"Just Say No" to a Militarized Drug War

by Sanho Tree, Director, Drug Policy Project
Institute for Policy Studies (IPS)
Tel: (202) 234-9382 ext. 266


Colombia is mired in a civil war that has raged for more than three decades. The United States is preparing to send $1.5 billion in military aid to fight the so-called narcoguerillas despite the fact that the Colombian military and their allied paramilitary death squads are also involved in the drug trade. Drugs today are cheaper and more available than ever before. Will escalating a failed policy produce a different result? "Drug czar" Gen. Barry McCaffrey thinks so. He is pushing a militarized drug control policy in spite of studies which show that interdiction and eradication are the least effective strategies for reducing illicit drug use. The roots of the Andean problems are social, political, and economic - not military. As long as U.S. users need or use drugs, greedy drug lords will find new territory to produce their product. And, as long as there is crushing poverty in the Andes, there will be a supply of poor peasants willing to grow the coca and poppy. Guns and helicopters in Colombia cannot solve the problems of hunger in the Andes and addiction in the U.S. The Andean region needs a mini-Marshall Plan, but General McCaffrey is sending them Desert Storm.






 GAO, Drug Control: Narcotics Threat from Colombia Continues to Grow, Washington, DC: USGPO, 1999.

 Walter Cronkite, The Cronkite Report - The Drug Dilemma: War or Peace? (1995).

 Associated Press, "U.N. Estimates Drug Business Equal to 8 Percent of World Trade," (June 26, 1997).

 Rydell, C.P. & Everingham, S.S., Controlling Cocaine, Prepared for the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the United States Army, Santa Monica, CA: Drug Policy Research Center, RAND (1994), p. 6.

 Rydell & Everingham, (1994), Controlling Cocaine: Supply vs. Demand Programs, Santa Monica, CA: The RAND Corporation.

ONDCP, 1999National Anti-Drug Strategy, Table 27, p. 130.

Sec. 2011(5), Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, P.L. 100-690.

ONDCP, 1999 National Drug Strategy, 1998.

September 27, 1999 New York Times.

Global Pesticide Campaigner, August 1999, Volume 9 No. 2, Casualties of the "War on Drugs": Traditional farms destroyed with herbicides, by Elsa Nivia and Rachel Massey.

Trade and Environment Database (TED), TED Case Studies: Colombia Coca Trade, Washington D.C.: American Univ. (1997), pp. 4-8.

Washington Office on Latin America, Sept. 1999 (http://www.wola.org/wola11.html).




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