Casual Drugs, Islamist Thugs
“When you give violent organizations more money, as it turns out, they tend to spend it on violence.” James Piazza
“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.” Edmund Burke
“There is a direct link between terrorism and international illicit drug markets.”
Irka Kuleshnyk, UNODC Senior Terrorism Prevention Officer
In this, the last article in the four part series on the nexus of illicit drug abuse/trade and terrorism, I will attempt to bring the subject down to a deeply personal level for each of us. If we keep the subject in the ivory tower of the “over there,” we will miss the extreme importance of it to us personally. In parts one and two, I discussed the reality of the nexus of drugs and terrorism and in part three, the matter of how drugs are being abused by terrorists themselves to carry out heinous acts of wanton violence on civilians and innocent people around the world. The abuses of legal drugs, such as Adderol and Retilin, and how they have perhaps stimulated normally non-violent youth to commit acts of extreme violence among their peers is a matter that needs to be further addressed.
How does this matter of “casual drugs and Islamist thugs” affect my life and the lives of my family and community? The unreported impact of narco-terrorism is of staggering proportions, impacting all of us in ways that we could never have imagined.
“Criminal and terrorist groups appear to be learning from one another, adapting to each other’s successes and failures. This means that it is necessary to acknowledge, and to understand the crime–terror continuum to formulate effective state responses to these evolving, and periodically converging, threats.” The increasing connection between drug cartels and terrorist networks is becoming much more common-place than any of us would care to believe. The US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has assessed that up to 60 percent of terrorist organizations are connected with illegal narcotics trade. Those organizations are all vying for a piece of the most lucrative illicit pie on the planet.
According to the U.N. world drug report, the international drug trade generates $400 billion annually. For instance, groups that are illustrative of a terrorist entity, evolving into ones that are primarily engaged in criminal activities include, Abu Sayyaf, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). For example, since 2000, Abu Sayyaf has been primarily engaged in criminal activities such as kidnapping operations, and most recently, operating marijuana plantations in the Philippines. It has been estimated that in 2000 alone, kidnapping deals garnered Abu Sayyaf, $20 million.
Over the course of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the number of civilian deaths has been staggering. In Afghanistan, more than 26,000 civilians are estimated to have died since the war began in 2001. In Iraq, conservative tallies place the number of civilians killed at roughly 160,500 since the U.S. invasion in 2003. The Mexican government released new data showing that between 2007 and 2014 — a period that accounts for some of the bloodiest years of the nation’s war against the drug cartels — more than 164,000 people were victims of homicide. These statistics bring the drug terror nexus much closer to our homes.
Knowing that there is a qualitative connection between the global production and consumption of illicit drugs, including marijuana ought to cause us to consider the effect that the legalization of marijuana might have on our communities in the future. Perhaps one of the most confusing realities that causes policy makers to balk is the connection between proliferated illicit drug use and the recreational use of marijuana. Some researchers would have us believe that there is no connection between recreational marijuana use and harder drug illicit addictions. Data does not support that.
Does recreational use of cannabis (marijuana) cause a person to become addicted or to turn to a stronger drug for greater stimulation? A study published in, Addiction found that those who smoked cannabis more than 50 times a year had “hazards of other illicit drug use” that were 140 times higher than people who did not use marijuana. We cannot ignore that reality. Even if cannabis is not addictive, it clearly poses a threat for many personality types to escalate to stronger forms of drug use. The fact is, use of marijuana, as well as nicotine and alcohol, is likely to come before experimentation with more potent drugs. Many studies show that early exposure to addictive substances, like the chemical THC in marijuana, may change how the brain responds to other drugs.
Although considerable research supports the idea of marijuana as a gateway drug, the fact is that the majority of people using this highly popular substance do not go on to using harder drugs. Somehow this does not pacify my understanding of how using marijuana becomes acceptable to an entire nation. To put it in its rawest form as I understand it, what our society has decided is that “getting high” is so important to us that we are willing to accept the deaths and addictions of a portion of our society, including our youth, so that we can enjoy a “buzz.” Meanwhile, the acquisition of such pleasures puts money into the pockets of our enemies so that they can attack us and wreak havoc and destruction on our lives. Listed below are several resources that you can turn to for more in-depth information about the impact of drugs and marijuana on our society.
