Cultural Baggage, October 11, 2009
Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.
It's not only inhumane it is really fundamentally Un-American... "NO MORE" "DRUG WAR" "NO MORE" "DRUG WAR" "NO MORE" "DRUG WAR" "NO MORE" "DRUG WAR"
My Name is Dean Becker. I don't condone or encourage the use of any drugs - legal or illegal. I report the unvarnished truth about the pharmaceutical, banking, prison and judicial nightmare that feeds on eternal drug war.
Dean Becker: Hello my friends. Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. Today we are going to have two more segments from the UT El Paso conference on the war on drugs. A bit later we will hear from Terry Nelson of LEAP. But first up we have Anthony Placido, assistant administrator and chief of intelligence for the Drug Enforcement Administration. I will have my comments a bit later.
Anthony Placido: It is both appropriate and at one level ironic that we sit here in beautiful El Paso Texas one of the safest cities in the United States when less than a mile away from us some of the most unbelievable carnage the rates of murder that are happening across the river just literally a couple of blocks from here rival what we have seen in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. And that violence is all driven entirely by the drug trade.
Lets talk about it for just a little bit. And what I would tell you is that um this forum, my compliments to the organizers, is important because understanding the true nature of the drug problem. The problem with illicit drugs is both a public health problem it's a crime problem. It's a problem of transnational proportions and national security. It is all these things and many more. It is difficult to get your arms around.
Many people are very pessimistic about drug control in America and American drug control policy and part of that as we saw in the first presentation really comes from a mental framework that I think doesn't work and perhaps some of the most unfortunate words ever uttered in terms of drug control is the war on drugs. I will talk about that more later.
But what I would say at this point is that um you know for those of us who come from a Christian background, the first controlled substance violation was back in the Garden of Eden. You know when eve tasted of the forbidden fruit and we have been at it ever since. We will be at it for the rest of our lives. There is nobody in this room that won't be involved as a society trying to regulate certain kinds of behavior. And ultimately it is the responsibility of governments to protect their citizens.
So while we may have disagreements about the best way to do that. What the correct balance is between treatment or law enforcement, ultimately what we are talking about is the obligation of the state, the government to protect its citizens.
Speaking of the war metaphor if I could debunk that just for a little bit. We are not at war with our citizens. We can't go to war with inanimate objects. You know we are not at war with cocaine itself or the contraband drug whatever type it is. And wars have beginnings and ends. You declare winners and losers. And we declare victory or defeated and we move on. It is over with.
Perhaps a better analogy for this is really to talk about the government's ongoing responsibility to protect society and to really go after those who would peddle poison for profit. Let's remember what we are talking about. And I think if there is one key take away from this uh whole discussion that many academics on the panel. I appreciate their perspectives on this.
And what I would say is that drug trafficking is not bad because we happen to label as such. In latin they would say male prohibidum. That its wrong to drive over fifty-five miles and hour in certain stretch of the highway because the government has labeled it as such but its not evil in itself to drive over fifty-five miles an hour.
To sell poison for profit to be engaged in the drug traffic that degrades humankind that causes so much misery is what we would say malum pro se, evil in and of itself. And I think that is the one thing that we can't lose sight of. And I will talk about that more.
I think uh it is said that picture tells a thousand words so I could I could talk to you about the millions of admissions in to emergency department hospitals across the country but I wont do that. I could talk to you about the percentage of people who test positive for drugs at time of arrest and these are not just people who are arrested for drugs but there is a high correlation between people who are arrested for any crime and drug use. I wont do that.
I could talk to you about treatment availability and how many people are in treatment for various kinds of drugs and although we talk about marijuana as being a less dangerous kind of drug, as you can see there are hundreds of thousands, three hundred thousand people in treatment for marijuana use. I won't talk about that either. I could talk about the drug use testing so called quest data about how many people in sensitive jobs test positive for the use of various kinds of drugs.
