Posts Tagged ‘War on Drugs’

Democracy Now on the Crimes and Mass Murders of President George H.W. Bush

December 10, 2018

The Friday before last, former president George H.W. Bush, the father of former president George ‘Dubya’ Bush, finally fell off his perch at the age of 94. Like Monty Python’s parrot, he had shuffled off this mortal coil and joined the choir invisible. He was an ex-president, and well and truly. He was buried with due state honours last Wednesday.

And the press and media fell over themselves to praise him to the rafters. If you believed them, you would have thought that America had lost a statesman of the stature of the ancient Athenian politico, Pericles. Or that he combined in himself the wisdom of Thomas Jefferson, Maddison and the rest of the Founding Fathers.

He wasn’t. He was the successor to Ronald Reagan and a former head of the CIA, and had been involved with shady dealings, dirty, proxy wars and invasions in Latin America and Iraq, that had cost thousands their lives, while thousands others were tortured by the dictators he supported. And domestically he was responsible for racist electioneering and a highly discriminatory drugs policy that has resulted in the massive disproportionate incarceration of Black American men.

Mehdi Hasan on George Bush Senior

He was a disgusting creature, and Mehdi Hasan wrote a piece in the Intercept describing just how disgusting and reprehensible he was. In the piece below, he also appeared on Democracy Now! to talk to host Amy Goodman about Bush senior and his legacy of corruption, murder and terror.

Bush was elected president in 1990. He was a former director of the CIA, and served from 1981-89 as Reagan’s vice-president. Despite calling for a kinder, gentler politics when he was vice-president, Bush refused to tackle climate change, saying that the American way of life was not up for negotiation, defended future supreme court justice Clarence Thomas even after he was accused of sexual harassment. He was responsible for launching the first Gulf War in Iraq in 1991. During the War, the US air force deliberately bombed an air raid shelter in Baghdad killing 408 civilians. The relatives of some of those killed tried to sue Bush and his deputy, Dick Cheney, for war crimes. The attack on Iraq continued after the end of the war with a devastating sanctions regime imposed by Bush, and then his son’s invasion in 2003.

The Invasion of Panama

In 1990 Bush sent troops into Panama to arrest the country’s dictator, General Manuel Noriega on charges of drug trafficking. Noriega had previously been a close ally, and had been on the CIA’s payroll. 24,000 troops were sent into the country to topple Noriega against Panama’s own military, which was smaller than the New York police department. 3,000 Panamanians died in the attack. In November 2018, the inter-American Commission on Human Rights called on Washington to pay reparations for what they considered to be an illegal invasion.

Pardoning the Iran-Contra Conspirators

As one of his last acts in office, Bush also gave pardons to six officials involved in the Iran-Contra scandal. This was a secret operation in which Reagan sold arms to Iran in order to fund the Contras in Nicaragua, despite Congress banning the administration from funding them. Bush was never called to account for his part in it, claiming he was ‘out of the loop’, despite the testimony of others and a mass of documents suggesting otherwise.

The Collapse of Communism and Neoliberalism

Bush’s period in office coincided with the collapse of Communism. In the period afterwards, which Bush termed the New World Order, he was instrumental in spreading neoliberalism and the establishment of the NAFTO WTO treaties for international trade.

Hasan not only wrote for the Intercept, he also hosted their Deconstructed podcast, as well as a show, Up Front, on Al-Jazeera English.

The Media’s Praise of Bush

Goodman and Hasan state that there is a natural reluctance against speaking ill of the dead. But they aren’t going to speak ill of Bush, just critically examine his career and legacy. Hasan states that as a Brit living in Washington he’s amazed at the media hagiography of Bush. He recognizes that Bush had many creditable achievements, like standing up to the NRA and AIPAC, but condemns the way the media ignored the rest of Bush’s legacy, especially when it involves the deaths of thousands of people as absurd, a dereliction of duty. He states that Bush is being described as the ‘anti-Trump’, but he did many things that were similar to the Orange Buffoon. Such as the pardoning of Caspar Weinberger on the eve of his trial, which the independent special counsel at the time said was misconduct and that it covered up the crime. And everyone’s upset when Trump says he might pardon Paul Manafort. Bush should be held to the same account. It doesn’t matter that he was nicer than Trump, and less aggressive than his son, he still has a lot to answer for.

