Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

August 12, 2006

Just Following Orders

by Brad Warbiany

Is this man just enforcing the law, or is he actively (and enthusiastically) adding propaganda on top of it? It seems the DEA has a traveling exhibit linking drug funding to terrorism. Legalization proponents say the profits are due to the black market and prohibition, the head of the DEA says he’s “just following orders”. Where have I heard that excuse before?

Drug-Terror Connection Disputed

“If we taxed and regulated drugs, terrorists wouldn’t have drugs as a source of profit,” said Tom Angell of the nonprofit Students for Sensible Drug Policy, which focuses on restoring financial aid for college students with drug convictions.

DEA spokesman Steve Robertson responded: “We’re a law enforcement agency — we enforce the laws as they are written. Congress makes the laws. People say if we didn’t have [drug] laws there wouldn’t be a problem, but there was a problem before and that’s why laws were established.”

I can see that sometimes people need to fulfill a job requirement that they may personally disagree with. But do they need to create traveling propaganda exhibits as well? Did Congress tell the DEA to do that?

A photograph of President Bush waving a flag after the Sept. 11 attacks is juxtaposed against a black-and-white image of an African American mother smoking crack cocaine in bed next to her baby. Larger-than-life portraits of Osama bin Laden and Pablo Escobar line the walls. The central message of a traveling Drug Enforcement Administration exhibit unveiled at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry yesterday is that terrorism and drugs are inextricably linked.

And if you didn’t believe in your mission, would you say something like this?

DEA spokesman Robertson also took a broader view of terrorism and drugs.

“Terrorists’ goal is to tear down current societies and governments and offer something else,” he said. “Drug abuse degrades societies from within because of the effect on society, on users and on health services. Drug trafficking is a way to degrade societies, which helps terrorists in their goal.”

There’s a big difference between just enforcing the laws that Congress makes and actively promoting the policies as if they are just and logical. If you tell me that you honestly believe drugs are bad and the prohibition is good, we can have a logical debate about it. But when you’re actively promoting prohibition and generating propaganda while offloading the responsibility for your actions to Congress, you’re trying to have it both ways.

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  • Eric

    Brad, there’s a multitude of people who believe that the cause of immense amounts of crime and social destruction are due to drugs and they oppose legalizing drugs because of that. When I try to point out to them that it’s actually due, primarily, to drugs being illegal and the black markets and street gangs that result, the debate becomes enlightening.

    Most people who are thoughtful on the topic will recognize that prohibition of alcohol led to increased crime and contempt for government. They will tell us that alcohol should remain legal, even though it, as an agent, is involved in more deaths per year than all other drugs combined. I also usually hear, even though all evidence says the opposite, that the price of cocaine, heroine, etc. will remain high if it is legalized, because addicts have to have it. This, of course, ignores a multitude of other factors impacting price. When I point out that alcoholics are in the same boat and ask why alcohol isn’t priced sky high, the answer I often get is “I don’t know”. But, they continue to believe that other drugs, when legalized, won’t follow a typical, legal economic path.

    We ultimately reach the point, when trying to discuss this logically and rationally, that they will concede most points I make. And then insist that these drugs have to remain illegal because they are “bad”.

  • VRB

    I’d like to know, do white people do drugs?
    It seems that we are the government’s poster child for drugs, welfare, vice and other evils in the world.
    I think when drug problems hit more neighborhoods instead of just “those people,” I think people will start to look for rational ways to deal with the problem, including removing prohibition of drugs.

  • http://mapinc.org allan

    Thanks for covering this exhibit. There is *gasp* open opposition. Visit Pete Guither’s Drug WarRant site:

    http://blogs.salon.com/0002762/

    Pete was at the museum passing out flyers along with members from Students for Sensible Drug Policy

  • http://www.noangst.blogspot.com Mike

    “I’d like to know, do white people do drugs?”

