March 27th, 2009
12:31 PM ET

Drugs, Guns and a Reality Check

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/03/25/clinton.mexico/art.clinton.mexico.afp.gi.jpg caption="Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Mexico for a series of meetings on the drug crisis and other issues."]
Eugene Robinson
The Washington Post

It's an indictment of our fact-averse political culture that a statement of the blindingly obvious could sound so revolutionary. "Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters on her plane Wednesday as she flew to Mexico for an official visit. "Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border . . . causes the deaths of police, of soldiers and civilians."

Amazingly, U.S. officials have avoided facing these facts for decades. This is not just an intellectual blind spot but a moral failure, one that has had horrific consequences for Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia and other Latin American and Caribbean nations. Clinton deserves high praise for acknowledging that the United States bears "shared responsibility" for the drug-fueled violence sweeping Mexico, which has claimed more than 7,000 lives since the beginning of 2008. But that means we will also share responsibility for the next 7,000 killings as well.

Our long-running "war on drugs," focusing on the supply side of the equation, has been an utter disaster. Domestically, we've locked up hundreds of thousands of street-level dealers, some of whom genuinely deserve to be in prison and some of whom don't. It made no difference. According to a 2007 University of Michigan study, 84 percent of high school seniors nationwide said they could obtain marijuana "fairly easily" or "very easily." The figure for amphetamines was 50 percent; for cocaine, 47 percent; for heroin, 30 percent.


Filed under: Eugene Robinson • Hillary Clinton • Mexico
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. mary, mexico

    I am a Republican living full time in Mexico, but thank you Hillary
    for finally standing up so the U.S. can take our share of the blame.
    Mexico should be angry with the problems they have to deal with
    because of our desire for drugs. Whenever there is a drug bust don't you notice they find dollars NOT pesos. Add to that our tabloid media
    that is now affecting Mexico's tourism industry by broad brushing the entire country because of issues in 2 areas. I am a single woman living in Puerto Penasco,( 4 hrs south of Phoenix) for 15 yrs and feel safer here than I ever did in Arizona. Anderson, try coming here and do a report if you really want the facts. But I guess relaxing on the beach doesn't help ratings.

    March 27, 2009 at 5:13 pm |
  2. earle,florida

    Hmmm,guns,and ammo come from China,and probably Russia! Heroin comes from Afghanistan via N. Korea/Chinese connection thru Burma into South America. Cocaine is our next trading partners(CAFTA) favorite crop,Columbia/Mexican connection. Finally, Marijuana comes directly from Mexico! All this sounds to much like the "French Connection",oh dear, did I say the French? Centuries ago,"Gold" was the source of wealth through-out the world,then came "Black (oil) Gold",and that's running on empty,unfortunately the road to wealth in the 21st century is drugs (all you can smoke,eat, inhale,or shoot-up) folks,until something else comes along we best get used to it! The question I want answered,is why do people need an artificial high to cope with life today?

    March 27, 2009 at 3:55 pm |
  3. Peter Pedregon

    Everyone talks about the guns going into Mexico. Where is Mexican Customs? For years they have been on the take, you can cross what ever you want into Mex. for the right price. What about the weapons given to the Mexican Military by the U.S.? Some military officials have become very wealthy. By selling them to some else!

    March 27, 2009 at 2:58 pm |
  4. Deborah in Grain Valley, MO

    BRAVO, Eugene Robinson!

    Although our "President of Change" belittled and mocked the scores of pro-legalization questions he received yesterday, simple logic demands that a real, honest, responsible discussion is necessary on the subject of legalized cannabis.

    Even if the federal government wants to ignore the immense financial benefits of legalization, the relief on our overburdened courts and prisons, and the ironic similarities of cannabis vs. alcohol prohibition, it should still recognize that if we take control of the drug market, we as a nation can determine purity, potency, and to whom cannabis is sold.

    In a country rich with alcoholism and prescription drug abuse, a logical mind cannot discount cannabis as a viable recreational substance, considering it is not fatal.

    March 27, 2009 at 2:47 pm |
  5. Matters

    It's an unfunny joke that the same people that think we're all to stupid to know what's best for us, are the same people who want to see drugs legalized. What kind of twisted, other-reality, logic does a mind have to possess to be able to rationalize that it is the 'illegal' element of these horrible instruments of death, destruction and general carnage of human life, that makes them dangerous?

    March 27, 2009 at 2:32 pm |
  6. Yvonne

    I believe it's a good thing we are making an effort to help and protect the U.S. although we should've started this long ago! This is not new, our government just waited so long that now it's a crisis! We manage in crisis, not being proactive. I don't believe marijuana is a drug that causes crime. It's the hard core drugs like cocaine, meth, heroin and the like. Nonetheless, I hope we do control this violence, if Mexico can get their situation under control, maybe the illegal aliens will not want to come over here illegally and over populate our state.

    March 27, 2009 at 2:23 pm |
  7. Neo

    Get the guns back as best as possible and stop arming Mexico. [period?]

    March 27, 2009 at 2:23 pm |
  8. Kevin

    There seems to be an issue with prohibition did we not learn a valuable lesson with the Volstead Act? There is no way to eradicate something that exists within society. As long as it exists there will exist a 'need' for it and ultimately a means for obtaining it. Rather than prohibiting and spending billions of dollars trying to make the issue go away let's install control – what a great way to boost the economy instead of pumping billions of dollars into something that will never solve the problem.

    After so many years of losing the 'war on drugs' maybe it is time to change the tactics and put the money and energy into other things.

    March 27, 2009 at 2:15 pm |
  9. Matters

    It is an obvious statement of fact that our love of drugs fuels all of this killing. But only if the concentration would be on stopping the use of them. Clinton's statement is no more than a precursor to the inevitable drug legalization argument that is on it's way.
    I've got a great idea. Let each state decide. Then we'll see which states do better.

    March 27, 2009 at 2:14 pm |
  10. Robert

    Still think "Calling it a War" is part of the problem as if that's the case we lost said war long ago. As pointed out in the article there are several problems such as smuggling guns &/or drugs across a porous border

    .An insatiable demand for illicit drugs, prisons full of low level dealers not all of which deserve to be there. Think the now departed William Buckley had the right idea legalize and regulate such drugs, think how many resources would be better used if such where the case.

    March 27, 2009 at 2:06 pm |
  11. Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; this is not just an intellectual blind spot but a moral failure -–of our society--and that the United States bears “shared responsibility” for the drug-fueled violence sweeping Mexico--even the drug abusers. When you have a society that has "throw away and bankrupt morality--it is what result--As long as the demand exists, entrepreneurs will find a way to meet it..

    March 27, 2009 at 1:19 pm |