I submit that the drug trade—and specifically cocaine—is among the worst things that the human mind ever invented (which is saying a lot, since we are especially good at inventing horrible things).
No one has good numbers on the death toll of a given drug trade. I called and asked a few think tanks how many people cocaine has killed over the past 100 years and got mostly bemused laughs. Ioan Grillo, author of El Narco: Inside Mexico's Criminal Insurgency, has thought about this as much as anyone. When I asked him, all he could guess was a number with nine figures in it.
Just for fun, let's try a back-of-the-envelope calculation. Around 60,000 were executed as witches during 150 years at the height of the Spanish Inquisition. Mexico alone has seen perhaps twice that many deaths during its seven-year drug war. From 1990 to 2010, Colombia had some 450,000 homicides, overwhelmingly due to coke. Add all the rest of Latin America (counting all the military actions that were driven by efforts to control trafficking routes as much as by politics), the U.S. share (15,000 per year on the high side, counting all kinds of drugs and overdoses and such). Now add an estimate of all the uncounted murders and overdoses and track that carnage back to the 1960s when the modern drug war began. The number starts to be in the league of the atrocities of Nazi Germany or American slavery.
Please, you say, not another Nazi comparison. Hitler references in the media are so cliché that Jon Stewart uses them as a running gag. But the magnitude and gruesomeness of the atrocities committed to acquire and maintain drug trade routes to the United States actually are comparable.
Decapitations and burning people alive are just the start. Chainsaws, belt sanders, acid—these things are used very creatively by cartel torturers. They disembowel bloggers and sew faces to soccer balls. Children are forced to work as assassins, people are forced to rape strangers at gunpoint, and lines of victims are killed one at a time with a single hammer. Many of those people disappear into unmarked graves. If their bodies are ever found, they are described in the media with antiseptic words like “mutilated.”
So yes, I say that paying for coke is equivalent to donating to the Nazi party. The unspoken thing here is that the reason Americans aren’t more outraged or guilt-ridden is that the people dying are poor brown people—many of them in a tragic irony are classified as narcos so governments can claim it's just gang-on-gang violence.