade with one another.”

It is not at all clear, however, that the U.S.-led drug war that Southcom has supported over the past four decades has been in the best interests of the region.

Certainly, the drug-related violence is destabilizing Mexico and the Central American nations and inflicting a massive human toll. It’s also true that the newly denominated “transnational criminal organizations” – formerly officially called “drug trafficking organizations” – represent a threat not only to public safety but also to the national security of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

But rather than continuing the failed drug-eradication and interdiction strategies, now under the new transnational crime strategy, the interests of the drug-source and transit nations would be better served by an end to drug prohibition policies in the United States and elsewhere that drive the illegal drug market.

There’s bipartisan support for escalating the drug war in the form of a new bill titled “Targeting Transnational Drug Traffic king Act of 2011” that expands the reach of the Justice Department in pursuing individuals who directly or indirectly involved in operations that export illegal drugs into the United States.  

Its main sponsors Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Cal.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), co-chairs of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, bolster their drug warrior credentials with the bill designed to complement the administration’s new drug war strategy called the Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime. 

“We cannot sit idly by as transnational criminal organizations find new ways to circumvent our laws,” said Senator Feinstein. “This bill will allow U.S. prosecutors to stay one step ahead of drug trafficking organizations.”

“Drug cartels are continually evolving, and this legislation ensures that our criminal laws keep pace,” said Senator Grassley. “This legislation closes a loophole abused by drug traffickers that intend for drugs to end up in the United States but supply them through an intermediary.”

• Establishes penalties for drug trafficking activity when individuals have reasonable cause to believe that illegal drugs will be trafficked into the United States;

• Ensures current penalties apply to chemical producers from other countries (including producers of pseudoephedrine used for methamphetamine) that illegally ship precursor chemicals into the U.S. knowing these chemicals will be used to make illegal drugs.

• Ensures that members of any conspiracy to distribute controlled substances will be subject to U.S. jurisdiction when at least one member of the conspiracy intends or knows that illegal drugs will be unlawfully imported into the U.S.

The legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Robert Casey (D-Pa.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

While public support for drug prohibition wanes in the United States, the Democratic and Republican Party leaders escalate their deeply flawed crackdown strategies.

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