MSZ (May 1989)
The creation and management of a “problem” by the western world of states
Addiction, Business, Control, War
President Bush has found a trademark for his presidency: a “war on the drug cartels.” The “war on the drugs scourging millions of Americans” – which under President Reagan was only a pet project for the First Lady – has recently become a top priority of the White House.
In the drug consumption of his subjects, the President has discovered a political challenge of the highest level: “The vitality of our nation is threatened by narcotics” (Bush in his September 6, 1989 televised address to the nation). With this discovery, the President has also found his drug war strategy: more prisons domestically and more U.S. weapons and military advisers for the Latin American countries. They are generously included in the drug war as “drug countries.” If the U.S. decides to fight a war against its citizens’ drug addiction and proclaims a global war on drugs, then it is self-evident that foreign sovereigns have to support it in this honorable undertaking. Today, the U.S. declaration of hostility toward governments in its “backyard” is called a “strategy against the cartels” – an interesting mixture of looking after the public health of the American people and an imperialistic claim.
The irony of this declaration of war consists merely in the fact that the leader of the world power and his European colleagues who have enthusiastically joined the drug war program have brought into being the “drug problem” that they want to fight with such determination. Everything from the “addictions” of their free citizens up to the military equipment of the drug cartels and the business conditions for a brisk drug trade are results of the peerless world economic order that they guarantee.
Drug addiction – another home for the bourgeois individual
Bourgeois society has an interesting offer in stock: drugs are offered as a commodity. Finding customers is obviously no problem. There seems to be enough members of this society who find the anesthetization of their consciousness attractive. They look for their subjective happiness in a strange way. They do not – or no longer – provide for their well-being in relation to reality, but through chemical influences on their brain. Drug users attach so much importance to “feeling good” that they do everything they can to produce a state of satisfaction in itself, even and especially when the world offers them no reason for satisfaction. They do not even need to talk themselves into seeing reality differently, they prefer to manipulate their sense of reality and put themselves in a physical condition so that they see it differently or no longer at all. Drugs give them the psychological experience of a world of sensation that refers to nothing. A life of drugs begins with this need for gratuitous satisfaction; a need that through the physiological effects of drugs – more or less quickly – ends in physical dependency. If this condition is reached, the bodily state dictates the need for the next trip, and the decision to use drugs is complemented by a physiological need. The craving for the effect of drugs is then finally reduced to what was already its starting point in the need for pharmacological manipulation. It lies in the nature of the thing that the method of providing feelings of happiness by means of habitual chemical influences on the nervous system has physical consequences. Hence it is far from true that physical dependency determines the fate of addicts almost like a law of nature. The assertion assumes that those affected can not help but use drugs against their will. Even a physical dependency does not force anything except the decision whether one wants to continue getting the addictive substance or go through detoxification. The truthfulness of sayings like “once addicted, always addicted” with which health officials ply “at risk youth” also doesn’t become any greater because addicts mostly dominate the argument that their addiction is indisputable evidence that they could not do otherwise.
Drug users do not differ from the rest of the bourgeois world in their absurd need for an unfounded feeling of happiness, but in the way they produce one all by itself. They do not numb their consciousness with ideologies, but directly. This direct chemical route is criticized by all the relevant drug therapies as a dangerous self-deception – and alternative techniques of self-manipulation are offered instead. Although they probably do not even know the old Marx saying about the “opium of the people,” upstanding addiction counsellors overrun the U.S.A. with “finding Jesus” as a more or less equivalent substitute for tripping on drugs. However, whether this offer has the desired effect on junkies and coke snorters depends on whether they are willing to rely on the promise that one can feel somewhat stoned on a “life with Jesus” when one can also get their trip through a simple shot. A not insignificant part of the drug-free population considers life without a “Jesus substitute drug” not at all worth living. Thousands of physically completely healthy adolescents in churches and at similarly deep communal experiences proclaim: “I feel good since I found Jesus.”
Religious lunacy is just one of the many offers which bourgeois society offers to people who ask the question in any situation in life: “How do I feel?” – and focus on it so as to manipulate their moods into a positive. A whole section of the bourgeois human sciences – psychology – is concerned with maintaining the ideal of an individual with a “well-balanced psychological budget” which has to find its “equilibrium” regardless of, thus under, all living conditions. And if in their behavior, relaxation and other self-awareness training, psycho-fans only work on themselves long enough, they regularly proclaim that nothing else has changed but them alone, and that they have completely personally found the royal road to contentment.
