The War on Drugs
I’ve never been a proponent of The War on Drugs™. For quite some time, a decade probably, I’ve been actively opposed to The War on Drugs. I’ve long believed that it is horribly corrosive of our individual rights and liberties, destructive to the relationship between the government and the citizens and creates an incredibly powerful, influential and violent set of criminal organizations. To make matters worse, it is not a “war” that can be won. This “war” is as ultimately unwinnable as the war against alcohol, aka Prohibition, was. It is unwinnable because the average citizen recognizes that it is nothing more, or less, than an attempt by do-gooding Mrs. Grundies and power hungry government bureaucrats to legislate what we may, or may not, do with our own bodies. If you want more thoughts along those lines, check out our full War on Drugs category on this blog.
This post is not intended to convince you of the ultimately loss of The War on Drugs™. Nor is it intended to convince that dictating what I may do with my own body is unconscionable if we are possessed of the rights to life, liberty and property. This post is intended to detail just a few, of the many, incredibly destructive events that occur because of this war. The destruction of our rights by agents of the government and the growth of massively powerful and violent criminal drug organizations. And one last thing to point out. Even a government as oppressive, intrusive and anti-liberty as the Soviet Union’s was could not win the Drug War. Keep that in mind as you read this. More government resources won’t help. In fact, given the horrific levels of addiction to alcohol in the old Soviet Union, they will probably make matters worse, not better.
Lest anyone think I’m simply a libertine who wants to get high, think again. It’s quite clear that these drugs are bad things, destructive of mind and body. The problem is, who gets to choose whether I will destroy my mind and body with cocaine? I’m continuously amazed that the same people who believe a woman should be able to choose whether to get an abortion, or not, the same people who believe in a “right to die”, are people who think it should be illegal for me to choose to smoke marijuana. Either my body is my own to do with as I please, or it is not.
By now many of us have heard of Eugene Siler, in Tennessee, but I think many more of us have not. Eugene Siler is part of the dregs of society, no doubt about it. Illiterate, poor, small time drug dealer in the past. Not a particularly nice guy. Although he’s certainly not as bad a person as some of the folks locked up in Guantanamo right now. Why mention that? Well, just keep in mind that Eugene has never tried to blow someone up because of their skin color, nationality or religion. Nor has he conspired with others to do anything like that. Or taken up arms against the US directly. Or any of the other things folks in Guantanamo have done. Yet, 5 employees of Tennessee law enforcement agencies, including 3 sworn police officers tortured and beat him for hours. They attempted to force him to sign a voluntary consent to search and seizure of his property. They hit him with their fists and guns. They threatened to use electric torture on his genitals. They threatened his wife and children. They abused him so badly that he was reduced to tears, begging them to stop. They tortured him far worse than any inmate at Guantanamo.
Think this might be made up? Fortunately for Eugene, his wife hid a tape recorder in the house and captured it all on tape for the permanent record. Want to see how your law enforcement deals with people they are involved with the drug trade? Read this transcript of Eugene Siler’s ordeal. Then compare it to Guantanamo. Which one should outrage you more?
Think this is just a fluke? You obviously didn’t hear about Cory Maye. Cory was sentenced to be executed after shooting a police officer who executed a no knock warrant of his home as part of a drug raid. Cory was not suspected of having anything to do with drugs, had no drugs in his possession and his sole crime was defending his home after someone broke in without identifying themselves. You might expect, considering those circumstances, that there would be no sentence, or a light one, not the death penalty.
That’s not enough? How about the violence that is a daily part of life in Mexico because of the power that we provide to drug cartels. If you happen to have a subscription to The Wall Street Journal, read this editorial. If not, here’s a few details for you from the recent past.
The problem is particularly acute for America’s southern neighbor. Drug violence is spiraling throughout Mexico and innocents are paying the ultimate price. One target city is Nuevo Laredo where eight months ago Mexican federal authorities arrived to quell unprecedented cartel violence. Today the murder rate is up; the Mexican general who was in charge of restoring order has gone missing; the news media has suffered atrocious assaults, including a grenade attack; and there is concern that the government’s anti-drug units have been infiltrated.
Last month four federal intelligence officers were gunned down in the middle of the day near a school. That’s about the same time some 600 federal police were sent to the city as reinforcements.
The rest of Mexico is under siege as well. In February the police chief of an upscale district of Monterrey was gunned down. An April 21 report in the Los Angeles Times captured the attitude of the drug lords: “‘So that you learn to respect,’ read a message scrawled on a red sheet attached to a Guerrero state government building in Acapulco, where passers-by in the early morning hours discovered the heads of former Police Commander Mario Nunez Magana, 35, of the Municipal Preventive Police, and another man, who was not identified.”
And just how do you expect Mexicans to build their own country to the point where illegal immigration to the US is no longer the best option for the average Mexican when their country is overrun with this sort of violence. The reality is that many Latin American countries are at the mercy of drug cartels, including Mexico. Political observers expect drug cartels to have enough money and influence to be a force in the upcoming Mexican elections.
If all of this doesn’t sound like something out of 1920’s Prohibition to you, it should. And this is precisely why we ended Prohibition. It never stopped anyone from drinking. It simply made them into criminals. And provided the Mafia with obscene amounts of money. And law enforcement with obscene amounts of power and corruption.
80 years ago, Ludwig von Mises wrote in Liberalism:
It is an established fact that alcoholism, cocainism, and morphinism are deadly enemies of life, of health, and of the capacity for work and enjoyment; and a utilitarian must therefore consider them as vices. But this is far from demonstrating that the authorities must interpose to suppress these vices by commercial prohibitions, nor is it by any means evident that such intervention on the part of the government is really capable of suppressing them or that, even if this end could be attained, it might not therewith open up a Pandora’s box of other dangers, no less mischievous than alcoholism and morphinism.
The intervening years of Prohibition, first against alcohol, and then against every drug we don’t like except alcohol, have proved Mises right beyond his most pessimistic. The Supreme Court has ruled that police officers may use drug sniffing dogs to check your car after stopping you for speeding, with no reason to believe that you have drugs in your car. Special task forces to “combat drugs” have been set up that lead to corruption and degradation of our law enforcement officers. The story from Tennessee involved police officers assigned to such a task force. It has led to the seizure and sale of private property by the state even when there is no conviction for any criminal activity. Such seizure is a civil action, not a criminal action. It has led to the death sentence for a man who was only defending his home against unknown intruders in the middle of the night. The War on Drugs has completely corrupted our neighboring nation to the South. It has led to the creation of a Federal law enforcement agency which has only one mission, to fight the Drug War. Prohibition creates so much power and money that terrorist organizations have become involved in the drug trade. It has led to gun battles on the streets of our cities.
And every additional dollar spent on fighting drugs has done nothing to stop the violence and the corruption. In fact, although violent crime per capita has dropped considerably in this country, it has increased in the inner cities where drugs and drug gangs fight their battles for turf and profits. The use of drugs and alcohol has increased, not decreased. The import and sale of drugs to this country has increased ten fold since the 1950’s. Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico, Guatemala, Panama and Colombia are virtually dominated by drug cartels.
This is a war we cannot win. Worse, it is a war we should not fight.