    Meth. And a nasty, nasty, drug it is at that. I ever catch anyone remotely related to me dabbling in it, I’ll whup their ass myself.

    However, not surprisingly, most people feel the solution to meth is to require more regulation with anhydrous ammonia and sudafed, steeply increased penalties for users (because, you know, the best way to fix a family that’s been broken by meth is to throw half the family in jail for 5 years) and more funding for anti-meth task forces.

  • Eric

    Of course white people “do drugs” VRB. Cocaine, for example, is a party drug of choice. Ecstasy is as well. Marijuana is pretty common too. But, far and away, the drug of choice is alcohol. Remember the Mafia? Remember how they got enough money and power to distort everything around them? Alcohol is extremely addictive and physically destructive when used in large quantities. It’s interesting that the vast majority of the folks who want “drugs” illegal don’t want to make alcohol, an extremely powerful drug, illegal.

  • http://unrepentantindividual.com/ Brad Warbiany

    VRB,

    As everyone else said, of course white people do drugs. I went to college in a rather conservative mostly-white midwestern state, and yet drugs weren’t exactly hidden. But white, middle-class people don’t make for good propaganda.

    Think about it this way. The DEA is trying to make sure they have public support for policies that strip all manner of rights away from Americans. Could they do that if they portrayed Uncle Bob, who occasionally gets high on the weekends as the scapegoat? Could they do it if they showed little Sally at college occasionally taking ecstacy at a party? Of course not. Then people might understand that it’s their own rights at stake.

    They have to portray drugs in the worst light possible, and in doing so, demonize the user. That’s a lot easier, from a propaganda standpoint, if they can portray “those people” as the drug users, instead of people’s family, friends, or neighbors. It certainly isn’t right, and drug problems hit all neighborhoods. But if it is portrayed as hitting everyone, it humanizes the problem, and requires them to come up with rational solutions. If it’s portrayed as “those people” in “the bad part of town”, then it’s easy to get political support for all sorts of destructive policies.

  • http://anarchangel.blogspot.com Chris Byrne

    It’s ridiculous to assume that all of the crime, and negative consequences of drug distribution, sales, use, and abuse would simply disappear, or in some cases even be substantially reduced, if drugs were legalized.

    While there can be no doubt that the majority of serious organized crime related to drug use is because of their illegality, one cannot discount the personal and social consequences of debilitating addiction.

    Legal or not, drugs will always be expensive to someone unable to hold a job because of their addiction. Also because of their addicition, addicts have degraded moral, social, and personal judgement; especially with regard to rationalization, and consequences.

    Given a situation where someone with degraded moral and consequential judgement, does not have the financial means to obtain that which he is addicted to; he WILL steal. He will rob, he will steal, he will prostitute himself, he will even kill to get it.

    Addicts are jsut that; they don’t care about anything but satisfying their addiction; and legalizing drugs won’t make that problem go away.

    That said, I don’t consider this a reason why drugs should remain illegal. Addicts are addicts, whether their addiction is legal or not.

    Additionally, the majority of “casual” drug users over the past almost 70 years (since the first real drug laws were passed) have been jsut that, casual. These users have not descended into addiction, or if they have their addiction has been mild enough to cause them little harm; or simply to act as an object lesson; social darwinism in action if you will.

    My personal preference would be that all drugs of any kind not a danger to the general populace (airborne halucinogens for example might not be allowed) be legal, and let individuals deal with the consequences of their use.

    Of course along with this, I would allow, and in fact encourage employers and insurers to set their own standards for what drug use, and what impact, is acceptable.

  • Eric

    Chris, there are far more alcoholics in this country than drug addicts. And yes, some percentage of those alcoholics steal, murder, etc.

    I’m not arguing that all of the crime associated with illegal drugs will go away if we legalize them. I am arguing, with a good basis to do so, that the majority of the crime will go away as the black market for drugs is removed. Will some addicts still commit violent crimes? Yes, they will. But, they already do. Many more do today than would if those drugs were legal.

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