Pubdate: Sun, 12 Mar 2000
Source: Houston Chronicle (TX)
Copyright: 2000 Houston Chronicle
Contact:  Viewpoints Editor, P.O. Box 4260 Houston, Texas 77210-4260
Fax: (713) 220-3575
Author: Mark J. Trentalange


In its Feb. 17 editorial, the Chronicle endorsed an additional $1.6 million
for the 30-year-old "emergency" in Colombia.

Estimated cocaine production there has conveniently and mysteriously doubled
at a time when politicians are considering a dramatic increase in military

What is even more chilling is that these wildly unreliable figures are being
used to justify such enormous sums. They don't have to reveal any clear
objectives so long as Washington gives the appearance of being tough on

If these figures are true, the disturbing jump in cocaine production has
occurred during a time when spending in Colombia increased to over $300
million, making it the third largest recipient of U.S. aid.

Ironically, this very failure is being used to incite hysteria and, hence,
support for additional money.

Military advisers, large-scale defoliation, helicopter gunships, ill-defined
enemies, jungle warfare, rampant corruption, unprepared government troops
and manipulated production estimates: Where have we seen this before? What's
next? With both left-wing and right-wing factions taxing the drug trade and
such dubious estimates, how will we know who to fight and if we've succeeded
or failed? What happens when we try to put out fire with gasoline?: More
corruption, bloodshed and wasted billions add up to even greater
availability of drugs.

Until we admit that drug prohibition has never worked and that other
approaches such as harm reduction or medical supervision/prescription should
be tried, we will deserve mindless and expensive military schemes.

Decriminalization would immediately undermine the funding for all parties
profiting from drug trafficking. Washington should be told to stop writing

Since several of the presidential candidates have had personal and/or family
experience with drug use, perhaps our next president will have the character
to end this ineffective drug war.
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MAP posted-by: Don Beck