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May. 14 2009 - 9:29 am | 6 views | 0 recommendations | 2 comments

Putting Lipstick On Our Strung-Out Pig

lipstickpigGreat news, patriots! The Obama administration’s new drugs czar says he wants to banish the War on Drugs! Pack your bong! Hug a crackhead! Tell Central America to come out of hiding!

Well, maybe not just yet. The War on Drugs is still with us, but it’s probably going to have a fancy new name, sort of like how the War on Terror is now the Overseas Contingency Operation. Maybe we can call it the Columbia Reconfiguration Hug Squad, or US-Central American Care Package.

Gil Kerlikowske wants to rebrand the idea that the United States is fighting a war on drugs because fighting a war against drugs would be idiotic and a total waste of time, money, and lives. The US would probably lose a war against an irrepressible, intangible idea like terror, or freedom in the case of drugs — freedom for individuals to escape their fucked-up existences. In fact, the U.S. has lost these wars, just as it will lose any war where its strategy is to swing wildly in the dark, while throwing handfuls of cash at nothing.

When Kerlikowske and Obama rebrand the War on Drugs, their goal should be to pick a new name that will take our minds off the fact that the government has spent $18 billion on the War on Drugs Columbia Reconfiguration Hug Squad this year alone, and counting. And that doesn’t include money spent at the state and local levels. No one seems to have a clear idea of how much the entire program has cost US taxpayers, except a lone conference of mayors that once estimated the price tag at around $40 billion a year. Now, multiply that figure by about 30 years. Yikes.

This year, arrests for drug violations are expected to well exceed the 1,841,182 arrests in 2007, of which 872,720 individuals were arrested for possessing cannabis. These kinds of minor drug offenses lead to overcrowded prisons and the creation of a prison state where now 1 in 31 adults are in the prison corrections system, and the number of those who are nonviolent offenders exceeds the populations of Wyoming and Alaska, combined.

Kerlikowske’s promises that the administration will focus more on treatment than incarceration, disband the unfair and racist distinctions between crack and cocaine, and cease raids on marijuana clinics would all be welcome changes, and help relieve dangerously crowded prisons particularly in California. Kerlikowske stopped short of saying drugs should be legalized, but legalizing drugs would save the US billions in taxpayer money, not to mention spare the lives of innocent indigenous people.

“Regardless of how you try to explain to people it’s a ‘war on drugs’ or a ‘war on a product,’ people see a war as a war on the…We’re not at war with people in this country,” says Kerlikowske. But it’s easy to see why both Americans and Central Americans assume just that. The US government has incarcerated millions of of its own citizens for making a personal choice about consuming drugs, while funding paramilitary forces in Central America that have killed so many innocent civilians.

At a time when the government claims there just isn’t enough money for every citizen to have healthcare, getting rid of the failed War on Drugs could fund numerous national programs, and spare the lives of innocent civilians.


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    I co-host Citizen Radio, the alternative political radio show. I am a contributing reporter to Huffington Post, Alternet.org, and The Nation.

    My essay "Youth Surviving Subprime" appears in The Nation's new book, Meltdown: How Greed and Corruption Shattered Our Financial System and How We Can Recover beside esssays by Ralph Nader, Joseph Stiglitz, Barbara Ehrenreich, and Naomi Klein, who I'm told are all important people.

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