We’re quite familiar with the old bit about money being the “root of all evil,” right? In 2009, the global slow motion economic train wreck is attending the collapse of history’s briefest major empire amid an emerging consensus. The contentious faux politic is being shunted aside for a time by an examination of the vast sums of fictional paper wealth, the Do-ra-mi, tearing at the fabric of the United States and the entire world. Before it can begin to stitch itself back together we might consider this opportunity to seek clarity; the cash at the core of the drug/guns matrix is a fine point of departure.
That drugs and guns are inextricably linked by economics and finances, tied by the malevolent, symbiotic relationship known to smugglers as “small packages,” was amply illustrated by the War on Drugs™ precursor, the Volstead Act aka Prohibition. The financial rewards engendered by that blanket ban on a substance that enjoyed popular usage was precisely what make the biz so alluring — and bloody, as displayed by Alphonse Capone, Joe Kennedy and many others who exploited crime and corruption of authority to amass the great fortunes that often attend risk. Flash forward and the why behind how we seem to be unable to make any headway on Gunz ‘n’ Drugz are, again, the stupendous profits coupled with a firearms fixation burrowed so deeply in US culture as to seemingly have entered the people’s DNA.
The early financial and historical records of this nation recorded large sums made via narcotics. The fortunes of some major and influential northeastern families, the Roosevelts for instance, were made partially from narcotics, coinciding with the location of three statues of the Revolutionary-era spy Nathan Hale on the campuses of Exeter, Yale University and CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Throughout US history, many commercial, intelligence and business leaders attended Yale, some to be absorbed into Skull and Bones, a university secret society funded by a trust amassed by the Russell family circumventing the British military-enforced Opium monopoly in China, that trade devised to reacquire western money that had ended up in China via cheap, imported goods, a precursor of today’s trade imbalances.
Flash forward to our time, the connections between banking, drugs and US intelligence continue apace. i.e. the elite intel/drug connections of Iran/Contra wherein US agents and military converted tons of cocaine into cash to pay for illegal arms shipments and support for Contra operations. The occasional piddly perp-walk would look like a day at a petting zoo were the Joe Sixpacks of the world to magically en mass come into the knowledge of how much drug money makes it through the banking business at the same time 1 percent of US citizens rot behind bars for the same activity.
In 2000, Al Giordano of the Boston Phoenix adapted a work of Mario Mendez Rodriquez, the editor of Mexican newspaper. Por Esto exposed Mexican narco-bank, Banamex and that bank’s director, Roberto Hernandez Ramirez, a one-time target of the DEA’s “Operation Casablanca.” The sensational, lurid series, backed up by ample photographic evidence and testimony by local fishermen, exposed not only that Hernandez property on Punto Gordo was a transfer point for tons of cocaine but that Banamex supplied an avenue to dispose of dirty money.
Banamex and Hernandez were unable to shake the veracity and thoroughness of the Rodriquez and Giordano claims which have prevailed in eighteen defamation lawsuits in the US and Mexico—where legal venues in the latter are not generally noted for open mindedness or sympathy for muckraking journalists who wobble elite money-making systems. The explanation as to why the scandal received thin coverage in media systems can be seen by the fact that Hernandez sits on the board of Televisa, the largest media network in Mexico.
The bank/drug hydra made small ink this January when the director of the UN’s Office of Drug and Crime, Antonio Maria Costa said, “Drug money is keeping banks propped up.” Amid this gem, it is worth noting that after Robert Rubin, Bill Clinton’s guy at Treasury, advanced his career at drug-laundering Citigroup, they then acquired Banamex, along with Hernandez, who to this jaded observer’s mild, disgusted astonishment remained on Citi’s board until this year.
Then, there is the perhaps irredeemable damage drug money has inflicted on the legal/judicial system of the US. The money associated with illegal drugs has proven too much of a temptation to law enforcement agencies who sucker themselves and get busted for dealing the same drugs they interdict. Besides that money, there are Federal grants based on raw numbers of arrests and convictions available to law enforcement jurisdictions that have fostered a silent epidemic of false imprisonment via false evidence presented during trials, sometimes up to and including lies worked out between prosecutors and defendants in exchange for reduced but still bogus charges. Then there’s the bundle in the private prison biz at the expense of justice, exhibited by two Luzerne County, Pennsylvania judges who were this year charged and convicted of accepting $2.6 million in kickbacks from private detention centers in exchange for hundreds of corrupt juvenile convictions. Savor that for a second, the ruined lives, the costs to society in downstream social and monetary costs as well as the reinforcement of primitive ethnic stereotypes.
While non-violent crime rates and drug use have relatively remained stable for decades (as calculated by statistical studies and hospital admissions), the same interval saw an explosion in the numbers of prisoners. Ethnic communities (i.e. “black”) were especially hard hit by a coincidence of harsh drug policies pioneered by New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, lobbying by the private prison business and the 80’s media rif of “crack crazed” minorities—which lead to stiffer sentences for the lower cost per unit of crack cocaine versus the equal amount of the powdered form favored by the better-heeled (read “white”). Despite statistical studies showing equal drug use by the various ethnicities and that the large majority of hospital drug emergencies are white folks, a black person has ten times the chances of being incarcerated for drugs, or vilified as “a problem” outside prisons, illustrated by the substitution in common parlance these days of “crack head” for “N-bomb.”
Nothing like a good, old fashioned arms race to perk up your quarterly statements. The godfather of the US PR business, Edward Bernays, theorized the best approach for increased business is not so much via an advertising bombardment, but by creating demand. If one’s business happens to be firearms, an atmosphere that scares the shit out of people will have even your more balanced sorts tripping over themselves on their way to the gun store. As evidenced by 9/11, Katrina and the US/Mexican border “drug war” (among other factors). The United State’s inability to protect its citizens has coalesced into a boon for weapons manufacturers, the latter evidenced by the military weaponry the Narcos “somehow” acquired being “countered” by Mexican authorities and spooked civilians, fears that arms manufacturers and dealers are delighted to accommodate. It is worth remembering the US small arms business is larger than all other nations combined.
The profit motive integral to this country since before we were a nation has mutated and metastasized into something even the more commerce-minded founders might even blink at were they around for a day or so, but don’t look for matters to improve via the chimera of ethics. When referenced against history, the current economic pancake reinforces what detectives call a “pattern,” in this case, profits uber alles. Faulty, dangerous consumer products, financial and banking shim-shams have enriched the already-wealthy at the expense and lives of Joe Sixpack, illustrating the thesis of Milton Friedman’s 1970 New York Times magazine piece, The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits. One with profit as their primary motive would be daft to rock the illegal drug/gun boat that has provided so many fortunes, from the dope to the prisons users end up in.
Excluding the money made and the lives destroyed by the system put in place to mitigate the “problem,” the War on Drugs™ has had net zero effect. The US’s skewed, failed politcal/econo/financial system and its vampire-esque desperation for money insure a steady supply of fresh victims for the monster attended by a negative effect on the “problem.” Given the glaring failures of the War on Drugs™, a more efficient use of strained resources might be something akin to price-support systems as the US does with corn: pay the growers more for the raw coca and opium than they can get from the distributors, pile it up and burn it. Keep in mind the caveat that the years following repeal of the Volstead Act were accompanied by a 60 percent drop in violent crime in the US. Legalization might be worth a try as seems to be happening by itself with weed, for the same reasons Prohibition was called off, da money – tax money.