Compared with the current, highly respectable bourgeois psycho-ploys for feeling happy for no reason, drug trips are a fairly radical version, but the difference is not one of principle. Drugs are like religion, psychology or the very simple maxim of the ordinary citizen who is “poor but healthy and decent,” an offer for people who have grasped the basic dogmas of bourgeois society. They have embraced the life philosophy of our free social order, according to which market-based competition is supposedly organized solely for the individual pursuit of happiness, a collection of chances and special offers from which each individual needs only select what suits him to make the best of it for themselves. The practice of market-based competition is generally known to look a bit different. Hardly anybody is spared the experience that the happiness thing does not work out objectively. However, in the rarest of cases do free citizens learn from this experience that their materialism fails with a necessity – namely, in the objective constraints of capitalism. Instead of this, bourgeois humanity copes with their experiences with the ideologies offered to them by their society. Before giving up their individual pursuit of happiness – and explaining its failure in conformity with the operative view of the world, according to which anybody has control over his own happiness – they just pursue their completely personal happiness in life in the realm of the imagination, which is no longer rattled by any awkward “life experiences.”
In this respect, drug trips are a thoroughly cross-class offer made by class society to its inhabitants – in this point they are also no different than religion, psychology or the madhouse. Even people who live in well-off or luxurious living conditions obviously share the crazy basic dogma of bourgeois society that the individual stands always and everywhere in the center and has to pass his test of mettle in it. On this side of class society, the absence of material worries creates a space for a freer search for one’s allegedly very own experience of life and happiness. The cultured members of affluent society also select for themselves the answer to their highly personal search for meaning in life from the available offers – “consciousness expansion” though cocaine is also just another possibility at hand.
In one aspect, however, the vaporization of consciousness through drugs differs from the usual psychological techniques by which bourgeois individuals “cope” with their lives. It works all by itself, without the mental circumstances and imaginings such as those required by belief in ideologies. Drug users have seen all the lies for living in the free society; they merely do not see any ideological tools that suit their taste for being able to believe in them. They do not maintain the false consciousness that believes in opportunities where there are none. They can not intoxicate themselves with the idea of being successful types, of having an excellent family life with their own incomparable children. They also do not carry off the delusion of believing in an afterlife full of opportunities because there are none in this life. So they choose the direct chemical route to “individual happiness.” It is therefore no wonder that “susceptibility” to drugs is particularly widespread on the outer fringes of class society, among the underdogs of the market economy who from the outset can’t see any opportunities in the normal bourgeois hustle and bustle, and among the top jet set circles where, after having already taken a crack at all the meaningful crap, one is eventually bored stiff by the average good citizen’s happiness program.
In addition, there are still other people who snort coke or drop amphetamines in order to abide their job – in the U.S., cocaine is a widely used “waker-upper” among truck drivers and is sold in many factory parking lots out of the trunk. The happiness which beckons through this functional use of drugs consists in not freaking out, in standing one’s ground and being a little bit high during the rapid wearing out of one’s own health. This is also revered in the great Western “meritocracy.”
The state powers of the free west, which complain about the drug problem that their subjects create, not only create the material living conditions with the economic order they guarantee that makes them receptive to all compensatory offers of sensation. Their social order also sets the mental attitude of the free citizen who under all conditions and against all experience maintains that the individual has to stand at the center of this best of all worlds. It is really no wonder that this fierce pursuit of happiness sometimes also ends up in drugs.
The drug market – a business that follows the rules of the market economy
The law of capitalism also applies to drugs: here too supply and demand come together only because there is a market for the stuff on which money is to be made. That’s the way this magnificent economic order functions: every need is to be turned into money – and that means, vice versa, without money, no need is satisfied at all, let alone stimulated. If it were not about making money, there would also be no interest in awakening a desire for addictive substances and making use of it through supply. The product range of drugs is perfectly acceptable from a market economy perspective. Because if every need is only met because and insofar as it makes money, then also each need is served in order to gain money from it. That’s how private businessmen calculate – and that’s also how they should calculate in our social market economy. The offer of drugs and the supply of people with them thus come into existence in exactly the same way as the market is supplied with Coca-Cola and cars.
