Guy W. Farmer: America's insatiable appetite for drugs

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Since I wrote about Burning Man two weeks ago, I'll follow-up today with a column about America's insatiable appetite for illegal drugs, and our inexplicable tolerance for the underground drug culture promoted by the Burners.

As you know, I think Burning Man organizers and the BLM are overly tolerant of casual drug use on the Black Rock playa during the annual naked drug festival. Unfortunately, this overly indulgent mindset helps to fuel drug violence in Mexico and along the U.S. - Mexico border.

Every time he blames us for the horrific drug violence in his country, Mexican President Felipe Calderon comes under a withering barrage of criticism from U.S. media. This is unfair, however, because most of what Calderon says about the American appetite for illegal drugs is true.

"As far as reducing the demand for drugs, they (the Americans) haven't done so," Calderon told the Mexican media recently, "and institutional cooperation has been notoriously insufficient." White House Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowsi concurred when he said that "drug use in America drives crime, violence, addiction and instability throughout our nation and the hemisphere," and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reinforced those opinions when she acknowledged that "our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade."

The fact is that four years after President Calderon launched an all-out war against Mexico's bloodthirsty drug cartels, more than 35,000 people have been killed in the fighting, including 2,000 law enforcement officers and thousands of innocent citizens. And now the violence is claiming American lives as evidenced by the ambush of two U.S. DEA agents in Mexico in February, the December murder of a Border Patrol agent in Arizona, and the beheading of a Phoenix man last October by cartel enforcers. I might also mention the ominous presence of cartel-controlled drug traffickers and gang-bangers in Northern Nevada and throughout the country, many of whom are illegal immigrants.

Most of the border violence is fueled by our ongoing demand for drugs. The U.S. is the top consumer of Mexican heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana, and as much as 90 percent of all cocaine sold in the U.S. enters the country through Mexico, according to the State Department's International Narcotics Bureau.

One obvious and deadly example of the lack of bilateral cooperation and coordination is the Justice Department's fatally flawed "Fast and Furious" gun-running sting, in which guns supplied by the Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) were used by cartel gunmen against American law enforcement officers. Congress is investigating and the guilty should be punished.

Although President Obama has asserted that the U.S. and Mexico are putting "unprecedented pressure" on the drug cartels, he readily acknowledges that "more must be done." Congress could start doing more right away by approving the $1.4 million Obama has requested to support Mexico's "Merida Plan" anti-drug crackdown. Because, as Drug Czar Kerlikowski has said, "We have a responsibility to help our foreign partners in their courageous efforts to combat criminal organizations."

• Guy W. Farmer, of Carson City, was a foot soldier in the War on Drugs in seven countries.


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