Wall Street WARZONE

America’s Failed 30-Year “War on Drugs” is Sabotaging Our Economy, Our Future As a World Power, War on Terror & Wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Mexico

by Paul B Farrell, JD, PhD
| Print | 12/20/2010

"Civilizations die from suicide, not by murder"? said Arnold Toynbee, whose 12 volume Study of History traces the rise and fall of civilizations. Get it? The "fall"? is an "inside job"? Attitudes, behavior, values die first. The soul is left for dead. Oh, some outside force may push the button, pull the trigger, or, as in ritualistic hara-kiri, some stranger may bring the sword down upon our neck. But we set the ball in motion. We create the world around us, including our enemies, as individuals and as a nation, we are totally responsible for our karma, our fate, our destiny, our demise.

"Suicide, not murder"? Toynbee's chilling warning came to mind a few years ago as I read three reports of dangerous economic trends, all tied directly to America's addiction to drugs and how they are destroying us from within, rendering our borders vulnerable, giving our enemies billions to buy weapons and attack us from without. These three reports highlight threats far more ominous than any threats from terrorists, nuclear war, energy shortages, entitlement failures, global warming, or government deficits, as bad as they all are. Why? Because we are creating an inner world that is far darker, far more lethal. The reports cover these three areas:

1. "The Lost War on Drugs"? America's failed 30-year "War on Drugs"? that's now sabotaging our "War on Terror"?
2. "Weakening Defenses"? America's leaky borders that expose us not just to terrorists, but openly invite transnational drug syndicates, mobsters, criminals.
3. "Prescription addiction"? America's out-of-control addiction to prescription drugs, with Big Pharma as the main pusher.

These three trends have been exposed in recent media reports as three separate trends with significant economic impact. However, they are very much linked together in the inner workings of the American soul. So why does the media treat them separately? Very simple: The media (like people in general) is also trapped in America's ubiquitous state of denial, denial of a disease so cunning and powerful that most Americans refuse see the underlying disease, either as individuals or as a nation: In her writings noted psychotherapist Anne Wilson Schaef aptly describes America as a "Nation of Addicts"? Once "in"? the disease we can no longer see ourselves objectively, we become zombies, like pod people in "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers"?

For the record, I researched the addictive brain for years. A couple decades ago I took time out of the business world and worked as a professional helping addicts, alcoholics and their families deal with their problems. A few hundred of them went through the Betty Ford Center, including executives, doctors, royalty, rock stars, actors, government officials, professional athletes and others celebrities. I traveled nationwide and overseas to do interventions. Behind the insanity I saw painful self-destructive behavior: Throwing away hundred-million-dollar careers, successful businesses, mansions, beautiful families, destroying their health, killing people, going to prisons, dying horrible deaths. Once in their private hell, nothing matters. Many, like my parents, never make it out, they become trapped, blind to the havoc they leave in their wake. I'm lucky, in recovery 37 years.

Yes I am biased: As a journalist what I see and write about is a product my experience. And the fact is that 12% of Americans, roughly 36 million, are chemically dependent, addicts or alcoholics. But worse yet, their self-destructive behavior has a huge negative impact on another 100 million or more Americans, their children, spouses, parents, loved ones, friends, co-workers - their accident victims. Moreover, the burden on American economy is staggering, hundreds of billions. That's why these three reports hit me square in the face. They are disturbing enough each by themselves. But taken together it's like watching an NFL quarterback being hit by three blitzing 300-pound tackles, simultaneously. Thud, whack, crack!

One. America's "Lost War on Drugs"?
Today America's 30-year "War on Drugs"? is a miserable failure. But worse yet, it's now undermining our "War on Terror"? In 2007  Foreign Policy magazine published their "Third Terrorist Index"? based on the collective opinions of 100 experts. They concluded that "instead of treating the demand for illegal drugs as a market, and addicts as patients, governments [including The Pentagon] continue to pursue policies that have boosted the profits of drug lords and fostered narcostates that threaten all of us"?

Afghanistan is one example. The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, now supplies 95% of the world's poppy crop and opium production. According to the BBC News, it has "soared to frightening record levels"? largely because we took our eye off the Taliban and marginalized Afghanistan to attack Iraq. Illegal narcotics traffic from Afghan's cash crop exploded 57% in 2006 . Our politicians and our military are virtually helpless to stop this expanding contagion that matches America's addiction for illegal drugs (demand) with the entrepreneural spirit of Afgan farmers, politicians, war lords and the Taliban (supply).

America has had a "War on Drugs"? for since the Nixon administration, based on prohibition and criminalizing drugs. That policy has drained hundreds of billions from our economy, driven drug traffic underground, and raised the price on a commodity that otherwise would cost pennies. Domestically and internationally our "War on Drugs"? policies are not only a dismal failure, they produce the exact opposite result.

Worse yet, our failed drug policies are sabotaging our "War on Terror"? in Afghanistan. As the Washington Post reported, "The drug war has become the Taliban's most effective recruiter in Afghanistan"? reinvigorating Muslin extremists. Thanks to our obstinate adherence to failed drug policies plus minimal alternatives for Afghan farmers, we are playing into the Taliban's hand and they're "becoming richer and stronger by the day"?

Two. America's "Weakening Defenses"?
America's leaky borders expose us only just to terrorists, but also to international drug mobsters, cartels and war lords. The Post's Misha Glenny has been "traveling the world researching a book on the jaw-dropping rise of international organized crime"? in recent years. "The problem starts with prohibition, the basis of the war on drugs"? says Glenny. "The theory is that if you hurt the producer and consumers of drugs badly enough, they'll stop doing what they're doing. But instead, the trade just goes underground"? into a "shadow economy"? where "the state's only contact is through law enforcement"?

Moreover, the American drug economy offer such lucrative payoffs involving huge margins on a global turnover of $400 to $500 billion sales annually that narco-criminals simply don't care if they lose a $1 million investment now and then in a police raid, because billions do get through our open borders, both north and south. At the same time the "expansion of world trade and financial market has provided criminals ample opportunity to broaden their activities"? with no comparable increase in police to deal with this surge. So one of the consequences of our failed "War on Drugs"? is that while "international mobsters, unlike terrorists, don't seek to bring down the West; they just want to make a buck - these two distinct species breed in the same swamps"? conspiring against American police, military and political policies.

Three. America's "Prescription Addictions"?
In addition to the illicit drugs, prescription drugs are also rapidly becoming a favorite for America's addicts. Don't get me wrong, Americans may be "living in a world of pain and they are popping pills at an alarming rate to cope with it"? for legitimate reasons, but the truth is, medical doctors and drug companies indulge our weaknesses, like the Taliban.

When the Associated Press analyzed US Drug Enforcement Administration data a few years ago they concluded: "More people are abusing prescription painkillers because more are available"? and while doctors are "spooked"? by high-profile celebrity arrests, patients have become more and more enterprising and driving greater distances to find known "pill mills"? that "dispense prescription medications without verification"?

Another reason America's prescription addiction is exploding; Big Pharma's ratio of two reps for every five docs, plus relentless advertising. Between 1997 and 2005 drug company ad costs nearly tripled from $11 billion to $30 billion, while the "amount of five major painkillers sold in the nations stores nearly doubled, and alarming trend"? Yes folks, "civilizations do die by suicide, not murder"? First death within - perhaps a failed "War on Drugs"? policy backfires - addicts indulge, multiply - our enemies get the money- then complete the ritualistic hari-kari for us - and another civilization falls.

original: MarketWatch 9/3/07

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