If there ever was a misnomer, “The War On Drugs” might take first place. There has never been a “war” on drug trafficking in America.
If there was a real “war,” then due process would not be provided our “enemies” who provide the poison that has now killed millions, including children, and devastated so much of our nation. Our military forces would be used to shoot down suspected drug planes, sink vessels at sea that carry drug contraband, and “terminate with extreme prejudice” anyone involved in importing, transporting, selling, or otherwise distributing illegal drugs. Such a “war” could be waged and won in days, leaving only so-called “mopping up” operations to keep the ensuing “peace” of military occupation.
But, of course, there is no political will for such an endeavor and never has been. Instead, what’s been waged are the kinds of “police actions” that in the last century resulted in a divided and nuclear armed Korea, a communist Viet Nam, and, a once again religiously radical Iraq and Afghanistan, an undesirable and unsatisfactory end to the longest and costliest military endeavors in the history of the United States of America.
Interestingly, intoxicating drugs have not always been illegal in any of the states of our nation unlike things like murder, rape, robbery, burglary, and theft which always have been illegal. The actions of human beings deemed inherently evil like those just mentioned are termed in the law “malum in se,” that is, “bad in themselves.” Things like drug possession, use, and dealing are deemed illegal under the legal doctrine of “malum prohibitum.” They are “bad simply because they are prohibited.”
Let’s be real, shall we?
Has the so-called “War On Drugs” achieved anything constructive for our society?
It hasn’t stemmed the flow of illegal, increasingly potent, and also often lethal drugs into our communities, has it? No, everything bad has just increased, from the amount of illegal drugs to the kinds of illegal drugs to the debilitating effects and sometimes lethality of these many and varied illegal drugs to all the ancillary crimes associated with illegal drug use, like murder, robbery, burglary, theft, prostitution of every sort, on down to lesser but problematic things like vagrancy and truancy.
Making certain drugs “illegal” hasn’t had an anti-drug educational or moral component like the once-famous late legal scholar Robert Bork used to cite to defend these laws. Children who don’t do drugs don’t do them because they’ve seen the harmful effects that drug use has had on some family members or friends. These children don’t not use drugs because something called “the government” has proscribed their use and distribution. Some children try drugs and decide that it’s not for them. Those two deterrents would exist even if these same now-illegal drugs were decriminalized or, even, made legal, like recreational marijuana use now is in our state where it was once heavily proscribed.
But making some drugs illegal has created the monstrosities of the criminal “cartels” that run the illegal drug operations in our country and abroad when most of the illegal drugs originate. This is the same unintended consequence that the prohibition of alcohol had in the United States of America brought about when the Carries Nations of America who were just trying to help lift men, women, and children out of the debilitations brought on by alcoholism morphed into the Al Capones who arose to furnish drink to the still thirsty of our country.
I can still remember reading about a dinner party that the infamous Chicago mobster, Al Capone, gave at his mansion ostensibly to “honor” one of his henchmen who was getting a little “too big for his britches.” When the dinner party for all of Capone’s lieutenants reached the climax, Capone, himself, got up from his seat at the head of the table, went clear to the other end of the long table while all of his underlings watched as their murderous thug boss approached the man of the hour. When Capone got to his still seated guest of honor, Capone took a baseball bat and bashed out the man’s brains right there for all to see. Must’ve been a hell of a party with many grown men who no doubt suddenly soiled their pants.
But Capone’s memorable murder of his henchman looks like a child’s tea party compared to what the modern day drug cartels do to their own and also to anyone who even slightly gets in their way. Beheadings, immolations, the dead hung from freeway overpasses for all the honest world to see and fear are common in countries just south of our border and also in our inner cities, as well as basically everywhere there are people, drugs, and the huge amounts of money that changes hands and also never gets taxed too while we’re on that subject.
If you want to scare yourself to sleep sometime, watch the movie “Sicario,” starring the beautiful and talented actress Emily Blunt who plays a federal narcotics agent tasked with bringing down one such powerful and brutal drug cartel kingpin who comes after her in the end and she goes into hiding deep in the America in which she grew up in simpler, safer times fully knowing that there’s really no place in our country anymore where she can safely hide. That film accurately portrays our nation in which we now live and hope to raise our children and see our children’s children born and happily raised.
But here’s one thing that our drug laws have succeeded in doing. They’ve created a new industry, the private corrections corporation complex that works hand in glove with our elected officials to build prison after prison in which some of our fellow citizens can be warehoused for years and, even, sometimes for life. The interference with an American’s constitutional right of liberty once was and should be, in my opinion, the exclusive domain of the government elected by a free people. And to some extent, it still is, but that should include the correctional institutions that should be built and operated by those governments so that there is direct, not tangential, oversight by that duly elected government, completely free of any hint of a profit motive and also enough of a burden to the taxpayer that the people remain, themselves, incentivized to decide how much of a burden they choose to bear when they pass laws that will result in the incarceration of some of them.
But that’s not the scheme that’s in place these days. Private correctional institutions contracted by governments exist to remove some of the taxpayers direct burden for the state’s prison industry and have, thereby, introduced a profit incentive into a place it never should be, the boards of capitalistic corporations. Current contracts between private prisons and our government require taxpayer dollars to be paid out for prison cells whether they are empty or filled. If you don’t think that fact has the effect of making sure those cells are filled by some human souls, then may I respectfully suggest some naiveté at play, a “fly in the ointment” if you will. Here’s a stark question. Isn’t the capitalistic private prison industry a mirror image of the communist archipelago described by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in his classic witness to Joseph Stalin’s madness? Have we not in our own free enterprise way of doing things also created a monstrous system that now perpetuates itself to consume some of us?
Or here is another way of looking at it. When I was born in Arizona in 1957, there was just one state prison in our beautiful state, a state so beautiful that a lush photographic magazine called “Arizona Highways” has existed since 1921 to showcase the varied beauty of its namesake. Today, one can hardly find any even obscure Arizona highway that doesn’t have a prison complex somewhere on it. Increasingly criminalizing a practice that a significant enough percentage of our population doesn’t want to give up has built and filled these multitudinous prisons.
But Arizona has just recently decriminalized and even legalized the recreational use of marijuana for adults here, following a trend that began about a decade ago in other states. So the laboratories of democracy, as United States Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once termed a positive aspect of our federal system of government may one day lead us out of the state we’re in. But in the meantime, the gulag archipelago still exists.
What if all the money used to investigate, prosecute, and incarcerate drug criminals or that was derived from governmental taxation like that which exists on the legal alcohol production and distribution in this country were redirected to massive anti drug education and more massive rehabilitation for those who’ve become addicted to illegal drugs. Could such a societal shift be more beneficial than the criminal justice system that is currently in place? It couldn’t possibly be worse, could it?
What if we just stopped spending any public monies at all on this scourge and just let the weak among us die out?
Is what we have now and for the last half century working? If it isn’t, why do we think that doing the same thing over and over and over again will one day produce a different and more desirable result?
Are we insane?
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