There is something very militaristic about the way politicans announce new programs and initiatives. They proclaim a "War on Poverty" and a "War on Crime" (which is ironic) and a "War on Drugs"
First, it assumes that Crime, Poverty and Drugs are actual enemies that are sentient and conscious and can fight back, and are not just abstract and complex concepts and social ills.
Second, it distracts the American public and dilutes the meaning of war. If society is always at war with something and nothing changes, then who cares when a real war comes around?
But these are topics that are much larger than what I want to talk about this morning.
For 35 years, the United States waged "war" against a bunch of weeds and pills... and the only conclusion I can reach after all this "fighting" and money spent is that the weeds and pills have kicked our ass. This is the problem with classifying something as a "War on Drugs," because when you do not solve the social ill you are declaring war upon, you run the risk of actually "losing" that war when you do not get the results you want or expect.
For decades, politicians have fought this war on drugs by allocating large budgets for eradiction and interdiction operations. They have passed harsher sentences and tougher laws on just mere possession. Meanwhile, they only pay lip service to the importance of drug demand reduction, treatment and rehabilitation. In others, just like the current War on Terror, the politicians are fighting the war the only way they know how, but killing and destroying their perceived enemy without also attacking the root causes for their abstract yet personified enemy.
What have been the results of our decades of "fighting" this war on drugs?
We are spending more than $20 billion in federal resources and another $30 billion in state resources every year, while a wider assortment of illegal substances is more available and less expensive than ever.
Drug sales are now taking place in most likely every high school and junior high school in the country, and even elementary students now are beginning to enter the business.
We now have twice as many people behind bars as the Soviet Union ever had at any one point in time.
We have seen our 4th Amendment rights whittled down to the point where it is perfectly legal for police and National Guardsmen both to batter down front doors and storm a private residences, on first contact with any given suspect, while holding only a warrant for marijuana search.
In short, we now are spending more on the Drug War than any other nation on the planet spends on national defense, and yet the effort seems to 1) have no impact on drug usage levels, and 2) has produced other negative results, including losses of freedoms.
Drug use, and abuse, is not a problem that should be ignored. It needs to be addressed head on. In this campaign.
I think Kerry should seize upon this issue and make it his own. He should attack our failures. He should declare that our "War on Drugs" is over because we have bigger and more important wars to fight, namely the war on terror. He should say we cannot afford to spend billions on the drug war when such money is needed in the War on Iraq and in the War on Terror. Further, he should say that our FBI agents and police officers need to be concentrating on finding terrorists and protecting Americans and America from attack rather than busting a teenager with an dimebag of pot. He should say he will shift the focus of our failed war on drugs to actual prevention and treatment and rehabilitation of the addicted. He should say that this in turn will reduce crime across the board.