Drug Policy

Your Typical Drug War Outrage

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Here's a horrifying story from the Guardian:

These documents, which form a dossier several inches thick, are the main source for the facts in this article. They suggest that while the eyes of the world have been largely averted, America's 'war on drugs' has moved to a new phase of cynicism and amorality, in which the loss of human life has lost all importance—especially if the victims are Hispanic. The US agencies and officials in this saga—all of which refused to comment, citing pending lawsuits—appear to have thought it more important to get information about drugs trafficking than to stop its perpetrators killing people.

The article details how the U.S. government was complicit in several murders carried out by Juarez drug cartel, including the kidnapping and murder of El Paso resident Luis Padilla—who appears to have been a victim of mistaken identity.  U.S. drug cops apparently took no action as their trusted informant helped in several homicides, including helping to purchase lime to dissolve the bodies of the victims.  And when one highly-decorated DEA agent wrote an outraged letter of protest, high-ranking officials at the Department of Justice—including DEA Administrator Karen Tandy—chastised him, demoted him, and basically forced him to resign.

If true, this ought to be a scandal on par with Abu Ghraib.  But in the three years since Luis Padilla's death, the Guardian reports that not a single American media outlet has spoken to his widow, and only the Dallas Morning News has given the case any coverage at all.   It's certainly the first I've heard of it, and I follow drug war stories pretty closely.

Sad thing is, terrifying as this story may be, nothing in it is all that surprising.  Same for the American media's apparent lack of interest in it. 

Thanks to reader James Williams for the tip.

NEXT: Who's to Blame for the Mess in Iraq? How 'Bout Bud Selig?

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  1. All wars have an occasional civilian casualty, so what, we have got to stay the course.

  2. Anyone that’s been paying attention to the “drug war” for a while now probably won’t be surprised, either. I know I’m not. At least not totally. If it’s true, it would show just how evil the whole thing is.

    What can be a possible rationalisation for something so sinister? I’d really like to talk to a Gen McAffrey or Ms Tandy for just a few minutes, off record, behind closed doors, and see what they have to say for themselves. It’s either wilful ignorance or outright decepiton and lies.

    Either way, the entire DEA should surely be abolished, and most of it’s senior administators, at least, not be allowed to work for any gov’t agency for at least the forseeable future. Maybe a full-on, publicly-televised hearing on why they did what they did, and then a grovelling apology.

    To me, everything else pales, domestically, to the great evil of the war on some drugs.

  3. When GE or Halliburton is complicit in murder, nobody here complains, but when the government does it, everyone is up in arms.

  4. What can be a possible rationalisation for something so sinister?

    Drug use is a political crime, and anytime a government establishes a class of political crimes (as opposed to actual crimes, like murder or assault, which we all agree should be illegal), the political criminals are always treated worse than the actual criminals.

  5. You’ve said that before, Jennifer, thanks again. I guess it’s a way of establishing dominance. To show that you’re (in this case, the gov’t) in charge and that your way of life will be followed, or else.

    So very, very wrong.

  6. Drug use is a political crime, and anytime a government establishes a class of political crimes…

    I don’t agree, I fail to see the difference between murder, assault and drug use as they are all severe felonies. Murder and assault only affect an individual, drug use has severe downstream effects on society, we all suffor becauze of it.

  7. No surprise here, just another straw on the camel’s back. On the bright side, if you listen really close you can hear some faint cracking sounds, like the stuctural integrity of said back is giving way.

  8. If it’s true, it would show just how evil the whole thing is.

    No, it shows how evil dugs are because they caused this to happen.

  9. “No, it shows how evil dugs are because they caused this to happen.”

    Thank you Juanita, that was the funniest comment I have read all maorning.

  10. maorning=morning

  11. I don’t agree, I fail to see the difference between murder, assault and drug use as they are all severe felonies. Murder and assault only affect an individual, drug use has severe downstream effects on society, we all suffor becauze of it.

    I was thinking about feeding the troll, but realized “Juanita” is just here to incite and inflame, not engage in actual discussion.

  12. Just want to make sure everybody here knows Juanita is a troll, let we get sidetracked.

  13. If true, that is the saddest thing I’ve ever heard. I hope someday you have the opportunity to be re-trained as a human.

  14. Whoops, Adam beat me to the punch.

  15. Welcome back Juanita, I thought you gave up. I guess you got some more free time to kill?

  16. drugs are no more evil than a bag of rocks.