We could talk about students and we saw some of these graphs already who are using drugs in the last year, the last month over their lifetime. We could talk about changes in prices and purity of cocaine that have changed dramatically since president Calderon took office. The price of cocaine has more than doubled up a hundred and four percent purity down three thirty - five percent but it misses the point. It all misses the point because what it is really about are these folks.
It is about mind altering substances that destroy human life. That destroys societies and families and create the violence that you see a couple of blocks from where we are. The reason that we have drug policy the reason that we are talking about all of this is not because somebody once upon a time came up with an idea that we need to get tough. Just say no.
It is that these drugs are destroying people's lives. They are destroying societies and families and in the worst case they are undermining civilization by creating instability among nation states. These drug traffickers tend to thrive in areas of poorly governed or ungoverned space and left to their own devices they become so powerful that they challenge the nation state.
It's indisputable. I don't think any of my colleagues will dispute that these drugs are not good for you. The question is really what are we going to do about them?
Harmless marijuana. I spent a few years of my career up in New York as the special agent in charge up there and there was the cover of New York Post one day little boy by the name of Deshawn Johnson shot dead in a crossfire between two Jamaican posses fighting it out over what turned out to be less than a pound of marijuana. These are not victimless crimes.
Meth orphans a new term coined in the twentieth century. Parents who are so incapacitated that they can't take care of their children. Meth labs that are set up in places of public combination where every horizontal and vertical surface is contaminated and the children living in these places. Environmental damage, you betcha. Is that, the fact is the drug flow largely, largely not entirely, largely comes from outside of the United States and there's a reason for that. The reason is that we have got aggressive law enforcement here.
Dean Becker: Alright you are listening to the Cultural Baggage show on the Drug Truth Network with scores of broadcast affiliates in the US Canada and Australia. We are tuning in to a recent conference at the University of Texas El Paso. The voice you hear is that of Anthony Placido. He is assistant administrator and chief of intelligence for the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Anthony Placido: Again a picture speaks a thousand words. I'll try not to over do it here. But here, here is the benevolence of the Benelux countries so called Holland Belgium huge problem with ecstasy. Manufactured worldwide suppliers of ecstasy around the world do incredible damage.
It is in places like Afghanistan where the heroin trade is funding the Taliban. It is in Colombia where we see the FARC and AUC paramilitaries funding their activities across the border with [ ] Fuentes and the [ ] and the Sinaloa cartel all find a way to make million dollar profits.
What we are talking about is an industry a global industry and I think sometimes we get lost on this that we have locked up small time non violent users. That is certainly not the aim of my agency but this is twenty-three metric tons of cocaine seized in the port of Manzanilla that came from Colombia.
This is an industry of criminal predators who prey on the weakness of humans for profit. And if you could legalize this and snap your fingers and change our policy tomorrow the people that are in this business are not just going to resignate and going to work in corporate world . We have seen it. We have seen it with [ ] over in [ ]. They are going to be out doing extortion rackets and kidnappings.
What we are really dealing with is a class of professional predators. What this is really about the drug du jour maybe methamphetamine or cocaine but what separates our society from anarchy is law enforcement and collective security.
The largest cash seizure in the world happened in Mexico City two hundred and seventy million dollars in cash located in one place and the individual that was selling this [ ] wasn't selling finished drugs. These were the precursor chemicals to manufacture methamphetamine.
The United Nations office on drugs and crime estimates that the global revenue from the drug trade is three hundred ninety-four billion dollars with a b. That used to be a bigger number. Now I guess that represents about half a stimulus package but it's a lot of money and it buys a lot of these weapons that are going south to Mexico. They are going into Colombia. They are used to murder people and undermine democratic governments diminish respect for the rule of law diminish peoples confidence that their governments can protect them. And it is funded thru the drug trade.