If the laws of the free market should apply everywhere and always, exactly like U.S. presidents demand in every inaugural speech, then why not drugs, really? That the stuff ruins the health of consumers surely can’t be a serious objection against a thriving business. To cars as to weapons, to chemical waste as to veal and milk, to all products and items of need in the world of commodities, only one economic law applies – that of capitalistic business: if money is to be made with it, the thing is acceptable; ruinous consequences concern the business world just as little as the relations of exploitation in production. Why should drug dealers, totally against all the good manners of the market economy, care about the consumers?
Fans of the free market economy could also come up with their standard maxim for this sector: market forces can’t be resisted. But in any case, it is just so natural to them that, like any market supply in our society, the supply of drugs is also measured in money. Narcotics investigators always quote the measure of their success in the street value of the drugs seized.
And then, of all things, the leader of those nation states which take responsibility for the fact that social relations are all assessed in money comes along and complains that supply works so magnificently efficiently on the drug market.
The state’s drug problem – the rule of law creates its own need for action
Democrats agree: the rule of law must fight drug-related crime. But even resourceful social workers, drug doctors and addiction counselors realize, as is well known, that the state would not have its crime problem if it didn’t prohibit drug use and instead treated all drugs as something more or less like brandy. The rejection of such “radical solutions” shows that bourgeois state authorities seem to have a more far reaching concern than combating the consequences of the criminalization of drug use. They have an objection to drug use itself – otherwise they would not first criminalize it. The U.S. President and his colleagues surely can’t – and don’t want to – distinguish between the reason for the criminalization of drug use and the consequences of this criminalization; nevertheless, it’s not the same.
“Drugs are sapping our strength as a nation...it'’s turning our cities into battle zones, and it’s murdering our children...Drugs are a real and terribly dangerous threat to our neighborhoods, our friends, and our families.” (President George Bush Sr., Address to the Nation, September 6, 1989)
Bush could really prevent the “battle zones” in his cities if he would legalize drug use and dissolve his drug police. But that is simply out of the question for a responsible democratic statesman when he makes the diagnosis that drugs undermine the foundations of his society. Bush speaks of the “strength of the nation,” and he means it. Bourgeois states fight drug addiction out of a concern for the usability of their people, although the state’s claims on a usable people has its own point of view. The concern about the physical safety of its people is certainly not the starting point for the state’s drug prohibition. Drug addiction is ultimately not a disease in which there is a danger that substantial parts of the body politic would be infected by contagion and become physically ruined and unusable. It is indeed true that drug users are usually physical wrecks after a time, but if the concern of state regulators was to prevent or reduce the deteriorating health of addicts, then they could quite easily accept the arguments of the proponents of legalization of drug use. It is apparent in all expert testimony that the health “risks” of addicts – including death by overdose – follow from the criminalization of drug use rather than from the use itself.
“Correctly dosed, experts stress, opiates have relatively few side effects. Even heroin, unlike cocaine, does not destroy the body ... Because the drug addict does not know either his individual limits nor the purity of the drug he consumes, overdose and consequently respiratory paralysis all too easily become its lethal outcome. A large number of diseases of the opiate addict, however, does not have to do directly with the drug. Infections such as hepatitis and recently AIDS are more likely consequences of the criminal or disease-inducing milieu.” (Süddeutsche Zeitung, 9/15/89)
State authorities are just as unwilling to grant the validity of such diagnoses as an objection against their drug prohibition as the evidence that drug addicts with a medically controlled drug supply could pursue a regular working life quite well. Nor is the criminalization of drug use preceded by an examination of whether drug users have in fact become useless for their respective professions. Drug use is prosecuted as a crime completely regardless of whether it deals with a coke snorting manager who does his job perfectly or whether it is a slum dweller who is a disposable part of the market economy, which has no interest in his productive use anyway.
