America's war on terrorism ought to be linked inextricably to the war on
drugs. It is not. That unfortunate failure, making it more difficult to
defeat either scourge, is reflected in two anomalies.

*President Bush, omnipresent and eloquent in exhorting his fellow citizens
to combat terror, since Sept. 11 has mentioned narcotics hardly at all. Not
once in his daily rhetoric over those three months has the president used
the phrase "narco-terrorism."

*The Drug Enforcement Administration, widely considered to have the best
U.S. intelligence operations, has no seat at the inter-agency table in
fighting terrorism. It never did, and the attacks of Sept. 11 did not
change anything.

These facts of life are the background to last Tuesday's unprecedented
narco-terrorism symposium convened by the DEA's aggressive new
administrator, former Rep. Asa Hutchinson, and held at DEA headquarters in
Arlington, Va. Criticism was restrained and indirect, but the consensus was
clear that drug-fighting must be part of the anti-terror strategy.

The DEA always has appreciated the nexus between terror and narcotics, but
the State Department and the CIA have not. Accordingly, the U.S. government
for years turned a blind eye to the fact that Colombia's FARC guerrillas
from the start have been financed by illegal narcotics. The Taliban, which
supported Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida terrorist network, have been
financed by the opium trade to Europe. While U.S. policymakers still talk
at length about state-sponsored terrorism, support now is more likely to
come from the poppy seed than from a government sanctuary.

Raphael Perl, narco-terrorism expert for the Congressional Research
Service, told last week's symposium that "income from the drug trade has
become increasingly important to terrorist organizations." He added: "State
sponsors are increasingly difficult to find. What world leader in his right
mind will risk global sanctions by openly sponsoring al-Qaida or funding it?"

Steven Casteel, DEA chief of intelligence, agreed: "State-sponsored
terrorism is diminishing. These organizations are looking for funding, and
drugs bring one thing: quick return on their investment."

Narcotics provide more than a way to finance terrorism, in the DEA's view.
Al-Qaida expands ABC--atomic, biological and chemical--to ABCD, with drugs
added, according to Casteel. "Drugs are a weapon of mass destruction that
can be used against Western societies and help bring them down," he said.

On Sept. 7, DEA agents seized 53 kilos of Afghan heroin distributed by
Colombians. "I would argue," said Casteel, "that we've been under attack in
this country for a long time, and it didn't start on Sept. 11."

Considering DEA's experience, it would seem natural that its
representatives would immediately be put on the high command of the new war
against terrorism. They were not, and still are not.

Larry Johnson, a former CIA official who was a high-ranking State
Department counterterrorism expert during the first Bush administration,
told the symposium: "I can say, hands down, that the best intelligence we
have on the ground overseas is DEA, and yet, after all of the time that
I've been involved with counterterrorism, not once have I seen a DEA body
sitting at the table, at the [Counter- terrorism and Security Group]
meetings which go on at the White House, where you're talking about
combatting terrorism." Nor are they there today.

No wonder the president never uses the words narco-terrorism. What is lost
by this silence is the leverage of the presidential bully pulpit to fight
drugs. Last week's DEA symposium was called "Target America: Traffickers,
Terrorists and Your Kids." The "kids" part was discussed by Stephen Pasierb
of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. He presented polling data
showing a rare conjunction between generations: a mutual inclination by
parents and children to believe that illegal drugs finance terrorism.

That opportunity can be exploited by the government's massive megaphone,
especially the presidential bully pulpit. "The understanding of this link
[between narcotics and terrorism] is essential," said Pasierb, "and that's
what our leaders can do. Leadership in this nation can help our people
understand." The wonder is that the blase attitude toward narcotics in high
places that marked the Clinton administration has not totally disappeared
under Bush.

************************************************** *********************


Dear Editor,

I was baffled by Robert Novak's column on the alleged need to tie the drug
war to the war on terror ("America's 2 Wars Must Be Linked," Dec. 10). The
drug war helps to finance terrorists - they would not be drawn to drug
sales as a funding source if prohibition had not made drugs so profitable.
While Novak calls drug "weapons of mass destruction" and lists several
official U.S. enemies that have profited from the illegal drug trade, it is
crucial to remember that some official allies (including the Northern
Alliance in Afghanistan) are no strangers to drug trafficking. Are our
friends also using weapons of mass destruction against us?

In reality, if we want to hurt terrorists, we would end the war on drugs.
Such a move would stop the flow of black market narco-dollars to terrorists
and slash the power of drug gangs here in America. If we do as Novak
suggests and link the war on drugs to the war on terror, the only result
will be prolonging both indefinitely.

Stephen Young

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Newshawk: Sledhead
Pubdate: Mon, 10 Dec 2001
Source: Chicago Sun-Times (IL)
Copyright: 2001 The Sun-Times Co.
Author: Robert Novak
Bookmark: (Terrorism)