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June 20, 2007 - East Texas Review (TX)

Editorial: Some Wars Aren't Meant To Be Won

By William A. Collins

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

By now it has dawned on many Americans that the "War on Terror" is permanent. Perhaps we know this because the president told us so, though his credibility is a little shaky just now.

An endless war against "Islamo-Fascists" allows us to swipe their oil, water, power, finances, seeds, and land whenever we choose. It also allows us to continually enrich certain favored American corporations. Why stop?

Less well-understood is our similarly permanent "War on Drugs." Launched by Richard Nixon, this "War" has no clear goal beyond politics. Like terror, it is built upon fear. Not the fear of planes being blown up, but the fear of kids being torn down.

That's powerful stuff. Druggies, except of course for our own family, should get the book thrown at them.

And so they do, as long as they're not white. The inventive minds of lawyers and legislators have dreamed up punitive laws beyond counting. All to protect our children. These laws are enforced by federal prosecutors with the zeal of Shiite clerics. Local cops follow suit.

Never mind that none of this works. It's not meant to work. It's meant to promote heroic political figures, to protect wasteful prison jobs and contractors, and to keep poor people away from the dreaded voting booth. Performance toward these goals has been triumphant. In no small measure it governed the outcome of the last two presidential elections.

In terms of protecting society from the scourge of drugs, however, the "War" has been about as successful as prohibition. And if whites instead of blacks and Latinos were the chief casualties, it would have long since suffered the same conclusive fate. But instead street drugs are now cheaper and purer than ever, and America's murder and incarceration rates (2 million inmates) are the world's highest.

Most important, however, no one can accuse our pols of being soft on drugs. But twelve individual states now, bless their hearts, seem intent on at least allowing marijuana to be used by the medically needy. And most others feature various visionary groups and individuals working to soften their pointlessly draconian statutes. Many state lawmakers agree with change, but no one wants to be the first to bell the cat.

Further, you'll be astonished to learn that other nations do the job better. They treat addicts like drunks, which is to say, put them into treatment rather than jail. They also wink at marijuana. Naturally this is galling to drug dealers.

If folks can buy pot legally, who needs pushers? In Europe crime syndicate futures are selling short. And in Europe also, even hopeless heroin addicts are now getting their stuff direct from the government. This has sent drug capos flocking into retraining programs.

But not in the good old U.S. of A. We're underwriting foreign drug cartels with an abandon that would make the World Bank blush. And militarily we're busily destroying farmers in Afghanistan and Colombia, thus adding recruits to the Taliban and the FARC. Our emphasis on disrupting supply abroad is intended to mask our failure to reduce demand here at home.

And now a new dilemma has arisen. Methamphetamine and Oxycontin. These are bad actors and are made chemically right here in our country. Worse, they're mostly used by whites. We wouldn't want to jail THEM. They need treatment, not the slammer. But we haven't got enough treatment available. It's a mess.

Don't expect any reform, either. The "Drug War," like the "Terror War," has value in its own right. We can't simply end it. Jobs and votes are at stake. For many, winning the "war" would be a true calamity.

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