By Radley Balko
Terrific piece by O'Grady in today's The Wall Street Journal, ahead of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's meeting tomorrow with Mexican officials to discuss drug war violence. Snippet:
The source of the problem is not Mexican supply. It is American demand coupled with prohibition.
It is doubtful that this will be acknowledged at tomorrow's meeting. The drug-warrior industry, which includes both the private-sector and a massive government bureaucracy devoted to "enforcement," has an enormous economic incentive to keep the war raging. In Washington politics both groups have substantial influence. So it is likely that we are going to get further plans to turn Juárez into a police state with the promise that more guns, tanks, helicopters and informants can stop Mexican gangsters from shoving drugs up American noses.
Last week's gangland-style slaying of an unborn baby and three adults who had ties to the U.S. Consulate in Juárez has drawn attention to Mrs. Clinton's trip. The incident stunned Americans. Yet tragic as they were, statistically those four deaths don't create even a blip on the body-count chart. The running tally of drug-trafficking linked deaths in Juárez since December 2006 is more than 5,350. There has also been a high cost to the city's economy as investors and tourists have turned away.
The astonishing argument from U.S. drug warriors to the violence in Juárez to this point has been: the bloodshed means we're winning. Or put another way, "If thousands of Mexican need to die to keep Americans from getting high, by golly I, American drug war official, am willing to step up and make that sacrifice." Now that a few Americans have been killed too, that argument will get more difficult to make.
But as O'Grady writes, don't expect that to lead to any common sense changes in policy. To this point, the Obama administration and the leadership in Congress have made it clear that the only acceptable drug policy in Mexico is more militarization, more force, and more American funding and weapons with which to do it. If thousands more Mexicans have to die on the front lines so America's politicians can make it marginally more difficult for Americans to ingest mind-altering substances, so be it.