Drug War Zone: Frontline Dispatches from the Streets of El Paso and Juaarez

By Howard Campbell | Go to book overview

Introduction: Ethnographic Dimensions of Law
Enforcement in the Drug War Zone

Narcs and drug merchants have a lot in common.
CHARLES BOWDEN, DOWN BY THE RIVER: DRUGS,
MONEY, MURDER, AND FAMILY

Journalist James Mills wrote a 1,200-page tome that remains one of the richest treatments of the international drug trade and government antidrug efforts. According to Mills, “In the five years it had taken to produce that book I had been often in the company of federal agents or international drug traffickers commenting on President Reagan’s socalled War on Drugs. I never encountered anyone who thought it anything other than a joke” (1986, 119). Though this is overstated, there have been other equally scathing academic and journalistic indictments of U.S. antidrug policy (for example, Webb 1998; Agar 2006; Baum 1996; Bertram, Blachman, Sharpe, and Andreas 1996; Marez 2004; Nevins 2002; Eddy, Sabogal, and Walden 1988; Andreas 2000; Andreas and Nadelmann 2006), though the policy also has many defenders (for example, Wilson 2001). The main criticisms of the U.S. drug-war policy may be summarized as follows:
1. It is wasteful and ineffective. Billions of dollars are spent each year, and the flow of illegal drugs seems to never cease. Interdiction efforts have little effect on overall supply in the United States.
2. It demonizes behaviors and substances that are either mild or innocuous, or that involve victimless crimes or individuals’ choices to consume narcotics. Legal drugs actually kill more people than do illegal ones.
3. It is unfair to producing and trafficking countries, like Mexico,

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