Saturday, 1 August 2009

Collateral Damage

They used to be called innocent victims of war but thanks to the amazing miracle of public relations, these innocent victims are now called collateral damage

Technically, collateral damage is not only reserved for those killed or brutalised during war but any unintentional damage including property. Most people though, know it to mean unnecessary deaths during a war especially the innocent. Property and the injured are usually overlooked. And face it, any collateral damage still breathing after an attack involving the latest weaponry used in modern warfare was probably better off being killed in the first place. I recent saw a documentary that said citizens killed during war now stands at about 90% of the total dead. Before WW1, it was about 10%. Mmmm, so much for precision weaponry and the obfuscatory rants by Donald Rumsfeld.

I wonder what the collateral damage is for that never ending war called the "War on Drugs"? Let’s see: victims of shoot-outs between street dealers, those caught in police drug raids, those caught up in the war between the Mexican cartels vs. the Mexican government, the farmers and citizens effected by Plan Columbia, Afghanis, the recipients of the death penalty, suicides, the prison population worldwide, medical marijuana patients, victims of drug related crime, families of drug addicts, HIV/AIDS/Hep C sufferers, drug mules, users, drug dealer’s wives, drug dealer’s children, those who are as a deterrent by the courts, those with chronic pain etc. The "War on Drugs" touches everyone in someway. Whether it’s just having to make way for police with sniffer dogs at the local nightclub or having your government installed by the US to help their operations eliminating coca plantations. You might be arrested for having medical marijuana you purchased legally or you might be shot accidently from a drug deal gone wrong. It may as severe as your daughter going into a coma and dying from contaminated pills or simply watching adult politicians ignoring scientific evidence and climbing over each other to prove who’s “toughest on drugs”. Everyday, it creeps more into your life. 
As the public start to realise the complete failure of the "War on Drugs", more extreme measures are being executed from both sides of the law. Mexico is a perfect example. The international black market for drugs is so huge that organised crime has more power than the government. Instead of tackling the source problem of prohibition that creates this power and wealth, the government stepped up it’s law enforcement operations to include the military. In retaliation to having their members arrested or killed, the drug cartels flexed their muscles and went on a terror campaign to get the upper hand. They rolled out decapitated heads onto a dance floor in a major nightclub, set up an ambush where they massacred a dozen drug enforcement officers and left them in a pile on the side of a road and even announced the deaths of certain officers over the police radio before killing them a few hours later. The response ... the government called in more army personnel to crack down even harder. On it goes... 

Closer to home, the amphetamines problem followed a similar path. As we saw in the TV show, Underbelly, the more police who zoned in on the manufacturers, the more violent they got. Then there was the crack down on cold tablets containing pseudoephedrine which is a core ingredient in street amphetamines. First they restricted sales of one packet per person but the illegal manufacturers organised “buying groups” who would visit multiply chemists each day. in 2006, products containing pseudoephedrine was rescheduled as a "Pharmacist Only Medicine" (Schedule 3) which meant it was only sold with approval of the pharmacist. Then they created a registry and refused sales to suspicious buyers which of course lead to break-ins and robberies. The latest trend is to ram-raid a car through the chemist shop window. When is someone going to be shot or stabbed, if it hasn’t happened already? What about those who are simply sick and need adequate medication - will they be refused their cold tablets? So what’s next? There is already talk of banning pseudoephedrine in Australia and some chemists have stopped selling products with pseudoephedrine all together. History tells us that organised crime will come up with a solution and the only losers will again be the public. The lesson is: when it comes to illegal drugs ... crime will find a way. Instead of removing prohibition - the source of profit for the black market, the "War on Drugs" mentality continues with the fanciful view that the war is winnable. And as the stakes get higher, the collateral damage grows.
Daughter Of Drug Agent Seized, Raped
Philippine Daily Inquirer
By Nikko Dizon
July 2009

MANILA, Philippines—A young daughter of a government agent involved in fighting drug syndicates was abducted at the weekend and later found drugged and sexually abused in a heinous attack that provoked Malacanang to warn late Sunday night: “This is now a war on drugs.”

The girl, a minor, is “still in shock” and is confined in a hospital, a top government official told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, asking not to be identified because the family had asked him not to talk about the matter with the media.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said in a statement that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who appointed herself in January the country’s “anti-drug czar,” had been told of the attack.

“The President has just been informed … We will mobilize all forces to help the family involved,” Remonde said.

Before MalacaƱang issued its statement, law enforcers said they were looking at a certain drug syndicate supposedly with political connections as the possible perpetrator of the attack.

The Inquirer decided not to identify the agent or the office where he works to protect the family’s identity and the girl’s interest.

A Philippine law on violence against women and children prohibits the publication of any identifying information about the victim or a family member without the family’s consent.

