In the series of articles I wrote last year on the nexus of drug trade and Islamist Violence, I was able to establish a clear connection with these two nefarious categories of global criminals. We need to understand that not only does the drug trade effect our youth through drug use, it also funds global Jihadism. So in a sense, buying drugs, pays for the bombs that are being used to blow up churches, airports and soon our Malls and public spaces. Read with a determined eye to understand.
A Marriage of Convenience
“…may God turn all the infidels into dead corpses…whether it is by opium or by shooting, this is our common goal.” Khan Mohammed, Taliban commander
“One word of truth outweighs the whole world.” Alexander Solzhenitsyn
After writing last week on the implications of violence in our schools and their similarities to global Islamist extremism, I was struck by the close relationship between school violence, drug use/abuse and terrorism globally. I have uncovered some realities not much talked about in our mainstream media.
Over the next three weeks I will uncover for you an incredibly subtle connection between violence, criminal activity and Islamist terrorism. These facts are of great importance to our families and communities.
Part 1- A Marriage of Convenience- I will discuss how on the surface, these competing actors, drug cartels and Islamist terrorists are fueled by an overlapping mixture of ideologies and political agendas.
Part 2- The Fuel of Fury- I will address how drug use directly fuels violent terrorist operations globally.
Part 3- Hitting Close to Home- I will write about the Drug Terror Continuum, how it effects your family and community directly.
The problematic “marriage of convenience” between terrorists and drug traffickers poses a difficult challenge for the international justice community. The connection between the two worlds is lucrative and beneficial for both. “Drug trafficking, the critical link between supply and demand, is fueling a global criminal enterprise valued in the hundreds of billions of dollars that poses a growing challenge to stability and security,” the report states, also noting that there are “more and more acts of violence, conflicts and terrorist activities fueled by drug trafficking and organized crime.”
Despite (and arguable due to the ambiguities of narco-terrorism) the frequent usage of the word, this article will use the term, narco-terrorism in its discussion. I hope to make a modest contribution to a more nuanced perspective of the concept, both with regard to the academic and policy sphere.
One of the greatest problems faced as an analyst and writer is that the figures dwarf everyday experience just as surely as do other “facts” that swirl around us. When I speak of the hundreds of billions of dollars that are spent on drugs and terrorism, it flips a switch in most of our brains signaling an “irrelevancy” button. The idea is just too big for us to conceptualize, so we stop trying. For example, we measure computer memory in gigabytes. One gigabyte is 1,073,741,824 bytes. No one can count that high. If we counted one number per second every second of every day — without pausing to sleep, eat, or go to the bathroom — it would take 34 years to count to giga. And giga is by no means the largest scale that informed citizens need to comprehend. After all, it is “only” a billion. The numbers themselves leave us like a deer standing next to the road staring into head-lamps.
Even though, traditionally a concept connected with Latin America, in contemporary policy, narco-terrorism is increasingly linked to the regions of Central and Southeast Asia, specifically the narcotics-producing regions of the so-called Golden Crescent. (This is not to be confused with the fertile crescent, the golden croissant or the Golden Triangle.)
On an international basis, the numbers are large. “Globally, some 210 million people use illicit drugs each year, and almost 200,000 of them die from drugs.” And, to no one’s surprise, “North America continues to be the world’s largest drug market,” even though it is now smaller than it was a decade ago, and is focused on cannabis, amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) and opiates.
There is perhaps no better example to illustrate the nexus between these two worlds than Hezbollah’s presence in the tri-border area (TBA) in South America. Hezbollah takes advantage of the hundreds of clandestine airstrips and lax border security in Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina. In turn, proceeds gained from drug trafficking are laundered and deposited back to Iran, which funds Hezbollah (or Hezbollah directly) in the Middle East. This explains how a country as financially strapped as Iran is currently, can continue to fund the activities of Hezbollah in Lebanon, Syria and Israel.
Where are these drugs sold? -North America. Let me make this more clear. Iran, ISIS and al Qaeda are involved with the drug trade in South America. They bring it in; help violently protect the drug producing organizations in Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina and then smuggle it into the USA for sale. What staggers me is the realization that you and I are paying for this mess…twice! We pay to fight the criminal activity, by trying to keep it out and we pay a second time through the social complications that it brings. Drugs ravage the lives of millions in the USA. The figure stated above of 200,000 dying from drug use every year is a global tragedy.
