For Those of You Counting, That Would Be 80 Friedman Units

Not that this will make one policy maker pause before continuing on with five decades of idiocy, but still worth a read:

After 40 years, the United States’ war on drugs has cost $1 trillion and hundreds of thousands of lives, and for what? Drug use is rampant and violence even more brutal and widespread.

Even U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske concedes the strategy hasn’t worked.

“In the grand scheme, it has not been successful,” Kerlikowske told The Associated Press. “Forty years later, the concern about drugs and drug problems is, if anything, magnified, intensified.”

This week President Obama promised to “reduce drug use and the great damage it causes” with a new national policy that he said treats drug use more as a public health issue and focuses on prevention and treatment.

Nevertheless, his administration has increased spending on interdiction and law enforcement to record levels both in dollars and in percentage terms; this year, they account for $10 billion of his $15.5 billion drug-control budget.

Can’t we just throw up a Mission Accomplished banner and make this all stop?

53 replies
  1. 1
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    I thought “Mission Accomplished” meant ignore the issue publicly while throwing a lot of resources until the next administration comes along. By this measure, we’ve been accomplishing our mission since we started.

  2. 2
    Chuck says:

    You raise very good points, and I don’t see any way to refute them. This whole endeavor has been a waste of blood and treasure, . So I must respond:

    “Children”.

    I win. The war continues.

  3. 3
    Cacti says:

    As I mentioned in the other thread, when Tricky Dick Nixon declared war on drugs, do you think he was chiefly interested in…

    1. Eradicating the Drug Trade

    OR

    2. Expanding the Police Powers of the State

    If you believe the latter, rather than the former, the War on Drugs has been a rousing success from a policy standpoint.

  4. 4
    Jrod says:

    Can the US economy even survive anymore without drug war expenditures?

    The US economy has long been based on ruining people. Let’s not go messing with that during a recession.

  5. 5
    Brandon says:

    @Chuck: Actually, if you turn on Nancy Grace tonight, I believe you will here her give her trademark quote in response to this news, “But what about the children? Is anyone thinking about the children?”

    Anyway, this is one of those typical Obama fail things, that as an Obot worshipper of dear leader, loathe. It’s obvious he knows what the problem is. He’s changing the official policy, but for CYA purposes he doubles down on fail. To mix my metaphors, he talks the talk, but the proof is in the pudding, and in Washington, money talks loudest of all.

  6. 6
    aimai says:

    The whole thing just boggles my mind. But when you skip over to Steve Benen’s site and see that the Republicans just did down a perfectly good science funding bill by sticking in a totally unnecessary anti porn provision (which, because of arcane rules, meant that voting for the anti porn provision would reopen the entire floor vote over all the other aspects of the bill) you realize that getting anything in or out of law is a tremendously complicated business.

    aimai

  7. 7
    El Cid says:

    If we fail to decriminalize narcotics, no amount of repression or military aid to Mexico will stop narco-barons from importing paramilitary violence into the U.S. on a scale we’ve not yet seen. Our choice.

  8. 8

    reduce drug use and the great damage it causes

    I think we’ve long passed the point where drug use causes far less damage than paramilitary police units with itchy trigger fingers and an ever-increasing asset-seizure target to meet.

    In my dream world, someone inside the Beltway will finally admit that with the cameras rolling.

  9. 9
    twiffer says:

    the results of drug prohibition are the same as what we saw with alcohol prohibition: lots of wasted money, lots of violent crime directly related to providing the prohibitied intoxicant of choice, lots of otherwise law-abiding citizens getting tossed in jail because they wanted to relax.

    it’s been time to stop for awhile now. the problem is too many people think legal = the government encourages you to do this.

  10. 10
    Zifnab says:

    Even U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske concedes…

    Holy shit, our nation was just turned over to Mexican drug kingpins by one of Obama’s Russian Commie infiltrators!

  11. 11
    Joseph Nobles says:

    $1 trillion over 40 years? That was back in our minor league days. It only took us 10 years to spend that in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  12. 12
    Zifnab says:

    @El Cid: But if we succeed, who will we sell all our obsolete military technology to, while we use the resulting violence as an excuse to pimp local xenophobia?

