A new book – Drug War Capitalism – by Canadian investigative journalist Dawn Paley, exposes the hidden but intrinsic connections between the so-called “war on drugs” and the southward spread of transnational US and Canadian corporations. In a review of the book and interview with Paley, Mark Karlin writes in Truthout – “Paley exposes it (the drug war) as a pretext for extending US militarization to, and control of, nations to enhance transnational business opportunities and prevent populist uprisings.”
As Paley writes “This war is about control over territory and society, and market share, cheap labor, mineral rights and profits, much more so than it is about cocaine or marijuana.” She joins a number of other analysts who have pointed out the “war on drugs” is really a smoke screen cover for what is is an integral part of the multinational capitalist class exploitation and domination agenda.
Paley writes that the so-called “war on drugs is really a war on people”, specifically, lower class, poor and minority groups, who make up the majority of those incarcerated or killed in the context of the drug war. Drug abuse and addiction is not an issue that can be solved by militaristic means – sociological studies have demonstrated again and again that drug war politics, in Mexico, the US or elsewhere, like SE Asia have never resulted in a decrease in drug use. Drug abuse and addiction are public health issues, like alcoholism, and need to be addressed as such. But the power of international drug cartels and their pernicious influence on US and Latin American policy cannot be reduced by a “war on drugs” – on the contrary, prohibitionist policies and drug abuse support each other.
Karlin and Paley in their discussion make the point that 85% of drug cartel profits are generated in the US cocaine market – and this money is in turn invested in the US economy in various ways. The war on drugs is actually a cover for excavation and expropriation of basic minerals, oil and lumber and the creation of marketing environments for multinational corporations – reducing labor costs, increasing the prison population, i.e. extending and increasing the power and wealth of the military-prison-industrial complex.
When our current newspapers are filled with terror stories about the increasing lawlessness and terror regimes in Mexico and Columbia, we can understand Paley’s analyses of the “structural elements that allow this kind of killing and terror to take place. Certainly US-funded militarization is a key component. There’s the media and the government, which blame victims for their own deaths by linking them with drug trafficking. Then there is the impunity, the fact that those responsible for criminal acts not only get away with their crimes, but various levels of government are actively involved and thus also cover their tracks.”
Paley’s book is an important contribution to an ongoing, indeed intensifying, out of control system of state-supported terror in Central and South American countries, in which the US plays a decisive and collusive role. All under the pretext and cover of combating a “drug problem” – a problem created by the very forces who are engaged militarily to combat it.