Sympathy for Mules

Drug Smuggler Caught by Airport Police

Of late I have been fascinated by a National Geographic Channel series called “To Catch a Smuggler.” The show concentrates on drug smugglers attempting to smuggle cocaine, heroine, so-called party drugs, and other narcotics in their luggage or on their persons.

Initially, I was elated that people smuggling drugs into this country (or, in fact, any country) were being caught. Then, as I viewed more of the series, I started feeling some compassion for the drug mules, who were mostly poor people in serious debt who were persuaded by the real criminals that they would not get caught if they carried heroine in a false bottom in their luggage or swallowed rubber contraceptives full of cocaine. In the latter case, if one of the rubbers broke while in transit, the result would be a fatal overdose.

When caught, the drug mules would begin by denying everything. Then, when presented with clear evidence of their crime, they would break down. Allowed one phone call to their loved ones, they broke down when they realized their lives were irretrievably ruined.

Thinking one could smuggle several kilos of drugs past trained dogs, experienced security and customs personnel, and instant chemical tests for banned substances is a form of magical thinking. Unfortunately, the prison sentences for smuggling can be up to thirty years in countries like Peru and Colombia, and somewhat less in Europe.

Also on the show are another set of “smugglers,” except what they are smuggling are themselves. Show after show highlights cases of Syrians, Turks, and Albanians attempting to get to the United States or Europe with forged or otherwise false travel documents. It seems that many Muslims are desperately trying to leave their home countries, many of which are either despotisms or fighting endless civil wars.

I think one would have to be Marjorie Taylor Greene to watch this show and not feel for the perpetrators.