During the Super Bowl in January, The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy ran a series of ads linking illegal drug use to supporting terrorism. The critics jumped on this immediately accusing the White House of tapping Sept. 11th fears to push an entirely unrelated issue and worse, accusing harmless drug users of supporting terrorism across the globe.
The ads were quickly halted and it seemed that the whole incident was one giant embarrassment for the White House. However, within the past few weeks, the White House has returned to the theme with a few ads that, while toned down, are remarkably similar.
One ad, for example, follows the path of a joint from the user, to the dealer, to the smuggler and eventually to the cartel that does horrible things in some unnamed third-world country. It's an interesting and powerful message that smacks the viewer in the face and sobers them up to the realities of the drug trade.
After all, everything that's said in this campaign is completely true. The Taliban was heavy in the opium trade, amphetamine has been linked to Hezbollah and it shouldn't come as any shock if we find out Al Qaeda itself is getting cash from the various drugs grown in Southeast Asia.
But what's interesting about this campaign isn't what we see, but what we don't see. After all, since Sept. 11, 2001, we've linked Al Qaeda to a dozen Muslim charities, organized crime in Italy has been tied to pasta factories and Egyptian extremists have made money selling imitation baby formula.
But yet, we don't see ads saying things like "When you give to Muslim charities, you could be supporting terrorism." even though it too could very easily be true. No one is asking us to stop eating spaghetti because people who run those factories sometimes do bad things and no one in their right mind is telling us to stop buying baby formula.
The harsh truth is that every dime we spend, be it on a dime bag or a dime arcade, can go to fund things we don't like. Buy a shirt made in another country and you could be supporting a sweatshop owner. Buy a diamond ring and you could be supporting violent rebels in Africa. Buy a book and you could be supporting the burning of the rain forest.
The truth is that you don't know where your money goes outside of whom you give it to. The same as that drug dealer who sells you weed could be funneling money straight to Osama Bin Laden's pocket; he could also just be an everyday guy growing pot in his garden. Every transaction you make, you take a risk of sending your money where you don't want it to go and that's not something you can do much about.
So my advice to the White House is simple, stop attempting to tie drugs to terrorism. There may be a link, there almost certainly is one, but terrorists are going to make their money any way they can and the fact is nothing, not even charity, is safe from their reach. If you're going to harp on one means of terrorist revenue, you have to harp on all of them and I seriously doubt you're prepared to tell mothers to stop buying baby formula.
To the drug users of the world, I simply say this: If you want to stop using drugs for reasons that are your own, I wish you luck. But don't stop just because you're scared of giving money to terrorists. To do that, you'd have to avoid buying anything ever again.
And that's a price even the White House would say is too high.