Pubdate: Wed, 18 Feb 2009
Source: Barry's Bay This Week (CN ON)
Copyright: 2009 OSPREY Media Group Inc.
Author: Rick Reimer


"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different
- - Albert Einstein

To the Editor:

The North American "War on Drugs" has been a dismal failure since it
was declared by Richard Nixon in 1971. Jurisdictions with the harshest
penalties have the highest drug use rates. Countless so-called
"criminals" languish in jails although they represent no harm except
(arguably) to themselves. Nonsensical criminal records impede
employment, trade and travel. Mind-boggling amounts of resources go
into the investigation, prosecution and punishment of people for
committing no crime other than choosing drugs of which the government
does not currently approve. Other acts that are truly crimes may be
committed by people in the "drug trade," but those criminal acts
result not from the use of drugs, but from the prohibition,which
drives those people into a black market. Police, in order to
investigate, enter into unholy alliances that would make the average
citizen cringe. In the meantime, virtually none of the avowed goals of
this war have been achieved and, as in all conflicts, the poor have
suffered the worst.

Sound familiar? All wars are alike. So, having lost this one at home
for almost four decades, we are now going to export it halfway around
the world and try to insinuate it into a country and culture we know
nothing about. Defence Minister Peter MacKay recently announced that
Canadian troops will attack drug traffickers in Afghanistan if they
are "linked" to the Taliban. What constitutes a sufficient connection
is not defined, nor are we told how Canadian soldiers will make this
determination in the heat of battle. My guess is that the rules will
start out vague and get worse from there.

There is speculation this conduct might make Canadian troops guilty of
war crimes. NATO forces are not supposed to target criminals in other
countries, no matter how heinous their crimes. This makes perfect
sense. It's not our place to enforce the internal laws of another
nation, and Canadian troops certainly don't need more enemies to
contend with nor more investigations or attacks to undertake. Aren't
we supposed to be focusing on restoration efforts now? Unfortunately,
the Bush-inspired "War on Terror" mentality has decimated all the
rulebooks. If the Geneva Conventions can be successfully skirted, the
nebulous Taliban connection will certainly be used to legitimize this
dangerous enterprise of expanding the list of enemies.

In the end I suspect we will find in Afghanistan, as we have at home,
that the demand for drugs will remain fairly constant (and
ever-increasing in step with population) regardless of attempts to
burn, bully or legislate them out of existence. Increased prohibition
efforts will simply create a blacker market and higher prices and will
ensure that ever more dangerous people are involved in the trade. I
suspect some poppy farmers might be driven into the arms of the
Taliban, in order to have some muscle around for crop protection when
NATO comes calling.

The world needs opium for legitimate medical purposes. Wise people,
such as Elizabeth May of the Green Party, have suggested that
Afghanistan's poppy crop be legalized and controlled - which would
certainly put more legitimate dollars into the hands of farmers than
the current black market does. This would cut out the middle position,
which is the only place any terrorist group could occupy. Everyone
would win, instead of four more decades of steady losing.

Rick Reimer
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