The Iran-Contra Scandal

Goodman gets Hasan to explain about the Iran-Contra scandal, in which Reagan sold arms to Iran, then an enemy state, to fund a proxy war against a ‘Communist’ state in South America despite a congressional ban. He states that it was a huge scandal. Reagan left office without being punished for it, there was a Special Council charged with looking into it, led by Lawrence Walsh, a deputy attorney general under Eisenhower. When he looked into it, he was met with resistance by Reagan’s successor, Bush. And now we’re being told how honest he was. But at the time Bush refused to hand over his diary, cooperate with the Special Counsel, give interviews, and pardoned the six top neocons responsible. The Special Counsel’s report is online, it can be read, and it says that Bush did not cooperate, and that this was the first time the president pardoned someone in a trial in which he himself would have to testify. He states that Bush and Trump were more similar in their obstruction of justice than some of the media would have us believe.

Iraq Invasion

They then move on to the Iraq invasion, and play the speech in which Bush states that he has begun bombing to remove Saddam Hussein’s nuclear bomb potential. It was done now, because ‘the world could wait no longer’. Because of Bush’s attack on Iraq, his death was marked by flags at half-mast in Kuwait as well as Washington. Hasan states that Hussein invaded Kuwait illegally, and it was a brutal occupation. But Hasan also says that Bush told the country that it came without any warning or provocation. But this came after the American ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, told Hussein that American had no opinion on any border dispute with Kuwait. This was interpreted, and many historians believe, that this was a green light to Hussein to invade.

Bush also told the world that America needed to go into Iraq to protect Saudi Arabia, as there were Iraqi troops massing on the border of that nation. This was another lie. One reporter bought satellite photographs of the border and found there were no troops there. It was lie, just as his son lied when he invaded twelve years later. As for the bombing of the Amariyya air raid shelter, which was condemned by Human Rights Watch, this was a crime because the Americans had been told it contained civilians. Bush also bombed the civilian infrastructure, like power stations, food processing plants, flour mills. This was done deliberately. Bush’s administration told the Washington Post that it was done so that after the war they would have leverage over the Iraqi government, which would have to go begging for international assistance. And this was succeeded by punitive sanctions that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children. It all began on Bush’s watch.

Racism, Willie Horton and Bush’s Election Campaign

They then discuss his 1988 election campaign, and his advert attacking his opponent, Michael Dukakis. Dukakis was attacked for having given a weekend pass from prison to Willie Horton, a Black con serving time for murder, who then went and kidnapped a young couple, stabbing the man and repeatedly raping the woman. This was contrasted with Bush, who wanted the death penalty for first degree murder. The advert was created by Lee Atwater and Roger Ailes, who later apologized for it on his deathbed. This advert is still studied in journalism classes, and until Trump’s ad featuring the migrant caravan appeared it was considered the most racist advert in modern American political history. Atwater said that they were going to talk about Horton so much, people would think he was Dukakis’ running mate. Bush approved of this, and talked about Horton at press conferences. And unlike Atwater, he never apologized. Roger Stone, whom Hasan describes as one of the most vile political operatives of our time, an advisor to Donald Trump and Nixon, actually walked up to Atwater and told him he would regret it, as it was clearly a racist ad. When even Roger Stone says that it’s a bad idea, you know you’ve gone too far. But the press has been saying how decent Bush was. Hasan states he has only two words for that: Willie Horton.

In fact, weekend passes for prison inmates was a policy in many states, including California, where Ronald Reagan had signed one. Hasan calls the policy what it was: an attempt to stoke up racial fears and division by telling the public that Dukakis was about to unleash a horde of Black murderers, who would kill and rape them. And ironically the people who were praising Bush after his death were the same people attacking Trump a week earlier for the migrant caravan fearmongering. It reminded everyone of the Willie Horton campaign, but for some reason people didn’t make the connection between the two.

