The world is cracking down on drugs.
In the Philippines, more than 2,500 suspected drug pushers have been hunted down and killed since June. In his recent speech on immigration, Donald Trump has vowed to disband the narco cartels while he fights illegal immigration on the Mexican border. And now Indonesia is gearing up to launch a ruthless war against the country’s persistent drug problem.
Indonesia’s National Narcotics Network (BNN) is updating facilities and stockpiling weapons, intelligence tools, and equipment as it prepares to tackle the nation’s advanced narco gangs. According to Commander General Budi Waseso, head of the BNN, the organization is collecting shotguns, pistols, assault rifles, and top-notch surveillance equipment.
“Many threats have challenged our jobs,” says Waseso. “Technology continued to develop and the drug mafias also have equipment that manages to avoid our X-ray machines. We should modernize our equipment since our enemies are drug dealers who have different capabilities.”
Waseso admires President Rodrigo Duterte’s merciless war on drugs in the Philippines, and hopes to launch a similar crackdown in his country: “If such a policy were implemented in Indonesia, we believe that the number of drug traffickers and users in our beloved country would drop drastically. I would be on the frontline to eradicate all the traffickers.”
President Duterte, elected just a few months ago, vowed to eradicate drugs and drug users during his first state of the nation address: “We will not stop until the last drug lord, the last financier, and the last pusher have surrendered or [been] put behind bars or below the ground.”
But it’s more complicated than that. Take Afghanistan, for example, where growing opium provides many families with income in an otherwise war-torn and impoverished country. Afghanistan produces more than 90% of the world’s opium, and production has increased dramatically since the US invasion in 2001.
Those who grow or sell drugs for a living, however, live in constant fear of the law. Indonesia is ramping up the punishment for such crimes, and already considers certain drug-related behaviors as capital offenses. Last year, Waseso proposed building an island prison for death row drug convicts and filling the surrounding waters with “the most ferocious type of crocodile.”
Duterte’s anti-drug movement has drawn considerable criticism from human rights advocates and the United Nations; those same groups have been quick to caution Waseso against similar violence.
“Waseso should publicly decry the Philippines’ “war on drugs” for what it truly is: a brutal, unlawful assault on the rule of law and universal human rights protections that has targeted some of the country’s poorest, most marginalized citizens,” argues the Human Rights Watch.
What these groups seem to forget is the alternative: today’s youth falling into the death spiral of drug addiction.
Duterte’s war on drugs is killing about 38 people per day, but drugs kill nearly the same amount of people each day in Indonesia. Today, the island nation is home to an estimated four million drug abusers, a full quarter of which are addicts. The situation is dire, and as we suggested in a previous article, violence may be the only solution.
Killing isn’t Duterte’s only solution, however, and his Tokhang program gives drug dealers the opportunity to “surrender” and gives drug users the chance to sign up for rehab. Authorities have already registered nearly 700,000 individuals for these programs.
Editor’s note: Perhaps a Trump victory and a concerted effort around the world will help us realize that drugs are a scourge on civiliztion. Perhaps we will even get a reversal in some of the states where marijuana has become legal.