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Perpetual Drug War Deja Vu


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The Justice Department is ecstatic that it finally secured the extradition from Mexico of notorious drug lord Joaquin Guzman Loera, also known as El Chapo. Arraigned in New York City, El Chapo is being charged with running a multibillion dollar drug enterprise, which allegedly included the murder of countless people.

Not surprisingly, the mainstream press gave the arrest and arraignment major publicity. The story received a half-page article in the New York Times.

Also not surprisingly, law enforcement officials also made a huge deal out of the extradition and arrest. According to the Times, the U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn called it a “milestone in the pursuit of a trafficker who achieved mythic status in his homeland as a Robin Hood-like outlaw and a serial prison escapee.”

So, does this mean that the decades-long drug war has finally come to an end?

Well, not exactly. Actually, it means the the drug war will continue into perpetuity until the American people finally demand that this failed, destructive, deadly, expensive, and futile government program come to an end.

El Chapo’s arrest is nothing more than perpetual deja vu because this type of thing has been going on continuously since the 1960s. The cycle never stops. they arrest a big drug kingpin, they give it massive publicity, they convict the person and send him to jail for the rest of his life, and … the drug war continues and continues.

It’s just simple laws of supply and demand. As soon as they bust one guy, he is quickly replaced either by someone else within the organization or by competitors. So, they bust another one. Same thing happens. it never stops.

But there is one important thing to note: The process ensures that U.S. Attorneys have something to do. The same thing for the U.S. Marshals. The court clerks. The federal judges. The DEA. The wardens and jail guards. The never-ending cycle ensures that they continue to get their paychecks, compliments of the U.S. taxpayer.

That’s all the drug war has become — a tax-funded job producing racket for an army of federal bureaucrats, all of whom are participating in this endless racket.

I’ve seen this racket first hand since my teenage years. I grew up in Laredo, Texas, which is located on the Texas-Mexican border. Laredo has always been a major drug transport city for drugs going from Mexico to the United States. When I was in high school, my father, who was an attorney, served as U.S. magistrate. When a person was arrested, they were brought before him. Among the people brought before him was the noted LSD guru Timothy Leary. My father got paid by the number of hearings he conducted. He made a lot of money with drug war hearings, which helped him to put my siblings and me through college.

After I graduated from law school, I returned to Laredo to practice law. The courts were clogged with drug-war cases. Criminal defense attorneys were making a killing.

And yes, the same things were occurring on a constant, never ending basis: Big busts of drug lords, big publicity, big statements by federal prosecutors, convictions, incarcerations, and, of course, a constant stream of taxpayer-funded paychecks to all the federal judges, prosecutors, clerks, and law-enforcement personnel involved in enforcing he drug war.

It’s been like that ever since. Nothing has changed. The drug war just keeps continuing with the same results, over and over again.

There is one and only one way to put drug dealers out of business: through drug legalization. That will also, needless to say, mean that lots of federal judges, prosecutors, clerks, law-enforcement personnel, and jailers will have little or nothing to do. That’s why the drug war continues.

Reprinted with permission from the Future of Freedom Foundation.
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