Quite apart from how and whether its citizens make themselves useful in its society, the bourgeois state puts great store in the general usefulness of its people. It lays claim to a people that accepts all the terms and “objective constraints” of its free market economy as their living condition and opportunity; citizens whose will to be useful and to keep themselves useful is beyond question; that is its criterion of the “strength as a nation.” Bourgeois statesmen are far from indifferent to the morality of their subjects. In the manipulation and elimination of the will through drugs, they see a fundamental threat to their society: the refusal to participate correctly and moreover the start of a “drug career” in which people adjust their will so that they no longer properly desire all the valid standards. This state suspicion applies to all drugs – from alcohol to heroin. Politicians decide which drugs are then illegal, which are rationed and which are freely available – depending on their current assessment of danger – quite differently. Scandinavian citizens can only get alcohol in their home countries – almost like the old times of U.S. prohibition – in government-regulated rations. The Dutch government expects a more effective fight against heroin and cocaine use through the legalization of hashish and marijuana. However, politicians here take the view that the legalization of “soft drugs” and certainly the changeover of heroin addicts to the “substitute” of methadone will surely “open the gates to addiction.”
As various as their respective drug laws may be in the details: all western industrialized nations are intent on fighting drug addiction as a threat to the moral foundations of their societies. For states that rely on the voluntary willingness of their citizens to adapt in all situations to the social “prevailing circumstances,” people who get stoned on chemicals are an unacceptable potential danger. This sort of dropout is fought or defined as – as it’s said in flowery language – a “social challenge.” Exactly the recognized liberal standpoint, according to which drug addiction is regarded as a disease, underlies the state’s need for action. The image of drug addicts whose “self-control” falls victim to a barely controllable disease catches pretty much the jist of the state’s fears.
This very fundamental demand for fitness is always the inspiration when politicians justify the urgency of the war against drugs with examples from the life of society. One can just as well refer to U.S. senators who get fit for their anti-drug sessions with a pinch of coke as to soldiers who had kept themselves fit for war with opium in Vietnam and have a hard time adjusting to civilian manners where one must sometimes lay aside the gun again. Most of all, however, politicians refer to the flood of crimes which is connected to the criminalization of drug use – as if the craving for drugs is already by nature the same as the “criminal intent” that they charge anybody with who does what’s forbidden.
According to the logic of the bourgeois community, criminalization is called for against the “criminal intent”; that is ultimately the weapon of the rule of law wherever something does not fit the manners and customs with which its subjects adapt to their living conditions. Because it knows only one prescription: prohibit and punish the violators of the prohibition. It is well known that prohibiting and preventing are not the same. The state ultimately calculates with every ban that all behaviors which it declares in law to be a crime are perpetually on the agenda in its society and remain there as well. So no one seriously believes that with the criminalization of drug use, drug laws contribute to the elimination of drug use.
The state’s prohibition only leads to one thing: both sides – people who have the forbidden needs and those who make a business from it – adjust to the ban. Their criminal careers are preprogrammed for both. For the business world, illegality does not mean the end of their business, but an additional business condition: bribery and shields are in order vis-a-vis the state authorities. As for the competition, in this branch one can understandably no longer count on the civil legal system with its contract law, its commercial registers, its jurisdictions and its marshals. Without regulatory and supervisory authorities, a business life is not possible. Thus the branch provides itself with everything from order and supervision up to its own “courts”; and competition is no longer handled as a struggle for monopoly with the usual, mainly legally protected means, but as a gang war for monopoly. Then something like this is called a “mafia” and generally considered the pinnacle of all abominations. Although one could see in the honorable tasks that the legal business world can rely on the boringly normal state jurisdiction for an indicator of how much force the rule of law puts at the disposal of its business people. Apart from that, the organization of a thriving illegal business life creates a lot of expenses; but the state prohibition brings still another business condition into the world: on the basis of the prohibition, the drug business can capture money uninhibitedly, and it can now demand exorbitant monopoly prices for drugs. What is called “criminal intent” is salesmanship – nothing else – that indeed also normally knows no scruples.
For drug users, it’s not only difficult and dangerous, but also outrageously expensive to get the stuff. People who usually have no money left over anyway must assume the costs of, of all things, dropping out, in sums which are far beyond the calculations of normal earners. (The “daily rate” for a heroin addict in Germany currently stands at 200 to 300 DM) The two to three known routes to get money through “drug-related crime” – prostitution, theft and prescription forgery – are already mapped out in this society. Prohibition turns dropping out into a criminal career.
