California, Drugs and Mideast terror.(COMMENTARY)

Article excerpt


Occasionally, you bump into a truly compelling policy argument. Here is one that emerges out of facts that came to light this past month. On data that has recently surfaced, there can no longer be any doubt about a direct link between drug-trafficking money from the buyers of illicit drugs in the United States and leading terrorist organizations, including al Qaeda, Hamas, also known as the Islamic Resistance Movement, and Hezbollah.

This puzzle piece is added to another: Colombian FARC terrorists have long funded their operations with cocaine and heroin revenue. New this autumn is a riveting development: Clear and convincing evidence has emerged that California's methamphetamine "super labs" are, in fact, a significant source of revenue not only for Mexican drug traffickers, but also to Middle Eastern terrorist organizations based in Yemen and Jordan. That revelation is significant. It should have resounding policy implications for law makers in both parties and the administration.

In the words of Attorney General John Ashcroft last month, "The war on terrorism has been joined with the war on illegal drug use." More to the point, Congress must seriously grapple with properly funding - and clearly articulating the reasons for funding - a full bore effort to take down the infrastructure surrounding California's unique phenomenon of methamphetamine "super labs." This is not an excuse for massive new funding across 50 states; this is an immediate threat posed by one state. Nor is this a "get to it in Fiscal Year 2004" sort of affair; this is a "get to it now" challenge.

Evidence has long simmered, just short of a full boil, that major Middle Eastern terrorist organizations were drawing substantial revenues from the sale of high potency narcotics on U.S. streets and in U.S.schools. The link was always ironclad in the case of Colombian terrorists, not least because their links to cocaine and heroin traffickers were both transparent and repeatedly surfaced in public documents. Not so, however, with the California methamphetamine gusher.

In recent years, two mistaken presumptions have characterized federal efforts to end the methamphetamine production glut. First, California's meth problem has mistakenly been deemed no worse, proportionally, than any other state's. The implication is that meth produced in the source country we call California will stay there - only it does not. We now know that more than 85 percent of California's meth ends up in other states, north to New Hampshire, East to Virginia, south to Florida, and through states like Texas and Illinois. The second mistake has been assuming that Mexican cocaine cartels had locked up California meth production. That also turns out to be only half the story.

In a first glimpse of the Middle Eastern connection to U.S. drug profits, indictments were handed up last month against two Pakistanis and an American once from India for "an alleged scheme to use profits from illicit drug sales to finance the purchase of Stinger [shoulder-fire] missiles for the al Qaida terror network." They had sought to buy four Stinger missiles on profits from illegal drugs in San Diego. …