On the morning of Nov. 6 the US Federal Bureau of Investigation trumpeted its takedown of the Silk Road 2.0 website and the arrest of alleged operator Blake Benthall.
In so doing the FBI demonstrated, once again, that the War on Drugs has nothing to do with anything its propagandists claim it’s about. If drug criminalization is a public safety issue — about fighting violent crime and gangs, or preventing overdoses and poisoning — shutting down Silk Road is one of the dumbest things the feds can do. Silk Road was a secure, anonymous marketplace in which buyers and sellers could do business without the risk of violence associated with street trade. And the seller reputational system meant that drugs sold on Silk Road were far purer and safer than their street counterparts.
This is true of all the other selling points for the Drug War. Hillary Clinton, in possibly one of the stupidest remarks ever uttered by a human being, says legalizing narcotics is a bad idea “because there’s too much money in it” — referring, presumably, to the lucrative drug trade and the cartels fighting over it.
But there’s so much money in it, and the cartels fight to control it, only because it’s illegal. That’s what happens when you criminalize stuff people want to buy: You create black markets with much higher prices, which organized crime gangs fight to control. Alcohol prohibition created the gangster culture of the 1920s. It’s been with us ever since. When Prohibition was repealed, organized crime just shifted to fighting over other illegal markets. The more consensual, non-violent activities are made illegal, the larger the portion of the economy that’s turned into black markets for gangs to fight over.
In related news, the Mexican drug cartels are reportedly making less money since the legalization or decriminalization of pot in several American states. I wonder why.
Perhaps the biggest joke is that the War on Drugs is fought to reduce drug use. No doubt many people involved in the domestic enforcement side of the Drug War actually believe this, but the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand’s doing. The narcotics trade is an enormous source of money for the criminal gangs that control it, and guess what? The US intelligence community is one of the biggest criminal drug gangs in the world, and the global drug trade is a great way for it to raise money to do morally repugnant stuff it can’t get openly funded by Congress. It’s been 20 years since journalist Gary Webb revealed the Reagan cabinet’s collusion with drug cartels in marketing cocaine inside the United States, to raise money for the right-wing Contra death squads in Nicaragua — a revelation he was gaslighted and driven to suicide for by the U.S. intelligence community and mainstream press.
Now we hear that the U.S. is “losing the drug war in Afghanistan.” Well, obviously — it’s a war that’s designed to be lost. The Taliban were so easy to overthrown in the fall of 2001 because they really did try to stamp out opium poppy cultivation, and with a fair degree of success. This didn’t sit well with the Afghan populace, which traditionally makes a lot of money growing poppies. But the Northern Alliance — which the United States turned into the national government of Afghanistan — was quite friendly to poppy cultivation in its territory. When the Taliban was overthrown, poppy and heroin cultivation resumed normal levels. Putting the U.S. in charge of a “war on drugs in Afghanistan” is like putting Al Capone in charge of alcohol prohibition.
Besides, actually “winning” the drug war would mean ending it. And who in US domestic law enforcement wants to cut off the source of billions in federal aid and military equipment, militarized SWAT teams and unprecedented surveillance and civil forfeiture powers? This is a war meant to go on forever, just like the so-called War on Terror.
The state always encourages moral panic and “wars” on one thing or another in order to keep us afraid, so we’ll give it more power over our lives. Don’t believe its lies.