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On Winning The Mexican Drug War, Or, “Fighting For Peace Is Like…” March 28, 2009

The AIG Bonus Scandal having been disposed of for the moment, Congress is all a-flitter, all of a sudden, about the new “Greatest Threat To The American Way Of Life In All Of World History Of The Week”…and this week the threat is The Mexican Drug War.

The Mexican Drug Cartels, Senator Joe Lieberman told us in a March 25th hearing, are the number one organized crime threat we face in America today.

The violence, we are told, is beginning to affect America’s National Security…and unless I’m mistaken, Congress is looking to spin up for some sort of action that might range from sending thousands of troops to the US Southwest—and beyond—to going after users in the US “by any means necessary” to perhaps even getting all “Jack Bauer” on some Mexicans who would, presumably, have some useful information.

Although no one’s discussed it yet, we will probably hear someone even propose sending cartel leaders to Guantanamo (Michelle Bachman…I’m thinking of you…).

However, there is another way to disarm these dangerous cartels…and history tells us it works.

So Congress, before you go passing some “warrantless wiretapping for drugs” 4th Amendment exception, allow me to suggest that instead of a drug war, what we really need…is a drug peace.

I certainly do not drink all the time.
I have to sleep you know.

W.C. Fields

If you really want to understand today’s War On Drugs from the mind of a Mexican Drug Cartel “senior manager”, imagine the America of about 1929.

Alcohol was only available from you and your friends—or it was available from your enemies, who you were trying to kill with all the ingenuity you could muster.

Your enemies were, of course, also trying to kill you; so every day at work you needed to be looking over your shoulder…and to be willing to shoot first and ask questions later.

The police, the Courts, and the various elected officials were, at worst, a “business expense”.

Corporate America had embraced the concept of “vertical integration”; and in Detroit Henry Ford’s River Rouge Complex combined all of the elements of car manufacture, all in one place: a steel mill, a glass factory, a tire plant…and all of it ending in an assembly line.

Criminal America had seen the same light, which was why The Purple Gang, also based in Detroit, was engaged in liquor smuggling, liquor distribution (they were reported to be Al Capone’s largest supplier), and, naturally, the extortion of money from the speakeasies—not to mention robbing or kidnapping the occasional high-roller speakeasy customer.

The Purple Gang even allied themselves with the Sugar House Gang to ensure vertical integration was more efficient. Because of Prohibition, the availability of products used to make alcohol was suddenly restricted; meaning whoever controlled the distribution of corn sugar controlled who would be manufacturing liquor.

The Sugar House Gang (named after the product they controlled and the place they sold it) would tell The Purple Gang who had been buying corn syrup. Once the customer had distilled the liquor, The Purple Gang would rob them…and then sell the goods to Capone, or another customer…and then vertical integration was complete!

The Purple Gang was so tied in to the bootlegger-on-bootlegger violence of the era that they even have a tangential connection with the Valentine’s Day Massacre; which seems to have been related to a dispute among rival liquor distributors “Bugs” Moran and Al Capone (who, as everyone knows, was in Florida at the time…so he couldn’t possibly have anything to do with it).

It was estimated The Purple Gang might have been responsible for as many as 500 murders before they were targeted by Federal officials.

Murders, kidnapping, bootlegging, extortion, public corruption, rotgut liquor that could cause blindness–or even death–the invention of the “drive-by” shooting…all of it was part and parcel of daily life in 1920s Prohibition America.

In fact, Prohibition had created “drug cartels” so dangerous to National Security that President Herbert Hoover had named Al Capone “Public Enemy Number One”.

(Of course, some might argue that Hoover’s real Public Enemy Number One was the Great Depression…but we’ll address that question another day.)

Under great public pressure, Prohibition ended in 1933, having lasted roughly 14 years.

This discussion began with an examination of the question of how you might reduce the power of the Mexican Drug Cartels, you’ll recall; so let’s end this conversation by posing some questions that tie the whole thing together:

–When’s the last time you heard of three carfuls of guys from Jack Daniels using their Tommy guns to first shoot up, and then burn, Jim Beam’s distillery so that they could take over their turf?

–Mexican Drug Cartels make billions of dollars annually importing virtually every drug you might want: they import the reefer, I’m told, and the cocaine, the heroin, the meth, the ecstasy…and probably Viagra, to boot.

You know what the one drug is that Mexican Drug Cartels don’t import?

Tequila.

–So if liquor has become a legal business…and Jack Daniel’s sees no business imperative in a raid on Jim Beam…and Mexican Drug Cartels aren’t making money smuggling tequila (at least not since the 1930s, anyway)…and the last drive-by shooting that involved the liquor business was sometime in 1932 or early 1933…and every single “Mafia Liquor Cartel” was basically out of business the moment Prohibition ended…you think maybe it’s time that we thought about making some of the other drugs a legal business, too?

I’m pretty sure I know who won’t like the idea…and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be the suddenly much less powerful Mexican Drug Cartels.