The War Over There vs. the War Over Here

by Clifford Thornton

Most Nutmeggers have always opposed the Bush regime's illegal Iraq war, seeing through the false rationales for it, and understanding that it is ultimately a power-grab for control of Middle Eastern petroleum -- supposedly the most valuable military-strategic prize in the history of the world.

However, we in our state, and we in our country, are still not taking a close enough look at another fantastically expensive war - more costly in the number of human lives adversely affected than the Iraq boondoggle. This, of course, is the never-ending Drug War, the so-called "War on Drugs" that began with the Harrison Narcotics Act in the early part of the 20th century, and increased greatly with the inception of the Rockefeller drug laws in New York state, the crack cocaine scare of the early 1980s, federal "mandatory minimum" sentences, and "three strikes you're out" laws.

The authorities, in effect, have gone into the poorest areas, taken help away, turned them into battlefields, and put a tempting basket of goodies in the middle of the street, seducing children who see no hope in their futures. This big bright basket of drug dealing falsely offers youngsters the things they probably otherwise would not attain. Then we tell them they must not touch, and have imposed terrible penalties for doing so. It is as if we deliberately have set these traps to destroy them.

The stereotype of a young, dangerous minority criminal has done incalculable damage to race relations. The fear shown by whites has caused a backlash of loathing from young blacks. The real enemy is displaced.

Too many people value security more than privacy or freedom. The image of violent young minority males has exacerbated racism and interracial distrust. The drug war has pitted individuals against one another. Through our drug control strategies we have taught an entire generation to be abusive and disrespectful of the rights of others!

The so-called "peace dividend" after the end of the cold war was immediately diverted to the drug war. Funds that should be used for urban renewal and educational programs are used to fight the drug war and terrorism, while schools literally crumble around our children.

The drug war is the insidious cause of this cultural retrogression. It has succeeded because we the people have embraced the war. Deliberate or not, the drug war is an ingenious "divide and conquer" scheme. It is so brilliant that most people support it as it tears society, freedom, and democracy apart.

This country has had almost a century of drug prohibition, four decades of the war on drugs, yet there are more drugs at cheaper prices on our streets than ever before and we have spent hundreds of billions of dollars on interdiction alone. Those who insist on a continuation of 21st century Prohibition are directly agreeing that both production and distribution of drugs be left in control of criminals, funding terrorists and cartels. Drug use should be handled as a public health issue, not one of crime. Citizens must carefully consider the policy options in this complex issue. If they endorse and lend their support to advocacy efforts to end the destructive and counterproductive "War on Drugs", change will happen for the benefit of all of us.

Those calling for an end to drug Prohibition are primarily non-users of illicit drugs. We are parents and grandparents - serious citizens who want to see the street dealers shut down for good. We see the drug war as mean-spirited. We believe that risky drugs should be licensed and dealers regulated, just as is currently done with alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceuticals.

However, my dear friends and neighbors, it is long past time to legalize, medicalize and decriminalize other controlled substances. Our society is consuming itself and its economic output with a futile "drug war" that will have no end, but which like the Iraq fiasco also creates huge vested interests -- people who profit from it. We don't need all the "private contractor" companies (who now outnumber our troops in Iraq) to do our government's work. We should oppose a new prison, the one they are now talking about building in Meriden. The Corrections Department wants to increase capacity by 758 prisoners but would need $30 million more per year, at $40,000 per prisoner. We don't need another prison, we don't need the huge criminal INjustice, prison-industrial complex to imprison, stigmatize, and even enslave huge segments of our population at home.

Like the Iraq war, the drug war is meant to be waged not won.

Cliff Thornton is founder of Efficacy, a non-profit organization that has been concentrating efforts on drug policy reform. He was the Green Party candidate for Governor of CT in 2006. For more information, see: www.efficacy-online.org.

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