Tuesday, August 08, 2006

War is Over If You Want It

No, not that war. I mean the war on drugs. There are some, it seems, who feel that we've won the war on drugs. Yipee! Let's release all the prisoners of that war and have a big Welcome Home Parade!

What happened was that seven former Drug Czars from the past 35 years got together for a little meeting to discuss what has and has not happened since Nixon declared this war in 1971. The attendees came from all political backgrounds, parties, and viewpoints. It was at this meeting that they supposedly decided the war had been won.

Writing in the Columbus Dispatch, John Burnham says:
The czars' straightforward conclusion may come as a shock, but, as they outlined what the war was about, what they had to say made a lot of sense.

Thirty-five years ago, the big worry was the veterans who were returning from Vietnam who had been using illegal drugs. And the drug causing overwhelming concern was heroin. A hard-headed public-health approach showed an alarming number of deaths directly related to heroin, not to mention crimes committed by addicts. As the veterans showed that their use did not continue after their return to the United States, and as methadone-maintenance programs came into place, along with enforcement and education, heroin use declined, and even more dramatic was the decline in heroin-related deaths. This was the great victory of the war on drugs. A recent small uptick in illegal drug use is remarkably insignificant compared with the original problem.
The only problem with that analysis is that the seven former drug czars in attendance don't agree with it. "I do not recall anyone, especially me, reaching the conclusion that we have won the war on drugs," said Clinton drug czar Lee Brown.

According to Maia Szalavitz, a senior fellow at the media watchdog STATS,
"If you're going to declare victory, shouldn't drug trends show some relationship to your efforts? Drug-war spending has increased every single year -- but drug use trends have waxed and waned with little connection to this."
I have to agree. As a "war" we've won few battles and gained little territory against the use of illegal drugs. So maybe we can't really declare "victory." But how about a ceasefire? Maybe a truce of some sort that would give us time to develop rational policies, including addiction treatment and selective de-criminalization.

Or we can continue to spend billions of dollars on a war that's mostly fought against our own citizens with no hope of winning.

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1 comment:

  1. Hmm yea so that sounds like a great idea, why don't we all just quit everything and be a bunch of selfish little bastards? Yea great idea!


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