Illegal Drugs

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Several years ago I picked up an interesting book: Crossing the Rubicon, by Michael Ruppert. The central thesis of the book is that 9/11 was at least partly arranged by people high in the Bush administration. That allegation has been out there for awhile, and you may already have an opinion about  it. And it’s not the part of the book I want to talk about here. Part of Ruppert’s thesis, evidence for which he says he began coming across in the 1970’s, when he was a policeman for the LAPD, is the convergence of government, big business and organized crime. One of those points of convergence, he says, is illegal drugs.

He points out that Prohibition, which only lasted 13 years, fueled the rise of organized crime. The “War on Drugs” has lasted 40 or so years. If it was successful, you should be hearing a lot less about drug addicts. Instead, he says, drugs are still easily found on the streets, and their quality, if anything, has gone up. Is there anything wrong with this picture?

Illegal drugs seem to be one of the most profitable products there are, and Ruppert alleges that governments have been involved in the business for a long time. There’s evidence to back him up, too. Probably not many people are familiar with the Opium Wars, in which Great Britain fought China in the 1840’s because China didn’t want the British selling opium in their country, which, according to Ruppert, the British had been doing since the 17th century (much longer than I had imagined). Unsurprisingly, China lost both those wars, setting up the situation in the 20th century during which the Manchu government disappeared, and was replaced by that of Sun Yat-sen, followed by Chiang Kai Shek. The Nationalist Chinese government wasn’t a strong one, sharing its power with various warlords,  and was eventually overturned by Mao Tse-tung and the Communists. That makes an interesting sidelight to the current “debate” on the correct size of government taking place in this country.

Ruppert further alleges that the agency that preceded the CIA during World War II also sold drugs to finance their activities. About 40 years later allegations were made that the CIA was running drugs into this country to finance their activities supporting the Contras in the struggle against the Sandanistas in Nicaragua. Drugs are not only big business, but they can have a large impact on politics.

If the above allegations are true, and at least some of them appear to be, I doubt that government use of drugs for financial and political gain stopped there. It’s fairly well known that the penalties for cocaines use differ substantially between powder and crack cocaine. Why is this? Powder cocaine users are usually white, while crack cocaine users are predominantly black. And a larger percentage of blacks go to prison than whites overall. Just possibly, this isn’t because blacks are more criminally inclined than whites, but because various political interests want more blacks in prison.

Most illegal drugs have been with us for over a hundred years. Black musicians were using cocaine 100 years ago (a few, at least), and it was only about a hundred years ago that heroin and cocaine were made illegal. They had been available over the counter and in various “medicines” up until that time. Columnist Leonard Pitts published a column in the last couple of months in which he quoted various statistics about illegal drugs. The one that stuck in my mind was that the percentage of drug addicts in this country is currently the same as it was 100 years ago: 1.4%. I don’t know how that statistic was arrived at, but if it’s even approximately true, that means that efforts against illegal drugs have done nothing to solve the problem.

Almost 50 years ago Manchild in the Promised Land, by Claude Brown, was published. He was writing about having grown up in Harlem, in New York City, in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, and one of the most powerful portions of the book was his description of what he called “the plague”; when heroin came to Harlem. He explained that the black community there didn’t have high expectations. If you were a young black male, you expected to get into more and more trouble throughout your teens, and that you would be going to prison for a long time by your early 20’s. Making an honest living, let alone a good one, was hardly even on the radar. Brown’s opinion was that heroin constituted an acceptable way out for many young men (and women), so that once “the plague” was really underway, there was hardly a family in which there wasn’t at least one junkie. Obviously, people without hope tend to be more attracted to drugs than others. I can only speculate as to whether the appearance of heroin in Harlem was coincidental, or whether it was “arranged” by people who preferred to see young black people addicted to drugs rather than agitating for political change. The very fact that I can seriously entertain that notion suggests the volume of corruption in this country.

It’s also pretty well-known that Southeast Asia was a source of drugs during the Vietnam war. A good many soldiers became addicted there, and the CIA was allegedly promoting the production of sale of illegal drugs to finance their activities in the region. According to Michael Ruppert, the US war against Afghanistan may have been prompted, at least in part, by the Taliban’s threat to stop allowing poppies to be grown in the country, which might have seriously cut down supplies of heroin. He also alleges that drug problems came to Iraq with US occupation of the country, facilitated by various construction companies patronized by the government.

I never finished reading Crossing the Rubicon: it was too depressing. Drugs were far from the only subject addressed in the book, and it testified to a terrifying level of corruption in this country and the rest of the world. While I hadn’t studied the problem, it had been too obvious for me to be totally unaware of. Drugs may be an important component of corruption, but it’s obvious that they’re hardly the only one. It’s not hard to find stories about the corruption of people we’re suppossed to be able to trust, in all kinds of areas.

Ruppert saw an interaction between three major groups, regarding drugs. Organized crime brings them to this country and distributes them, then launders the money, often in American banks. Because of drug money, American banks can give American businesses loans at lower rates than businesses in other countries can get, giving them an advantage. Industries and banks then buy politicians to pass legislation that favors their various activities. I find that scenario scary.

Is there a solution to the problems caused by illegal drugs? On one end of the problem, the solution would be to reduce people’s desire for them. Not exactly an easy thing to do in today’s culture. On the other end, how do you reduce corruption? That takes a moral rejuvenation, and perhaps an incorruptible authority to punish those selling the drugs in large quantities, rather than those consuming them or selling them only in small quantities. One possible solution would be to legalize all illegal drugs, recognizing that alcohol and tobacco are as dangerous, and possibly even more so. Whether that would make things better is debatable. What doesn’t seem to be debatable is that our previous approaches haven’t worked.

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