    Do you have an idea how many right wing talking points and money laundering schemes hinge on existing drug policy? You’d punch a gaping hole in the corrupt underbelly of American politics! What sort of creeping Commie monstrosity are you?

  13. 13
    Keith says:

    Since we apparently have so many problems winning wars, maybe we should just call the WOD something else, like The Healthy Lungs or Clean Liver Initiative.

  14. 14
    El Cid says:

    What if we do a SUUUUUURGE in the War on Drugs? Will that totally quiet stuff down for long enough to declare victory?

  15. 15
    D-Chance. says:

    This war on drugs could last another 50 years… maybe 100.

  16. 16
    El Cid says:

    @D-Chance.: Six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.

  17. 17
    Brachiator says:

    @twiffer:

    the results of drug prohibition are the same as what we saw with alcohol prohibition: lots of wasted money, lots of violent crime directly related to providing the prohibitied intoxicant of choice, lots of otherwise law-abiding citizens getting tossed in jail because they wanted to relax.

    The current issue of Smithsonian Magazine has an interesting article on some of the leaders behind the alcohol prohibition movement. And Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air recently interviewed Daniel Okrent, author of Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. A snippet:

    On the political beliefs shared by a majority of Prohibitionists — “It largely had to do with a xenophobic, largely anti-immigration feeling that arose in the American Middle West, that arose among white, native-born Protestants. It also had a strong racist element to it. Prohibition was a tool that the white South could use to keep down the black population. In fact, they used Prohibition to keep liquor away from black people but not from white people. So you could find a number of ways that people could come into whatever issue they wanted to use and use Prohibition as their tool. The clearest one, probably, was women’s suffrage. Oddly, the suffrage movement and the Prohibition movement were almost one and the same — and you found organizations like the Ku Klux Klan supporting women’s suffrage because they believed women would vote on behalf of Prohibition.”

    And apparently Ken Burns’ next big documentary, due in 2011, will deal with Prohibition.

  18. 18
    Chuck says:

    @Brandon:

    if you turn on Nancy Grace tonight

    I’d rather punch myself in the junk.

  19. 19
    Citizen Alan says:

    @Cacti:

    You forgot

    3. Demonizing hippies and minorities.

    Don’t forget, the practical effect of our 40 years of drug war have been to render something like 1 out of 4 African-American males permanently ineligible to vote, sit on a jury, or own a gun as a result of felony drug convictions, and it has also made it legal to openly discriminate against them in housing, education and employment.

  20. 20
    Citizen Alan says:

    @D-Chance.:

    This war on drugs could last another 50 years… maybe 100.

    No, because the nation won’t last that long if it does, or at least not in anything resembling its current democratic form. Once our drug policy turns Mexico (with whom we share a 1500 mile long border) into a failed narco-state dominated by terrorist druglords, the U.S. will respond by abandoning any pretense of being other than a police state.

  21. 21
    maus says:

    @Zifnab:

    @El Cid: But if we succeed, who will we sell all our obsolete military technology to, while we use the resulting violence as an excuse to pimp local xenophobia?

    Don’t de-empasize the prison-industrial complex. Do you want jailers and jail constructors to lose their jobs!? Do you want haliburton stock to go down? HELL NO that ain’t ‘merkun.

  22. 22
    cleek says:

    halp me, nanny state! halp save me from myself! halp!

  23. 23
    maus says:

    @Chuck: I want to punch all liberal watchers of Fox and crappy cable news in the junk. Hell, anyone who enables the companies to get away with not offering a la carte programming.

  24. 24
    Roger Moore says:

    @Cacti:

    when Tricky Dick Nixon declared war on drugs, do you think he was chiefly interested in…

    3) Coming up with another way of mistreating brown people. I’m not 100% sure that was the big motivation, but it’s certainly been a major practical outcome, and one that the author of the Southern Strategy can’t have been too unhappy about.

  25. 25
    Bob L says:

    This week President Obama promised to “reduce drug use and the great damage it causes” with a new national policy that he said treats drug use more as a public health issue and focuses on prevention and treatment.

    If Obama follows threw with that, it would make his the first sane presidency in decades.
    The whole bit, drugs are bad for you, so we are going to throw the drug users into prisons was one of the biggest collective acts of stupidity in our nation’s history.

