March 14, 2002 | Commentary on Crime
They didn't like the TV ad that debuted during the Super Bowl --
one noting how Americans who buy illegal drugs unwittingly
subsidize terrorism. So the Libertarian Party raced into production
an ad designed to parody it.
The Libertarian counter-ad features an actor portraying John
Walters, who directs the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
"This week, I had lunch with the president, testified before
Congress and helped funnel $40 million in illegal drug money to
groups like the Taliban," the fake Walters says.
The ad goes on to say that the war on drugs "boosts the price of
drugs by as much as 17,000 percent, funneling huge profits to
terrorist organizations." In other words, it's the enforcement that
makes the drug trade so profitable. Cut that out, and the price of
drugs collapses and, with it, the huge profits that fund
Neat argument. Full marks for originality. But it's not that
Osama bin Laden confirmed as much when he justified exporting
Afghanistan's poppy crop as one half of a two-pronged approach to
bring down America and the West. The other prong: outright terror,
financed by drugs sales.
Like it or not, drug-users in America do help finance the
terrorists who attack us. The sellers rely on volume for their
profits; as long as we continue to purchase and use in bulk, they
can count on steady and expanding profits as far as the eye can
Many Americans, including businessmen, politicians, doctors,
lawyers, even presidents, have experimented with drugs at some
point. But no matter how "recreational" the user, the drug
wholesaler on the other end almost always has a deadly serious
purpose, whether it's fomenting communist revolution in Colombia or
exporting terror from Afghanistan.
Terrorist groups have turned increasingly to the drug trade in
recent years to compensate for the declining flow of money from
traditional state sponsors of terrorism, according to former Drug
Enforcement Administration head Donald Marshall. Another unhappy
coincidence is that drug traffickers and terrorists tend to
gravitate to the same lawless places -- such as rural Colombia,
Afghanistan and parts of Asia -- where they can establish large
operations uninterrupted by police or others.
The United Wa State Army, a terrorist drug trafficking group
active in the Burmese sector of the golden triangle (Laos, Burma,
and Thailand), reportedly buys its weapons from North Korea -- a
member of the "Axis of Evil" that President Bush warned about in
his State of the Union address. And terrorists elsewhere have begun
raising money by assisting in the trafficking, transportation and
storage of illegal drugs, says Marshall.
It's big money, too. A report by the U.S. General Accounting
Office notes that Colombian rebels earn up to $600 million a year
taxing, protecting and smuggling drugs. The rebels use this to
bolster their armed forces, which now rival the Colombian army in
strength and weaponry.
In the late 1990s, Afghanistan produced three-quarters of the
world's opium supply. Americans spend nearly $10 billion a year on
illegal opium derivatives, and Europeans -- with whom the drug is
more popular -- spend billions more.
About 14 million Americans used drugs last month, according to
the National Council of Drug Policy. Increased border security
since Sept. 11 has slowed the flow of some drugs, but as long as
demand remains constant -- as it has the last two years, according
to the Council -- suppliers will find a way to bring in
President Bush has offered a plan to reduce drug use by 10
percent over the next two years and 25 percent over the next five.
His plan centers on reducing public tolerance of drugs, said
As such, perhaps an appeal to patriotism is in order. Hard-core
addicts probably won't kick their habits for the good ol' U. S. of
A. But casual users just might.
Especially if we help them understand that it's time to stop channeling American money to the terrorists who have declared war on the West.
Dexter Ingram is the database editor for the Center for Media and Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation (www.heritage.org), a Washington-based public policy research institute.
Distributed nationally on the Knight-Ridder Tribune wire