Here are some ways that drugs and terror impact you personally:
- Your taxes go to fight the war on drugs in Afghanistan and narco-terrorism around the world. This is money that could be spent on educating our children, feeding our poor, caring for our disabled, our elderly and for providing emergency services and infrastructure. It is being spent instead on protecting us from the nexus of drugs and terror. It is estimated that currently the US government spends $45 billion in Afghanistan alone due to the war there. This figure exceeds the annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of over 100 countries in the world.
- Our sons and daughters are dying in a questionable fight, a global struggle over a drug, a stimulant, so that people can “get high.” Our sons and daughters are dying so that someone can “get high.” Let that sink in for just a moment. In Afghanistan over 2,345 US soldiers have died since 2003. They died so that people would have the right to “get high.” Am I overstating the connection between narcotics trade and terrorism? Re-look at the entire series; it is not a blind existential leap to make the distinct connection. You have to do a lot of semantic gymnastics to get around the meanings of the data being provided.
- Terrorist organizations are being funded by the global sale of illicit drugs. Over 50% of Afghanistan’s GDP can be attributed to the drug trade. The country accounts for more than 90 percent of global production, although drug markets evolve over time, Afghanistan’s production costs are so much lower than its would-be competitors that it is a safe bet to assume that the country will be the leader for at least 5-10 more years. Afghanistan is just one example.
- It is important to point out that destroying all drug production in countries like Afghanistan will not result in the cessation of global narcoterrorism. If all the poppies in Afghanistan were destroyed tomorrow, the production of opium centers would simply be shifted to somewhere else in the world, probably southeast Asia.
- Until Europe and the United States decide to do something about its own drug demand problems there will always be a supplier. As long as there are billions of dollars on the table to be made, terrorists will continue to compromise their ideological distinctive to fund their egregious violence. Clearly, it is the foolishness of Western societies that succumb to the temptations of intoxication that provides the foundations on which the drug trade can exist and be lucrative. It is the profitability of the drug trade that causes terroristic organizations to turn to illicit drug trade to fund its ideological rampages. Westerners are using their desire for intoxication and pleasure, which actually provides funds to purchase the bullets which will one day possibly kill them. It is difficult for me to imagine a more foolish scenario for all of mankind.
It is time for us as a society to deal with our own problems. It is abundantly clear that our social demand for intoxicating drugs provides the framework for much of the Islamist terror funding in the world. We as the body of Christ need to get involved in helping to rescue the addicted from their addictions. Until the demand decreases there will never be a decrease of the supply. If we want to lessen the funds being made available to Islamist terror networks we can begin by dealing with our own drug problems. There is not a simplistic fix to the problem or an over night solution; instead it will require the involvement of many people and will take years. One thing is for sure however: if the demand side of the equation is not addressed up front, all the bombs and bullets in the world will not stop the supply side.
Western nations could fund drug treatment programs in other parts of the world, for example as a way of reducing demand in countries with horrendous heroin and opioid problems, and earning support from the general populace could encourage consumer countries (including Iran and Russia) to step up drug treatment. This would shrink the revenues of global drug traffickers. Focusing alternative-development efforts on more stable parts of the world, as a reward for taking steps toward normalcy, could further erode the threat of terrorists gaining influence there. And removing officials corrupted by the drug trade from seats of power — if it were possible — would bolster confidence in the governments.
We as a people can make these kinds of catastrophic issues a matter of regular prayer. We as humans cannot fix the problems ourselves. Albert Einstein once said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” They will require the conscious activity of God to solve this serious dilemma; without him we are doomed.
I have been reading over these resources meticulously. The content is fascinating. Take a few minutes to read even one article. Most of what is written here won’t be found in the mainstream press.
Vanda Felbab-Brown, “Improving Supply Side Policies: Smarter Eradication, Interdiction, and Alternative Livelihoods and the Possibility of Licensing,” LSE Drug Reform Series, May 2014, https://www.brookings.edu/~/media/research/files/reports/2014/05/07-improving-supply-side-policies-felbabbrown/improvingsupplysidepoliciesfelbabbrown.pdf.