A violent organization that includes recruits with Western passports uses terrorist tactics—beheading journalists, for example—as it seizes swaths of territory. That describes ISIS, a radical Sunni militia operating in Iraq and Syria. But it also describes the transnational drug cartels operating in Mexico and Central and South America. Those organizations have killed many times more Americans than ISIS. They regularly tunnel into the United States to facilitate smuggling. What's more, their existence is a direct result of American public policy. But for America's decades-long War on Drugs, the drug cartels would not exist.
That context is almost always missing from America's domestic debate about drug laws. Almost no one acknowledges that a succession of U.S. presidents, from drug warriors Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan to former recreational drug users Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, helped to create and sustain transnational criminal organizations that slaughter and even behead innocents abroad, or that current U.S. policy predictably and inevitably fills their coffers with cash. But that's the proper context for this week's news.
"A coalition of political figures from around the world, including Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary general, and several former European and Latin American presidents, is urging governments to decriminalize a variety of illegal drugs and set up regulated drug markets within their own countries," The New York Times reports.