The war on drugs is doing just fine

Ryan Devereaux writes ‘Surprise: U.S. Drug War in Afghanistan Not Going Well.’ He details a new report from the U.S. Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, claiming that “despite spending over $7 billion to combat opium poppy cultivation and to develop the Afghan government’s counternarcotics capacity, opium poppy cultivation levels in Afghanistan hit an all-time high in 2013.” These so-called “failures” have been “consistently documented for years.”

One reason that poppy levels have been growing for so long is that U.S. Marines have actively protected their cultivation. According to Geraldo Rivera’s framing, Marines “tolerate cultivation” of opium in Afghanistan as recently as 2010 for “security reasons,” because if it was destroyed, the population would turn against the U.S.

The domestic war on drugs has long “failed” to curb drug use and supply, an unrealistic goal, because that wasn’t its true intention; rather, the war on drugs has been a war to incarcerate black and poor people and to grow the police state. As Drug Policy Alliance writes, “ Funding schemes and asset forfeiture laws have given law enforcement agencies strong financial incentives to continue the drug war.” America imprisons more people per capita than any nation in history, and as Mike Riggs notes, “Corrections Corp. of America (CCA), the country’s largest private prison company, has donated almost $4.5 million to political campaigns and dropped another $18 million on lobbying in the last two decades,” profiting off of the drug war.

Similarly, we can see how the U.S. war on drugs in Afghanistan isn’t “failing” unless you believe official claims about their objectives — and Devereaux just wrote about the same government that was “also involved in trafficking cocaine to the U.S. in order to fund their counter-revolutionary campaign” in the 80s.

Devereaux makes note of this:

While U.S. efforts have failed to effectively diminish drug trafficking in Afghanistan, they have succeeded in making a handful of private security companies increasingly rich, a point that is not addressed in the inspector general’s report. In 2009, official responsibility for training Afghan police forces was shifted from the State Department to an obscure branch of the Pentagon known as Counter Narco-Terrorism Program Office (CNTPO), which took over the roughly $1 billion contract. In waging the privatized war on drugs, CNTPO has partnered with such corporate security giants as Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, ARINC, DynCorp and U.S. Training Center, a subsidiary of the firm formerly known as Blackwater.

To say the drug war is “failing” is to imply good intentions that the evidence doesn’t support. Because while the U.S. may be repeatedly “failing” to meet its publicly stated objectives, the military industrial complex blooms like poppies.

Note: I discussed concerns with this framing with Devereaux on Twitter, and he was sympathetic to them:

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The war on drugs is doing just fine

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