I apologize for the graphic nature of the slides. You probably see this all the time on the news here but it is what's happened. And it's happening not just in Mexico its happening around the globe. It's happening in West Africa where they have murdered the president and the chief of the army. It's happening in Colombia in Burma in Thailand.
We went to war on nine eleven after three thousand people were killed. Thirty-eight thousand people die in this country every year as a direct result of drugs. Thirty-eight thousand. Seven million are classified by the Centers for Disease Control as people who are substance dependant hardcore addicts. Twenty-seven million drug users. And by anybodys estimate at least hundreds of millions of people who are affected by crime and violence and people who have loved ones in families who squander their lives and their human potential and dignity. In many ways we can talk about drug traffickers and the drug epidemic as a weapon of mass destruction certainly a weapon of mass effect. A B C and D.
This is a receipt seized in Afghanistan from the Taliban I think in [ ]. Basically the Taliban like the FARC the AUC and others are bankrolling international terrorism on the backs of the drug trade. The photo that is in here is the result of the terrorist bombing in Madrid. A lone cell, fans of Al Quaida not really members of it, spent fifty thousand dollars in funds that derived from the local sale of MDMA and hashish. And they used that to purchase the explosives that created the problem in Madrid.
I will wrap up in the interest of brevity and trying to get to the questions by telling you that honest people of good will can have disagreements about the appropriate response to the problems of drug abuse and addiction and whether we need to do more of one thing or another whether its law enforcement treatment education and prevention.
I will also tell you that as somebody who has just completed thirty years in the field of law enforcement, I will be the first to admit to you that law enforcement cannot be and never be the total response to this problem. We must have education, treatment and prevention.
But most of the people without the treatment do go in voluntarily. The highest prevalence of people who go to treatment go because they have been arrested. Um this is a very serious problem. It needs a serious response. Left unchecked and I think that's what we are seeing now actions with the heroic actions in Mexico.
The government of Mexico realizing that these trafficking organizations have become so powerful that they have widened the statement in power and the reason that the government of Mexico is so aggressively taking a stance of great power and impunity of these organizations is not because they want to assuage the gringos but it would make us feel better or they are worried about addiction in the United States. It's that these organizations are attacking the state itself and that left unchecked we have very little control over what they are doing.
There is a reason to be very optimistic. Here you see that the dots are where the known terrorists are the arrows the global drug flows I think speaks for itself. What I would say is there is plenty of room to be optimistic. We need to argue that the glass is half full or the glass is half empty.
Many of you will argue that plan Colombia was a dismal failure. That we spent millions of dollars and there is still cocaine coming out of Colombia. Well I share a different view of that um. Fifteen years ago if somebody would have told me that the Colombia National Police a model of law enforcement in the hemisphere I would have probably been belly laughing on the floor. They are today.
A very few years ago lets not forget that the blew La Bianca airlines out of the sky that they attacked the supreme court and murdered supreme court justices that they controlled the DMZ or the so called [ ] twice the size of New Jersey or roughly the size of Switzerland where the government dare not go to fight these drug traffickers.
Today 2009 the government controls every province and every department in that country. There is still drugs flowing from Colombia and I dare say that there probably will be forever but the government has got control and there is a law enforcement solution.
I am glad to tell you is that both law enforcement is not and cannot be the total answer to the problem of drug use in America or around the world it must be part of the answer. The other things that are mentioned, the other things that are necessary can't work if the trafficking organizations who peddle poison for profit are allowed to run run amok. Thanks and I'll [ ] a few questions.
Dean Becker: Now if these products being peddled are poison there is no one to blame but the DEA. And if they are being sold to children who don't even have to produce a driver's license there is no one to blame but the DEA. You see the DEA are criminal justice predators that prey on the weakness of humans for profit. Three hundred ninety-four billion per the UN that would not flow to criminals each year except for the lies of the DEA. The US consumers would much prefer to buy domestic but the DEA and narcotics officers everywhere would much prefer they buy from the cartels and gangs.