Racism and the War on Drugs

Hasan also makes the point that just as Bush senior had no problem creating a racist advert so he had no problem creating a racist drug war. They then move on to discussing Bush’s election advert, in which he waved a bag of crack cocaine he claimed had been bought in a park just a few metres from the White House. But the Washington Post later found out that it had all been staged. A drug dealer had been caught selling crack in Lafayette Square, but he had been lured there by undercover Federal agents, who told him to sell it there. The drug dealer even had to be told the address of the White House, so he could find it. It was a nasty, cynical stunt, which let to an increase in spending of $1 1/2 billion on more jails, and prosecutors to combat the drugs problem. And this led to the mass incarceration of young Black men, and thousands of innocent lives lost at home and abroad in the drug wars. And today Republican senators like Chris Christie will state that this is a failed and racist drug war.

This was the first in a series of programmes honouring the dead – which meant those killed by Bush, not Bush himself. The next programme in the series was on what Bush did in Panama.

Dark Rock and Bush: The Sisters of Mercy’s ‘Vision Thing’

I’ve a suspicion that the track ‘Vision Thing’ by the Sisters of Mercy is at least partly about George Bush senior. The Sisters are a dark rock band. Many of front man Andrew Eldritch’s lyrics are highly political, bitterly attacking American imperialism. Dominion/Mother Russia was about acid rain, the fall of Communism, and American imperialism and its idiocy. Eldritch also wanted one of their pop videos to feature two American servicemen in a cage being taunted by Arabs, but this was naturally rejected about the bombing of American servicemen in Lebanon. Another song in the same album, ‘Dr Jeep’, is about the Vietnam War.

‘Vision Thing’ seems to take its title from one of Bush’s lines, where he said, if I remember correctly, ‘I don’t have the vision thing.’ The song talks about ‘another black hole in the killing zone’, and ‘one million points of light’. It also has lines about ‘the prettiest s**t in Panama’ and ‘Take back what I paid/ to another M*****f****r in a motorcade’. These are vicious, bitter, angry lyrics. And if they are about Bush senior, then it’s no wonder.

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Fox News Drools over Mandatory Patriotism Class in College of the Ozarks

November 2, 2017

The use of patriotism as a disguise for right-wing indoctrination gets another boost in this small section of the American education system. In this clip from Secular Talk, host Kyle Kulinski talks about a piece on Fox News, where they discuss the introduction of a new, mandatory freshman class on patriotism and the military at the College of the Ozarks with the college’s president, Gerry Davis. Actually, discuss is probably not the right word. ‘Rave about’ and ‘fawn over’ are probably better descriptors.

Davis states that the course will including rifle shooting, map reading and tying knots, as well as respect for the flag, as these parts of the curriculum are modelled on basic training in the American military. He states that everyone in America owes a debt to their armed forces. As for sport, he states that the college football and other sports teams would not play another side, whose team members refused to stand for the flag. And he states that it’s disrespectful for a squaddie, who’s served in Afghanistan, to have to see some multi-millionaire kneeling. This is clearly a reference to Colin Kaepernick and the other American football players, who have knelt when the flag is raised before games to show their support for Black Lives Matter and protest the shooting of unarmed Blacks.

Kulinski is understandable bitterly critical about the double standards towards free speech shown by the college and its administrators, and by the Republicans towards peaceful protest. He states that if others were assembling a course on patriotism, a few of the things they might put in it could be the Civil Rights movement, perhaps the New Deal, and the Constitution. But none of those are included, because it doesn’t reflect the personal tastes of Davis himself. And any course on patriotism should include how great it is to live in a country, that will allow you to burn the flag in a peaceful protest. He points out that peaceful protest is one of the most American of institutions. But this move means that it is ruled out, and there is literally no way people can express their feelings about injustice as these are also angrily denounced or suppressed by the patriotic right. If they march in the street, they’re accused of making a mountain out of a molehill. They can’t riot without being denounced, obviously, and so, with simply kneeling for the flag also attacked, there is simply nothing they can do to raise awareness of the issue of the cops killing innocent Blacks. And this is the attitude of the American patriotic right.

Who claim they are the defenders of free speech, except when it challenges the flag and the military. ‘You f***ing hypocrites’, Kulinski describes them.

As for ending the cavalier judicial murder of Black Americans, Kulinski suggests this could be done by passing laws setting up community policing, making all police wear body cameras and ending the war on drugs.

