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The Drug War Is Teetering -and That’s Good!-


The drug war is teetering. Support for ending this federal fiasco continues to grow all across the political spectrum. The latest instance is the United Nations — if you can believe that, where officials from all over the world have been discussing the possibility of ending this failed, deadly, destructive, and corrupt government program.

Notice that drug-war proponents, including those in the DEA and the rest of the federal drug-war bureaucracy, are now noticeably silent about any purported virtues of the drug war. All they have left in their arsenal is, “We made another drug bust today!”

And so what? They’ve been doing that for 50 years. What difference does it make? All they’re doing is keeping themselves busy while ruining more lives and filling up more penitentiaries. Why should anyone look on that in a positive way, especially given all the death, destruction, and mayhem that the drug war produces at the same time?

On the front page of yesterday’s New York Times, there was an article about the 43 students who were abducted and disappeared in Mexico. Most everyone has concluded that they were murdered. According to the Times, “The [Mexican] government said 123 people, including 73 municipal police officials, had been detained on organized-crime charges in relation to the night’s events, and the Mexican authorities have linked the Iguala police force to a powerful drug gang.”

In last Saturday’s issue, the Times carried an article about two Honduran “anti-drug czars” who had been assassinated by drug gangs. The Times says that a widening scandal is “peeling back the collusion between drug traffickers and the police.”

In Southlake, Texas, two men are on trial for allegedly murdering a Texas attorney, Juan Jesus Guerrero Chapa, who was supposedly involved in drug trafficking as part of Mexico’s Gulf Cartel.

A few weeks ago, a Virginia trooper and another man lay dead in a Richmond bus station as a result of a drug-interdiction training program.

And it goes on and on. Just Google “drug war killings” and you will see article after article detailing the death, destruction, and corruption that comes with the drug war.

The drug-war corruption is not just in Latin America. Here in the United States, we periodically learn about payoffs to law-enforcement officers and judges by drug cartels. Of course, most of the corruption never comes to light. One part of the corruption that exists in plain sight, however, involves the program known as “asset forfeiture,” by which federal and state cops are stealing money and property from people in the name of the drug war, appropriating it to their own use, and never charging the victims with a crime.

And then there’s the racism that is an inherent part of the drug war. Everyone has known for decades that the adverse consequences of the drug war have always fallen disproportionately on blacks, and that’s, of course, fine with bigots. In some ways, when it comes to racial cleansing the drug war has proven more effective in cleansing communities of blacks than segregation was. That’s because segregation kept them in a separate part of town while the drug war moves them out of town and into faraway penitentiaries. The drug war has also proven to be a nice, easy way to take away the right of blacks to vote, given the felony conviction that is doled out to them for drug-war violations. Indeed, in some ways the drug war is better than the poll tax was as a way to keep blacks from voting.

And then there’s the discrimination in federal drug-war enforcement. In those states where marijuana has been legalized, the feds are no longer enforcing federal laws against the drug war. Maybe that’s because they feel that marijuana is harmful only in those states that haven’t legalized the drug. In any event, the American people are experiencing the phenomenon that people experience under tyrannical regimes — where officials target whoever they want to target rather than apply the criminal law in an even-handed way against everyone.

Everything Milton Friedman said in his April 1990 Open Letter to Drug Czar Bill Bennett is true today. Americans living at that time chose to reject what Friedman and other libertarians were saying about what the drug war would end up doing to America and the world and about why it was so important to end it this deadly, destructive, corrupt scourge on society.  Today, twenty-five years later, an ever-growing number of people are realizing that Friedman was right. It’s too late to correct the death, destruction, and corruption that the drug war has wrought for the past 25 years. It’s not too late to stop it from wreaking more death, destruction, and corruption for the next 25 years.

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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