  26. 26
    Ella in NM says:

    Not to go all FDL on anyone, but if they want to treat drug use as a health issue, why are they considering this:

    F’ers. The eyes don’t know what the hands are doing in this stupid administration.

  27. 27
    Ella in NM says:

    Ok, if Barack wants to be “sane” in his approach to drug use, THIS is not the way to do it, folks:

    Smoke a joint, Get arrested a week later:

    F’ers. Their damn eyes don’t even know what their hands are doing anymore.

  28. 28
    BombIranForChrist says:

    You know, I voted for Obama, and I will probably vote for him again, but can we at least concede that he is talking out of both sides of his mouth, just as bad as any politician before and after?

    He promises to reduce drug use by treating it more as a public health issue, and yet he has spent more money than his conservative predecessor on interdiction and enforcement.

    This is a pattern at this point.

    Obama states X, Obama does Y.

    Gild is way off the Lily for me.

  29. 29
    Gene says:

    Funny thing about all that violence in Mexico would be curtailed if the U.S. had stricter gun laws. We’re spending more money to help Mexico better arm their police, because the Mexican drug dealers are buying their guns in the USA and sending them south of our border.

  30. 30
    Uloborus says:

    @BombIranForChrist:
    Um… actually, no. I don’t concede that at all. I see a completely different pattern. Obama states X. Obama makes a few slight moves towards X, but appears to go along with the old standard. Then, LATER, he actually does X.

    I particularly vividly remember his declarations that he was interested in financial reform, but because he didn’t make it an instant priority it was widely announced that he was just saying it and wasn’t going to pursue it. Currently, it looks like we might get decent financial reform despite the Senate schizophrenia.

  31. 31
    Ella in NM says:

    Sorry, tried to use the “link” tab, of course it didnt’ work. then deleted it and reposted, still didnt’ work AND didnt’ delete, making me look like a wanker. Sorry sorry sorry.

    http://reason.com/blog/2010/05.....gle+Reader

  32. 32
    El Tiburon says:

    Obama admitted to cocaine use. It’s a given that Bush snorted the yayo.

    Every single person in these United States has smoked the reefer.

    It’s not a war on drugs but on common sense.

  33. 33
    Midnight Marauder says:

    @Gene:

    Funny thing about all that violence in Mexico would be curtailed if the U.S. had stricter gun laws.

    No. I think decriminalization of marijuana might play a large role in that as well. But this is far from being all about tighter gun control laws.

  34. 34
    Nick says:

    @BombIranForChrist: but can we at least concede that he is talking out of both sides of his mouth, just as bad as any politician before and after? He promises to reduce drug use by treating it more as a public health issue, and yet he has spent more money than his conservative predecessor on interdiction and enforcement.

    If he’s spending the money going after traffickers and dealers, then, no. The idea that this can all be solved by legalizing everything or treating everyone like addicts is ridiculous. Even we need to admit there are bad people using people’s weaknesses and addictions to profit and they should be punished.

  35. 35
    Garrigus Carraig says:

    Back in 1996, the National Review came out in favor of admitting defeat in the War on Drugs with a series of eloquent essays, opening with one by the old man himself. I was shocked, & figured (“Even the conservative National Review…”) it wouldn’t be long until things started turning around. I guess I was wrong.

    No way I’m going to paste a National Review link up in dis piece. Search National-Review drug-war on teh g00glez.

  36. 36
    Lee from NC says:

    @Uloborus:

    Really? I can name quite a few issues where he has NOT done Y after stating he would. He’s strung us along as much as possible.

    DADT, withdrawing from Iraq, torture (as we just discovered in Afghanistan), now the drug war, etc. I’ll vote for him as well, though at this point it’s only because any Republican would be far worse.

  37. 37
    Gene says:

    @Midnight Marauder: I don’t think there’s a lot of violence in the marijuana business or just the cross section of pot smokers I knew weren’t terribly violent, but rather middle class kids.

    Even if we legalize pot, there’s still heroine, cocaine, meth, etc., which will be sold illegally and the drug dealers will be arming themselves with U.S. bought guns.

    Gun control or lack of gun control does play a roll in the level of violence in the drug trade. I get the feeling the Brits, French, Germans and other Western European nations don’t have the same level of people being gunned down over drug deals as we do, even though opiates, cocaine, etc. are illegal there.