  17. italics however, are weapons of mass destruction, what going on here?

  18. i wonder what happens if I italicize something, say this

  19. Juanita:

    How would you like it if Hitler killed you?

    -rb

  20. Jennifer,

    I agree with you on the stupidity of drug laws, but isn’t it a bit much to classify drug use as “political crime”? What relation does drug use have to anything political?

    It seems to me that, as in the case of speeding, it is because drug use is a victimless crime, and thus harder to discover, that it is punished so severely. Since the risk of getting caught is so small, the consequences of getting caught must be terrible if we are to scare potential drug users away from such activities.

  21. Perhaps she means that it is malum prohibitum rather than malum in se. That is, drug use is “wrong” purely because the political action of the legislature has declared it illegal, and not because it is an inherently immoral activity (as is, for example, murder or rape).

  22. Juanita, anyone who dares to have a dissenting opinion around here is labeled a ‘troll’, so don’t take it personally.

  23. Did I just see Dan T. reassuring Juanita? Oh my. This comment thread just became an instant classic.

  24. Just RTFA; it’s certainly good to know that the WoD hasn’t corrupted anybody on this side of the border.

    I am in general opposed to the death penalty, except for government employees.

  25. I agree with you on the stupidity of drug laws, but isn’t it a bit much to classify drug use as “political crime”? What relation does drug use have to anything political?

    Think about this: why should drug users get stiffer sentences even than murderers, in many cases? Why are drug users, but not rapists, denied college aid and kept off campuses?

    Look at it from the government’s perspective: murder merely kills the individual, and who cares about the individual? We’ve got 300 million of them in this country alone; we can afford to lose a few. More importantly, seeing a murderer will not make people suspect the government is full of shit.

    But if someone uses drugs they will learn the government is lying: “Hey, I smoked a joint yet did NOT become overwhelmed with the urge to kill! I tried cocaine once, yet I still have a good job and did NOT become a crack whore . . . hmm. So the government lied about just how dangerous these drugs are. I wonder what ELSE they lied about?”

    In Soviet Russia, the worst crime you could commit (in terms of which penalties you’d face) was to say anything threatening the dominance of the Communist Party. In modern China, a pro-democracy activist is worse off than a thief. And in America, the worst crime you can commit is a drug crime. Our government has more tolerance for a murderer than it does for someone who refuses to swallow its lies.

  26. Juanita, anyone who dares to have a dissenting opinion around here is labeled a ‘troll’, so don’t take it personally.

    Actually, I’d say that if “Juanita”, or anyone else who supports the War on Drugs, were to engage in actual debate of the topics, they wouldn’t be labeled a troll. On the other hand, when you make inflammatory comments with the sole apparent purpose being to provoke hostile reactions, you are behaving as a troll.

  27. What a bunch of whiners! Ostensibly, the lot of you are completely incapable of presenting, let alone defending, an argument.

  28. I don’t agree, I fail to see the difference between murder, assault and drug use as they are all severe felonies. Murder and assault only affect an individual, drug use has severe downstream effects on society, we all suffor becauze (sic) of it.

    Juanita, we suffer down the stream due to drug use because of the State’s prohibition of it – the War on Drugs generates a series of destructive occurrences that permeate much of society, beginning with non-violent users being treated as hardened criminals, and ending with trial lawyers, judges and drug dealers making a pretty buck out of Prohibition. If drug use was left alone by the State, such ripple effect would not exist.

    The same argumentation – the use of “X” is destructive for society – was used by pro-prohibition zealots in 1919. The net effect of such limitation on liberty was a destructive war on alcohol makers and distributors, gang wars, corruption and a police state.

    Your rationalization of murder seems myopic at best and immoral at worst. Murder is the violent taking of another person’s life, an innocent victim. Drug use only affects the user.

  29. I thought Juanita was speaking in irony. I am wrong – she is an honest to goodness troll?

  30. And another thing-

    “…the DEA, kept in the dark about the continued use of Lalo after the first murder six months earlier, reacted with fury. Even as Ice debriefed Lalo, it refused the DEA access to him and to recordings of the events of 14 January. Every principle governing informant handling and inter-agency co-operation appeared to have been flouted, and the Mexican government was not told of the carnage taking place on – and under – its soil.” [from the article]

    I thought interagency competition and proprietary information-hoarding were eliminated by that great triumph of freedom, the USA Patriot Act.