Ok you are going to get a chance to name that drug by its side effects and then we are going to go to a speech by Terry Nelson at the El Paso conference on drugs. Terry has thirty-two years of experience working for the US government as a customs border and air interdiction officer. The media now calls on his expertise as a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition much more than those who call upon the drug czars.
It's time to play Name That Drug by Its Side Effects!
Headache, sore throat, nausea, diarrhea, tiredness, cough, flu like symptoms, painful skin, pneumonia, respiratory problems, COPD, infections caused by viruses, bacteria or fungi, cancer and death.
The answer: The answer Abatacept or Orinsia from Bristol Meyers Squibb for rheumatis.
Dean Becker: This is Terry Nelson.
Terry Nelson: Instead of scaring people to death with the word legalization we say legalize, regulation and control of narcotics. They are much too dangerous to be left in the hands of criminals and cartels. We have the global war on drugs is probably the greatest public policy failure of all time in my opinion.
Forty years of failure and March of this year I went to the EUN [ ] parliament and talked about the drug war. I went on to the UN and listened to the drug czar of the world say that we are going to continue with the current failed policy for another ten years. I don't get it. I don't get it. The only thing I understand about that was that if he quits the war, if he ends the war on drugs he loses his salaries so maybe he has a vested interest in keeping it going.
I don't, I am a volunteer. Every time I go out and speak for LEAP I do it because I think it is the right thing to do. We are not paid speakers. I am a retired federal officer with thirty-two years of experience in the drug game. Central South America was my playground the last fifteen years. Joey touched on Plan Colombia. Five point one billion dollars spent and at the end of that there was a twenty-seven percent increase in cocaine coming out of the Andean ridge nations.
Peru was down for a short time. Cultivation is up again in peru. We don't even know what is going on in Bolivia because we have been kicked out of Bolivia because of the arrogance of some of our people down there. Colombia is a little more peaceful now because the same gang runs most things.
Here in El Paso Juarez when the killing stops you have got a new cartel in charge. It is not because the military is here, not because the police are better. You have got a new man in charge. And when that man has to start to fight for his turf against some other gang the violence will start again.
That is just the way it works. They don't go to court and settle it in court. They don't get their lawyers and fight it out. They get guns and fight it out. so we hear all the times that drugs cause crime. [ ] sugar that is BS if you don't know the phonetic alphabet.
Prohibition of drugs causes crime. The prohibition of it causes crime. The drug use doesn't. It's a bad choice. It's a bad decision to use drugs but it doesn't cause the crime. Drugs and illegal trafficking in corrupts everything they touch.
Juarez has a high death rate for drugs or the fighting the cartels fighting for control of the turf. But it's not just Juarez. Its not just Mexico. All the countries in Central America have twenty thirty forty a hundred thousand deaths due to drug war. Jamaica pits all through the Caribbean. We have about a rate of eight per hundred thousand rate of death in the United States. We are probably the lowest in the western hemisphere.
It is killing everybody, not just America. So we can't think of it as just an American solution or American problem. It is a hemispheric problem, no a global problem. Because if we manage to be successful here cutting down the distribution of drugs to America we shut them down they are just going to increase into Europe. And when we get into Europe the balloon theory will come back in to play and it will come back here.
I was part of the effort with Miami vice used to run a big two hundred thousand dollar speed boat. Felt really good about it. As the old saying goes the most fun you can have with your clothes on. But we didn't do any good. you know. we didn't do any good.
We went out in my first year evaluation in the keys was like at a hundred eighteen thousand pounds of dope, seven vessels, two aircraft and twenty-one arrests. Felt good about it. Felt good about it. Thought I was going to make a difference. No, no I didn't make a difference because three years later my biggest bust was forty thousand pounds in one load so I am thinking wait a minute. What ever happened to the four hundred pound loads that were not there anymore?