Now the rule of law finally has its problem – it has to fight crime. A whole section of its society is full of lawbreakers – and that they break its laws is the reason and criterion for its intervention. For the state, it is now about its legal system; which must always and everywhere be enforced. The rule of law registers the way the drug business reacts to the ban as a particularly stubborn violation of the law. It must fight “organized crime” and discovers that this criminal nature often eludes its control by force:
“The city of Miami is the central gateway for illegal drugs imported into the United States ... The Miami Police Department is riddled with corruption ... Policemen get almost everything they want (goods, services, sex, drugs, alcohol) free of charge ... Violent crimes are committed by police officers, particularly against drug traffickers. None of the victims ever complain because they are relieved to have the police only take their property (money and drugs), without also losing their freedom. The drugs are then taken by the police back to the normal business cycle. Also there are occasional deaths in such attacks ... Cities like Miami benefit in a big way from the drug business, especially the bankers, accountants, lawyers, architects, real estate agents and car salesmen working there.” (Süddeutsche Zeitung, 10/10/89)
The upshot is: criminal gangs represent a “power of their own within the state” so that any decent constitutional state considers drug crime definitely intolerable. Then “organized crime” counts the same as the increase of junkies who keep themselves above water through “drug-related crime” as an indicator of a potential overthrow of the state force whose monopoly on force must be restored by any means necessary.
The violent enforcement of the state’s legal order is something different than protection from drug addiction or protection from the resulting crime. However, upstanding democrats can never distinguish between protection and state power. People who appreciate state force as a universal remedy for “social problems” greet each state act against drug crime as a highly moral service to families with drug-addicted children or at-risk youth in general. And if images of drug-related deaths in train station toilets are also circulated by the press, then not a dry eye remains, and all responsible people agree that the state is required. The truth is exactly the opposite: every drug-related death is on account of the state force.
The drug business – an international growth sector
Everything that is necessary for the production and distribution of drug commodities is available for money: the chemical substances and laboratory facilities that are required for processing coca and poppy plants into cocaine and opium are supplied by European and U.S. chemical companies; transportation and packing materials for the end product are also easily obtainable. All this is produced or provided from highly honorable business calculations and increases the gross national product somewhere in the world. Because, of course, the drug business – like any big business – is organized as an international one.
And, of course, this branch also competes for needs capable of payment. The market offers a wide supply: the so-called “classic drugs” – cocaine from South America, opiates from Southeast Asia – are supplemented every year by new synthesized drugs. Experts call this stuff “designer drugs” – and with each new creation, a new “addiction trend” is initiated. The product which dominates the market depends, as always, on the business conditions: delivery problems with cocaine first raise its market price and secondly increase the sales opportunities for heroin:
“The golden triangle has had an unexpected boom. While the world directs attention to the bloody drug war in Colombia, the drug lords of South East Asia take advantage of its market opportunities ... Even now, Southeast Asia has regained its leading role as heroin supplier to the United States, according to American narcotics experts. The Secretary General of the Thailand drug agency ... expects a 60 percent increase in opium production in the region this year, from 1500 tons to 2400 tons.” (Frankfurter Rundschau, 9/12/89)
If that isn’t a victory of the market economy!
The business with drugs works out globally mainly because the business conditions crucial for it are available: an international banking world which ensures that anywhere in the world business is done with dollars. Which kind of business the dollars come from which collect in the branches of the big banks – that’s never visible in these lovely bills; that’s just the joke of money. The difference between “dirty” and “clean” money in the end has not been invented by bankers, for whom money is money – like it is for any normal mortal. There is generally only one viewpoint under which good true money can be “dirty”: the standpoint of the state’s tax laws. The whole problem of so-called “money laundering” therefore consists in finding a trick with which the profits from the drug business can be presented to the state as legitimate holdings. Where to most cleverly put “dirty money,” what front companies with poorly verifiable balances work best, for example, or what bank loans are particularly favorable for this purpose, this information can be obtained these days from any mediocre accountant – not to mention the treasurers of all democratic parties.
The population of whole countries has become dependent on the business of drug cartels. This is also nothing special, but a very normal side effect of our free world market. When the business with such innocuous things as cocoa and chocolate already decides the survival or starvation of entire peoples in the third world because the only interesting thing about the stuff is its world market price – which in this case however is determined not in street sales, but on the stock exchanges of the world economic powers – then the same is also true of course for the cultivation of coca plants. And it also applies to the production of drugs – as with any decent business with raw materials from exotic countries – that a small business “mafia” skims huge profits and that the agricultural and other workers are provided with the customary starvation wages. By the way, one learns in recent weeks that the rural population which does the legwork for the drug cartels live better than the farm laborers on highly respectable legal plantations. In order to keep their subject people well-disposed, the South American drug lords spring for one or the other “social benefit.” A United Fruit Company does not need to do this.