The CDC reported that in 2016, 64,070 Americans died from some form of drug overdose. Most drug-related fatalities happen accidentally; however, significant numbers of people turn to intentional overdose as a form of suicide. I do not want to insinuate that every drug related death is the result of some form of terroristic network activity, but the lines between what is purely Cartel driven and what has terror network fingerprints on it is increasingly being blurred.
Let me put that number of 64,070 in perspective. How many die in auto accidents every year in the USA? In 2017, 40,100 Americans perished in auto accidents. Some 13,286 people were killed in the US by firearms in 2015, according to the Gun Violence Archive. These numbers highlight the biases that many Americans hold. Though only a quarter of the deaths in America were related to guns, there are demonstrations and protests across America to stop gun violence. Don’t get me wrong. Every murder and death in the world is a tragedy. We need as a society to figure out a way to minimize violence in every sphere, but why is no one looking harder at the implications of drug related deaths and how they are effecting all of our lives? Why are we not looking more closely at the nexus between the “War on Drugs” and the “War on Terror.” It has become a violent marriage of convenience. The question of how much less crime would exist if drug use never existed is well worth contemplating.
The UNODC (United Nations office on Drugs and Crime) reports that the international drug trade is a 400 billion dollar business worldwide. Out of the 43 Foreign Terror Organizations,(FTO), the Drug Enforcement Agency reports that 60 percent of all FTOs are linked to the drug trafficking business. Speaking at a recent conference in Istanbul, “The Role of Drug Trafficking in Promoting and Financing Today’s Global Terrorism,” jointly organized by Turkey, the United States and Colombia, UNODC Senior Terrorism Prevention Officer, Irka Kuleshnyk said that “While it is difficult to establish how widely terrorist groups are involved in the illicit drug trade, or the breadth and nature of cooperation between these two criminal groups, the magnitude of the numbers involved make the relationship worrisome.” On the positive side, Illicit drug traders and terrorists are not some mysterious entity, Kuleshnyk says. Rather they are usually groups and networks that operate in ways that can be understood, identified, tracked and ultimately disrupted.
Why does this matter to you and me? The connection is quite apparent. Our communities are being directly affected every day by illicit drug trade. I have just touched the tip of the iceberg with the statistics presented here. There are those who tell us that the answer lies in just legalizing drugs and as a result these problems and deaths would go away. That is a simplistic answer and ignores the complexities that are inherent in the whole matter of drug use. It is not a victimless crime as many would have us believe. If you think that it is victimless, just tell those 200,000 who die every year your theory; see if they agree. It is not victimless. It effects each of us in one form or another; if for no other reason than the taxes that you and I pay to protect our society from the destructive effects of drugs on our population. This is a national tragedy and it is conveniently married to our national enemies, the Islamist jihadist extremists. Next week I will expose how drugs themselves are being used to fuel the fury of our enemies and how they give a false sense of courage/cowardice to carry out heinous terrorist attacks against innocent women, children and non-combatants.
Once again we are faced with astronomical problems, beyond our ability to reason and to even care about, another 1,073,741,824 bytes of information, beyond our abilities to wrap our arms around. How do we even think about these things? As Christians, what is our role in affecting change? How can we be sources of hope and agents of compassion and strength?
- Locally we can be involved in fighting against the futility that many face which leads them to drugs. I know this is theoretical, but what if we stole away the demand for drugs? Would it make a difference? Why don’t we give it a shot? What would our prayers do to diminish the drug abuse in our communities? What could you do to minister to those in need in your community who are addicted to drugs? This is not a problem that is far away. It is in your neighborhood, perhaps even in your own home. Determine to do something about drug abuse in your community. Matthew 5:16… “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father, which is in heaven” (ERV).
- Become involved in local politics, state politics or national politics. Because we as Christians have abandoned the public sphere of service, we no longer have much of a voice in how our country is run. “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s,” Our priority is the Kingdom, but clearly Jesus taught us that we still lived in the world and that we were i be subject to it and to be a part fo it. Politics would be a critical piece of that message.
- This is specifically for young men and women: Consider serving your community as a first responder, policeman or policewoman. Consider joining the military. Once again, these are spheres I fear we have abandoned for so long that we no longer influence them. We need Christian police officers, firemen and women, emergency medical personnel and soldiers, airmen and sailors. The War on Drugs and the War on Terror would change drastically if it was being fought by “warriors of the light.”