    ______

    “What a bunch of whiners! Ostensibly, the lot of you are completely incapable of presenting, let alone defending, an argument.”

    *?*

  31. “I thought Juanita was speaking in irony. I am wrong – she is an honest to goodness troll?”

    I’m pretty sure it’s ironic, but she never breaks character. It’s best just to enjoy her posts as pure entertainment, and not think too much about them.

  32. … Drug use only affects the user.

    To be completely honest, it can also affect the people who care about or have regular contact with the drug user.

    Now, what should those people do? If the drug use is affecting them negatively, they should do what they can to convince the drug user to stop behaving in the way that’s causing the problem with the relationship. In some cases (parent-child relationships most notably), that can include coercion. Also, “drugs” in this sense includes alcohol and tobacco.

    Should prohibition continue? I would emphatically argue absolutely NOT! The prohibitionist mindset is currently in the process of closing a few bars and bowling centers here in Las Vegas because of an idiotic smoking ban.

  33. Balko, Balko, Balko….

    I’m sure that you are far too busy drinking Dom P?rignon from the anus of a $10,000-a-night gay hooker in your palatial West Manhattan penthouse to realize that REAL MACHO WHITE CHRISTIAN AMERICAN MEN would support this as tactic to fight the barbarians at our gates as readily as we would support the local SWAT team gunning down a little old lady.

    You should be down on your knees thanking the DEA that this doesn’t happen more often in our manly War On Drugs. But I guess you aren’t in touch with the values of REAL MACHO WHITE CHRISTIAN AMERICAN’S as taught to us by the Holy Bible and countless Chuck Norris movies.

  34. But according to Cathy Youngs column today we are better than the russians. I am so confused I don’t know what to think.

  35. “What a bunch of whiners! Ostensibly, the lot of you are completely incapable of presenting, let alone defending, an argument.”

    *?*

    bigstrike’s just jealous that Juanita gets all the attention.

  36. Key words to explain callousness about the tragedies of the War on Drugs:

    Foriegner, hispanic, black, “those people,” “the community”, the ghetto, inner city, poor, minority, “their culture of violence,” etc.

    If cops and judges caught bullets here in the states like they do in Columbia we would have already rethough this thing.

    Simmilarly if civilian casualties of the WOD were nice white people from the suburbs we would have changed course.

  37. I had heard of the Padilla case earlier [I thought it was here, actually]. It doesn’t surprise me, any more than I am surprised when I find out that whole squads of drug cops are found to be ‘on the take.’

    It is the drug war which is corrupting us, not the drugs.

    Unfortunately, I think this thing is going to continue to escalate until there is a Waco-style horror incident with dozens of innocents dead. It may have already happened in a third-world country, but nothing will change until it happens in one of the OECD countries.

  38. Gosh, you’d think the liberal media would have been all over this, unless….

  39. “the values of REAL MACHO WHITE CHRISTIAN AMERICAN’S as taught to us by the Holy Bible and countless Chuck Norris movies.”

    This made me remember.

    Last night on the Colbert Report, The Word was ‘American Orthodox’. This is one of the most frightening word pairings I have seen in a long, long time.

  40. The benefit of being in power is you get to define criminality.

  41. “What can be a possible rationalisation for something so sinister?”

    Murder is not a federal crime, so why should DEA (US) care?

  42. Jennifer,

    As much as I like to believe in govt conspiracies, it seems more likely that it’s just a case of having to make the consequences of difficult-to-catch crime so harsh that they outweigh the high probability of getting away with the crime. The same is true for speeding; speeding fines are usually far more severe than those for running red lights, even though the latter violation is far more dangerous.

  43. I think the “Culture War”, as espoused by Bill O’Reilly et al. is at the root of WOsD Version X. In the minds of the prohibs, it is a thought crime or so politically incorrect that those who engage in recreational drug use are regarded as social deviants or enemies of the state and must have harsh sanctions applied to them. They must be denied not only freedom, but opportunities that violent criminals have access to like student loans and employment.

    With murderers and rapists, they only affect few people at most, while, a thought or people choosing to alter thier thought process is percieved as much more dangerous to those in power. JM .02

  44. I’ve never believed “Juanita” is a troll; I’ve always appreciated the dark humor she adds.

  45. As much as I like to believe in govt conspiracies, it seems more likely that it’s just a case of having to make the consequences of difficult-to-catch crime so harsh that they outweigh the high probability of getting away with the crime.

