The War on Drugs

Dear Sally,

       Either in haste or in desperation, you failed to notice that the numbers you quote support my argument, not yours. Addiction peaked in 1900 at three people in 1,000–hardly the tidal wave of your imagination–and the rate was rapidly declining until we enacted drug prohibition. And while you’re technically correct that organized crime already existed, it was small-time and local compared with the vast international combines created by Al Capone and his contemporaries after the onset of Prohibition.
       But I can’t let you focus this discussion on minutia. There’s too much at stake. And though I can understand your interest in avoiding the big picture, it’s time to step back and take a look anyway.
       Your argument against medical treatment of addicts is at bottom a moral one. You want people to take responsibility for their actions. Well, so do I. So let’s see if you’re willing to take responsibility for some of the consequences of the policy you advocate so eloquently.
       Are you willing to take responsibility for the ooze of corruption spreading through the Border Patrol, the Customs Service, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and law enforcement agencies from Miami to Seattle?
       Are you willing to take responsibility for the creation of crack cocaine, a cheap drug that would never have existed without the cash incentive of prohibition?
       Are you willing to take responsibility for the fact that the most significant new rise in heroin use is among eighth-graders?
       Are you willing to take responsibility for the gang turf wars and hard drug sales now invading small Midwestern farm towns?
       Are you willing to take responsibility for the fact that a third of all young black men are under the supervision of the criminal justice system?
       Are you willing to take responsibility for the fact that after an 80 year, trillion dollar jihad, drugs of every description are now practically within reach of every kid in the country?
       And finally, whose interests are you serving, exactly, by transferring $400 billion a year tax-free into the pockets of the most vicious cutthroats on the planet?
       The American people have allowed this madness to continue because the real effects of the drug war have been largely concealed from the middle class. That’s why Drug Crazy was so disturbing to you. It catalogs defeat on all fronts. Take Colombia, for example, where we find one of the oldest democracies in the hemisphere literally going down the drain right before our eyes. The government and its institutions are now thoroughly compromised, half the country is out of control, and a war is raging between Marxist revolutionaries and right-wing death squads over who’s going to run the drug trade.
       How did this happen? We did this. Our tax dollars at work. By pressuring the Colombians to enforce laws in the South American jungle that we ourselves couldn’t enforce inside our own maximum security prisons, we have managed to achieve catastrophe. All the honest politicians, the incorruptible judges and generals, the courageous police commanders were slaughtered–machine-gunned in front of their families or blown to bits along with them. Now Colombia is left with the compromisers, those leaders who, when offered the choice of “lead or silver,” understandably chose silver.
       We did this, Sally. Our tax dollars at work. Are you and your prohibitionist colleagues willing to take responsibility for your share of this disaster?

Mike Gray