Even though the world is rightfully celebrating the liberation of Kuwait, the U.S. should not forget it has another war to fight - the war on drugs, according to an award-winning international journalist.
Enrique Santos Calderon, a columnist and member of the editorial board for "El Tiempo," Colombia's largest and most prestigious newspaper, said Tuesday what was once a worldwide focus on international drug trafficking has dwindled to relatively little media coverage."It is understandable that the world is celebrating recent events in the Persian Gulf, but there is another war going on - the worst kind of war. It's the dirtiest and cruelest war imaginable. The people involved in drug trafficking have no scruples, no remorse and no respect for human pain. That's what my country is facing right now."
Calderon, in a speech at Brigham Young University as part of a communications symposium, said that recent kidnappings of judges and journalists - as well as the deaths of soldiers, policemen and civilians in South America - prove that the drug war has escalated dramatically because of desperation on both sides.
Worse stiill is the emotional and moral toll that drugs take on families, he said.
"Drugs have led to a terrible deterioration of families and values, both in Colombia and here. What is happening in your cities with underprivileged youth is directly comparable with what is happening in my country."
Calderon said the U.S. and European countries whose citizens continue to use illegal drugs are guilty of misunderstanding what means must be taken to end drug trafficking, although he termed $57 million in U.S. aid for crop substitution a step in the right direction.
"International efforts to stop the flow of drugs have failed. It seems as if the only way to fight this war is through economic means - to strengthen these countries' legal economies."
He said that U.S. officials have seen the war only in military terms, such as sending South American countries "outdated airplanes and helicopters that would be better suited to fighting guerillas in our country rather than these sophisticated criminals."
That resulting U.S. presence in South America has actually aided the drug lords, such as Pablo Escobar from the Medellin Cartel, because it has led to a form of "narco-nationalism" in that area - resentment from citizens because they see the military actions as a failure, he said.
Additionally, Calderon said that $370 million in 1991 aid to Colombia, Bolivia and Peru - the three countries that produce the largest quantities of cocaine - may seem to be a lot on the surface, but is actually skimpy when one realizes that it is "one-half of the cost of a Stealth bomber."
According to Calderon, the world should concentrate on three plans - those of crop substitution, crackdowns on drug-money laundering and awareness of what roles other countries play in drug production - to turn the tide in the war. U.S. aid in the first area could become the stepping stone in a drug-war victory, he said.
"For example, there has been no serious effort to curtail production of chemicals that aid in drug manufacturing - chemicals produced in the U.S. and European countries like Germany."
Also, a drug-war victory is needed very badly in Colombia, because it is "destabilizing one of the oldest democracies in the world," Calderon said.
"My country is paying a very high price for the bad habits of North American drug users. This is indeed a battle for democracy, law and moral values."