Stay Solid! A Radical Handbook for Youth
I recently had the good fortune to contribute a short essay to Stay Solid! A Radical Handbook for Youth, edited by Matt Hern and the Purple Thistle Collective and published by AK Press. My piece is really short and regular readers of my work will be familiar with the thrust of it. Stay Solid is a big book with nice large print, filled with insightful essays, images, letters, and short pieces like mine, which I’m reposting below. Highly recommended if you’re out looking for a little something for a teenager or young adult in your life.
Maybe you’ve heard of something called the war on drugs. Maybe not. Either way, here’s a sketch: words “war on drugs” were first uttered disgraced U.S. President Richard Nixon in 1969. The logic of the war on drugs is based around the idea of prohibition, or that making certain narcotics illegal protects the population.
Prohibition is based on moral and social panics, and not based on science or medical research, which has generally pointed to the fact that drug addiction is a medical issue and not a criminal issue.
What large scale prohibition effectively does is create exaggerated markets for substances deemed illegal, boosting the power of the mafia, while also increasing the power of police, jailers, and repressive state forces, who criminalize individuals, communities and neighborhoods because they allegedly produce, carry or use drugs.
The war on drugs means different things in different places. The primary consequence lived by people on the ground is increased social control.
In Colombia the U.S. carried out a major anti-drugs program known as Plan Colombia between 2000-2006. Since Plan Colombia was launched, the U.S. government has spent over $3.6 billion on narcotics and law enforcement initiatives. Yet the U.S. government itself reports “Colombia remains one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of cocaine, as well as a source country for heroin and marijuana.”
Much of the knowhow for supposed anti-drugs initiatives in Colombia and Mexico flowed from U.S. experiments in countries including Afghanistan and Burma. U.S. diplomats, police, and otherwise shuffle around to and fro, bringing different forms of the drug war with them wherever they go.
The drug war as it has been unfolding in Mexico since December 2006, is far more than a drug prevention initiative. Instead, appears poised to re-open Mexico’s economy to foreign direct investment, in part through legal changes connected to the supposed fight against drugs, and in part through the militarization of the country.
What we learn about the so-called drug war on TV and in the newspaper rarely connects this style of war with the expansion of corporate control over new territories and markets. But this is just what happened in Colombia, and it is what appears to be happening in Mexico.
When you read about the drug war, remember, wars aren’t fought against terror or drugs. They’re fought against people, often in territories rich in resources.