Drug Policy Disconnect

By Coletta Youngers, May 6, 2010

The rhetoric has changed. According to new U.S. “drug czar” Gil Kerlikowske, who heads the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), the Obama administration doesn’t use the term “drug war” because the government shouldn’t be waging war against its own citizens. In March 2009, U.S. Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke described the opium poppy eradication effort in Afghanistan as “the most wasteful and ineffective program that I have seen in 40 years.” He bluntly stated that the U.S. government had wasted millions of dollars on a counterproductive program that generates political support for the Taliban and undermines nation-building efforts. And in his trip to Peru this past April, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Arturo Valenzuela noted that the fundamental problem is not coca cultivation itself, but poverty and inequality.