Thursday, January 14, 2010

Mexico's drug war museum

Today's Washington Post features a story about the Mexican military's Museum of Drugs. Among the things we learn is that Mexico didn't always take such a hard-line approach on narcotics:
Inside, the exhibits begin with the history of drugs. An old black-and-white photograph of a vendor in a Mexican market with a straw basket filled with cigar-size joints reminds the viewer that marijuana was once legal here, as it was in the United States.

On the wall is also a photograph of a wounded U.S. soldier in Vietnam beside a plaque that dates the beginning of the war there: "With the appearance of the hippie movement, a large number of young Americans and Europeans defended their right to live under the banner of 'Peace and Love' and consume vast quantities of drugs."
And what has the drug war produced? Improved safety? Less crime? A more peaceful society? Not quite:
On Saturday, Mexicans opened their morning newspapers to read that cartel assassins in the state of Sinaloa had peeled the face off their victim and sewn the skin onto a soccer ball.

...Montane reads from his clipboard: In the past three years, Mexican forces have confiscated 443 airplanes, 14,622 vehicles and 43,118 weapons, including bazookas and grenade launchers. They have seized $113,990,520 in cash.

...At the end of the tour, Montane stops at a memorial plaque. From 1976 to 2009, 636 Mexican troops have died in battles with the cartels -- 133 of them in the past three years. "The message we would like to convey," Montane said, "is that taking drugs is not for fun and that these drugs cost lives in Mexico. We want people to know how hard we work in Mexico to combat this."
The drug war is not only futile but counterproductive in the extreme. Even if one accepts for the sake of argument the alleged horrors of drugs, is this worth the price? Is the malady really worse than the cure?

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