- Julieta Castellanos*
William Brownfield is a major architect in the current linkage between the failed Drug War and the War On Terror. He may succeed in making it an even greater failure in the future.
Brownfield has been Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement since January 20 of last year. Before that, he was the US ambassador to Colombia; and before that, he was the US ambassador to Venezuela, where he was notorious for taunting President Hugo Chavez.
Mr. Brownfield attended the National War College, and he speaks Spanish with a pronounced Texas accent. He reportedly considers himself a Texan -- though, like George W. Bush, he was not born in Texas and has lived much of his life elsewhere. It seems being a "Texan" is a state of mind, especially vis-a-vis Latin America which has been Brownfield's area of interest. He's now looking to expand his war-making efforts into Africa.
It's clear that Mr. Brownfield isn't one of those striped pants diplomats from foggy bottom determined to keep tempers from reaching the boiling point. He doesn't seem burdened by doubt, and he seems comfortable strategizing for war.
Regardless of party affiliation, it's people like Brownfield who have turned the 40-year-old War On Drugs and The Global War On Terror into one all-encompassing, global war against "bad guys," a category to be defined as the war moves "downrange." Like grand chefs, these strategists have put the two wars into a National Security State blender and come up with what is The War Without End. American citizens were never asked if they wanted this war. It wasn't necessary to ask -- since Americans are encouraged to get lost in themselves and all the available bread and circus around them. We haven't kept our eye on the ball and we now find ourselves the unwitting sustainers of an Orwellian state of constant war.
William Brownfield, center, and US Ambassador to Honduras Lisa Kubiske, left
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Wars are easy to start, and that was true of the War On Drugs, which was kicked off back in the days of NY Governor Nelson Rockefeller and Ronald & Nancy Reagan. Gee, there were all those horror stories of how desperately low humans can go when they fall prey to the abuse of certain drugs. Vietnam was over, so the culture needed a "war" and all the mobilization, demonization and de-humanization a war entails.
At the close of the Vietnam War, Richard Nixon had had a quite liberal drug policy. Why? One reason was all the strung-out soldiers coming back from Vietnam. The Commander In Chief couldn't very well demonize his own troops; so he developed a demand-focused program. But, then, the problem sunk deep into the frustrated Black ghettos, where the demonization process had deep roots in American racism, making the idea of "war" palatable. This is all reported by Michelle Alexander in her profound book The New Jim Crow about the "felonization" of Black Americans. That is, if you can't stigmatize "em one way, you stigmatize "em another way. The result's the same: Our jails and felon-lists are overly populated with African Americans.
This war has grown into a sophisticated military campaign to stanch the flow of a global capitalist enterprise that follows all the rules of supply and demand. Stripped of all the demonization and good guy versus bad guy crap, the War On Drugs is a war about markets and products.
The fundamental dishonesty of the Drug War breeds corruption everywhere. In this country, it's manifested in many ways, most noticeably this year in the depths of bullshit our politics has descended to. Our politicians don't know how to speak the truth any more. Reasonable, pragmatic citizens are like the famous cartoon possum Pogo on Earth Day 1971 as he encounters his beloved swamp overwhelmed with detritus and garbage. His words became famous: "We have met the enemy and he is us."
William Brownfield is now at the helm pointing the failed, bloody Drug War into a new stage in a world noted for the blurring of the sovereign nation-state system into "regions" of interest; the tools of this effort are PR, drones and Special Operations hit-teams. It's all about Capital and Power: Who has it and who doesn't.
Coincident with this shift, many nations of Latin America have been moving to the left, something that has not escaped US National Security State strategists. In this context, Brownfield lauds Plan Colombia -- the feeding with US tax resources of a rightist military government in Latin America -- as "heroic" and "a model" for the seven nations of Central America and The War Without End. He feels the same way about the Mexican government's assault on the cartels, which has led to the often grisly deaths of over 40,000 Mexicans.
"We will make mistakes," Brownfield says. "There will be missteps."
To get a feel for William Brownfield's eloquent and arrogant style, here's a 50-minute lecture on the background history of "Drug-Related Violence in Central America" that he gave last August at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington DC. The talk is broken up into the six You Tubes linked below: