Saturday, April 21, 2012

War without end, amen

The Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Education, Housing and Urban Development are all in the Republican sniper crosshairs, with their itchy fingers on the triggers. When I hear Republican candidates talk about getting rid of government departments I wonder why they never include the Drug Enforcement Administration.

I have an opinion, though. I believe it's because the federal departments they want to get rid of impact their fellow millionaire/billionaire friends, and eliminating such bureaucracies would make it easier for them to completely destroy the air, water and wilderness in the pursuit of profits.

But with the Drug Enforcement Administration the targets aren't businesses (unless the businesses are illegal), and not the Republican family of incestuous rich folks. People incarcerated for using illegal drugs are mostly black people, even though, as pointed out by Leonard Pitts Jr in this editorial, white people do most of the drug abusing. If there is anyone Republicans like to drop-kick into prison it's blacks, the poor and homeless, and those addled by substance abuse. Forget about spending public money on treatment for addiction, it's too hard to quantify results. Republicans would much rather pour strained financial resources into courts, police and prisons, and yes, the Drug Enforcement Administration, using weapons and technology in a 41-year War on Drugs. A war that has so far been a failure. If the United States had fought World War II like they fight drugs, right now we'd all be speaking German and Japanese. The need to punish, especially those who "aren't like us," is strong with Republicans, and unlike rehabilitation, where you can't tell if someone is truly cured of addiction or not, with prisons you can at least count how many drug users and dealers are behind bars.

Harry Anslinger was really the first drug czar, appointed in 1930 to the Bureau of Narcotics. He hated marijuana. It was probably because, as he put it (and I'm paraphrasing), weed helped Negroes invent blues and jazz music, and listening to that evil music and puffing reefer is why marijuana-crazed blacks crave white women. Anslinger was good with terrifying whites with his anecdotes, but used no science as a basis for his claims. He depended on yellow journalism (courtesy of his friend, William Randolph Hearst), along with fear and scare tactics.

When I see a page like this one I took from a 1946 issue of Detective Tales, a pulp magazine, I recognize that it is right out of the Anslinger anti-marijuana propaganda manual.

(Make sure you click on it so you can read it.)

In his editorial, which I linked to in paragraph three, above, Leonard Pitts Jr is upset with President Obama for not advocating legalization of drugs. I don't blame Pitts, who sees drug laws as excessively harsh, biased and racially motivated. I'm more forgiving of Obama. The reality is he would be in an untenable position if he called for decriminalizing drugs. The public has been told for at least 80 years that drugs are always bad, drugs are used by mental defectives, criminals and minorities like African-Americans and Mexicans. You can see why asking Congress to legalize illegal drugs would be for the president a fast track back to civilian life.

Prohibition against alcohol did not work. There was plenty of alcohol during Prohibition, but to buy it customers lined the pockets of criminals. People are still doing that, only this time it's for cocaine, meth and marijuana, as well as the usual potpourri of other illegal substances in which people like to indulge. And the people whose pockets they line are some very nasty types with armies of killers and drug runners.

As Americans we have to take a long, hard look at ourselves and figure some things out. The reason Mexican drug cartels exist is because the American demand for their product makes it so ridiculously profitable. Americans are slow and often unwilling to give up their vices. Millions still smoke, millions drink and sometimes do stupid things. Since tobacco and alcohol are legal there are laws regulating both. Americans apparently don't see, or just ignore, the correlation between a war being fought between drug cartels and Mexican authorities and us. Even totally putting away the basic moral problems of drug users funding terror, and dead bodies piling up, we have to weigh the cost of this never-ending war on drugs and ask ourselves if it's worth it to keep throwing money at it with no real or permanent result.

I'd like to be in a question-and-answer period with Mitt Romney and ask why he never advocates for shutting down the DEA. I'll bet his answer—if he has one, or if he's even thought about it for more than a millisecond—would be firmly with the status quo: Continue spending billions to fight a war we can't possibly win, continue spending more billions to build more prisons (keeping America's record as the country with the most prisoners per capita), paying for more police, never trying to address the cause of the problem, just the symptoms.

I don't take illegal drugs, and I do not encourage people to take illegal drugs. What I'm doing is calling for some sanity in an otherwise insane situation. .


1 comment:

Kirk said...

What bugs me in no one can decide just how illegal drugs should be. Never mind legalization or decriminalization, every few election cycles we're told they're not illegal enough!

I believe the last president who even attempted decrimalization, Jimmy Carter, once said that the penalty for using drugs shouldn't exceed the harm from the drugs themselves. After all, isn't that one of the rationales behind outlawing drugs, so the users won't get harmed by it? I say this as one who can count the number of times on one hand that I tried anything illegal. Booze is much less hassle, legally speaking.

Odd that the drug czar you mentioned wanted to ban pot for, in his view, causing jazz, but not jazz itself. He must have been aware of the First Admendment issues involved.