With all the swirling controversy about the University of Notre Dame and the interview with and apology from Archbishop Burke, it has been difficult to focus on anything else.
But, going from the ridiculous to, well, not really the sublime, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said something very important, very true and, just so, very courageous during her visit to Mexico. Long-time readers of this column will know that I am no fan of Mrs. Clinton but let’s give credit where credit is due.
Mexico is fighting a monumental battle against drug lords. Americans are generally nervous about the violence coming across the border but very few public officials have been willing to confront America’s role in bringing that violence about in the first place. The President has acknowledged that we need to do a better job keeping guns and ammunition from crossing the border southwards. But, it was Clinton who hit the nail on the head.
"Our (Americans’) insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade," she admitted. "Clearly what we’ve been doing has not worked." This is abundantly true. Even if we could hunt down every drug lord, their places would be taken within minutes by new criminals, eager to make the millions of tax-free profits the drug trade produces. Contraband has always been a profitable business and someone will always be willing to take the risks it entails.
Even if we could close off our southern border, which we can’t, the drugs would find new ways of entering the country. When the U.S. government set up a task force in Miami to stop the flow of drugs coming through the Caribbean, the drug trade moved to Mexico. If we could close the border, it would move to Canada or back to the Caribbean or switch to drugs that can be manufactured right her at home. Fighting smugglers is a violent game of whack-a-mole.
The key is to cut off demand but Americans remain unwilling to really face their national drug habit. You can go to many neighborhoods here in DC and see drugs being sold on the street corner. You can go to any dance club and find a room full of successful doctors and lawyers and government officials, all of them drugged up on crystal meth from Canada or cocaine from Mexico, drugs that will be out of their systems by Monday morning when they might face a random drug test. They will tell you that their "casual drug use" does not hurt anyone else, that it is not like the dugs in the ghetto where there is violence or where the drug is given to young people. They are lying. Their "casual drug use" is, in fact, de-stabilizing the entire system of justice in Mexico, costing hundreds of lives, including the life of a U.S. Marshall whose body was found executed in Mexico two days ago.
Secretary of State Clinton deserves credit for speaking the truth while visiting Mexico. Let’s hope her words will follow her back to Washington and we can finally adopt drug policies that work. We need more treatment centers. We need to crack down on clubs where drugs are present and being sold. We need to bring some measure of hope to the urban ghettoes where drugs are destroying whole neighborhoods. We need to stop blaming Mexico and Colombia for our drug habit. Hats off to Clinton but her words have thrown down the gauntlet for the rest of the government and for the culture. We Americans have to stop our addiction before we can expect Mexico to stop the violence that accompanies it.