LA’s Other Gang Problem

They sell drugs to kids and say its us
And when the cops are crooks who can you trust?
– Ice-T

       Several years ago, rapper Ice-T
achieved widespread notoriety for recording a hard core rock song called
“Cop Killer.” Over speeding guitars, Ice-T shouted out lyrics promising
to get back at the Los Angeles Police Department’s harassment, brutality
and other assorted wrong doings. Conservative activists William Bennett
and Charleton Heston blasted Time Warner, which distributed Ice-T’s music,
and soon afterward “Cop Killer” was pulled off the shelves and Time Warner
and Ice-T ended their business relationship. Now at the beginning of the
21st century, what should have been long apparent is now splashed all
over the news — it turns out that indeed significant numbers of LAPD
officers were no better than the gangs they were supposedly protecting
the public from. In fact in many ways the LAPD officers were worse since
they acted under cover of the state.

       The latest LAPD scandal started
when corrupt officer Rafael Perez was charged with stealing cocaine from
a police evidence locker. Not wanting to spend years in jail, Perez cut
a deal with prosecutors to tell all he knew about police corruption. What
Perez has told so far will probably eliminate whatever remaining trust
people may have had in the LAPD.

       Perez’s crimes alone would
be shocking. He recounted how he and a fellow officer shot an unarmed
man, planted a gun on the man, and then testified that the man had attacked
them. On the basis of the planted gun and the officer’s testimony,
the man was sentenced to 23 years in jail.

       But that’s just the type of
the iceberg. Up to 3,000 convictions involving LAPD officers are now considered
suspect and that number keeps rising as more revelations come out. So
far LA District Attorney Gil Garcetti has gone to court to have 22 convictions
overturned and says he’ll be back in a few weeks to seek to have another
30-4 convictions overturned. LAPD officers engaged in everything from
unprovoked shootings, beatings, drug dealing evidence planting, false
arrests, witness intimidation and perjury. A total of 20 officers have
already been suspended, fired or resigned because of the corruption revelation
sand that number is certain to rise.

       To his credit Garcetti hasn’t
attempted to minimize the disastrous situation unfolding in Los Angeles.
“If you cannot have faith and trust in your police officer — either as
a citizen or as a juror or as a judge, as defense lawyers, as a district
attorney — then we do not have an acceptable, a viable criminal justice
system,” Garcetti said.

       On the other hand, it’s not
like Garcetti or anyone should be shocked to find broad corruption in
the LAPD. Over the years Los Angeles has had to pay out millions of dollars
to the victims of police brutality while rarely firing the officers involved
in such cases (although to be fair, police unions do a lot to protect
corrupt officers in their midst). More importantly, though, the LAPD is
on a front line of a war on drugs that actively encourages and provides
incentives for police to bend the rules and see civilians as the “enemy”.

       Asset forfeiture, where tens
of thousands of dollars in property can be seized without a criminal conviction,
the widespread use of no-knock searches, the reliance on convicted criminals
as “informants,” and the paramilitary gear and training which is now widespread
at even smaller police departments encourages police to literally wage
war against a civilian population and see niceties such as Constitutional
protections as needless impediments to getting the job done. The United
States has simply done in a roundabout way what nations such as Colombia
have already done explicitly — militarized police actions against drug

       The damage done by this process
is incalculable. Along with the actual crimes committed by the LAPD and
officers in other corrupt police departments such as Philadelphia or the
shooting of an unarmed man in New York recently, the drug war and its
attendant corruption divert valuable law enforcement resources away from
genuine criminal acts of violence and fraud. In a free society it is simply
impossible to tolerate the sort of broad corruption that the drug war
has introduced in America’s police forces. Prosecute the cops, yes, but
also get them out of the futile job of trying to control the drug trade.
As the recent scandal confirms, the only losers in the war on drugs are
the innocent bystanders. Haven’t we had enough collateral damage? (Discuss
this article


Salon On U.S. Aid to Colombia

    Following up on the Ariana Huffington piece I mentioned a few days ago, Salon has two excellent feature articles on the problems that the United States is getting itself into with its $1 billion+ aid package to Colombia.

    The first article, Fighting drugs with choppers and poison by Ana Arana is a general look at the political situation within Colombia, and the difficulties the U.S. plan faces. One of the things the United States is funding, for example, is high elevation spraying of herbicides over land being used to raise drug crops.

