AP reports notion of legalization as a possible cure for the drug war failures

A must read: Backing for Colombia Drug War Criticized, by Andrew Selsky, Associated Press Writer (in New York Newsday).
Fascinating article — even more so because it’s AP, which is often likely to follow the government line in drug war issues. Are the cracks starting to show?
First, note how Andrew describes the location of the U.S. Ambassador in reporting his comments (emphasis added):

In a conversation at his guarded residence, U.S. Ambassador William Wood said the efforts must persist if Colombia’s rebels, who have been at war in Colombia for 40 years, are ever to be defeated.

“In Colombia, terrorism without narcotics is a much more vulnerable target,” Wood told reporters from The Associated Press and another news agency. “If you take away drugs, you reduce incentive, the power to corrupt, the ability to buy weapons.”

But criticism of the costly effort is mounting.

The reporter, in this case, hardly needed to point out the absurdity of the U.S. Ambassador’s actual words. The notion that we can actually take away the drugs is as unrealistic as overturning the law of gravity. And unless we can actually take them all away (impossible), our efforts just fuel the black market profits.
Andrew lets others make the point, starting with…

In an editorial this week, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said Colombia “has turned into a sinkhole of money and military resources over the past five years.”

“The Congress should scrap Plan Colombia now, rather than throw more good money after bad,” the newspaper said, pointing out that availability of Colombian cocaine and heroin on U.S. streets appears undiminished.

John Walsh, a senior associate at the Washington Office on Latin America think tank, said recently that “the drug war is failing to achieve its most basic objectives.”

Andrew then lists several embarrassments to the efforts in Colombia (corruption, etc.) and goes on to allow the normally unspeakable to be spoken:

One foreign drug agent recently stationed here said he personally believed the solution was to legalize drugs, so trafficking would not be so hugely profitable. The FARC and their paramilitary foes control much of the drug trade in Colombia, which produces most of the world’s cocaine and much of its heroin.

“We should recognize that by criminalizing drugs, we are allowing outlawed groups in Colombia to earn a vast amount of money,” said the agent, who did not want to be further identified.

The Monitor, a daily in McAllen, Texas, said in a recent editorial that the drug war is “a demonstrated failure,” and argued for legalization.

Of course, it’s a shame that the fear is so strong that the former drug agent had to be unidentified, but still, this to me is a huge step in reporting.
And finally, Andrew notes that the administration is not likely to be part of reality (emphasis added)…

“There is no sign that in FY 2006 that we’re going to take a cut,” Wood said, relaxing near a crackling fire in the mansion that serves as his official residence.

Thank you, Andrew Selsky
Update: Looks like this AP story is getting some circulation. Libby had already covered it on Saturday, based on its appearance in another source.

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