What does the War on Terrorism have in common with the War on Drugs? Both have macho posturing but neither one solves the problem. Then there's the undeclared but very real War on Nature waged by the Bush administration, giving us three ways to lose:
1) We alienate the entire Muslim world while creating a new generation of suicide martyrs.
2) We imprison huge numbers of our citizens while drug traffic thrives.
3) We poison the planet while petroleum profits soar.
A recent Gallup poll of world opinion on the US bombing of Afghanistan found in 32 out of 35 countries, a majority favored a criminal justice approach rather than a military solution. Even our European allies' support has been dropping steadily. The majority prefer taking the terrorists to trial in international court.
As the Taliban falls, in comes the Northern Alliance. Both factions have financed their war by selling Afghanistan's abundant poppy crop for making heroin. Both benefitted from the CIA's non-interference, perhaps even cooperation in their drug trafficking -- the Northern Alliance just recently and the Taliban back in the 1980's when they were fighting the Soviet Union. Incidentally, the number of US heroin addicts has tripled in the last eight years while the price dropped.
Speaking of the home front, how about that Drug Enforcement Administration! In case you were watching "All-Anthrax" news and missed this story, on Oct. 25 about 30 DEA agents swooped into action to protect our nation from ... the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center. The DEA seized the Center's marijuana, which is distributed mostly to AIDS victims to relieve their pain and wasting syndrome, along with the Center's computers and bank accounts. No arrests were made.
California passed a law in 1996 allowing medical marijuana, but the feds keep exerting their authority which was upheld by the Supreme Court. And the National Institute on Drug Abuse still stupidly classifies marijuana as a narcotic, addictive drug with no medicinal value.
Meanwhile, marijuana's straight brother, hemp, is also persecuted just for looking like its brother who likes to get high. In the land of the free, it's illegal to grow hemp, which George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew, and which is one of the world's most useful and versatile products. Hemp could save forests by using it for paper in case you want to write, say, the Declaration of Independence. It's also great for rope, clothing and much more.
As with corn and soy, hemp oil could be a renewable non-polluting fuel for our vehicles but that would make too much sense for our government to pursue. Why would we support US farmers when we could support Middle Eastern tyrants like the Saudis and continue enriching Big Oil? Why bring our troops and jets safely home when we could defend oily dictators over there and foster resentment that breeds suicide bombers?
Also in the plans for keeping the world safe for oil commerce is a proposed pipeline across Afghanistan which those pesky Taliban blocked. A new book named the The Hidden Truth alleges that former FBI agent John O'Neill, who died in the World Trade Center attack, was frustrated that the information needed to dismantle Osama bin Laden's terrorist network was available in Saudi Arabia. The book says the Saudis wouldn't share that information and the US State Department didn't insist for fear of offending our Saudi "allies."
Meanwhile, the war on drugs is a failure. Any prudish freakout the American people had about marijuana was over decades ago, but the police and politicians still don't get it. Over 70 million of us have smoked it and we know it's less dangerous than the legal killers tobacco and alcohol. Since 1996, in nearly every state where drug reform measures have been on the ballot, they have passed. Yet over 730,000 arrests were made last year for marijuana -- more than for murder, robbery, assault and rape combined. Talk about terrorism! How about getting tossed in prison, where gang rape is almost a certainty, for the heinous crime of putting on a buzz?
Terrorists should be extracted and prosecuted. Drug issues should be handled by the medical profession, not law enforcement. We don't need to poison the air just to go from here to there.
Frank Lingo is a writer in Lawrence, Kan. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org