American War on Drugs 2.0

Over 107,000 fatal overdoses in 2021 tied to fentanyl; tough US response needed against China, Mexico
September 2, 2022 Updated: September 8, 2022

Commentary

On Aug. 27, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers in El Paso, Texas, caught a 14-year-old child walking across the border with 0.52 pounds of fentanyl concealed around his waist. Given that only a few grains of the drug are enough to kill, that one child had what it takes to end more than 117,000 lives.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid produced in illegal underground labs in China, Mexico, and elsewhere, including sometimes in the United States and Canada. But most of the precursor chemicals come from China.

Just 2 milligrams of fentanyl, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), is enough to kill a new user unaccustomed to opiates. Due to inexact mixing in illegal labs, fentanyl pills range widely in dosage. The DEA has found some pills with over twice the lethal dose.

In April, authorities in the Oakland, California area busted a fentanyl manufacturing lab with 92.5 pounds of fentanyl, much of it in rainbow colors meant to hook children. That one bust alone bagged enough to kill 21 million people. Authorities in Oregon, West Virginia, and Washington also recently made big hauls.

The total extent of American deaths from overdose is shocking: more than 107,000 in 2021 alone. And 66 percent of overdose deaths were from synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.

Who was responsible for protecting these Americans, other than President Joe Biden? But Biden is silent.

A Canadian bust in June found precursor chemicals to make more than 700 pounds of fentanyl, “enough to kill every single person in Canada four times over,” according to CTV News.

In British Columbia, Canada, 83 percent of the 722 overdose deaths between January and April involved fentanyl.

Fentanyl isn’t only a disaster but an existential catastrophe waiting to happen.

Yet, governments in the United States and Canada are failing their citizens. China and Mexico—where much of the fentanyl originates—are also unhelpful.

The precursor chemicals for fentanyl come primarily from China, where Beijing is resistant to tougher controls.

“The U.S. has itself to blame for the root cause of fentanyl abuse in the country,” China’s embassy in the United States explained in a statement quoted by The Wall Street Journal.

“The Mexican president has said he is focused on what he calls the economic roots of Mexico’s lawlessness and violence, rather than dismantling the cartels.”

That’s an excuse to do nothing, or worse—a demand for economic aid in exchange for sparing U.S. lives.

In early August, Beijing suspended cooperation with the United States on narcotics issues, including fentanyl smuggling, in retaliation for U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.

Photo of seized fentanyl DEA
Around 1 million fake fentanyl pills were seized in Inglewood, Calif., in July 2022. (Drug Enforcement Administration)

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is, in effect, killing Americans with fentanyl to try to force us to stop supporting Taiwan’s democracy. The CCP is weaponizing fentanyl in what should be considered a reverse opium war.

Overdose deaths are up after a year and a half of the Biden administration, which has been ineffective at publicly raising the issue with Beijing, much less forcing change.

“Despite China banning fentanyl and similar variants in 2019, it remains a primary source of illicit fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances trafficked into the U.S.,” according to Nikkei Asia in early August.

Given the number of U.S. deaths, Beijing’s weaponizing of lethal drugs to support its Taiwan ambitions could be considered an act of war. But the Biden administration fails to protect Americans because it uses words, not action.

“At a time when illicit fentanyl continues to claim a life every five minutes, it’s unacceptable that the PRC [People’s Republic of China] is withholding cooperation that would help to bring to justice individuals who traffic these illicit drugs and who engage in this global criminal enterprise,” Rahul Gupta, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said in a statement.

“China has played and must play a key role in helping disrupt the illicit flow of drugs like fentanyl and their precursor chemicals,” he added, indicating that the U.S. government would keep pushing for international action.

The Biden administration thus attempts to fob off responsibility for 107,000 overdose deaths to the abstraction on which it campaigned—the “international action” that isn’t forthcoming.

We needed tougher protections years ago—before those Americans died. The Trump administration used tariffs to force China to ban fentanyl in 2019. Still, Biden is now considering unilateral tariff reductions, against the advice of his own U.S. trade representative, Katherine Tai.

Instead of reducing tariffs, we need to sanction China and Mexico. Double the DEA’s budget. Close the Mexican border until that government cooperates. Reshore all production of precursor chemicals to increase controls. Declare another war on drugs that will find, capture, and imprison—with felonies and life sentences—all manufacturers, distributors, and dealers of deadly illegal fentanyl, including those we capture abroad.

Whatever it takes, we must show a seriousness of purpose that gives voice to our dead with more than words.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Anders Corr
Anders Corr has a bachelor's/master's in political science from Yale University (2001) and a doctorate in government from Harvard University (2008). He is a principal at Corr Analytics Inc., publisher of the Journal of Political Risk, and has conducted extensive research in North America, Europe, and Asia. His latest books are “The Concentration of Power: Institutionalization, Hierarchy, and Hegemony” (2021) and “Great Powers, Grand Strategies: the New Game in the South China Sea" (2018).