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The U.S. Got Bin Laden. How About The Drug War?

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The U.S. Got Bin Laden. How About The Drug War?

The U.S. Got Bin Laden. How About The Drug War?

The U.S. Got Bin Laden. How About The Drug War?

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/136141531/136141530" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Demonstrators during a four-day silent march in Mexico on Saturday to protest against drug violence. AFP/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Demonstrators during a four-day silent march in Mexico on Saturday to protest against drug violence.

AFP/AFP/Getty Images

There was a march this weekend. You may have heard about it. Hundreds of Mexicans marched in silence from Cuernavaca to the capital, Mexico City. Once they got to the city, they were joined by tens of thousands of people who had gathered to show their outrage and grief over the incredible violence being visited upon that country because of the ongoing drug war there.

Some 35,000 people are estimated to have been killed in Mexico since 2006. The killings are becoming so routine, yet so baroque, grotesque, and senseless that they are literally beyond words. The march was led by the father of a recent victim. Unlike so many, he has refused to be cowed or silenced. The man's name is Javier Sicilia. He is a well-known poet and writer, and I won't burden you with the sickening details, but I'll tell you that his son, Juan Francisco, was murdered along with six others in March.

We spoke with Sicilia while he was on his way to Mexico City, and he told us why he was marching.

"The pain of losing my child, it touched a lot of people, a lot of citizens, and they found in my pain a way to express themselves. So we are walking to justly declare that things are not being done correctly in this country."

Sicilia says he will write no more poems until the violence stops.

Back in this country, we are — with justification, I think — still buoyed by the death of our top bogeyman. Osama bin Laden is dead, tracked down and killed by U.S. forces. And while some are questioning whether it is ever okay to celebrate a death, I think it is fair to say that we can agree to celebrate the skill, the courage and the dedication it took to pull off that daring feat.

Some of the our government's best minds spent a decade focused on this task. It cost millions of dollars, millions of hours and certainly many lives. But I am sure that most of us think it was worth it, because the cost of allowing the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks to continue without consequence was too great for us to bear.

So, now the question I want to ask is, what can we do next? Or maybe another way to put it is, why can't we apply that same resolve, that same courage, the same brilliance, to the transnational drug war that is killing so many of us — on this side of the border and south of the border — every day?

I talked about Mexico a few minutes ago. The level of violence has become so out of control that it doesn't even make the news. Many of the reporters there are too afraid to cover it, and many reporters here can't tell the whole story without making their audience gag.

In this country, some 15,000 people were murdered in 2009, the last year for which we have numbers available. Many of those deaths were attributed, in part, to drugs. Not to mention the more than 30,000 suicides in this country every year, and the 2 million people incarcerated in this country every year — a level of incarceration that surpasses that of every other developed country in the world. All that has something to do with drugs.

Can I just tell you? I am not making an argument for legalization or decriminalization or any particular approach. I'm not in the "should" business. And, as we learned last week, the path to bin Laden went down many roads. Different strategies were attempted, and abandoned, until success was achieved. But success was achieved because we decided it mattered. It mattered to the world and it mattered to us.

So why doesn't this war matter, too?

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