[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."]
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.
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