Recently by Fred Reed: A Culture in Regression
I see that I may have to take over drug policy for the United States. Maybe not, though. I’ll hold off if I get a call from Michelle Leonhart, who runs the Drug Enforcement Administration, asking me how she ought to do her job, and what she ought to think about Mexico, and what is wrong with Washington’s whole approach to mind candy. (I’m expecting her call any day now.) I will answer as follows:
Now, look here, Ma’am. You need to rethink this drug thing. It’s not going well. It isn’t going to go well. The Bare Skirmish on Drugs (BSkOD) may have seemed a good idea when Reefer Madness came out, or even in the Sixties a half century ago. Now, no. Everyone with the brains of a microwave oven knows that DEA serves only to keep prices up so that the narcos in Mexico can afford classy military weaponry and gorgeous mansions.
It isn’t the fault of DEA. In my days on the police desk I knew a fair few DEA guys, including the magnificent Frank White and…well, others. They were ballsy, smart, savvy, and realistic cowboys, the best company I can imagine. They did their jobs as well as they could which, under the circumstances, was well indeed.
That’s them. Fact is, though, DEA as an organization ain’t done jack-shit about drugs. I’m sorry, but there it is. It’s like a law of logic. If you set out to do something impossible, you won’t do it. That’s DEA.
A little history if I may. In the Sixties, when mind candy went universal, we had pot, acid, shrooms, mescaline, and various amphetamines. Scag was a ghetto drug for strung-out crashers like William Burroughs, coke mostly unknown, and crack nonexistent.
OK, half-century later. To my certain knowledge, today in suburban Washington, as for example at Washington and Lee High where my daughters did time, kids can buy all the aforementioned goodies, plus nitrous, Ecstasy, crystal and, within a five-minute drive, there may still be an open-air crack market in the parking lot of Green Valley pharmacy. Crack isn’t a kid drug, but it is easily available all over Washington.
Further, I know all sorts of people in their sixties now, veterans of Dong Ha or Woodstock, some of them vets of both, and most of them do grass and not infrequently hallucinogens. I’m talking door-gunners, Special Forces guys, at least two Ivy profs, just plain people. So, Michelle, what exactly has the War on Half the Population accomplished?
You certainly aren’t protecting kids in high school, or even middle school, from becoming drooling stoners living in dumpsters. They have easier access to drugs than you do. What protects kids from becoming needle-cases is – I am aware of the preposterousness of this – the common sense of teenagers. They aren’t druggies because they don’t want to be. They aren’t alkies because they don’t want to be. Most don’t smoke because they don’t want to. DEA has nothing to do with it. Kids could easily do all of these things. America is up to the armpits in drugs, tobacco, and booze.
So you see, Michelle, the DEA is like a man sitting on a raft in mid-Pacific, trying to outlaw water.
Now we come, tangentially anyway, to Mexico. It is being torn apart, toward God knows what future, because it lives next to the world’s most gluttonous market for drugs. It seems to Mexicans that Washington is forcing them to die for a BSkoD that Washington won’t fight on its own soil.
Is this unreasonable suspicion? Why is it unreasonable?
A couple of things you might do to persuade Mexico that you really want to do your part.
First, why don’t you put a youngish DEA guy, or gal, in each of about ten universities chosen at random: say, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Harvard Medical, Julliard, Haverford, Berkeley, UCLA, and Dartmouth. (I say they’re random). See, young agents could rig their apartments for sound and video. In six months you could arrest hundreds of children of senators, Fortune Five Hundred CEOs, and people high in the Executive branch. You could give them the same sentences that slum blacks get. Think of the headlines: “Senator’s Kid Gets Five Years in the General Population in Leavenworth.” Is that a concept or what?
Mexicans think you don’t do this for reasons of politics. Mexicans just don’t understand the essential probity of America.
Another thing you could do to demonstrate your good faith: You could ask Congress to legislate that people selling drugs to children in high school be tried as adults. Since most of these dealers are themselves in high school, you could put the daughters of lawyers in women’s slam in places like the Cook County Jail. Think how many interesting things they could learn about compulsory lesbian sex.
I mean, you are sincere about wanting to punish dealers, aren’t you?
OK. More and more I see suggestions that the US send troops to Mexico to Right Wrongs and make Mexico into Iowa. The Pentagon is sneaking psychopaths of the CIA and “retired” military men into the country, apparently wanting to showcase its systemic incapacity to win any war against anybody at all. Here is a chance for you to do something useful. DEA agents are not idiots, but colonels are.
You might try to drill into the Pentagonal mind – I would suggest a cold chisel and a sledge hammer – that Mexico differs in a fundamental way from the military’s other comic efforts at martial enterprise: The narcos have a million gringo hostages. Or maybe five hundred thousand. Nobody is sure exactly how many Americans live in Mexico. They – we – are very soft targets. We live in a sort of sprawl across Mexico, concentrated in places well known, grouping in known bars, unarmed and utterly defenseless.
A minor contact I have with the bad guys says that, now, attacking Americans carries a death sentence from people who would carry it out with a blow torch over a period of days. “Oh no. Don’t fuck with the gringos,” says this guy. Like most Mexicans, the narcos figure the US is looking for a pretext to invade. They are happy with the current semi-partnership with Washington and don’t want interference.
But piss these bad boys off – they are very, very bad boys – and they could begin killing gringos by hundreds. Logically it would be an easy way of putting pressure on Washington to back off. Washington could write off aging vets living on disability from Nam, but a lot of expats here live in houses costing a million doomed green dollars.
Tell you what, Michelle. You folks at DEA know what’s out there. You know who the narcos are, and what they are, and what they are capable of doing. Maybe you could explain it to people a lot dumber than you are, such as soldiers, pols, and combative columnists in panties at the Washington Post. What think?
Fred Reed is author of Nekkid in Austin: Drop Your Inner Child Down a Well and A Brass Pole in Bangkok: A Thing I Aspire to Be. His latest book is Curmudgeing Through Paradise: Reports from a Fractal Dung Beetle. Visit his blog.