Stop funding terrorism, give up drugs

Would you give up something you love if you found out it funded something terrible? British actress Helen Mirren did.

Mirren, an Oscar winning British actress, gave up cocaine when she found out Klaus Barbie, a Nazi war criminal, produced cocaine to support himself while running from justice. In the U.S., violence associated with the war on drugs is portrayed as a problem confined to Mexico. However, drug trafficking is not only funding violence in Mexico. Recent reports in the news revealed Hezbollah set up networks all over Latin America to smuggle drugs for profit.

During my freshman year, a serious terrorist attack was foiled. The Iranian government allegedly planned to assassinate the Saudi ambassador and bomb the Israeli embassy. I still remember the shock that something like this could be planned in my city; few know that Iran tried to recruit the Zetas, a vicious Mexican drug cartel to carry out the attack. I also remember my first encounter with cocaine which happened around the same time. I went to a party, and an ex-acquaintance said, “The weed here sucks, the booze here sucks and the blow here sucks.”

College students consume more illegal substances than any other demographic. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, 3.7 percent of college students use cocaine. This may not seem like much, but it is a lot considering there are an estimated 21.8 million college students, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. This means that 806,600 college students are using cocaine. There are 7,212 undergraduate students at AU. Applying these percentages to the AU student body, there are theoretically 267 students using cocaine.

These small percentages represent huge amounts of money. The per capita consumption of cocaine in the D.C. area is 73 grams. Along with this, according to the National Criminal Justice Service, the price of cocaine in D.C. runs around $150 per gram. Using the lowest estimates, AU contributes almost $3 million to the cocaine market.

Marijuana and cocaine are two drugs most often smuggled by Latin American drug cartels. Considering the relatively low usage of cocaine at universities, it is important to consider the much higher prevalence of marijuana among students and what that means for drug profits. The U.S. leads the world in the use of illicit drugs. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has stated that 18 of 42 terrorist groups get large amounts of funding from the drug trade.

The effects of the drug trade are readily apparent in Mexico, but the drug trade has an even uglier face: narco-terrorism. The U.S., Israel and the European Union designated Hezbollah as a terrorist group. Most recently Hezbollah was implicated in the Burgas bus bombing which killed six and injured 32. Alberto Nisman, the special prosecutor responsible for investigating the 1994 AMIA (a Jewish community center) bombing in Argentina, revealed that Iran and Hezbollah have been setting up cells in Latin America. Hezbollah is making around $10 million from drug-smuggling in the tri-border region of Argentina alone. This is in addition to the estimated $100 million to $200 million it receives from Iran.

Right now, Hezbollah and Iran may not be a violent threat against the U.S., but Latin American infrastructure could easily be used for terrorism against the U.S. According to Israeli Intelligence, Hezbollah has set up training camps across Latin America, recently a camp of 30 Hezbollah trainees in Nicaragua. In 2008, Operation Titan, a joint action by Colombian and American officials, busted a Hezbollah drug-smuggling ring, demonstrating a problem larger than previously thought.

We are university students. Illicit substances abound at parties. Regardless of how you feel about the banning of these substances, can you really continue to use them knowing that your purchase pays for murder not only in Mexico, but around the globe? The expression of high-minded sentiments, not unknown on the AU campus, does not jibe with financing terrorism.

When this problem does come here, and it will, do not blame the people charged with prevention: Recognize instead your contempt for the current crop of victims, and your part in funding their deaths. As for myself, I do not want to fund terrorism around the globe, or potentially at home.
Andy Wallin is a junior in the School of International Service.

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