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March 16, 2006 - Daily Southtown (IL)

OpEd: Drug War Claims 2 More Victims

By James Gierach, lawyer from Oak Lawn, IL

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

Happy Birthday, Siretha. Sorry you did not live to see your 11th birthday.

Starkesia, sorry about your being shot and killed too. I'm so sorry.

I've been trying to save both your lives since before you were born. I started in 1989, campaigning for public office and against the prohibition of drugs. But as you know -- well, as you knew -- the drug war that started in 1970 is still going on.

Siretha White did not make it to her 11th birthday, but the drug war is celebrating its 36th this year.

In contrast, the prohibition of alcohol only lasted long enough to celebrate its 14th birthday before the public said enough of this, and threw the 18th Amendment into the trash.

In 1933, the public decided to fight liquor with regulation and control instead of prohibition. Al Capone and other gangs were not happy about it, any more than the drug gangs of today will be when drug prohibition is trashed.

The prohibition of alcohol then and the prohibition of drugs today cause violence, enable the gangs, and tempt people from the straight and narrow. The prohibition of alcohol, instead of making the world alcohol-free, led to the invention of the highball, bathtub gin and new alcoholic poisons.

The prohibition of drugs today, instead of making the U.S. drug-free, has led to the invention of crack cocaine, and the popularization of methamphetamines, Ecstasy, marijuana, and purer heroin.

Drug prohibition, like its alcohol-prohibition predecessor, looks and sounds good-- "Save our children." Ironically, the truth to the contrary is evidenced by sticky pools of blood leaked from the bodies of children lying on the floor of their own homes in neighborhoods like Englewood.

The killing of Siretha and Starkesia kept me from attending my 11-year-old's Cub Scouts awards dinner on Sunday. "Where's Jim?" my wife was asked repeatedly.

I was in Englewood, mourning the death of two more drug-war victims who I never met. I listened and watched. I asked a TV-reporter, "Are they saying the same things as usual? 'Down with dope - up with hope.' 'We need to mentor these kids.' 'We need jobs.' 'We need activities for the kids.' 'Somebody's got to do something.'" The reporter answered simply, "Yes."

I watched the same reporter interview a self-described community activist. "We need to pray together. We have to stop this violence. We need jobs..."

After the interview, I asked the activist whether this was a drug war shooting. "No," he said. "Yes, it was," I replied. "Kids in this neighborhood who are in the drug business need a gun to protect their drugs, cash and turf."

I explained my view: If kids are armed for the drug business, then they are armed for every purpose -- disputes over a girlfriend, disrespect, and every other petty gripe of life.

"That makes sense," the activist said.

Yup, it does. But what's the official line from Chicago leaders and the editorial pages? "Come to Chicago and explain why you're against banning assault weapons." "The state has shortchanged Englewood some CeaseFire dollars." "This has got to stop."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) wants to outlaw the digging of tunnels near the Mexican-U.S. border to fight drugs. Many people support big-brother Crime Camera Sentries in the public way. Pres. Bill Clinton wanted to hire 100,000 more police officers. An Indiana congressman wanted to sell Drug War Bonds. Block clubs, cul-de-sacs, community policinga¤| Sure, but end drug prohibition? God forbid.

I want an end to drug prohibition. I want to control and regulate the manufacture, sale and distribution of narcotics. I want drug abstinence, not imposed under threat of incarceration but achieved through strength of character, the exercise of good judgment and freedom of choice. I want to take the profit out of the illicit drug business to stop the violence.

I want more Starkesia's and Siretha's to see the ages of 15 and 11. I want to wish them all, "Many more birthdays to you ... many more birthdays to you."

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