It is not drugs that provide for relations of production that make whole regions dependent on the cultivation of the corresponding raw materials, but the global circulation of money that is to be earned from them. The states which are rightly called the world economic powers provide, as everybody knows, for the validity of this global business condition.
A flourishing global business is globally criminalized
The complaint, made by any responsible politician, that drug crime can’t be curbed by means of normal crime fighting has its basis in the fact that drug trafficking is organized as an international business sector. Because the leaders of the western industrial nations are certain that they can not confine their drug war to their own jurisdiction, but other state powers must be tasked with their crime-fighting interest. Thus their domestic law problem becomes a foreign policy demand on the rest of the world of states. As the intergovernmental dialogue between “drug cultivating” and “buyer” countries takes place, one thing is certain: the leading western powers do not enter into negotiations in which interests are haggled over; they demand that their manhunt and punishment standpoint is adopted.
The U.S.A. makes the main growing countries of the coca plant – Colombia, Peru and Bolivia – the generous “offer” of “supporting” them in the war against drug crime. This “offer to help” is nothing more than an imperialistic commandment. The statesmen on the ground have no great interest of their own in preventing and criminalizing the cultivation of coca plants and the drug trafficking.
First of all, they don’t have a drug problem in their society like the U.S.A. or the European states. On the contrary, in these regions of the free world, the chewing of coca leaves is regarded as a means by which the masses stay fit for their shitty living conditions. And the drug use in these countries is in fact something different than in the western industrialized nations. In this country, one must already make a psychological riddle of his life situation to resort to drugs as a “solution.” For Latin American campesinos, coca leaves are a means of sustenance in a brutal sense. Without the drug’s numbing effect on the sensations of hunger and cold, the normal customary living conditions for the majority of the local population would be unbearable; living conditions which are no longer decided by the whims of nature, but by the international raw materials exchanges, world economic summits and IMF meetings. The adjustment of the local economies to the needs of global business has ensured that the supposedly “traditional proclivity of the local Indians for coca consumption” does not go out of fashion. Of course, if one stubbornly sees the whole thing the other way around, one can be as nonchalant as a critical intellectual who thinks that the daily coca-ration for enduring hard work in South American mines is ultimately only a kind of indigenous folklore:
“In Bolivia and Peru, coca growing has been a tradition since pre-colonial times. Chewing coca leaves belonged to the religious rites and serves still today as a stimulant for the difficult work of farmers and miners in the Andean highlands.” (Süddeutsche Zeitung, 9/15/89)
Secondly, the local state powers have no reason of their own to criminalize the so-called “drug lords.” Why should they pull the plug on a major faction of their better-off society, a blossoming branch of their national economy and the only thriving source of foreign exchange for their states?
“Bolivia’s Gross National Product of around six billion marks is estimated, with coca smuggling abroad, to be about eight billion marks. What really flows into the country, namely about two billion marks, is equivalent to half the proceeds from the traditional exports of natural gas, tin, and gold. The stabilization of a country previously plagued by a 24 percent hyperinflation is attributed by experts in substantial part to the officially tolerated laundering of drug dollars.” (Süddeutsche Zeitung, 9/15/89)
“It is estimated that today almost a quarter of working Bolivians live directly or indirectly from the drug business ... about 100 million U.S. dollars will go to the employees of the coca industry (chemists, specialists in the money transfers, coca growers, mashers and carriers, security forces and other qualified professionals), the rest remains in the hands of ten or fifteen families who control the drug business.” (Süddeutsche Zeitung, 10/10/89)
“... In Peru, coca smuggling accounts for about 6.5 billion dollars in a national product of around 30 billion. The drugs-foreign exchange appropriated in the country is estimated at 1.4 billion dollars, or about 25 percent of export earnings.” (Süddeutsche Zeitung, 9/15/89)
“The extent to which jobs are created in Colombia by the Mafia was demonstrated during the recent crackdown on more than 200 haciendas by the security forces: Construction and installation companies must have been employed for many years and many made money from it. An army of staff and farm workers on the estates was employed. Agricultural experts had previously recognized, without envy, that agriculture, especially livestock, in many regions took an encouraging upswing under the new landlords. Herds of 200,000 cattle are owned by the drug barons.” (Süddeutsche Zeitung, 9/15/89)
“The number of people in Peru who earn their livelihood in drug multinationals is estimated at more than 500,000 – farmers, pickers, processors, traders, and many others.” (Frankfurter Rundschau, 9/9/89)
There you have it: the most honorable economic-political viewpoint might speak in favor of the drug business here: even a lot of jobs will be created by the coca trade! To those who consider serving business to be the best of all ways to make a livelihood and therefore justify any business calculation in this country with the “jobs argument,” it all must be fully acceptable. “Jobs” can be used to justify every known thing in a free market economy, e.g. arms companies whose products also do not happen to be the healthiest.
