Chomsky on the War on Drugs

More Chomsky, from Understanding Power (footnotes also reproduced):

So take a significant question you never hear asked despite this supposed “Drug War” which has been going on for years and years: how many bankers and chemical corporation executives are in prison in the United States for drug-related offenses? Well, there was recently an O.E.C.D. [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] study of the international drug racket, and they estimated that about a half-trillion dollars of drug money gets laundered internationally every year—more than half of it through American banks. I mean, everybody talks about Colombia as the center of drug-money laundering, but they’re a small player: they have about $10 billion going through, U.S. banks have about $260 billion.1

Okay, that’s serious crime—it’s not like robbing a grocery store. So American bankers are laundering huge amounts of drug money, everybody knows it: how many bankers are in jail? None. But if a black kid gets caught with a joint, he goes to jail.

…Or why not ask another question — how many U.S. chemical corporation executives are in jail? Well, in the 1980s, the C.I.A. was asked to do a study on chemical exports to Latin America, and what they estimated was that more than 90 percent of them are not being used for industrial production at all — and if you look at the kinds of chemicals they are, it’s obvious that what they’re really being used for is drug production.2 Okay, how many chemical corporation executives are in jail in the United States? Again, none — because social policy is not directed against the rich, it’s directed against the poor.

  1. On the O.E.C.D. study, see for example, Apolinar Biaz-Callejas [of the Andean Commission of Jurists and Latin American Association for Human Rights], “Violence in Colombia, its History,” Latin America News Update (Chicago, IL), Vol. 10, No. 12, December 1994, pp. 19-20 (from Excelsior of Mexico City, October 14, 1994). An excerpt: “According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the money produced by drug trafficking throughout the world reached $460 billion in 1993, of which the U.S. received $260 billion, which is circulated through its financial system, as contraband, and through other ways. Colombia, as a producer-exporter, gets only $5 to $7 billion, or 2 to 3% of what remains in the U.S. The big business is, therefore, in that country.”

    See also, Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, Whiteout: The C.I.A., Drugs and the Press, London: Verso, 1998, pp. 365-371. []

  2. On the C.I.A.’s study, see for example, Nicholas C. McBride, “Bill would regulate chemical exports,” Christian Science Monitor, July 27,1988, p. 3. An excerpt: “A report obtained from the Central Intelligence Agency says that since 1983, there has been a sharp increase in Latin American imports of chemicals used to manufacture illegal drugs, among other purposes. It concludes that the imports far exceed those necessary for legitimate uses. Most of the chemicals are produced in the U.S.… ‘Ninety-five percent of the chemicals necessary to manufacture cocaine in Latin America originate in the United States,’ says Gene R. Haislip, a deputy assistant administrator for the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.”

    Douglas Jehl, “Cocaine Has A Made In U.S.A. Label; American Firms Make Most Of The Solvents That Routinely Wind Up In Colombian Cocaine Labs — That Chemical Trail Is Surprisingly Easy To Follow,” Los Angeles Times, December 5,1989, p. A1; Brook Larmer, “U.S., Mexico Try to Halt Chemical Flow to Cartels: Latin drug lords rely almost wholly on U.S-made products to turn coca into cocaine,” Christian Science Monitor, October 23, 1989, p. 1. []

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