Drugs and Terror

By Crispin Sartwell

One of the most ridiculous attempt to exploit 9.11 to drive an unrelated agenda premiered during the Super Bowl in the form of anti-drug messages which connect drug use to terrorism. The ads - sponsored by the President's Office of National Drug Control Policy and costing $3.5 million to air - featured "average"-looking teenagers saying things like "I helped blow up buildings," on the grounds that some organizations that participate in terrorism are in part funded by drug money.

This is mind-numbingly dishonest propaganda.

Now it is true that the economy of Taliban-run Afghanistan was dependent on the opium poppy. However, that's largely because virtually all other aspects of the economy were destroyed by civil war, a civil war for which we provided arms, training, and funds. And in fact, the Northern Alliance warlords, our surrogates in the war on terror, are also dependent on drug money.

So we might as well assert that the war on terrorism is supported by drug use, and hence that it's our patriotic duty to shoot heroin.

Various Latin American nations are riddled by drug cartels. In some cases, for example in Colombia, they help fund anti-government insurgencies that sponsor kidnappings, bombings, and other acts that might be considered terrorism.

Of course, drug money has also corrupted and propped up regimes that we support, including the disgraced Peruvian government of Alberto Fujimori, who received massive American anti-drug aid, though his security director, CIA-boy Vladimiro Montesinos, was himself a druglord. With DEA and cocaine money, Montesinos terrorized the country in his attempt to convert Peru into his personal fief.

All over the world, subsistence farmers grow coca, marijuana, and opium. If you are not using these drugs - by reasoning parallel to the anti-drug campaign's - you are starving these farmers and their families.

For that matter, the jobs of a large segment of the law-enforcement community depend on a thriving drug trade.

And though drugs cause tremendous violence all over the world, including in American cities, so do anti-drug crackdowns, which artificially increase the price of drugs while fueling a thriving black market economy. Most of the bad effects of the drug trade, including its funding of terrorist organizations, could be resolved by legalization.

Trying to tease out the overall effects of the drug trade on world terrorism, politics, and economics, is a tremendously complex task. But any way you look at it, the bald claim that doing drugs supports terrorism is utterly disingenuous.

And even if a claim like that could be supported, it might start you thinking about many of the products you use. Are you doing anything to support vicious, corrupt Enron executives? Or to support the economies of dictatorships that terrorize their own people? Where does the gas you put in your car come from? Uzbekistan? Saudi Arabia?

You might not want to examine too closely the clothes you're wearing or the food you're eating

Kids should not take drugs. Drugs devastate people's lives, and that's something that kids should be shown in as honest and direct a way as humanly possible.

But the anti-drug cause, however worthy, is not served by stupidity. Pot smokers made a standing joke of such hysterical anti-marijuana screeds as the film "Reefer Madness," which in an idiotic and willfully deceptive way exaggerated the effects of marijuana.

If today's anti-drug warriors don't want to be shrugged off with the same disdain, they need to try to make their case with the truth.


Crispin Sartwell's most recent book is "End of Story: Toward an Annihilation of Language and History."