DATELINE: HOLLYWOOD: December 13, 2001



How Those Drug War Dependent Idiots Twist Anything

For some reason I've had CNBC on in the other room all day. Around 5 I wandered in there and CNBC, which is the Cable NBC station which is about the stock market 24/7 with the exception of Paid Programing and a few hours of shows which are actually shot for MSNBC, which is a network devoted entirely to Afghanistan.

Anyway, CNBC was taking a rather bold step for a third rate news out let by showing a "special" featuring "experts" on the manner in which the international drug market finances terrorism, a show apparently dreamed up when the President, in an effort to get his own daughters off the crack pipe, announced that anyone who used "drugs" in the US was supporting the infamous if vaguely identified "Evil Ones", thus {shudder} setting up the at least hypothetically an "If you ain't with us you agin us" attitude toward our friends in South America whose nations are mainly recognized so Rand McNally can put something with borders south of Panama, and taking the first fatal step toward sending the Marines back to the Halls of Montezuma to find Usama Bin Laden when he has run out of hiding places and shows up at the adobe brick home of Felix Ortiz, renown if fictitious TJ coke middleman.

But that's neither here nor there. What really got my goat -- and I don't mean mi chiva was the panel of "experts" -- two guys on the CNBC payroll -- one of whom rants about stocks all day as if he's a DA arguing for the imposition of the Death Sentence, and the other a preppy closet case who, at least for the first five minutes of the show I hoped that as a man educated in the ways of business and how a good market economy is worth a handful of spades at a table of political divisiveness, might ask something like:

"If this stuff is used to fund terrorist organizations, couldn't it also be used to fund a legitimate nation state -- be the old economic backbone so to speak -- thus depriving these Evil Ones of their funding and well, guys, ya can't buy an A- bomb on credit from LL Bean. Comments?"

But he didn't.

In fact the "experts" on the War on Drugs were the usual suspects -- General Barry McC, who has a contract with NBC to comment on whatever in exchange for something in the mid-six figure range to supplement his government pensions (yes plural), some guy whose job it is to go around telling everyone what an asset the DEA could be in the Afghanistan (which we have like overthrown guys... a little late to point fingers at the Taliban for selling dope to the kids down to the elementary school). There was a third guy but he was about as thrilling as a watercress sandwich.

The point of the hour long program was to repeat, in a very unsubliminal fashion, that "the Evil Ones" are funded by DRUG MONEY, ergo if we squash the drug lords, we shall cut the financial legs out from under Bin Laden.

I am so fucking sick of them getting it wrong. I am sick of some dope in the DEA thinking "Hey, we'll play up the patriotic side of not doing dope -- that's a good one -- and kids are dumb enough to buy it ... "Hey, where's my copy of Reefer Madness?" So folks, this is how it works:

For a variety of reasons, people like money. This includes peasant farmers. For millennia (in various parts of Asia) and for a decade in South America, farmers discovered, poppies make more money than anything else (except coca).

Perhaps the following analogy will help these lead brains get it.

Pretend that poppies and coca have not been grown for thousands of years.

Next imagine you live somewhere that is so strife ridden and politically charged, that a charismatic and/or rich guy can have followers who are so committed because of money or religion or politics that they will kill.

Now say you're the guy with the followers and you need new uniforms and boots and guns and ammo.

Since there isn't a local Marriott Hotel which you can rent out and people don't have radios to here your ad about this great money making scheme, you go from village to village giving your pitch about how the farmers -- who are just like the agrarian folk all over the world and for the most part just want to be left alone to home and hearth and their personal religious beliefs. Of course they also want money because that makes it (somehow) easier to be left alone with home and hearth.

So your pitch is some variant of this:

I know a man named Mr. Lee who will give you these seeds and teach you how to cultivate and harvest this crop and then pay you ten times what you'd normally make from any other crop,

And from the back (the whole scene having been transplanted to a Midwestern feed store circa 1925), you hear the splat of tobacco juice as it hits the rusty bucket set up as a spittoon and old Ned Baily says, "Yeah, and we just fell off the turnip truck. [much laughter] Ain't no such thang as a free lunch. What's the deal? [Now you're back around the village camp fire, explaining that harvesting or growing the crop (depending on local law) was, well, illegal. Which is where you and your army come in. "If you promise to pay me 15% of the money Mr. Lee gives you, I promise you will have no problems with [insert names of all factions who would either stop the growing, bust the farmer or otherwise cause problems ] . You offer a guarantee. You offer a guarantee and keep your word because so long as you do you and your followers can continue fighting your definition of the good fight.

And Mr. Lee keeps his word, too. Not because he necessarily agrees with whatever it is for which you and your boys fight, kill and die. He keeps his word because there's a lot of money to be made collecting raw opium on his twice yearly trips into the valleys, shipping it over dirt roads on mule back to Farouk, who makes the final blend and rolls the sticks which his customers have sold in bazaars from Tabriz to Lahor; much money to be made from Ivan, who loads an old Soviet cargo plane with the gum and takes off over the mountains, heading North.

And, friends at CNBC, Mr. Lee knows he would stop making so much money if it was a legal commodity and a regulated industry. No way would farmers be willing to pay you a tax to grow something if the government -- the so-called legitimate government to which he pays taxes will protect his right to grow it and sell it.

And that, gentlemen, is how one ends the financial connection between terrorism and hard drugs -- and if the connection is so vital anywhere but Afghanistan (where it seems highly unlikely Al Quaeda or the remnants of the Taliban are sneaking around with tons of heroin to sell in order to finance some sort of terrorism), legalization and regulation would not only seem to be one of our most potent weapons, it might also allow these unstable countries which breed terrorism to move from the Third to the First World.