- The Washington Times - Monday, August 20, 2007

A recent article in The Washington Times by Sara A. Carter show the frightening importance of the alliance between Arabic terrorists and Mexican drug cartels. It documents how well known this dangerous situation has been for several years, for which no effective action had been taken by the Department of Homeland Security or local officials.

As an old drug-policy hand, I thought I had heard everything about it. But parts of the story were news to me and terribly disturbing. One example was the report that “approximately 20 Arab persons a week were utilizing the Travis County Court in Austin to change their names and driver’s licenses from Arabic to Hispanic surnames.” I do not claim that this horrendous problem is easy to deal with; it is not.

However, I do claim that some obvious first steps come to mind. In the short and medium term, there must be greater legal controls on name changes and also more border agents and border fences. To the expected objections by the Mexican government and by our own group of the usual fuzzy-minded critics, my reply would be, cleaned up a bit: “Terribly sorry you feel that way.”

In the longer run, our government must start taking even more courageous actions that account for the dynamics underlying this lethal alliance. That alliance is based on the fact that American drug laws and strategies have managed the majestic alchemy of converting relatively worthless plants into substances often worth more, ounce for ounce, than gold and diamonds. If we assume that the Arabs are jihadists planning to harm this country, then it follows that they have no interest in the drugs but rather in the great treasure to be made and the access to our cities and nuclear plants to be gained by associating with the Mexican gangs.

But is there a way to make the plants cheap again? There is of course an obvious but politically unpopular answer: It is to treat the plants and the derivative powders as legal articles of commerce. If, say, marijuana and cocaine were worth roughly as much as alcohol and tobacco, there would be no Mexican gangs involved with these legal substances and thus no such gangs to form an alliance with the jihadists who want to destroy America and its people, except for those who accept Islam.

To those who say that we will all be destroyed by drugs if we make drugs legal articles of commerce, I have several responses. For starters, I won’t be destroyed by them because the very thought of using them bores me. Moreover, based upon research, I estimate that perhaps 95 percent of the American people feel the same way. We are not a nation of suicidal fools. Millions of American recently drastically reduced their consumption of readily available red meat, alcohol and tobacco for reasons of personal health.

In my latest book, “Fatal Distraction,” I went over all the evidence that proved the war on drugs was indeed a fatal distraction. By that I meant that the drug war has never worked and now diverts limited resources from combating more deadly menaces — bombs, not bongs. Today, in the Drug Enforcement Administration alone, a total of 10,891 federal officials are employed to save us all from drugs — usually marijuana — at an annual cost of $2.5 billion.

It is high time in this perilous era that we say to these dedicated officials in the DEA and in hundreds of other police agencies that we as free citizens accept the personal responsibility to save ourselves and our families from drugs (and red meat, alcohol and tobacco). You focus attention on dealing with the new threats emanating from the jihadists who want to destroy us.

Of course, Congress and the president must soon demonstrate the political courage to repeal the drug laws, dismantle the expensive drug-control bureaucracy and create a new legal system to control the formerly illegal drugs. That’s no small task, but stopping another September 11 demands guts and imagination.

Arnold Trebach is a professor emeritus at American University.

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