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Commentary

Voyage of the Damned War on Drugs


     
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Nancy Pelosi called for Americans to deal with Central American children seeking refuge from the violence of their countries as a humanitarian crisis, citing the Conference of Catholics Bishops’ characterization of the infant Jesus’s flight to Egypt during King Herod’s horrific “slaughter of the innocents” (his order that all male children be killed).

Of course, Jesus and his parents were only three “refugees”, vs. estimates of upwards of 90,000 refugees expected from the current crisis, and the Holy Family did not become wards of the Egyptian government (one hypothesis being that the gifts of the magi covered the costs of the journey as well as their extended sojourn in Egypt). And Jesus and his parents were able to return home to live in relative peace once the crisis had passed.

A more apt example may therefore be the Voyage of the Damned, the quest of a shipload of nearly 1,000 Jews from Hitler’s Germany seeking—and denied—refuge in Cuba, the United States, and Canada, forced to return to Europe where an estimated quarter (or more) of them subsequently died in Nazi concentration camps.

Those advocating for denying entry to the Central American children cite the tremendous costs involved—ranging from the $3.7 billion emergency funding sought by the White House to cover refugee care and processing for deportation, up into many billions of dollars for providing for the children’s long-term welfare and education should they be allowed to stay.

And indeed, in our ongoing economic malaise, with deficits continuing to mount, the number of permanently unemployed stagnant, and prospects brightening little for America’s own youth, how can the diversion of such enormous resources be justified?

First, Americans need to understand and accept responsibility for this is as a crisis created by our very own War on Drugs. As Prohibition before it, this 40-year “war” has done nothing to reduce demand for or consumption of drugs, fueling only vast fortunes to be made from supplying the demand, and escalating, concurrent violence and corruption of law-enforcement and civil institutions.

In her recent Americas column, Mary Anastasia O’Grady draws from four-star Marine Corps General John Kelly’s July 8th essay in the Military Times, “Central America Drug War a Dire Threat to U.S. National Security.” In short, remaining in Central America is life-threatening for these children because it has become the default route for U.S.-bound drugs, and ground zero for powerful drug lords.

Gen. Kelly explains:

“Drug cartels and associated street gang activity in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, which respectively have the world’s number one, four and five highest homicide rates, have left near-broken societies in their wake.”

Further:

“With a homicide rate of 90 per 100,000 in Honduras, and 40 per 100,000 in Guatemala, life in the region is decidedly rougher than “declared combat zones” like Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the general says the rate is 28 per 100,000.”

A return to violence exceeding that in combat zones is the fate awaiting children turned away from our borders—a Voyage of the Damned, indeed.

With the U.S. War on Drugs having not only failed its stated goal of eradicating use of targeted drugs domestically, but also fueling immiseration, violence, and corruption internationally, the savings from its ceasefire could more than cover the costs of addressing the “collateral damage” of these thousands of refugee children.

In addition to the direct costs of the federal drug war budget ($25.2 billion in FY2014), billions or trillions more would additionally be saved from:

  1. The costs of militarizing American police forces, and diverting them from traditional law enforcement to carrying out drug raids
  2. The costs of property and lives ruined and lost in botched drug raids
  3. The costs of drug gang violence in America’s cities
  4. The costs of incarcerating non-violent drug offenders

Ending the War on Drugs would thus not only staunch the windfall feeding a violent and corrupting domestic and international black market, but also bring to an end the motivation for thousands of children to seek the desperate alternative of running for the U.S. border.

Caring for these innocent victims of the U.S. War on Drugs is the only course that accords with professed American values of personal accountability, fiscal responsibility, and compassion. Drug abuse can more effectively be addressed as have the use of tobacco and irresponsible use of alcohol: through education, treatment, and compassion.

Turning away the innocent Central American victims of North American drug abusers only damns both.


Mary L. G. Theroux is Senior Vice President at The Independent Institute and Managing Director of Lightning Ventures. She is Chairman of the Advisory Board for the Alameda County Salvation Army; former Chairman of the San Francisco Salvation Army Advisory Board, and a Member of the National Advisory Board of The Salvation Army.






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