When it comes to the drug war, the verdict is in: The big, drain-the-swamp, anti-establishment president, Donald Trump, is turning out to be just like all the other mainstream establishment politicians. He made that clear last week in a speech before a group of law-enforcement officials, where he vowed to be “ruthless” in the war on drugs.
Trump told the group:
We’re going to stop the drugs from pouring in. We’re going to stop those drugs from poisoning our youth, poisoning our people. We’re going to be ruthless in that fight. We have no choice. And we’re going to take that fight to the drug cartels and work to liberate our communities from their terrible grip of violence.
Oh, great! Shades of President Richard Nixon and all of his successors! Four more years of more violence, corruption, arrests, record drug busts, prosecutions, convictions, incarcerations, and, of course, more robberies, muggings, thefts, burglaries, and homicides.
Where has Trump been? Have Americans elected some sort of Rip Van Winkle? Has he just awakened from a decades-long sleep and unaware of what federal and state law enforcement agencies have been doing ever since Nixon declared a war on drugs (to go after blacks and antiwar dissidents)?
In fact, the DEA was busting people for drugs even before Nixon’s declaration. Back in the 1960s, some of my friends down in Laredo, Texas, got caught with pot and ended up with federal felony convictions. Into the 1970s, the feds and the cops were going full-force after drug users, distributors, and cartels. Maybe Trump ought to watch the Netflix series “Narcos” so he can discover that cracking down in the drug war is nothing new. A review of newspapers over the past 50 years would reveal an endless series of “record drug busts,” where DEA officials and local police proudly announce their most recent record drug-war bust, only to have the busted drug lord quickly replaced by a new supplier. Indeed, maybe Trump can just watch a movie about Al Capone or other booze lords during Prohibition to see what happened when the feds ruthlessly enforced the war on booze.
There are the asset-forfeiture laws, which have converted DEA agents and the police into legalized thieves. Those monies have fattened the coffers of the DEA and the police, enabling them to become self-funding fiefdoms. And there are the ever-increasing mandatory-minimum sentences, leading to enormous profits from big prison-owning corporations whose facilities are overflowing with drug-war “customers.”
Mass incarceration, of course, is not the only negative result of the drug war. There is also the ever-increasing violence and corruption that comes with drug prohibition. Look at Mexico, a country where Americans could once visit without much concern but is now a cauldron of violence and corruption that many American tourists avoid like the plague. Or just look at inner cities across America, which the drug war has ravaged.
And, of course, there is all the drug-war racism, with the negative consequences of drug-war enforcement falling disproportionately on blacks.
Every time they have ramped up the drug war, as Trump has now said he is going to do again, they have just made the entire situation worse. The only people who benefit are the unsavory drug dealers and drug cartels and the drug-war bureaucracy, including the judges, police, DEA, court clerks, and others who feed at the drug-war trough.
Could things get worse? You bet that could. Just look at how ruthlessly Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has been waging the drug war. He has had his goons just going out and shooting and killing anyone suspected of violating the drug laws. Just imagine: No need for arrests, prosecutions, convictions, or incarcerations. Just kill them. Just as Trump is doing in his “war on terrorism” (following the example of his immediate predecessors Bush and Obama). It’s difficult to get more ruthless than that.
What about the concept of freedom in all this? Under what moral authority do Donald Trump and Rodrigo Duterte (or officials in communist China and Russia) jail or kill people who have done nothing more than ingest, possess, or distribute drugs? It’s actually none of Trump’s and Duterte’s business what people do in their private lives, so long as their choices and conduct are peaceful. Trump and Duterte, like other drug-warriors, are nothing more than deadly and destructive busybodies who use force to control, manage, and direct the peaceful and consensual activities of “their people.”
When will the American people finally put an end to this deadly and destructive idiocy? The only solution to the violence, corruption, brutality, and loss of liberty that the drug war has spawned is ending it. Not reforming it. Not reining in the cops. Not reducing jail sentences. And certainly not enforcing the war more ruthlessly. Just repeal all drug laws.
Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.
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