Our formation class attended the Caravan for Peace event when it came to D.C.  Paul Heinzen shares with us his reflection of the event and how it relates to the greater issues of drug trafficking.

Photo taken from http://www.drugwar101.com/blog/archives/199

On September 10th, I attended a presentation by the Caravan for Peace, concerning increased citizen casualties in Mexico as a direct result of current “War on Drugs” policies of the United States and Mexican governments. While a legitimate concern, I believe these unfortunate deaths are a collateral issue to that of illegal drug demand in the U.S.

Caravan organizers are primarily family survivors of innocent victims caught in the middle of drug war violence by both government forces and drug cartel fighters. Some sixty thousand collateral victims have died in recent years. The Caravan has been traveling from northern Mexico through numerous U.S. cities enroute to Washington, D.C. for a terminal demonstration and face-to-face discussions with US political figures.

I wonder what proportion of those indignant American demonstrators are now or have been illegal drug users themselves. Will any of them recognize that they are the proximate cause of these civilian drug war casualties?

As long as (American) consumer demand for drugs outstrips supply by substantial quantities, collateral consequences such as the deaths of innocent by-standers will undoubtedly continue, and possibly even escalate. Currently most casualties occur on the Mexican side of the border, but some of the violence is spilling over into U.S. border states.

The core problem is not the War on Drugs, but U.S. consumer demand for illegal drugs. While lauding the concerns voiced in this demonstration, I also recommend an examination of conscience by both those demonstrating and the American public that may observe this spectacle.

I find it depressing that, after decades of increasing illegal drug demand in the U.S., resources are being expended to mitigate the secondary effect of civilian casualties while sweeping the primary cause [illegal demand] under-the-proverbial-rug. If we instead demonstrated that the U.S. government should dedicate sufficient resources toward identifying and mitigating the causes of illegal drug demand, the need for a War on Drugs might become unnecessary.

Why are demonstrators not linking these civilian casualties directly to those of us who create illicit drug demand, as well as focusing on admittedly clumsy and impersonal government responses to trafficking? “Is it I, Lord”!

A Wisconsin native and returned Peace Corps volunteer who served in Nepal, Paul Heinzen has been rebuilding portions of a Catholic church in British Columbia, Canada and has worked in development and fundraising in both Anchorage, Alaska and St. Michaels, Arizona. He holds a Master of Business Administration from the University of Alaska and has worked for nearly twenty consecutive years in the international development field.