Pubdate: Fri, 22 Dec 2000
Date: 12/22/2000
Source: Washington Times (DC)
Author: Robert Sharpe

Regarding the Dec. 17 article "Colombia crumbles," the Colombian
government's peace plan could very well spread both civil war and coca
production throughout the region.

Communist guerrilla movements do not originate in a vacuum. U.S. tax
dollars would be better spent addressing the underlying causes of
civil strife rather than applying overwhelming military force to
attack the symptoms. Forcing the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia, or FARC, to the bargaining table at gunpoint will not remedy
Colombia's societal inequities.

We're not doing the Colombian people any favors by funding civil war.
Nor are we protecting Americans from drugs. Cut off the flow of
cocaine and domestic methamphetamine production will boom to meet the
demand for cocaine-type drugs.

Rather than waste resources attempting to overcome immutable laws of
supply and demand, policy-makers should look to the lessons learned
from America's disastrous experiment with alcohol prohibition. The
drug war finances organized crime, while failing miserably at
preventing use.

With organized crime comes corruption, to which the United States is
not immune. The former commander of U.S. anti-drug operations in
Colombia was found guilty of laundering the profits of his wife's
heroin-smuggling operation.

Entire countries have been destabilized because of the corrupting
influence of organized-crime groups that profit from the illegal drug
trade. Drug laws fuel crime and corruption, which is then used to
justify increased drug-war spending. It's time to end this madness and
start treating all substance abuse - legal or otherwise - as the
public health problem it is.

Robert Sharpe, Program officer, Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy
Foundation, Washington