The war on drugs. We keep calling it that, it seems, because we like wars on abstract concepts. Like the war on terror, the war on drugs racks up one hell of a body count, and its victims are mostly innocent civilians with no more love for the corrupt regimes that rule them than we have.
Molly Molloy, who runs Frontera List, which focuses on border-related news and specifically Ciudad Juarez, and Charles Bowden, author of a new book on Ciudad Juarez, both call it not a war on drugs but a war on the poor.
Bowden noted in an interview with me in Marfa last week, "If you put people in a city where the police are not totally corrupted, where they're secure in their property, where they can get a job that pays a decent wage, they don't kill each other."
But the work that NAFTA started in Mexico the drug wars have sped up. There are no jobs that pay a living wage in Juarez, and its proximity to the border makes it valuable turf for all sorts of illicit activity, by all sorts of forces, from gangs, to cops, to big bosses, to the Mexican Army itself.
Politicians here like to talk about border security, but they refuse to acknowledge the demands of human security: living wages, a society of laws, schools, housing, healthcare. Instead of modeling lawfulness, our government's response is more lawlessness-- more arms to more armies, more privilege to the very rich and drug laws -- as well as immigration laws that make no sense.
The Juarez paper, El Diario, this week addressed the drug lords on its front page: "You are at this time the de facto authorities in this city because the legal authorities have not been able to stop our colleagues from falling."
It's a fair point to make about the legal authorities, and the rest of us. We're failing to stop the falling of our neighbors.