For years President Bush has wasted taxpayer money on drug war programs that even his own analysts have concluded are ineffective. Now we know why.
A recent Congressional investigation found that the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) used taxpayer money to boost support for Republican candidates in 2006. U.S. Drug Czar John Walters and his deputies traveled to almost twenty events with vulnerable Republican members of Congress in the months prior to the election. The taxpayer-financed trips were orchestrated by President Bush's political advisors and often combined with the announcement of federal grants or actions that made the Republican candidates look good in their districts. Karl Rove commended ONDCP officials for "going above and beyond the call of duty" in making "surrogate appearances" in "the god awful places we sent them." Those "god awful places" included cities like South Bend, Indiana, my hometown.
At the same time Walters was spending taxpayer money campaigning on behalf of vulnerable Republicans, President Bush was increasing funding for Walters' favorite programs, the anti-marijuana ad campaign and the student drug testing program. This kind of I'll-scratch-your-back-if-you-scratch-mine arrangement is outrageous, even by Washington standards!
This appeal and Alliance website are certainly worth a read for anyone interested in the real value of drug policy and who benefits from it. They show how the Mexican Border is becoming a bloodbath in the wild west right now, and the people who are likely to benefit from current drug policies. At least maybe now we know why we have very little by way of effective rehabilitation programs for people who are addicted to drugs.
So why the war on drugs, you may ask, who benefits and who are the stakeholders who make a profit from current drug policy well let's go through a short list from Steven McDougall:
So who are these groups? Who are the constituents of the War on Drugs? Let's start with the obvious ones.
The War on Drugs is an employment program for law enforcement. The War on Drugs employs everyone in the Drug Enforcement Administration
- people in the FBI, the INS, and the border patrol
- state and local police officers
- judges, and prosecuting attorneys, and defense attorneys
- prison wardens, and prison guards
The War on Drugs has a big payroll, and everyone on that payroll has some interest in seeing the war continue.
The War on Drugs supports the prison industry. Since we've put 2 million people behind bars, building, supplying, and running prisons has become big business. This alignment of government and business in running the prison system is called the prison-industrial complex.
The War on Drugs serves the government. The government needs bogeymen. It needs threats that can be used to justify
- military intervention
- foreign intelligence operations
- greater domestic police powers
- For many years, the international communist conspiracy played this role, but that hasn't been so credible since communism collapsed 10 years ago. Today, the government invokes the specter of international drug cartels when it needs to generate support for some extra-legal, unconstitutional, or otherwise ill-advised use of force.
The War on Drugs serves the military-industrial complex. Last year, President Clinton asked for, and received, 1.3 billion dollars to send to Columbia to help them fight our War on Drugs. Of course, we didn't send a billion three in cash to Columbia, or even something moderately useful, like food or medicine. We sent them weapons. Built, of course, by American companies.
The War on Drugs serves politicians. Politicians
- need simple, emotional issues to drive their campaigns
- need issues that make good sound bites
- need issues that polarize discussion, so that they can claim the high ground, and label their opponents weak, or naive, or evil
These are some of the obvious beneficiaries of the War on Drugs. There are also groups that benefit in more subtle ways. The War on Drugs is an instrument of racial oppression. You won't find the words black, white, Caucasian, or Negro written into the laws, but the way the government treats drug users depends on the color of their skin.
People with dark skin are treated more harshly at every level
- police make more arrests
- prosecutors file more charges
- juries return more convictions
- judges impose longer sentences In a country that is mostly white, we have created a prison population that is mostly black.
The War on Drugs serves those who maintain political control by disenfranchising minorities. Convicted criminals generally can't vote; the ACLU estimates that the War on Drugs has permanently disenfranchised 14% of African-American men. We used to use poll taxes and literacy tests to keep people from voting; now we have the War on Drugs.
The War on Drugs serves those who fear racial minorities. The history of drug laws in this country is a history of racial fear. Drugs were never outlawed because European-Americans were using them. Drugs were outlawed because minorities were using them
- the '60s youth counter-culture
There are, today, people who fear minorities; the War on Drugs preferentially imprisons minorities; therefore, these people perceive that the War on Drugs serves their interests.
The War on Drugs serves a society in search of scapegoats. Historically, people who needed someone to blame—or hate—had their choice of racial, ethnic, and religious groups. As Tom Lehrer famously observed in the song National Brotherhood Week:
The Protestants hate the Catholics
The Catholics hate the Protestants
The Hindus hate the Moslems
And everybody hates the Jews
And if you needed a less parochial target, there were always the Communists. But the Communists have evaporated, and garden-variety ethnic bigotry has become mostly unacceptable in public discourse.
Today, the War on Drugs provides us with scapegoats. We identify drug users as dangerous, and evil. We blame them for the troubles of our society, and herd them into prisons. And as our troubles persist, we imprison more and more drug users, for longer and longer terms, under harsher and harsher conditions, thinking that if we can only punish them enough, then surely our troubles will leave us.
Anyone who wants to take the problems of drug policy seriously, has to start by asking the right questions like qui bono (who benefits). This is the only viable way to start solving the problems associated with our current policies and to develop more humane policies for the future.