He ends by saying that if these people were truly concerned with patriotism, they’d be willing to let people kneel for the flag, even if they didn’t agree with them. But instead the president of the US himself, has said that people should fired for doing so.

Kulinski’s right about all of this, and the issue of respecting the flag has been raised before. Back in the 1980s when Reagan was in the White House, there was a storm of outrage when a young member of the Communist party publicly burned the flag in protest at Reagan’s policies. The great American comedian, Bill Hicks, lampooned the Republican protests and loud denunciations which followed.

He said he didn’t want anyone to burn the flag. But the flag wasn’t freedom. You can’t burn freedom because freedom is freedom. And that includes the freedom to burn the flag. Or words to that effect. It’s a long time since I listened to the joke.

As for Americans owing something to the military, that’s true up to a point. This arguably begins and ends round about the Second World War and the attack on Pearl Harbour. The other wars America has fought across the globe have not been about protecting America or democracy, but preserving capitalism against the threat of Communism. This has meant the overthrow of even moderately liberal or reformist governments in order to protect and extend American corporate interests. 9/11 was an act of war against America, but the western armed forces that are now stationed in the country have long outstayed any residual welcome they may have had, and are now in fact actively counterproductive in that they are creating opposition to the West. And the subsequent invasions and military actions that have taken place under the guise of the War on Terror, such as the Iraq invasion, the bombing of Syria and the overthrow of Gaddafi, are simply more geopolitical imperialist adventures, in which the lives of brave squaddies are being spilt simply to boost the profits of big corporations.

Perhaps if America and the West genuinely wanted to respect our troops, we would just make sure they’d only be sent in when our security was directly threatened. And not as cannon-fodder for Raytheon and the other defence contractors to make another killing on the stock exchange.

The War on Drugs, Racism and Eugenics in Modern America

January 29, 2016

There’s a particularly chilling passage in the chapter ‘The History of “Black Paranoia” in Cockburn and St. Clair’s End Times: The Death of the Fourth Estate, where they describe the revival and continuation of eugenics policies, including the use of castration and sterilisation, and the US government’s ‘war on drugs’. The chapter as a whole is intended to show that Black Americans have very good reason for not trusting the US government, considering the numerous policies that have been deliberately enacted against them. This has includes treating them as unwitting subjects for human experimentation, and the way crimes have been specifically framed by the legal authorities so that punishment bears down hardest on Blacks and other ethnic minorities. The various anti-drugs legislation is a case in point. Although middle class White Americans also used opium, marijuana and cocaine, the laws against them were formulated and promoted to specifically attack Blacks, Mexicans and Chinese, as a way of making them seem threateningly foreign. Cannabis was originally just called ‘hemp’. It was renamed ‘marijuana’ as a way of associating with Mexican workers, who were then competing with White workers in the Depression for jobs. It was associated with the racial threat supposedly posed by Black men, often using the crude imagery of school playground racial stereotype. One government headline screamed that ‘Negroes with Big Lips Lure White Women with Marijuana and Jazz.’ And all this was going on a mere few decades after one US cigarette manufacturer offered smokers cocaine-laced ciggies for their consumption.

The Destruction of Black Communities by the War on Drugs

Cockburn and St. Clair talk about the devastation wrought in downtown L.A. by the War on Drugs, which effectively turned poor Black neighbourhoods into war zones. Wards were walled off from each other, curfews imposed, and Black men were stopped and searched on the street. 89 per cent of those arrested were released without charge. Unemployment soared, as did the proportion of Blacks in US prisons. Poverty increased, and for the first in a century, the average Black life expectancy fell.

Fred Goodwin on Inner City Men Evolving Backwards

And as conditions in the inner cities deteriorated, there was a revival of eugenics. In 1992, Fred Goodwin, the director of ADAMHA, or the Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration, declared that the increase in Black violence in the inner cities may well have been due to a gene for violence. He recommended that a national biomedical campaign should be launched to isolate the gene and treat the gene’s carriers. In February of that year he gave a speech to the National Mental Health Advisory Council, in which he explicitly stated that violence had increased, as individuals in the jungle conditions of the inner cities had reverted to more ‘natural’ behaviour. He stated:

There are discussion of “biological correlates” and “biological markers”. The individuals have defective brains with detectable prefrontal changes that may well be predictive of later violence. The individuals have impaired intelligence, in this case “cognitive deficit” … Now, one could say that if some of the loss of social structure in this society, and particularly within the high impact inner city areas, has removed some of the civilising evolutionary things that we have built up and that maybe it isn’t just the careless use of the word when people call certain areas of certain cities jungles, that we may have gone back to what might be more natural, without all of the social controls that we have imposed upon ourselves as a civilisation over thousands of years in our evolution.