    If that were the case, Crimethink, then why does the government consistently lie about drugs and their effects? Why (illegally) spend government money trying to influence elections like the legalization effort in Nevada?

  46. I agree with Jennifer that drug crimes are political crimes. This doesn’t imply that the War on Drugs is necessarily an outright conspiracy though. There could be and quite likely are people at the highest levels of government who take a cynical view of the “war” they are fighting, but I’d wager that most of the people involved at every level believe that drugs are inherently bad. But this is just the kind of belief that someone with a real compulsion to seek power over others might adopt if the structure for exercising that power is already in place. Whether they do so cynically or ingenuously is another matter.

    Just because drugs are a political crime doesn’t rule out what crimethink is suggesting, that harsher punishments are related to the probability of getting caught. Nevertheless, that a drug like crack cocaine brings harsher punishments that powder cocaine suggests that crack use is also a political weapon deployed against a despised social group.

    I know I’m going back and forth, but it’s a complex situation that likely has roots in multiple factors.

  47. On the subject of Jaunita, I just want to comment that I find her very boring. Does it make sense to describe a person’s writing as lacking affect? Her comments are so trite and so spare they might as well have been generated by a computer. I just don’t get the feeling that she really believes anything she says. In Dan T.’s case, I do get that feeling.

  48. …drug use has severe downstream effects on society, we all suffor becauze of it.

    Drug prohibition has severe downstream effects on society, we all suffor becauze of it.

  49. I was genuinely shocked by this story. I’ve read some terrible drug war stories over the years, but this one takes the cake. Watching idly as 13 murders took place !?! Monstrous.

    I hope this story gets much wider attention in the media than it has already.

  50. When is Liberal Hollywood bringing out the movie?

  51. Sometimes I eat my own stools.

  52. “REAL MACHO WHITE CHRISTIAN AMERICAN’S as taught to us by the Holy Bible and countless Chuck Norris movies.”

    Perhaps you could go fuck yourself.

  53. You guys seem to forget the untold and unfolding carnage that we have wreaked on thousands of south americans by indiscrimanately spraying DDT (banned substance in U.S.) on all the cocoa fields. A good idea: spray the plants so they die – with unintended (but highly predictable)consequences.
    For one, the pollutants get into and contaminate the water supply. This shit is dropped from planes or helicopters – it doesnt take a rocket scientiest to figure out that wind and other elements can blow this stuff around. Or that it will seek into the ground and then unwittingly be used to cook, clean, wash clothes or put on other plants the people eat. Second, DDT is known to cause cancer, hence the reason it was banned in the states. Third, in rural areas where cocoa production is carried out by “groups” who live in, near or among the “fields” – themselves and all their stuff get sprayed along with the plant. And of course, depending on when the DDT is sprayed, some times the plants are harvested before they die and are packaged and shipped to the u.s. laced with DDT. Lastly, but surely not leastly, the eradication effort doesnt work or at least won’t for very long. The reason: Some enterprising cocaine traffickers paid some horticultural scientist to develop cocoa plant strains that are immune to DDT and other popular herbicides/pesticides. A so called- super cocao plant. So we keep spraying, the cocaine keeps flowing and untold numbers of people get contanimated with a deadly substance.

    And for the person who thinks murder is not prosecuted as a federal crime – you have no idea how expansive the federal criminal law has become. Add any jurisdictional hook – a gun purchased in interstate commerce, a RICO conspiracy, or contining criminal enterprise (drug conspiracy) etc…and voila – what do you think the Feds put Gotti away on? Tax fraud?

    Your tax dollars hard at work killing more brown people. HIGH FIVE *Juanita*!!!!

  54. Perhaps you could go fuck yourself.

    Nah! As a REAL MACHO WHITE CHRISTIAN AMERICAN I have no need to masturbate. Only pansy, liberal, upper class, elites who oppose our manly and tough0 War on Drugs jerk off.

    What’s that? Why do I have a Playboy subscription? Errrrr… I got it for free? I don’t look at those filthy whores showing off their dirty pillows. Besides,
    REAL MACHO WHITE CHRISTIAN AMERICAN men don’t need porn. Jesus, along with the thought of hunky SWAT teams hosing down drug criminals with assault rifes, get’s us off.

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