If “coca cultivation is the most profitable crop for these regions, and cocaine is the only Latin American commodity whose price has risen in recent years” (Peruvian President Garcia), then the cultivation and export of the stuff following all the rules of the free world market is only normal for these states. With the world market price that is indeed such a thing: the more a nation sets on the export of a raw material, the worse its position in prices. Colombia has just recently experienced this sort of market mechanism. In the summer, the U.S. government in the name of free market forces struck down the International Coffee Agreement with its guaranteed prices for green coffee. “The market” of course responded immediately:
“The economic damage to Colombia caused by a fifty percent drop in prices on the international coffee market is estimated at around $400 million.” (FAZ, 9/14/89)
If the law of the free market should be so great, then why really shouldn’t Colombian economic policy-makers take the standpoint that nothing is to be done against the market forces in Harlem and in Frankfurt’s central train station? Why should, of all things, the Latin Americans show consideration for the public health of other nations whose consumers buy cocaine from their business people and even at hefty prices: South American politicians are in good company if they can’t see any problem just because the subjects of their colleagues in the U.S.A. and Western Europe have gotten addicted in such great numbers. President Bush also does not care very much when his Columbian colleagues’ coffee farmers starve. And why should states where American corporations call the shots in whole regions and are allowed to act like a state power suffer when drug lords with their supervisors and private armies ensure them with an agreeable order?
But this is just the crucial difference between the state bosses of the coca countries and a U.S. President or EC foreign minister. The latter can put the state powers in Colombia, Bolivia or Peru under such pressure that they bend to the concerns of the world economic powers and also prohibit the drug business at home. Currently, the U.S. President forces on his Colombian “backyard” a medium-sized civil war that no one there has ordered. The local judges in any case apparently didn’t have any big problems with the legal opinions that were previously in place there, according to which drug lords were not to be convicted for lack of evidence, resided in lordly prisons in Colombia or immediately bought their freedom again. Now they should be weeded out on the basis of a U.S. government compiled “blacklist” of “dangerous criminals” and extradited for trial to the U.S. For this, Washington donates a few bulletproof vests. The Colombian government gets – whether it wants it or not – U.S. military advisers to assist in the “war on drugs” and an additional $65 million in “crisis aid” to deal with a crisis they would not even have without the active intervention of the U.S. (By the way: that $65 million is about one-sixth of the 400 million less that Columbia gets in foreign exchange through the termination of the Coffee Agreement – even the FAZ could calculate that.) The U.S. demands that the governments of the “growing countries” support a fight which is directed against the national interests of these countries. This has only led to the ruling parties and the leaders of the business world, who are mostly personally identical anyway, to split into the two opposing factions of the “Colombian drug war” whose corpses include the general public.
However, one thing was certain from the outset: no Latin American government can or wants to afford to reject of the U.S. “offer of help,” so they hope vice versa that their support services for the U.S. drug war will be rewarded by a few extra million dollars for their treasuries. Other than feeble appeals to the UN and the industrial nations that “the drug problem is not least one of supply and demand,” the result of a special conference of the heads of the major Latin American “drug producing countries” in early October consequently insisted on a declaration of readiness to coordinate continuing cooperation with President Bush on a drug war summit. Under these conditions, of course, any official deal with the drug mafia is forbidden. Their comprehensive ceasefire proposal which includes the generous offer to pay half of Colombia’s foreign debt, in the amount of $2 billion, as well as the declaration of willingness to discontinue the drug trade if the government refrains from deliveries to the U.S. – is rejected.