Planting Electrodes in Brains to Control Violence

Cockburn and St. Clair link Goodwin’s attempt to find the genetic origins of violence and a medical treatment, with that of Lewis “Jolly” West, who presided over the neuropsychiatric institute at UCLA. In 1969 West announced his plan to plant electrodes in the brain of violent offenders, in order to control them. This caused such an outcry that he was forced to abandon his plans. There are shades here of the limiter in the BBC SF series, Blake’s 7. One of the early characters, Oleg Gan, had had a limiter – an electronic device designed to prevent him from killing anyone – implanted in his brain after he killed the Federation trooper, who’d raped his girlfriend. Blake’s 7 was a kind of ‘Dirty Dozen’ meets Star Wars, in which a motley crew of criminals led by the dissident Blake took on the totalitarian Federation. It was very much of its time, and strongly influenced by the medical abuse of psychiatry against dissidents in the former Soviet Union. West and his electrodes suggest that its creator, Terry Nation, the man, who gave children the world over the terrible joy of the Daleks, was also very much aware of the totalitarian tendencies in western science.

The Castration of the Violent

One of West’s own mentors was Dr Ernst Rodin, who was in charge of the Neurology department of Lafayette Clinic. He recommended neurosurgery and castration for the ‘dumb young males who riot’. His views were echoed by West after the Watts riots, but instead of surgery, West recommended sterilising them with cyproterone acetate. In 1972 he recommended that this should be carried out on the inmates in US prisons. This caused such an outcry that his funding was cut.

The Eugenic Sterilisation of the Unfit

Cockburn and St. Clair also cover the eugenics laws enacted in twelve US states in the first two decades of the last century. Between 1907 and 1964 about 63,678 people had been compulsorily sterilised in thirty states and one colony. But this was probably an underestimate of the true numbers of the policy’s victims. In 1974 Federal Judge Gerhard Gessell, reviewing the suit brought by them, declared that 100,000 to 150,000 people with low incomes had been sterilised annually over the past few years in federally funded programmes. Allan Chase, the author of a book on this, The Legacy of Malthus, states that this is comparable to the rate of the Nazis in their sterilisation campaign.

Such programmes were supposed to be voluntary, but Gessell ruled that an unknown number had been forced into it through the authorities threatening to take away their welfare benefits. Those most frequently targeted with this kind of pressure were women reliant on Medicaid to pay their bills for childbirth. One of the intended victims of this was Katie Relf, who successfully fought it off by locking herself into her room. Chase has estimated that by the end of the 1970s, the US was sterilising 200,000 citizens annually.

Winston Churchill, Eugenics, and the Bengal Famine

And the policy was not without its supporters over here. Winston Churchill also supported the policy, and wanted to see about 100,000 degenerates in the UK forcibly sterilised. This isn’t by far the most loathsome thing the great War Leader ever said or did. Last week, Secular Talk covered the story in the Independent that 40 per cent of Brits miss the Empire. The show covered a series of crimes against humanity committed by the Empire and its servants. These included the Amritsar Massacre, the incarceration of Afrikaaner women and children in concentration camps during the Boer War, and the Bengal Famine, in which 27 million people died of starvation. The wheat that could have fed them was diverted to British troops fighting in Europe in the Second World War. For the victims, Churchill had no sympathy. He said he hated Indians, and that it served them right for ‘breeding like rabbits’. He may have been the great leader who kept Europe free, but that doesn’t stop him from also being a moral slug.

