Saturday, July 22, 2006

The (Un?)intended Effects of the "War on Drugs"

Whenever an administration declares renewed efforts on their "War on Drugs,” there is the usual list of platitudes; “Drugs are a scourge on the country.” “The worst threat our young people face.” The newest of these is: "Drugs are a major source of funding for the terrorists.” This last has been so debunked that the ads featuring this premise have virtually disappeared. It was not debunked to the point that conservatives don't believe that the average joint smoker is bin Laden's greatest supporter. This also ignores the fact that Afghanistan has become the largest supplier of heroin in world, a country funded by narcotics because of our war on terror. History has shown the real reason for the "War" is distraction. Starting with the Johnson administration and continuing with administrations from both parties it has been considered a "safe" issue that no one would oppose, lest they be called moral degenerates or worse. The "War" is not emphasized until an administration's other policies and poll numbers are in the toilet. This distraction ploy is so well recognized as to be non-controversial and always used as an argument against spending more money and resources on a "War" we can never win.

These are the outward and visible signs of discussion. I believe that there are two less obvious but much more insidious motivations behind the "War" and its associated laws and law enforcement efforts. Both involve keeping the poor and people of color ‘in their place.’ The first is stopping higher education in its tracks. Anyone convicted of a drug related offense has a lifetime ban on receiving Federal funds for education, including both grants and loan guarantees. Many states have followed suit with similar restrictions. Both levels of government restrict public assistance after conviction of a crime, especially drug related. With the poor and minorities much more likely to be convicted of these crimes, this virtually assures that that the cycle of poverty and ignorance will continue unabated. This is race and class discrimination at its ugliest.

For all their anti-union rhetoric, the Conservatives have a favorite union. This is the prison guard unions and associations, with their extremely well funded PACs. In California, these PACs are the single largest contributor to political campaigns. A union’s primary function is to ensure the continued existence of jobs for its members, closely followed by creating new ones. Well over half of the prison population is there for drug related crimes. The need for prisons and prison guards is driven by the number of prisoners. The politicians get two benefits, looking tough on crime by supporting new prison construction and contributions from the PACs. Many states disenfranchise convicts, again favoring Conservatives. The added nasty fact is that prison guard is the employment haven for the sadists and racists among us.

So the next time you hear about the “War on Drugs,” fully consider just what you may be supporting.

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