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The War on Drugs

The White House – March 23, 1972
of course we knew we were lyingWhite House Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman and President Richard M. Nixon are meeting to prep for the day. Among the items that need to be covered is the report and recommendation of the bipartisan "National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse", also known as the "Shafer Commission", which was appointed by Nixon himself.

Yesterday the commission's chairman, former governor of Pennsylvania Raymond P. Shafer, presented a report to Congress and the public entitled "Marihuana, A Signal of Misunderstanding," which, like similar commissions before it, favored ending marijuana prohibition and recommended decriminalization. Upon hearing this, Nixon becomes very upset and agitated. He makes it clear that the report and recommendation will be ignored, and according to declassified Oval Office tapes, retorts, "We need, and I use the word, all out war on all fronts."

The War on Drugs
That war, the "War on Drugs", declared by Nixon in June of 1971, was no more a war than the current "War on Terror" is. These catchy little phrases, nonsensical in and of themselves (as if soldiers can kill an emotion ) are obvious propaganda tools that government and law enforcement personnel use to justify systematically perpetrating attacks on American citizens. In his presidential remarks on the subject Nixon stated, "America's public enemy number one in the United States is drug abuse. In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive." It sounded great, except that there were no attacks on drugs or drug abuse. No effective border control and no clinics for drug addicts in need.

Instead, Nixon dramatically increased the size and presence of federal drug control agencies, and pushed measures including mandatory sentencing and no-knock warrants through Congress, beginning an assault on our constitutional protection against unreasonable search and seizure that endures today. Predictably, the number of marijuana-related arrests of drug users rose over 125,000 from 1972 to 1973. Who do you think Nixon's public enemy number one really was?

In a 1994 interview with Dan Baum for Harper's Magazine, former top Nixon aide John Ehrlichman, humbled and disgraced with nothing to lose by being candid and truthful, said:

arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night. sounds like Germany 1937 "The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I'm saying? We knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did."

"… arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night …" Not wanting to overstate or toss out an irresponsible and inaccurate comparison, that sounds a LOT like life in Germany about 1937.

If you were alive in the 70s then it is probably easy to believe Ehrlichman's statement. It may not have been as much that Nixon hated the younger generation - after all, that group included his two daughters - as it was that 1) he did not understand them, and genuinely couldn't comprehend what they were so pissed off about all the time, and 2) more than anything they were a big pain in the ass, whining about the war and endlessly demonstrating. His distaste for the young people in America was always apparent.

The fact that federal law STILL lists marijuana as a Schedule One Controlled Substance along with heroin and cocaine, a law initiated by the Nixon Administration in 1972, indicates a continued and continuing effort by our elected officials over decades to avoid the facts at all costs, and stubbornly hang on to an outdated law that was wrong in the first place and has done absolutely nothing to improve the quality of life in America. How many thousands of American lives have been unalterably ruined by being placed in jail, where they were neither cracked up to survive, nor guilty of a crime worse than having a beer?

As with the "War on Drugs", the current "War on Terror" is a complete misnomer. It might be more accurately labeled a war on terrorists, at least fighting people instead of an emotion makes sense grammatically and realistically. The trouble with fighting terrorists is that we are apparently not very good at figuring out who there are! The government's solution is to suspect everyone - a sort of 'terrorist until proven not-terrorist' approach that is as stupid as 'helping' addicted soldiers returning from a horrible (actual) war by throwing them in jail.

The idea of war - an all-out confrontation with a deadly enemy intent on invading my home and killing my family and destroying my way of life - is something for which people are willing to fight, sacrifice, and temporarily surrender civil liberties. War is scary, even while we confidently predict victory for our side. War is ruin and destruction. War is death.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.To intentionally misuse the word by telling the American people that "we are at war, you know" and thereby draw on the emotional energy that has charged that word over eons of deadly battle to justify denying Americans their civil and constitutional rights by tracking electronic communication and interaction, creating 'free speech zones' that nullify the speaking being done, and allowing police to search your car, take your phone and arrest you with only a wisp of a hint of a sniff of a reason, is despicable. How have we so willingly let them hollow out the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution? Madison is surely spinning 'round.

For a politician, or anyone, to question an American's loyalty to country because they question our leaders' actions, claiming that we must blindly and quietly follow during this 'time of war', is the lowest of the low. But those politicians know that the longer they can convince us that we are at war, the longer they can violate our rights. This is a simple concept, repeatedly explained and demonstrated in both history and literature.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.While the War on Drugs was then and still is now merely an attempt to arrest, raid, destroy and vilify American citizens, the War on Terror, aided by the internet, has systematically robbed us all of our civil right to privacy, limited our constitutional right to free speech, and helped to render the Fourth Amendment a once-proud, now-neutered champion, struggling to remember how it was in the before-time. The scary part, the really scary part, isn’t even that American society has pretty-well accepted that privacy has become a thing of the past, but that the idea of privacy seems to be very rapidly dissipating as well. The view that what I make, how much I paid for my house and what my junk looks like are all none of your darn business, is already foreign. Only a very few years ago the inquiry about such things would have been considered to be rude - not the refusal to divulge the data.

Reagan revitalized the fake war in the 80s with Nancy running around telling everyone to 'just say no', which did about as much good as you'd expect. Jail sentences for drug offense reached new heights, and people just kept getting high. Here we are in the 21st century, and this never-ending bullshit, propaganda "War on Drugs" is still and even more so a war against American citizens. A war on drugs would involve efforts to stop importation and production, but apparently we suck at that. So all we can do is go after the soccer mom that takes a couple tokes to help her get through another incredibly boring match, and the waitress that just schlepped eggs and burgers for eleven hours without a break. It is a war against American citizens any way you look at it.

Why has our government declared war against its own civilians? Why is the Attorney General of the United States of America turning on his friends, neighbors and fellow Americans?

How could we possibly be a better country with even more Americans in prison or with criminal records that can derail careers and lives, for imbibing in something so much less dangerous, less addictive, and less harmful overall than alcohol? How?

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