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June 18, 2004 - WorldNetDaily (US Web)

Why Drug Cops Can't Win

By Joel Miller

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

Despite the best efforts by the U.S. government, illegal narcotics fly, seep, skip, run, drive, dig and hike from South America to North America every day.

They come via trucks and cars; via plane and boat; via rail track and tunnel; via coyote and mule; they come any way you can imagine -- and more than a few you cannot. If there is a way to get dope across the border, rest assured, it's coming across.

And there's always a way.

In my newly published book, "Bad Trip: How the War Against Drugs is Destroying America," the chapter on smuggling is one of the longest. In fact, keeping it a manageable length was a challenge because smuggling is really about one of the biggest and broadest subjects any author can cover -- human ingenuity. Says 1970's narcotrafficker Zachary Swan, there are "a million ways." And he's underestimating.

Here are just a few specific examples and tactics from recent years:

  • Covertly building a submarine capable of hauling 10 tons of cocaine to carry it from Colombia to the U.S.
  • Using time-released buoys and GPS trackers to sync drug shipments on the open sea.
  • Combining cocaine with plastic resin and producing functioning, commercial goods from which the drug can be chemically extracted once across the border.
  • Disguising stashes of cocaine in hollowed-out passion fruit or in plastic plantains; hiding psilocybin mushrooms in chocolates.
  • Digging a 1,200-foot tunnel, complete with ventilation ducts and electric lights to take marijuana and cocaine from a home in Mexico to another in California.
  • Dropping drugs in the uninhabited desert by plane and using GPS locaters on the ground to find and bring them across the poorly manned border.
  • Training -- no lie here, folks -- pigeons to fly packets of dope across the border.

Swan used to buy cocaine in Colombia and then tightly compress it into wooden souvenirs -- like rolling pins, carved tribal heads, and statuettes of the Madonna (who would suspect Mary?) -- which he would easily smuggle into the United States. He never got busted with a load.

Successes from early smugglers like Swan encouraged others to give it a try. Some did well, others did not. But the border coke rush of the late 1970s and early 1980s caused the feds to clamp down tight and try to stop the illegal flow. It didn't really work.

As I explain in "Bad Trip," interdiction efforts fail for one basic reason: Smugglers are entrepreneurs; border agents are bureaucrats. It's one of those stubborn facts of economics, but entrepreneurs always beat bureaucrats because they have the incentive and competitive edge.

Former DEA agent Robert Stutman makes this clear, joking in an interview for the PBS Frontline show "Drug Wars":

You build a 12-foot wall around the United States, and the old joke goes, it will take the dope peddlers 60 seconds to realize that a 13-foot ladder gets over a 12-foot wall. And then what do you do? Build a 13-foot wall?

Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Ariz., know the frustration in that sentiment.

"I don't know how to stop the drug traffic, and I've been in it for 38 years," the sheriff, widely touted as the toughest cop in the nation, told Harper's in 2001. "I think if I knew, I'd be the president. I can give you what's been said 50 years ago. ... It's the same thing we're saying today -- tough law enforcement, prevention, rehabilitation ... Nothing's changed. The stuff coming across the border that we catch? Ten percent. Fifty years ago, 10 percent. Today, 10 percent. Nothing's changed ... I don't know how to solve the problem. Don't ask me."

Whatever police do to clamp down, smugglers maneuver around. Some get caught while others make the appropriate adjustments to their tactics, and some are just lousy smugglers to begin with. But consistently nabbing 10 percent is hardly something to brag about.

Do drug warriors honestly wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and get a rush of pride that only 90 percent of illegal narcotics are getting through thanks to them? Sadly -- and adding an entirely new dimension to the word "pathetic" -- yes, they do.

As for the rest of us, we need something different. The war on drugs is spending taxpayer money by the billions and tossing it down a thousand rat holes. It's perfectly idiotic to continue trying to interdict narcotics when they so easily make their way across. Think of it this way: The 10 percent figure is more like a tax for smugglers than anything resembling a deterrent. In total numbers, it hardly reflects anything close to victory.

If Social Security only paid 10 percent of its recipients, we'd scream for reform. If the government only fed and clothed 10 percent of the Armed Services, we'd bellow for change. If taxpayers only received 10 percent of promised cuts, we'd unelect the politicians who failed to deliver and throw the bastards out.

It's time we started thinking the same way about the drug war. There are better ways of handling narcotics than we are currently being offered by the drug-war bureaucrats.

Joel Miller is senior editor of WND Books and author of "Bad Trip: How the War Against Drugs is Destroying America." His own company, Oakdown, recently published "Drinking With Calvin and Luther! A History of Alcohol in the Church."

Editor's note: Joel Miller's new book, "Bad Trip: How the War Against Drugs is Destroying America," is available now in ShopNetDaily. Says Larry Elder, "Miller nails it. He powerfully and persuasively articulates the folly, the harm and the unconstitutionality of our government's War against Drugs." And Judge Andrew P. Napolitano of Fox News rules, "Read this book and send a copy to every lawmaker and judge you know." Get "Bad Trip," at ShopNetDaily.

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