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Perspective: Drugs, Violence and Enforcement
Author: John Christopher Fine
Copyright: 9-1-1 Magazine, Feature Content
The murder of 52 women in Mexico is enough even for my hard bit experience in law enforcement to take.
Every dispatcher knows the tragedy of drug addicts' conduct on themselves, their families, and society.
Years ago I was assigned an investigation in Afghanistan. As part of the U.S. State Department Inspector General’s office we had jurisdiction over military and economic assistance programs being conducted by the U.S. The joke going around the embassy involved the Drug Enforcement Agency liaison. His job was to make contact with local officials and work with them to stem the flow of heroin. The man’s only accomplishment was to arrest the first attaché’s son for possession of marijuana.
There is no way to stop opium trafficking so long as there is demand for heroin. The United States is the world’s largest consumer. With all of the billions of dollars wasted on programs to prevent drug addition, nothing has worked. Not offering drugs for free, not giving away hypodermic needles, not billions spent on methadone maintenance, not education, not millions wasted on night basketball. Nothing has worked.
Yesterday the President of Mexico, visibly upset when 52 women were burned to death by drug traffickers in a bingo parlor, suggested again that the U.S. do something to curb demand for drugs. Imagine 52 women murdered when a drug cartel hit squad burned them to death in a casino where they were playing bingo. U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan reached 66 last month in a war that politicians promised would eliminate terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.
Nothing has been done to eliminate drug addition, the world’s most dangerous weapon of mass destruction. When I was a new Assistant District Attorney in New York County, a New York City police detective lectured us about his work over the previous 34 years dealing with drugs. “I’ve never seen a cured addict,” he said. “Sometimes they can quit for a while.” His various displays were appalling. He went into the history of every form of treatment and program with accouterments including the hypodermic syringe packs heroin addicts were issued in a program that gave them free drugs. The hope was that if the drugs were given away free then the addicts would not commit crimes to get money to buy them from drug dealers.
Drug dealing, and official corruption that makes it possible all over the world, is a multi-billion dollar enterprise. Every so often authorities seize a tractor-trailer full of cash. So much cash in small denomination bills, tens and twenties, that traffickers do not know what to do with it. It becomes a problem for storage. They are very clever as well with money laundering schemes that have seen drug money establish whole cities in the U.S. Their enterprises fronted by the likes of Harvard lawyers, include major banking institutions, shopping centers, and major real estate developments.
The plight of the U.S. military during the Viet Nam War was the ready availability of drugs. Every air base Americans operated created a charnel house of all manner of evil. Where 100,000 U.S. servicemen lived, thousands more supplied prostitutes, heroin and every vice known or desired. Couple that with atrocities witnessed almost every day by these young servicemen and the devastation of their post-war lives can be understood.
U.S. politicians put young people in harm’s way from corrupt motives then abandoned them to their nightmares forever after. The same can and will be said of the current wars fought to destroy non-existent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and Afghanistan. The world is aflame. Hatred has been set in motion that will never be quenched. Generations of believers in Islam are destined to seek revenge and will. Time is of no consequence for them and no army, no military presence, no matter how strong, will prevail against it.
While fundamentalist Muslims controlled Afghanistan, Asian poppies continued to flourish. There are two main routes for heroin, derived from refining opium. One from Afghanistan through places like Holland to the U.S. the other route is from Asia through Hawaii to mainland U.S. Cocaine is smuggled from Colombia through Mexico across porous borders.
There is no way to curtail the violence that has fielded armies mightier than national forces. When the American intelligence community sought allies in their secret war in Afghanistan they paid off drug traffickers. They were the only bands of militia that were well armed and ready for any conflict. These drug cartel armies were only too happy to ally themselves with the world’s largest consumer of their products against a government that opposed their drug trafficking.
In Viet Nam there were many instances of American Intelligence turning a blind eye to allies smuggling heroin. In some cases U.S. supplied helicopters were used by corrupt military and police officials to transport drugs. Of course American operatives knew about it. It was the price the U.S. paid as rent for massive air bases on their territory.
The war against drug addition is not as simple as the solution one very distraught New York City Police Detective pronounced one late night in the Criminal Courts Complaint Room. When I drew night duty it was the legal equivalent of an emergency room. Everything came in as police brought their arrests through for arraignment.
The black veteran detective was a regular. He was on the drug squad. He made arrests every night. There was nothing of human depredation he had not seen during his years on the police force. I saw him this night sitting morosely waiting his turn, head in his hands. I addressed him by his first name and asked what was wrong. My approach triggered what was pent up inside him.
“Incinerate them. There is no other way to save our people. Take all the drug addicts and incinerate them. We have already lost four generations of youth in the black community that I know. We’ve got to start fresh.” That was shocking enough. What came next was even more revealing about U.S. society.
“I’ve locked up eleven year olds. That’s normal. Gangs put them out there to sell heroin. Tonight I arrested an eight year old. Eight years old. There’s no hope for our people…”
There is no hope for our people. There is no hope for the world if drug addition cannot be curtailed. Night basketball won’t do it. Fancy prisons haven’t done it. More prisons won’t do it. Education hasn’t done it. When drug cartels rule whole nations, when U.S. military and intelligence operatives use drug traffickers to work their influence, when American servicemen are tempted by cheap drugs on the front lines, when whole communities live in fear of drug traffickers then everything tried has failed.
The first of the barriers to effective elimination of drug abuse and trafficking is to eliminate our elected politicians’ arrogance. There can be no denial. Those 52 innocent women burned to death in Mexico were killed by us. Us. Without demand and laws making it illegal, heroin is just a worthless white powder. Dime bags, $10 for a glassine envelope containing diluted heroin, trafficked on the streets of New York, add up to billions every month. Maybe the trillions wasted on vacuous wars would be better spent altering U.S. society.
John Christopher Fine is a former New York Senior Assistant District Attorney, Assistant Attorney General in Charge Organized Crime Task Force, U.S. State Department Official and Special Counsel to the U.S. Senate. Considered a foremost authority on organized crime and political corruption, Fine, a lawyer in private practice, continues to act as a government consultant and author of magazine articles on law enforcement and crime issues.