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The straight dope

Cocaine_2Forget the fuss, both left and right, about the way the news media are covering the war in Iraq. What about that other war -- the one on drugs? Hey, whatever happened to that? Well, it's still with us, reports NPR's All Things Considered. In a five-part series aptly titled The Forgotten War that airs next week, reporters John Burnett, Laura Sullivan and Juan Forero take a look at both the supply and demand sides of the war, update the Bush administration's so-called Plan Colombia (six years and $5.4 billion later, it's still chugging away with no end in sight) and profiles drug czar John P. Walters.

What did the NPR reporters find? That all the government's efforts haven't done a thing to drive drug prices up, which suggests that there's been no effect on supply lines. That all the drug warriors' mucking about in Colombia and the Caribbean has accomplished is to drive the cocaine trade and all its attendant violence into Mexico. That the huge population of prison inmates jailed under tough new laws in the late 1980s and early 1990s is now hitting the streets, with disastrous consequences for cities like Oakland. In short, we had to destroy the village to save it.

There's some impressive reporting in The Forgotten War. Yet it's a little discouraging that NPR could do, by its own count, 100 interviews over six months and still not find a single person to argue the merits of the single untested strategy -- that is, legalization. Instead, everybody chews over the same old arguments about interdiction vs. treatment, even though neither of them has ever worked. Still, it's nice that somebody in the news media remembers there's a drug war out there. If you want to listen, All Things Considered airs in South Florida from 4 to 6 p.m. and 6:30 to 7 p.m. on WLRN-FM, 91.3 on the dial.

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