By Jeremiah Vandermeer
November 11 is known as Remembrance Day in Canada, the UK and other Commonwealth countries, and Veterans Day in the US; a day of mourning for soldiers and civilians lost in international conflicts and a recognition of the sacrifices made by all victims of war.
Soldiers and their families and scores of reverent citizens pay their respects for those who gave their blood, their sweat, their freedom, and their lives; assembling at wreath-laying ceremonies and family gatherings as they evoke memories of loved ones affected by the many tragedies of war.
We at Cannabis Culture pay our respects to all those lost in war and those still fighting and suffering around the world in brutal conflicts, including the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, in which 919,967 people have been killed based on lowest credible estimates. The two wars continue to claim lives and cause untold destruction today.
As part of our memorial, we include the millions of casualties of the global War on Drugs, which continues to rage on around the world, intensifying in places like Mexico, where the government vows to continue its violent crackdown. The Drug War death toll in Mexico has now reached 50 deaths a day, and this year’s total toll is expected to exceed 18,000. According to the Globe and Mail, the total number of death since the beginning of President Felipe Calderon’s six-year term may be 60,000, "more than 10 times the number of Americans killed to date in both Iraq and Afghanistan."
Beginning in 1914, the US War on Drugs is the country's longest war, claiming the lives of countless individuals, imprisoning hundreds of thousands of non-violent citizens, tearing apart families, and destroying the hopes and dreams of Americans young and old.
Reports by the International Harm Reduction Association say more than one thousand people face execution for drug offences each year in 32 countries that retain the death penalty for drug crimes.
We also remember the sacrifices of police officers killed on duty enforcing drug laws and military officers overseas battling over drug plantations, like the heroin-producing poppy fields of Afghanistan.
The Papaver rhoeas, the red poppy, is an international symbol for those who died in war and commemorates the pain-relieving properties of the opium plant. The flower was immortalized in the poem In Flanders Fields by Canadian poet and soldier Lt Col John McCrae, and is worn on the jacket on Remembrance Day.
In a piece called "Drug War Remembrance" published by the UK's Transform Drug Policy Foundation, Steve Rolles writes,
It is hard to escape the dual-symbolism of the poppy in relation to the Afghanistan conflict. Over 800 coalition soldiers have died in Afghanistan, over a hundred of them British - at least some of which have been as a direct result of anti-drug operations aimed at eradicating the poppy harvest that provides the raw opium that in turn feeds over 90% the West's demand for illicit heroin. Many more Afghans have also died, both combatants and civilians. The symbolic historical links of the poppy with death are not just the blood red from battle fields but also the opium connection; the poppy being used as a traditional tombstone emblem to symbolise eternal sleep.
The Afghan conflict is, of course, more complex than merely a war on drugs, but the massive illicit profits that flow from the poppy fields are fueling the violence, and helping destabilize the entire region. ... It is the prohibition of opiates for non medical use that creates the illicit trade in the first instance. There is no violence, criminal profiteering or terrorism associated with the 50% of global poppy production (for medical use) that is entirely legal and regulated. It is prohibition that creates the link between drugs and terror, and prohibition that is responsible for the nexus of their respective wars.Though the US and Canadian governments have an official policy of poppy eradication in Afghanistan, there are reports of our troops guarding opium fields and helping to maintain production, and statistics show production of opium has increased significantly since the beginning of the war.
Though it is indeed important on November 11 to pay our respects and remember those affected by war, the only true way to commemorate them is to help end war so future generations are spared the same fate. Remembering the past is pointless unless we use those memories to learn lessons and create a better future.
The fallen didn't have to die in vain. End the War in Afghanistan. End the War in Iraq. End the War on Terror. End the Drug War.
Lest we forget. End all Wars.
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