Made in the USA

By G. Patrick Callahan, prisoner of the drug war

Vincent Bugliosi, a former prosecutor and author of Helter Skelter, calls the drug war America's greatest crisis since the Civil War. It is surely one of the most costly wars, and now the government chooses to export it wholesale: helicopters, planes, machineguns and mercenaries. American aircraft companies and corporations based in Colombia have lobbied heavily for the Clinton Administration's expanded drug war in that unfortunate country. Moreover, the Lockheed Corporation actually financed an opinion poll which concluded that 56% of the electorate "would support a $2 billion increase in funding for tracking planes to be flown in drug producing areas." [Newsweek, April 3, 2000].

The results of this suspect poll were then hustled in front of President Clinton and the Democrats, and the U.S. taxpayer unwittingly plunged his foot - and perhaps his neck - into a quagmire. The Drug Czar, Barry McCaffrey, urged the process along at every step, and ten to one will find a cozy, ready-made niche in the military-industrial complex when his tour of duty is up with the ONDCP. A perfect example of paid-for government and what's wrong with America today. Money again triumphs over blood and bone.

Perhaps it always has. But it is the naked blatancy, the bright-eyed avarice, which shocks the senses. I was recently provided a news clipping from the town of Forrest City, Arkansas, for example, which glowingly described the anticipated construction of the new federal medium facility, a real steal at just $96 million. Everyone knows we need another prison, right? Denizens of the town, especially the motel owners and those peddlers who sell outdated and spoiled produce to the complex, were gushing in their praise. It is the quintessential example of the prison-industrial move into stagnant areas to pump up their economy.

These are usually pork barrel enterprises and, in this particular case, the head ham himself got involved when Bill Clinton put in a good word. It's his home state, after all. The whole project was shoved through with sugar plum dreams of boundless expansion even though it's really like giving a blood transfusion to a corpse. The new facility will have the inevitable cost overruns initially and then cost about $25 million per year to operate. At the end of four years a quarter of a billion dollars will be squandered to house nonviolent, minor drug law violators, and illegal aliens.

While it takes a virtual Act of Congress to increase positions in all other federal agencies, every time a prison is built hundreds of employees must be hired. The Bureau of Prisons has carte blanche for endless expansion; yet every prison built in the name of the war on drugs is a monument to American ignorance. Other nations build universities; we build prisons. From top to bottom, then, from one end to the other, it's all about money and life-snatching devices. And like Colombia, it's blood and bone against the almighty dollar, with little difference ultimately between sudden death by American built helicopters or slow death by American built prisons. It puts a new, and terrible, meaning to 'Made in the U.S.A.' and speaks volumes about what we have become as a people.