Moving in to South America we catch maybe sixteen percent of two point one million pounds produced. Cost of doing business for the drug cartels. We are not hurting them. When you start to hurt them they are going to kill you. That is basically it because you are taking away their livelihood.
So every time you have a problem you need to have a solution. If you are going to come up and talk about something, I think you should have a solution and my solution is legalize, regulation and control. Approach the drug problem as a social problem and a medical problem instead of a criminal problem.
It is certainly a bad choice but is it against the law for you to put something in to your body? Bad choice sometimes and by the way the supreme court of whatever they call it down in Argentina just ruled that it is not against the law to use drugs for personal use. But the move is coming all over the world today.
Our drug war has brought us probably the militarization of our police force, let's call it that. SWAT teams kicking in doors of houses and more and more they make mistakes. I was on a warrant entry team. I used to do that. And I would always ask why don't we knock first? I mean I served warrants for years by going [knocks] UPS. Are you Mister Johnson? Oh, yes well I have a warrant for your arrest sir. Would you step outside the house? And you would take him back outside and clean it up.
We don't do that anymore. Now its bang bang bang police with a warrant open up. Ten seconds, one two bang the door is down. And if you're in the wrong house do you say you're sorry? You leave and you hope they don't know what you look like. But the militarization of it I don't like that. I don't like our police wearing ninja suits; I want my police to wear uniforms with a badge. And when I look in my rearview mirror I don't want to, I want to know he is here to help me. I know that is not the case today.
Now I am a cop and I love cops and I love police work but I want the respect that our police departments had to come back but we are not going to have it as long as we are enforcing unpopular laws and causing the sort of social damage we are causing now.
What is the social damage from this? One point nine million kids go to bed every night with one of their parents or brother or sister in jail. About forty some odd people going to prison today have someone in prison in front of them a family member. Twenty-five percent of the new kids going in to prison come from foster homes or institutions.
The drug war is killing our families. You take a mother or father you put them in jail for smoking marijuana or having a small amount of marijuana in their car, it breaks up the family. No income coming in and mom's got to go get a second job no one at home to take care of the kids when they come back what do they do? I know what I did when my parents weren't around when I was little I got in trouble. But I got my butt whipped for it afterwards too but I didn't have to go to jail. So that's – drug prohibition is causing all of this.
What will happen if we legalize drugs? I don't know. I don't know. I think they might spike sharply for a small amount of time and then their use would probably go down. That is my belief. But I do know that forty years of a failed policy to continue for another ten years or forty years is not going to work.
So what happens if I am wrong? What happens if LEAP is wrong and if we legalize drugs regulate and control them in an environment? What is the worst that can happen? We were wrong; we can try something else now. But we don't keep doing the same wrong thing over and over and over again cause that is not working. And it is causing a lot of damage.
The cartels – when drug smuggling first started it was started by a young gentleman from El Paso or in my opinion it was. But the drugs didn't come in across the southwest border, they came in at Maine. The first really big load of marijuana came in at Maine because no one would suspect that. And it was right, they didn't. Now so if we stop it on the southwest border it is going to go back.
Joey mentioned down in the Caribbean. I worked in the Caribbean. We did basically shut down most of the air traffic coming in but Mister Chaves in Venezuela air trafficking coming out of Venezuela has increased one hundred and twenty-seven percent. So now we are going to have to move all the assets back down there to shut it down down there. That is not the way to fix this problem.
Afghanistan produces twice as much heroin as the world demand for heroin. It produces twice as much. The price of heroin is going down. The Taliban has stopped [ ] the heroin and our state department is working to catch all the drugs and eradicate the fields so the ten thousand tons that the Taliban have stored in sheds will go up in price. That money will be used to kill American soldiers. And with that I will close.
Dean Becker: Just enough time to remind you that because of prohibition, you don't know what's in that bag, please, be careful.
To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the Unvarnished Truth.
This show produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT, Houston.
Tap dancing on the edge on an abyss.