For those who oppose the federal government's disastrous war on drugs, there are many things to dislike about the Bush Administration, not the least of which is its shameless—and dangerous—use of the war on terror to prop up the failed drug war and the accompanying $18 billion dollar bureaucracy. And there is no indication that four more years of a Bush presidency will offer anything but more of the same.
But anyone who thinks a vote for John Kerry means a vote for a more liberalized approach to drug policy should think again. Candidate Kerry's choice for Homeland Security Advisor, Rand Beers, is a seasoned drug warrior who has already shown his loyalty to the well being of the drug war, no matter how many lives it destroys, or how many narco- terrorists are enriched along the way.
There are currently several drug-warriors serving in decision making posts within the Bush Department of Homeland Security; ex-DEA administrator Asa Hutchinson is now Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security. And another ex-DEA chief Robert Bonner is Commissioner of the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection.
Beers' drug warrior credentials go way back. As he put it in a 2002 deposition, "I first began to work in the counter-narcotics area in 1988 when I was on the National Security Counsel staff."
More recently, before he quit his Bush White House position as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Combating Terrorism and joined the Kerry camp, he served in both the Clinton and Bush Administrations' as Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs; the top cop and chief apologist for America's war on drugs in Latin America.
He is also one of the architects of "Plan Colombia," the multi-billion dollar militarization of the drug war in Colombia (which is now funded as part of the "Andean Counterdrug Initiative").
As Beers continued in his 2002 deposition, "There was a series of strategy developments dating back, in terms of my involvement, to a 1999 development of a regional strategy for the Andean region. I was involved in the development of that strategy, and I had bits and pieces to do with most of the further development from a variety of different positions."
The effects of Beers' proud achievement are worth looking at closely.
In 1996-'97, the Clinton Administration decertified Colombia as a "cooperating" nation in the drug war. To stave off trade sanctions against lawful industries and a loss of U.S. foreign aid, Colombia began U.S. backed coca-eradication efforts, including slashing and burning on the ground and aerial herbicide spraying of coca fields.
In 2000-'01, the U.S. cranked up financial aid to $1.3 billion and sent more CIA and Special Forcers "trainers" and civilian "contractors" to assist in further eradication and interdiction efforts. It has thus far been a smashing success...at destroying the livelihoods of subsistence farmers, which bizarrely enough, Beers considers a victory in the war on drugs.
In 2001, Colombian peasants claimed that the herbicides the U.S. was spraying made them sick; complaining of skin rashes and diarrhea. But Beers had his own theory as to why already poor Colombian farmers were complaining. "The individuals who are being affected by the spraying are being affected economically," he told reporters, "If the spraying is successful, it kills their incomes."
In its "Global Illicit Drug Trends, 2003" the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime credits U.S. eradication efforts with a 37 percent decline in Colombian coca cultivation between 2000 and 2002. The same report says this reduction came after a five-fold increase in Colombian coca production between 1993 and 1999.
At the same time as the 37 percent decline in Colombian coca cultivation, the UN report continues, "Combining the three source countries (Colombia, Bolivia and Peru) translates into an overall reduction of 22 percent of the area under cultivation between 1999 and 2002." In other words, a reduction of Colombian cultivation has led to increased cultivation in other areas.
In its 2003 narcotics control report on Peru, where the U.S. is also underwriting forced coca eradication, the U.S. State Department claims, "According to U.S. Embassy reporting, coca farmers received approximately $126 million from buyers for their coca leaf output in 2002. This total is only a fraction of the size of the total cocaine economy in Peru, which may equal 1.2 to 2.4 billion dollars or more annually (or 2 to 4 percent of Peru's GDP). Nearly all of the wealth derived from the cocaine economy accrues to narcotics traffickers and other criminal elements."
So while Beers was happily killing the crops (both licit and illicit) of Colombian farmers, narco-traffickers and the terrorists who feed off the drug trade continued to eat well, simply moving their operations elsewhere in response to eradication efforts.