The "killing fields" in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, ["Border Families Await Word of the Missing," front page, Dec. 1] are a reminder of the awesome power of the people who profit through illegal drugs.

Communities all along the U.S.-Mexico border are locked in the grip of the drug cartels and their violent methods. Many say that the real power in Mexico and other Latin American countries stems from the cartels--not the governments--and that the tendrils of this power extend deep into the United States.

Seventy years ago Americans watched similar organized lawlessness and violence consume their society and reacted by demanding that Congress end Prohibition. Congress did so, and the violence came to an end.

The drug war is ravaging our inner cities and our youth; as the violence and body counts escalate, politicians push the same old hot button: "Get tough on drugs."

We've locked up more than a million Americans on drug-related charges, but the problem hasn't gone away. The drug war has made a new class of millionaires and generated jobs for thousands of bureaucrats, agents, inspectors, police departments, prison systems and morgues.

Everyone gets a piece of the action--except the victims.

Americans should demand that Congress cut the heart out of organized crime and illegal drugs, and only one "knife" can do that job: regulation.

RANDALL VLAHOS

Arlington