The United States has maintained that Jamaica must be kept on a watch list of major transit and illicit producer countries of narcotics because it has more than 5,000 hectares of land in ganja production. Jamaican authorities are angry because the report fails to reflect improved anti-narcotics activities and hurts Jamaica's reputation by placing it in the bad company of 20 countries around the world. The greater problem with the report is that it fails to recognise that the U.S.'s role in the drug war is a cause of failure, and the nature of the world system causes all countries to be losing this war.
American citizens spend US$100 billion on illegal drugs each year, according to two authors. But U.S. anti-drug efforts have focused largely on blaming drug traffickers and in cutting off supply. The authors, Collett and Merill, say real success can only be achieved by reducing demand. Worse, a report from the Washington Post (2007) said that with the collapse of communism and globalisation, the international drug trade is thriving like never before. But a British report to the government in 2005 said that law enforcement officials seize less than 20 per cent of the cocaine and heroin produced each year; and criminal gangs make US$400 to US$500 billion each year off drugs, says the U.N., more than most countries of the world make.
Americans want drug producers to plan crops. But with the demand and price being what they are, honest farmers are doing the opposite. They are planting or renting their land to others to plant coca instead of bananas and corn as the prices of these fall and they lose markets due to liberalisation. The U.S. and the Europeans are shooting themselves in the foot, challenging preferential trade in sugar and bananas, leading to preferred trade in coca and cannabis as the typical response
The U.S. response is typical to that of Plan Colombia. It approved US$4.7 billion to fight Colombian paramilitary drug traffickers. But 98 per cent of the money was spent to strengthen the Colombian Armed Forces rather than on building the Colombian economy and the peasantry. In fact, 70 per cent of the money helps the U.S. economy, specifically the military-industrial complex. It is used to buy U.S.-built helicopters and weapons for the Colombian military and to pay security firms to spray herbicides on thousands of acres of coca and cannabis.
The Colombian traffickers have responded by increasing the territory under coca production. They now control territory the size of Switzerland and the production of coca keeps increasing. Yet, the U.S. has designed a plan similar to Plan Colombia for Mexico as the threat moves closer and closer to the U.S. homeland. It doesn't only exist on the Southern border (Mexico) either, but on the Northern one as well, specifically the Canadian border. The U.S. might have to create a Plan Columbia for British Columbia.
The Washington Post said that British Columbia (B.C.) is now home to the greatest number of organised crime syndicates in the world. B.C.'s production of marijuana accounts for six per cent of the GDP of the province and employs more persons than mining and logging combined. Canada is now growing high potency marijuana under modern hydroponic conditions.
WAR ON DRUGS FAILING
The American report ducks the responsibility of the Americans and Europeans themselves. It hides the fact that the war on drugs is failing 36 years since Richard Nixon launched it. It is failing for a number of reasons. It has not addressed demand and the power of the U.S. dollar. It has been fought as a military war with the U.S. military-industrial complex and gun manufacturers reaping huge profits. But it is also failing because of the world system in which the U.S. and the rest of the world are embedded as one.
The two biggest global industries, for example, are the arms and drug industries. The United States is a major player in both. Marijuana production in the U.S. is itself worth US$25 billion annually, one of its top three agricultural crops along with soya beans and corn. In short, the U.S. economy is embedded in a world system from which its economy is benefiting from legal and illegal trade.
The presidential report has failed to analyse the problem for what it really is. It is a problem of the world economy. The United States economy is a large part of this world economy. It is a consumer market. Americans spend US$100 billion on illegal drugs each year, as we have seen. The U.S. is also a world financial centre. In 1998, Bill Clinton said that US$100 billion in drug money was laundered through the U.S. financial system each year.
The U.S. has the most multinationals around the world. Drug money is used in sophisticated ways to buy a range of consumer goods on the black market to the profit of these MNCs while U.S. law enforcement has not been able to stop it and CEOs say they can do little about it. The U.S. is the world's leading trader nation, and according to the U.N., the drug trade makes up eight per cent of world trade. The U.S. is the world's leading military power and its military-industrial complex benefits from budgets to fight the drug trade. The United States is the leading foreign policy power in the world and its drug war determines which countries are friendly to the U.S. and should not be sanctioned in this war.
GLOBALIsING THE TRADE
The U.S. is the leading world power and has more influence over the way the world economic system is organised than any other country has. Therefore, the performance of the world economy is a matter over which the U.S. has a direct and indirect influence over the distribution of world income, which is becoming more unequal, and world resources, which continue to flow in favour of the rich countries.
Raymond Kendall, Secretary General of Interpol, sums up that, "Globalisation and its many manifestations mean that borders of all sorts are becoming increasingly difficult for governments to define, let alone maintain. International drug trafficking has been aided by the explosion in computer and telecommunications technology and by worldwide transportation systems. These same facilities, as well as advances in the banking and services sectors, also benefit money launderers. There is no doubt that the illegal trade in narcotics is increasingly interwoven with the regular economy on a national as well as international level."
The U.S. report on transit and producing countries takes the wrong perspective. It does a country-by-country study of the problem rather than taking the world system as a whole to find out what it is about the way the entire system works that makes drug and gun trafficking and money laundering the problem that it is for all countries. This is because U.S. policy is only interested in stopping the flow of drugs into the United States. What the U.S. must do is raise questions about the global order itself and what is wrong with it. The catch is that it does not want to question the very globalisation that it is promoting, and that is why we are all losing the war on drugs.
Robert Buddan lectures in the Department of Government, University ofthe West Indies, Mona. Email: Robert.Buddan@uwimona.edu.jm.