    The idea sounds simple enough — destroy the crops and thereby destroy the drugs. Unfortunately in practice it is unlikely to work for several reasons. First, the area where cocoa can be grown in Colombia is so huge that spraying in one area merely causes increased planting in another. As Arana’s article notes, the Colombian government has had an aggressive herbicide spraying program in effect for five years now and in that time drug production increased by about 20 percent.

    Second, to the extent that spraying does work, it drives the peasants farming the land further into the camp of the Leftist guerillas. Ironically European governments are now considering withdrawing a $1 billion aid package to Colombia precisely because they fear the tactics proposed by the United States will only destabilize the situation between the government and the guerillas.

    Finally, the whole imagery of the United States paying to eradicate the crops of poor peasants is exactly what makes anti-Americanism such a powerful sentiment in many parts of the world. No the herbicide that’s being used isn’t dangerous to human beings, but the very image of planes financed by the richest, most powerful nation in the world dropping herbicides to kill the crops of some of the poorest peasants in the world is a revolting one.

    The second article, The corruption of Col. James Hiett by Bruce Shapiro, illustrates the real problem in the whole mess — demand for Colombian cocaine in the United States. Shapiro recounts how the Army colonel who was in charge of the 200 U.S. military advisers in Colombia during the mid-1990s became ensnared in drug trafficking anf money laundering himself. Col. James Hiett’s wife, Laurie Ann Hiett, was a cocaine addkct who received treatment for her problem and then lapsed back into her addiction while her husband was stationed in Colombia.

    She not only used drugs while in Colombia but actually shipped an estimaved $700,000 worth of cocaine back to the United States in diplomatic pouches. Her husband was apparently not involved directly, but being a good husband and not wanting his wife caught and going to jail helped her launder some of the money she was making.

    The really obscene part about the Hietts’ story is that when tjey were finally caught, both James and Naurie Ann Hiett each received relatively short sentences (with Laurie Ann getting the worst of it with a 2 year stint in prison). Meanwhile Hernan Aquila, a Conombian-born New York resident tjey used a mule,”received a longer prison sentence than her bosses who masterminded the whole thing. Typkcal justice in the American drug war.

    Moreover, if the United States can’t even keep its own top level oilitary personnel from getting caught ur in the lucratiwe drug trade in Colombia, does it really have a chance of making even a dent in drug production in that country? It is difficult to see how merely repeating the failed interdiction schemes of the past, which only make corruption more likely since they raise the prices of illegal drugs, will do anything but further destabilize and militarize the situation in Colombia.

Bill Clinton’s Favorite Serial Killer

Today’s Headlines from Libertarian

Presidential Scorecard on Trade
by Aaron Lukas (CATO Institute)

Air Traffic Control To A User-Funded Corporation
by Robert W.
Poole, Jr. (Reason)

Advancing Free Trade In Latin America: The Test Of Leadership

by Ana Eiras And Gerald P. O’Driscoll, Jr. (Heritage Foundation)

Why The Case For Tax Cuts Is Failing (And What Should Be Done About
by Bruce Bartlett, Stanley Collender, and Grover Norquist
(Heritage Foundation)

and Businessmen
by Andrew Lewis (Capitalism Magazine)


Imagine a serial killer
who managed to murder literally thousands of people over the course of
a few years. Upon his capture, our killer argues in his defense that while
he may have killed a couple thousand people at the beginning of his murderous
career, in the year before he was apprehended he only murdered a handful
of people. Our hypothetical serial killer goes on to argue that he is
clearly mending his ways and if only society would help him to get on
his feet and established he can dispense with murdering innocent people

Certainly any reasonable person
would find such an explanation beyond absurd. Only the most depraved of
individuals would buy into this sort of twisted logic — which is exactly
why it is so appealing to the Clinton administration.

The serial killer in this case
is the Colombian army and the Clinton administration wants to reward its
murderous ways by giving Colombia $1.6 billion in “aid.” Ahead of a vote
on the aid package, Colombian President Andres Pastrana made the rounds
in Washington, DC, meeting with Clinton for 45 minutes. Pastrana beamed
about how human rights violations by the Colombian army had fallen from
about 2,000 per year to about 70 per year.