The terror bombing in Colombian cities continues.
The drug cartels are well equipped for this fight – this is also a result of the free world market in which everything is for sale. Not only are the responsible politicians for sale, but above all the weapons needed to equip private armies, including state military instructors – reservists from Israel, England and the U.S.A. have been spotted. The formation of “self-defense groups” is expressly permitted in law to Colombia’s landowners – to combat leftist guerrillas. And that’s probably even more the case for purposes of free world trade.
If imperialists have a “problem” at home, then they first demand more power for themselves; and when they discover that foreign states are involved in their problem, they then think the very first thing they need is more power over these foreign states. In this sense, Colombia gets a civil war and additional military advisers are donated throughout Latin America. That’s how refreshingly simple and clear the powers of the world economy see international relations.
The war against drugs – an imperialist offensive
President Bush’s decision to intensify the “war against the drug epidemic” domestically coincides with an examination of the reach of U.S. power abroad. If the President of the U.S.A. decides to see drug crime as indicating a challenge to U.S. state power and a threat to the existence of the nation, then a review of external state forces is due. It is clear by now that all other states have to help the U.S. cope with drug crime. The world power then sorts the rest of the world of states according to the only standard it knows in questions of power, namely whether and to what extent support from foreign sovereigns leaves something to be desired – whether they can not, do not want to or (in the worst case) because they want to harm the U.S.: allies, potential dangerous neutrals and enemies – that’s how the world is always divided for a U.S. President.
In this world policeman view, all barriers and problems that U.S. power wants to come across can be sorted under the heading “war against the drug mafia.” The principal distinction between friend and foe is finally fixed: basically friendly countries such as Colombia, Bolivia and Peru are urged by Washington to cooperate better. Things look different with figures like Panama’s Noriega, who the U.S. for quite some time has not considered optimal for occupying their Panama Canal administration. There is the accusation: a drug dealer with malicious intent. States which the free West continuously has in its visor as enemies – such as Nicaragua and Cuba – are “exposed” as masterminds of the international drug trade, something that should fit the the strategy of eroding and subverting the U.S., which they are intent on anyway. And if the U.S. President should once again consider a “punitive action” against Libya appropriate, one can be quite sure that Gaddafi has been caught drug racketeering. The Cuban leadership has clearly quickly understood the seriousness of the situation, as last summer Washington made the allegation that they had a drug dealer among their ranks. They immediately imposed and enforced a death sentence, even against a “national hero,” in order to take away from the U.S. any occasion for declarations of enmity under the slogan “drug war.”
“War against the drug mafia” is not an pretext, but a variety of imperialistic order demands by the U.S.: in that respect, it is appropriate and not a sign of inconsistency when the decisive authorities with their handling of their drug wars keep very closely to the sorting standard they know: where and by whom they see their power restricted. This demand for order is then separate from the concern to always and everywhere fight the drug trade. When the U.S. government last year imposed economic sanctions against Burma, it was apparently not particularly shocked that they “had also helped in the fight against drugs in the golden triangle” (Frankfurter Rundschau, 9/12/89). And that the Nicaraguan contras supplemented their weapons budget by smuggling cocaine is as well known as the opium shops of “our Afghan freedom fighters.” From the higher-level considerations of a world order that benefits American power, some drug dealers should just be given free room. That is not a contradiction to the “global war on drugs,” nor is this honorable title a mere pretext for imperialist attacks. What else should the leader of the U.S. world power come up with when he discovers “problems” except the program that he always pursues?
Exactly the same thing occurs to his western European partners – as always. Since Bush has declared a “drug war,” they act as avid supporters and discover – as always – their very own demands for order, which they first level against their respective European partners and secondly together as a “future European single market” against the rest of the world of states.
The program of the “war on drugs” certainly does not rescue any drug victims in Harlem, West Berlin or anywhere else – no surprise there. The good reasons that have caused the emergence of this business sector have now climbed to the rank of “difficulties” that all statesmen of good will oppose in the fight against the drug mafia. The money earned with the poison, the good organization, in short: the power and the rights acquired by them should indeed thwart, according to every reputable bourgeois observer, a victory in the drug war. Powerlessness is of course guaranteed to not be in play; rather the continuation of the already perfectly ordinary complicity between commerce and force.