One of the ironies of life is playing out in New York City and on Netflix. In a New York federal courtroom, federal prosecutors are detailing gruesome murders purportedly committed by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera, the alleged leader of a Mexican drug cartel. At the same time, Netflix is showing Narcos: Mexico, which is detailing gruesome drug-war murders committed almost 40 years ago.
Meanwhile, the mainstream press is breathlessly detailing the drug-war horrors in that New York courtroom, just as it did back in the 1980s.
Even more ironic, you’ve got drug-war proponents today saying how El Chapo’s prosecution is going to make a real dent in the drug trade, just as drug-war proponents were saying the same thing almost four decades ago.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post has an article today about President Trump’s new attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, who was a big drug warrior when he served as a U.S. Attorney. According to the article, he put away a woman named Raeanna Woody for 21-27 years for committing some small non-violent drug offenses. She was pardoned by President Obama after serving 11 years.
What good did it to to lock Raeanna Woody up for more than a decade? No good at all. The drug trade went on without her.
If the drug war wasn’t so tragic, it would be comical. What’s that popular definition of insanity?
This is the fourth of Netflix’s Narcos series, which is absolutely excellent. The first three focus on drug cartels in Columbia. I liked the first two immensely. Not so much the third one. This newest one, which shifts the focus to the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico, is another great one.
There are two things that will stand out as you watch this series: (1) Busting drug lords and drug cartels accomplishes nothing in terms of the drug trade. That’s because they are quickly replaced by new drug lords and drug cartels. (2) Government officials, including law enforcement, are deeply embroiled in the drug trade. That’s how many of them get rich.
Thus, a big lesson in all this is that the drug war is futile. It can never be won. Oh sure, drug lords can be busted and put away for the rest of their lives. Big deal. The drug trade goes on even as the jails fill up.
There is only one way to put the drug lords and drug cartels out of business. That way is legalization. If all drugs were legalized today, the drug lords and the drug cartels would be out of business tomorrow. That’s because they can’t compete against pharmacies and reputable companies. Drug lords and drug cartels can only thrive in an illegal market, where violence, not better products, eradicates competition. Drug legalization is the only way to end the drug-war murders, mayhem, and corruption.
So, why is there so much resistance to legalization? It’s because of the gigantic amounts of money that are being made jointly by the drug lords and drug cartels and government officials, including law enforcement. When you’re making big money in an enterprise, the last thing you want that enterprise to do is come to an end.
There is, of course, the legitimate money in the form of salaries. You’ve got federal judges, federal prosecutors, DEA agents, court clerks, police, district attorneys, and sheriff’s departments whose income depends on the drug war.
Added to the salaries are the millions of dollars brought into law-enforcement agencies through asset forfeiture, which enables drug agents to steal money from people who they never even charge with a drug offense.
It’s all an enormous well-funded bureaucracy that the drug war has spawned. Do you think any of these people want to give up their general salaries and asset-forfeiture money by ending the drug war?
And then there is the illegitimate money— the bribes and payoffs to judges, law-enforcement officials, border inspectors, prosecutors, and other government officials. We are talking about millions of dollars going into the hands of government officials, on both sides of the border.
How many borders guards, for example, can say “No” when approached by a drug cartel and offered $100,000 to not search a particular truck that will be entering the country at a certain time. Sure, the guard can refuse the money but he knows that one truck isn’t going to make a lot of difference in the overall drug trade. A hundred grand to cover his child’s college education might well make a big difference to him.
What are the chances that government bureaucrats who are making millions of dollars from the illegality of drugs are going to favor drug legalization? Not very high. Instead, they are likely to be the ones who are pressuring legislatures to keep the drug war going.
Ultimately, it’s up to the American people to pressure Congress to put a stop to this immoral, futile, deadly, and destructive government program. Sure, that means that drug lords, drug cartels, and a large number of government officials will have to find another line of work. So what? That would be a good thing, not a bad thing.