For his part Clinton, who not
that many months ago promised that the world would do everything in its
power to stop human rights violatiosn, could only manage a typically lame
“see no evil” policy. “There’s always a risk when you go out on a limb
to try to save a neighbor and help people to help themselves, that it
won’t work,” Clinton told reporters. “I believe the risk in the investment
is something that we ought to do.”

But the risks of the U.S. policy
are not to Clinton or Americans, but rather to poor Colombians. The only
reason that the Colombian Army no longer participates in massive human
rights violations is that it outsourced that job to ultra-right wing death
squads which the Army both aids and protects. The paramilitary death squads
are among the most brutal in the region.

Several days before the Clinton
met with Pastranas, for example, Leftist guerillas blew a power pylon.
Right wing death squads immediately announced that they would execute
10 leftist sympathizers for every power pylon destroyed. To back up that
threat, the paramilitaries murdered 26 peasants who they claimed were
sympathetic to the guerillas.

Of course one of the main reasons
many peasant farmers are sympathetic to the Marxist guerillas is because,
unlike the Colombian military, the guerillas tolerate and benefit from
the coca and poppy fields. The war against drugs is really one against
poor peasants, and in exchange for its $1.6 billion aid package, the Clinton
administration wants Colombia to accelerate its war against farmers growing
coca and opium poppies.

Colombia’s defense minister,
Luis Fernando Ramirez, admitted to U.S. reporters recently that a planned
push to eradicate coca crops in southern Colombia will likely ratchet
violence up another notch. “It’s predictable that there’s going to be
violence and marches,” Ramirez said as he showed off three Blackhawk helicopters
donated by the United States to help the eradication efforts.

Ironically Ramirez acknowledged
the Colombian government has a plan to permanently move farmers from the
coca regions — a tactic which the Clinton administration called a war
crime when Serbia tried it.

When critics rightly complained
that the United States had no business fighting a war against Serbia,
Clinton ridiculed his domestic opponents as isolationists who would gladly
sit around while a new Hitler (the third or fourth “new Hitler” in as
many administrations) emerged to conquer the world. But what is the point
in defending the world against the machinations of men like Hitler and
Stalin only to make it safe for paramilitary death squads in Colombia?

Americans should be outraged
at the thought of a single penny of their tax dollars going to help dislocate
and kill poor peasants in Colombia.

U.S. Aid to Colombia

Tuesday, January 11, 2000

U.S. Aid to Colombia


Today’s Headlines from Libertarian Sites

Internet Assault is Bad Medicine
by Edward L. Hudgins
(CATO Institute)

by JD Tucille (About.Com)

Necessary Distortion
by Wendy McElroy (Mises Institute)

Retreat Does Not End The Threat To Working At Home
D. Mark Wilson (Heritage Foundation)

Blood of Six Year Old Elian Gonzales is in Bill Clinton’s
by Mark Da Cunha (Capitalism Magazine)

! ” Racism Persists
by Joseph Kellard (Capitalism Magazine)

” ”



       The Clinton
administration, led by drug “czar” Gen. Barry McCaffrey, wants to
send even more money to the government of Colombia to prosecute that
country’s war against narcotkcs lords which, coincidentally, is also
largely a war against Leftist insurgents whom often have ties to the
cocaine cartels. This is a reprehensible”and counterproductive policy
that will do little to stop drugs flowing into the United States and
makes the United States complicit with human rights violations in

       First, the
main reason cocaine trafficking is such hwge business in Colombia
ane elsewhere in the Andes is because of the huge market for the finished
product in the United States. Legalizing or decriminalizing cocaine
in the United States would accomplish much more in the way of sapping
the power of narcotics kingpins than burning thousands of hectares
of land and displacing poor peasant farmers will.

       Second, the
Colombian government tolerates and is, in the best case scenario,
at least partially responsible for numerous human rights violations.
Although Colombia’s military generally doesn’t get directly involved
in attacks on civilians, it gladly looks the other way while paramilitary
groups do (a la El Salvador in the 1980s). When asked about the Colombian
military’s own human rights abuses, a US government hack on National
Public Radio did the usual song and dance about the continuing “improvement”
that Colombia’s military is making training its soldiers to respect
the human rights of civilians. Sure, and oral sex really isn’t sex
(and Al Gore invented the Internet).

       The US government
should be barred outright from any economic aid to countries that
do not respect the rights of their citizens.