If the USA declared a ‘War on Drugs’, do ‘international rules of war’ apply?

One of my favourite thinking games is taking words and looking at all the different layers of meanings in them – along with why certain of their meanings form the dominant interpretation at any given time.

Hours of fun – and anyone can play!

For example, I absolutely love the word ‘authority’:  it means quite literally, that we – as a culture – accept that ‘power’ flows exclusively from Thor.  Au Thor-ity.  Coming from Thor.  (This is particularly amusing when coupled with the term ‘divine’ – as in, ‘divine authority’.  If someone claims their god has ‘divine authority’, whether they are aware of it or not, they are literally saying that their god derives all of its power from Thor…which is fascinating when monotheists who deny the very existence of Thor do it.  Yes, it does not take a lot to amuse me…)

One thing I find very annoying are the ‘grand declarations’ of ‘war on …’ – especially ones that do not really have proper meaning.  For example, ‘The War on Terror’ is a nonsense-statement.

‘Terror’ is a feeling – a state of mind.  To wage a war on it would mean trying to make people feel better, perhaps by medicating them into a state of non-fear.  It certainly does not mean waging a physical war, with soldiers and guns.

Declaring war on terrorist organizations would make more sense…

Now, how about ‘The War on Drugs’?

Again, the jingoism of the slogan is non-sensical, at best.  ‘Drugs’ are not something that is capable of fighting back, it is just stuff.  Inanimate objects.   It makes even less sense to claim to wage a war against inanimate objects than it does to wage a war against a state of mind.  It does, however. bring up the image of one ’tilting at windmills’…

Except, of course, that the term ‘War on Drugs’ does not mean a war on drugs as such it means a war on the organizations that handle certain drugs currently prohibited by the government.

Ok – so we have deciphered what the ‘Drugs’ in the statement means:  organizations which are involved in the production and distribution of substances classified as ‘illegal’ by the US government. (Yes, I am intentionally not addressing why these laws are ‘illegal’!)  So, what does the word ‘War’ mean?

This is, by far, the more interesting part of the phrase.

What, indeed, is meant by the word ‘War’?!?!?!?

Typically, ‘wars’ are fought by armies – not police forces.  Yet, the ‘War on Drugs’ is being fought by non-military police officers.  That is curious, to say the least.  (Some would claim it is illegal – but that is a differen discussion.)

It would, of course, explain why the various police forces across the USA are becoming increasingly militarized: sometimes, it seems that cops are more military-like than the military itself!  This would, indeed, be a more-or-less necessary outcome if the police were, indeed, waging ‘a war’… at least, according to my understanding of the ‘conventional’ meaning of the word ‘war’.

So, let us look at whom the ‘war’ is being waged against:  the ‘drug gangs’.  Are these, in any way, shape, or form ‘an army’?

A good case could be made that ‘drug gangs’ are, indeed, ‘armies’.  If my memory serves me right (I have lost all of my bookmarks again, so I am not including links – please, check up on me!), according to international laws, ‘an army’ is defined as an organization must have:

  1. a well defined chain-of-command
  2. defined markings/insignia worn by its members to make them recognizable and differentiate them from civilians

Drug gangs most definitely satisfy this definition.  Their chain-of-command is very well defined.  And, all gang-members do wear specific ‘colours’, or symbols, which identify them clearly and unambiguously as members of that particular gang.  Many gangs go a step further than most conventional armies – they not only wear their gang insignia, they have them tattooed into their very skin, so no disguise is possible!

In other words, the ‘drug gangs’ are more of an ‘army’ (under international law) than ‘terrorist organizations’, which do not wear identifying insignia and pride themselves in hiding among the civilian population.  Honestly, the ‘War on Drugs’ adheres more closely to the definition of ‘war’ under international laws than ‘War on Terror’ does – yet the ‘War on Terror’ has been used, successfully, to justify (internationally) at least two extra-territorial wars that the US got involved in.

So, why is this an issue I bother thinking about?

Well, it does have some very interesting LEGAL implications….

If this is, indeed, a ‘War’ – then the ‘international rules of war’ automatically kick in!!!

It means that each and every person arrested in the USA under the ‘drug laws’ MUST be treated as a prisoner of war – and is not subject to any criminal laws!!!

Yes, please, do think about it!

Frankly, I find it difficult to believe that no enterprising lawyer has not thought of this yet…

The US government cannot have their cake and eat it, too. (OK – ‘the cake is a lie’….but that does not take away from my point!)

The US government has openly declared ‘A War’ on all organizations even peripherally involved in the drug trade.  These drug organizations straddle national borders.  This means that the international ‘rules of war’ most definitely kicked in once US made their declaration of war!!!

Under international ‘rules of war’, if you capture ‘a soldier’ from the opposing side, even if that person had indeed brutally killed many, many people, they cannot be tried as ‘murderers’!  Rather, they must be given all the privileges attached to Prisoners Of War!

To re-phrase: because the US government has openly declared ‘War on Drugs’, is it now violating the Geneva Convention every single time it applies criminal law to anyone arrested on any drug-related charges?

Please, think about it!!!