The tragedy that befell the family appears to show how audacious drug syndicates have become in the Philippines, which ranks fifth in the world in terms of shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride) seizures in the last 10 years.

Officials have put the value of the illegal drugs trade in the country at a high estimate of P300 billion and a low estimate of P150 billion a year.

The girl’s tragedy also strikes a grim parallel to what has happened in other countries where drug cartels and gangs have turned drug trafficking into a frightful, flourishing business.

In Mexico alone, nearly 10,000 drug traffickers, state agents and civilians have been killed in drug war-related incidents since 2007, the Los Angeles Times has reported. Some victims were beheaded.

‘This is narco-politics’

“Without discounting other suspects, I think this is the handiwork of a drug syndicate which was the subject of a recent crackdown … just by assessing previous incidents following the bust,” the top official told the Inquirer.

He described the syndicate as “well-connected politically.”

“This involves narco-politics. May kalaliman ito (This goes deep) assuming the angle we are pursuing is right. But we’re bent on considering that angle,” the official said.

Another theory is “baka napag tripan ng barkada (a gang might have taken a fancy to the girl) but that is speculative,” an Inquirer source said.

Sketchy reports indicated that the girl went missing on Saturday night. She was recovered at around 6 a.m. Sunday near a military facility in Luzon, the official said.

There had also been a previous, but failed, attempt to abduct the young girl, the official said.

Both the rich and poor

Illegal drugs have become an insidious, pervasive menace in the Philippines, sucking into their vortex both the rich and the poor.

Of the country’s 3.4 million drug users, 1.8 million are regular users while 1.6 million are occasional users, law enforcers said.

The 2009 World Drug Report released by the United Nations recently said the Philippines was fifth after China, the United States, Thailand and Taiwan in terms of shabu seizures from 1998 to 2007.

“The Philippines remains a significant source of high potency crystalline methamphetamine used both domestically and exported to locations in East and Southeast Asia and Oceania,” the report said.

It said that while many countries manufactured shabu, China, Burma (Myanmar) and the Philippines accounted for most of the production.

Foreign chemists

The report noted that the illegal drug was often manufactured in industrial-size laboratories operated by transnational organized crime syndicates and staffed by foreign chemists.

The UN report said that in 2007, a notable increase in the seizure of methamphetamine-related manufacturing facilities in the Philippines was reported with nine significant laboratories and 13 chemical warehouses seized. This rose to 10 laboratories in 2008.

The report identified interregional trafficking routes as being from Burma to Bangladesh and India; from Hong Kong, China, to Australia, Indonesia, Japan and New Zealand; from the Philippines to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States; and from East and Southeast Asia to Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The report said that global markets for cocaine, opiates and cannabis were steady or in decline, while the production and use of synthetic drugs was increasing in the developing world.

Cannabis or marijuana remained the most widely used drug around the world, although estimates were less precise. With a report from Inquirer Research

Related Articles
Death Squad in Delaware: The Case of the Murdered Marine [Link]
Police: drug sting ends in death of innocent passerby [Link]
Parents Blame Tallahassee Police In Drug Informant's Death [Link]
In wake of 2 fatal shootings, some question police tactics [Link]
Drug War Claims Another Casualty [Link]
Tallahassee PD's Pathetic Response to Rachel Hoffman's Death [Link]
Police: Man Burned To Death Over Drug Debt [Link]
Civil rights news: lima, ohio, cops shoot and kill bystander woman holding baby during drug raid - baby injured [Link]
Chesapeake police officer shot to death serving drug warrant [Link]
Mexican Police Shooting Down Drug Planes, Officials Declare [Link]

A special thank you for these links to:
Just Say Know… To The Drug War Internet Explorer Other browsers


Anonymous said...

The “OH wont somebody Please think of the children” argument is often used to support strict prohibition – forgetting of course all of the children who lose parents to preventable drug-related deaths, prison, forced removal etc. An often greatly misrepresented group of people – I should know being one of them back-in-the-day.

Great post Terry.

Terry Wright said...

Thanks Anon.
Like all arguments from prohibitionists, there's usually a more important counter-argument. The "think of the children" rant is starting to wear thin as many 20+ year olds are telling what really happens to kids under harsh, prohibitionist drug laws.

(Anon: Do you have an interesting story to tell? Email me if you think your story is worth telling).

Anonymous said...

I always enjoy dropping in to see whats new, but this is a particularly good post.

Thanks Terry.

Terry Wright said...

Thanks for the compliment, Anon.

Victor said...

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Anonymous said...

Pseudoephedrine containing tablets MUST NOT be banned! It is the ONLY drug that works for some people with extreme sinus problems.
Without proper relief chronic sinus disease can lead to a deep depression and lot more.
Instead of banning it, improve drug policing.

Terry Wright said...

Thanks Anon.

As usual, the majority of people have to suffer because of blanket government policies. It's just lazy politics.