The Drug War's Dirty Laundry
It is more than odd that President-elect Clinton, who never misses a chance to deliver an opinion on just about anything, has remained totally silent on an issue that was prominent in each of the previous three presidential elections--the war on drugs.
It may be that Clinton has thrown in with many others in the policy-making establishment who believe that certain problems--homelessness, poverty and drugs, among them--will always be with us, and thus, are unsolvable.
The Republican solution over the last decade has concentrated on the drug user, bursting the seams of the nation's jails with people from the low, or user, end of the drug trade. At the same time, the Nancy Reagans and William Bennetts (the former drug czar) berated the citizenry over its appetite for narcotics: Just Say No.
Others pointed to the nation's long, open borders, and insisted there was no way a free and open society could stem the oceanic flood of cocaine and heroin into the United States.
Still others argued that U.S.-assisted cropswitching in South America was the key to stemming the supply.
All this has been an enormous fraud upon the American people.
When whole populations literally become saturated with the most addictive narcotics known to humanity, it is beyond nonsense to argue issues of individual responsibility as a way of curbing demand. The British understood this perfectly when they went to war with China to for opium addiction upon the Asiatic masses as a means of repatriating much of the empire's national treasure, then being spent on oriental silk, tea and gold.
What to do in American, then?
New York prosecutor Robert Morgenthau has shown the way in his pursuit of the BCCI bank scandal and ultimate Washington insider Clark Clifford. The bank was long known in industry and government intelligence circles as, among other things, a huge money-laundering center for international drug traffickers.
What this means, for the slow of mind and faint of heart, is that some of that money found its way into Clifford's pockets. One can only conclude that the government's persistent refusal to follow this bloody money trail, relentlessly, is because too many people as well-connected as Clark Clifford are at the end of it.
The drug business and the perdition it has wrought throughout our nation, depend upon "respectable" people, who can move vast sums of money within and across national borders.
Let us be clear. We are not talking about suitcases stuffed with tens and twenties. The multi-billion dollar narcotics trade must be likened to an aircraft carrier: It simply is impossible to move that much money without the cooperation of an awful lot of rich and conneced people--many, among the most respect members of society.
What President-elect Clinton must do is to appoint Morgenthau as the nation's next drug czar--with only this one responsibility, but with broad authority: follow the bucks. Don't bother him with interdiction.
Drug money has nothing to do with AWAC's. It's all in the computers. Diplomacy over South American crop-switching is a joke, as peasants can earn more than 10 times as much for planting coca as they can for any other crop. Morganthau, who has blasted government neglect of the narcotics money pyramid, would follow the dollars, and arrest any and everyone at the back counter who tries to take money out.
The CIA and FBI have proved in the Clifford case, and in Irangate, that they know how to trace the money, from its source to wherever it winds up.
If Clinton is to become serious about his most pressing domestic crisis, he'll launch the first genuine war on drugs ever--a battle to bring to justice all those at the top of the money chain.
Kenneth R. Walker, an independent television producer and columnist, is a fellow at Harvard's Institute of Politics.