Conclusion: Don’t Trust Those Who Claim to Have Found the Gene For Whatever

Apart from its main point – that American Blacks have every reason to be alienated and distrustful of the government and authorities, the chapter also shows how recently such racist attitudes were accepted by medical authorities, as well as the use of sterilisation against the poor generally. And it also provides very good reasons for being extremely distrustful of scientists when they claim to have found the gene for ‘X’. This includes the gene for schizophrenia, for homosexuality, and for violence. The latter surfaced yet again about a few months ago. Someone was claiming that extremely violent crims had a certain mutated chromosome. Then another biologist pointed out that roughly half of everybody also had the gene, and it didn’t make them into psychos. There’s a real danger here that if we pay too much attention to these scientists, we’ll be back with sterilisation and compulsory lobotomy. Just like the early 20th century and Nazis.

Vox Political: Tories Suppressed Reasonable Drug Policy, Lib Dems Claim

December 29, 2014

Mike over at Vox Political has a piece on the departure of the Lib Dem minister, Norman Baker, from the Home Office. Baker threw in his job the department because he believed that it was blocking a genuinely reasonable and effective policy to combat drug addiction. The article’s title is Tories turned down ‘reasonable and practical’ drugs policy proposals – Baker, and it’s at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2014/12/27/tories-turned-down-reasonable-and-practical-drugs-policy-proposals-baker/. It begins

Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat who quit his Home Office job earlier this year claiming it was “like walking through mud”, has released details of proposed drugs policy reforms that he says Home Secretary Theresa May suppressed.

When he left, he said the will “to take forward rational evidence-based policy” had been in “short supply”, referring in particular to a Home Office report published in October, which found “no obvious” link between tough penalties and levels of illegal drug use.

He has now outlined his backing for three suggestions which he said the Home Office had drawn up:
◾Treating addicts with prescribed heroin under clinical supervision
◾A “Portuguese model” in which those who commit minor drug offences are offered treatment rather than facing criminal charges
◾Medicinal use of cannabis for certain conditions.

This isn’t the first time the Lib Dems have criticised the government for its policy on drugs. There is a section of the Lib Dems that periodically calls for the legalisation of cannabis. This has been debated on and off since I was at school. It even had some support from senior police officers. I can remember when this was debated back in 1983 or so when Thatcher was the elected dictator a chief constable saying he didn’t object to its legalisation. He tried it, and all it made him do was giggle.

Dangers of Cannabis Use

Cannabis does have its dangers, just like nearly every other kind of drug. Unlike heroin, it is not physically addictive. Excessive use may cause ‘cannabis psychosis’, where the user is tipped over into a form of insanity, though I know some mental health workers, who dispute this. It can also cause sterility in boys, who smoke it before puberty.

Medical Benefits of Cannabis

It’s significant here that Baker has not called for its blanket legalisation, only for its medical use to be legalised. This is perfectly reasonable, as cannabis has been known to be an effective treatment for the pain from MS, certain forms of arthritis and some people have found that it helps reduce the nausea from chemotherapy for cancer. There is therefore quite a strong case for its use as a medical drug, under strict supervision.

Benefits of Heroin vs. Methadone for Addicts

As for treating heroin addicts with that drug, again under medical supervision, this sounds shocking but is actually also entirely reasonable. Years ago I attended a computer course at one of Bristol’s FE colleges. One week it was running a drugs education campaign, in which members of one of the anti-drugs organisations wandered around attempting to persuade the students not to get involved in it. I think they were former addicts. Certainly the one I spoke to was. He told me that he believed that the current treatment of heroin addiction with methadone should be discontinued, and replaced with heroin as methadone was more harmful and more addictive than the drug it was intended to treat. It takes longer to come off methadone than it does heroin. Methadone does more damage to the system than heroin, and actually makes the user feel physically sicker than heroin. So while the use of heroin instead of methadone to treat heroin addiction seems simply wrong, even, perhaps, something of a reward for getting on the drug in the first place, like the use of marijuana for medical purposes there is actually good evidence to support it.

Matthew Parris’ Criticism of Tory Drugs Policy

There is little doubt that the current drugs policy is a shambles. Surprisingly, there’s a large section of the Tory party that actually knows this and agrees. One of them is Margaret Thatcher’s former Personal Private Secretary, Matthew Parris. Parris had got the sack from that post, after he replied to a letter addressed by an elderly lady to the Leaderene. The letter writer had complained about the poverty she was experiencing due to Maggie’s policies. Parris responded by telling her to shut up and stop complaining. The news of this got to the Mirror, and Parris got the sack. He later appeared on Radio 4 saying that his dismissal wasn’t quite like it was reported in the press, as the lady’s letter was a general rant about a number of topics, including being disturbed, so he claimed, by the noise from the local Asian children.

Parris was, however, an opponent of the government’s attempts to stamp out drug use hard through tough legal penalties. He didn’t believe it worked, and wrote an article in the arch-Tory magazine, The Spectator, explaining why. The article appeared over a decade ago now. It’s immediate cause was unilateral declaration by Anne Widdecombe that if the Tories entered government, they would come down even harder on drug use. This alarmed many others in her party, who didn’t share her opinions. There was, no doubt, a utilitarian aspect to this, as some of them may have been alarmed at the prospect of losing support from the Libertarians, who generally support drug liberalisation. Several very senior Tories came out to criticise the woman, who’s been dubbed ‘Doris Karloff’. A number even said that they’d tried cannabis themselves, and it had done them no harm. One had even smoked it in his pipe at Uni. This last revelation shocked Parris, who said that he couldn’t care less what the Conservative gentleman smoked – it could have been cowpats for all he cared. What he found shocking was that the man had smoked a pipe.

Treat Addiction as Disease, not Crime

The furore coincided with a general debate on the government’s drugs policy. It’s interesting that Baker points to the Portuguese system as a successful model for treating drug addiction. At that time in the early Noughties, the country that was held up as a suitable model for a successful drugs policy was either Switzerland or Austria. The approach, however, appears similar in that drug use and addiction is treated as a medical problem, rather than a crime. The result has been that those countries that have taken such an approach have a much lower incidence of drug addiction than Britain. Parris’ article pointed this out, and explained the reason for it. Basically, it’s the old one that if you make something a crime, then it becomes glamorous and seductive. It becomes ‘forbidden fruit’, and so some at least are drawn to it, simply because it is forbidden. If you make it a disease, which needs treatment on the other hand, it becomes much less attractive. No-one really likes being sick.

This approach was not, however, pioneered in Portugal, Austria or Switzerland. What is not mentioned in these reports, but was in Parris’ article, is that it was the system used in Britain under Ted Heath and Jim Callaghan. And according to Parris, it was beginning to pay off, with the number of addicts falling. In fact, according to Parris, the government may even have felt that they had beaten the drugs problem.

Then Maggie came along, and reversed it.

Why?

Reagan and the War on Drugs

According to Parris, Thatcher was forced to due to pressure from the Americans. Reagan had just entered the White House, and launched his ‘War on Drugs’. This was the renewed offensive against drugs, which domestically saw children encouraged to inform on their parents for smoking the weed. Internationally, it saw American troops launched into Latin American countries, like Colombia, to destroy the drug trade and the international gangs that deal in it at source. The result has been a bitter devastating war that has cost tens of thousands of lives in countries like Mexico, Nicaragua and Guatemala, and which shows no signs of stopping. The drug gangs in those countries are deeply unpleasant and responsible for truly horrific crimes and atrocities. They need and deserve to be stamped out. Military force, however, is not sufficient for this. A new approach is needed, which acts against the trade and the gangs that support it by reducing consumption in the affluent global north and west. One way of doing this is simply by reducing its attractiveness.

Conclusion: Make Drugs Less Attractive by Showing Them as Disease

Instead of looking at drugs as part of a rock ‘n ‘roll lifestyle, where young, hip rebels live fast, die young and leave a beautiful corpse, the view should be that the reality is that drugs will leave you poor, sick and dead. And due to the ravages of the chemical disease, you definitely won’t be beautiful.

From what I understand, the approach Norman Baker recommended isn’t a case of being ‘soft’ on drugs. In Portugal, Switzerland and the other countries that have adopted it, drugs are still illegal and their medical use tightly controlled. It really is a case of simply moving from treating it as a crime to a disease, which needs to be cured. This was, after all, the British policy, before Reagan decided that the troops needed to be sent in, and Maggie obediently complied.