  38. 38
    Keith says:

    @Chuck:

    if you turn on Nancy Grace tonight…I’d rather punch myself in the junk.

    As luck would have it, that happens to turn Nancy Grace on.

  39. 39
    dgjudy says:

    I actually like the banner idea. If we could actually end “Major Combat Operations” in the drug war, it would be an excellent first step.

  40. 40
    bkny says:

    there’s always biowarfare:

    Geneva, 10 May 2000 — An international non-profit group has called on the Conference of Parties to the UN Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), due to meet in Nairobi 15-26 to act to halt experiments abroad by the United States to use “Agent Green” microbes to kill narcotic crops.

    In a briefing paper for delegates to the 5th COP meeting, the ‘Sunshine Project’, a non-profit group based in Seattle and Hamburg, has complained that the United States government was planning the testing and widespread application of microbial fungus to attack plants producing coca, opium poppy and canabis (marijuana). This microbial fungus use, the group motes, is prohibited in the United States itself, while the UN General Assembly in 1998 had specifically turned down proposals for use of pathogens to kill narcotic crops.

    http://www.twnside.org.sg/title/alarm.htm

    via gawker:

    A mysterious fungus is wreaking havoc on Afghanistan’s opium poppies, which account for 92% of the world’s supply. Local farmers blame the US military and NATO after a white substance appeared on their crops. The United Nations blames nature.

  41. 41
    Quiddity says:

    @Ella in NM: Your link to Smoke a Joint, Get Arrested for Drugged Driving a Week Later is a must read, especially for those who mistakenly think the Obama administration is more tolerant on this issue. (Issue date of the ONDCP report is 2010 and signed by the prez.) Also, go to the HuffPo story for a list of states where you can get your butt in a sling (about half of which are blue states).

    Key excerpt: “ONDCP will work to expand the use of this standard to other states”

  42. 42
    Ella in NM says:

    @bkny:

    LIke I said, the eyes don’t see what the hands are doing in this damn administration.

  43. 43
    Midnight Marauder says:

    @Gene:

    I don’t think there’s a lot of violence in the marijuana business or just the cross section of pot smokers I knew weren’t terribly violent, but rather middle class kids.
    __
    Even if we legalize pot, there’s still heroine, cocaine, meth, etc., which will be sold illegally and the drug dealers will be arming themselves with U.S. bought guns.

    Well then, you are terrible misinformed. A large part of what the Mexican cartels are involved in is trafficking marijuana (you know, because it’s so popular over here). The fact that pot smokers are not violent has nothing to do with whether the process by which they get their product is violent. The cartels that you read about killing people, dropping heads off in discotechs, forcing illegals to act as their mules–they are moving marijuana.

    So yes, there will still be other drugs for them to move on to, but the point is that by decriminalizing marijuana, you are taking away their primary money maker and forcing them to move on to less lucrative markets.

    You can tighten all the gun control laws you want to, but if you don’t seriously put decriminalization of marijuana on the table, you are never going to make a dent in the increasingly failed state that is Mexico.

  44. 44
    Jay B. says:

    @Nick:

    If he’s spending the money going after traffickers and dealers, then, no.

    Man, if only Reagan, Clinton and Bush thought about going after the traffickers and dealers! This war would be over by now and no one would be doing drugs. Those morons.

    The idea that this can all be solved by legalizing everything or treating everyone like addicts is ridiculous.

    Doing the same, but with more moderate rhetoric, is obviously the smart move. Sure, we’ll still fail, people will still be doing tons of drugs and there’ll be plenty of warfare and death surrounding the drug trade, but we’ll feel better about our choice.

  45. 45
    Ailuridae says:

    The opening paragraph of the second (online) page jumps off the screen to me.

    At the same time, drug abuse is costing the nation in other ways. The Justice Department estimates the consequences of drug abuse — “an overburdened justice system, a strained health care system, lost productivity, and environmental destruction” — cost the United States $215 billion a year.

    Bolded emphasis mine.

    I like this article by the AP but if you are saying the drug war cost 1T over 40 years and then citing an order of magnitude higher in, presumably, indirect costs you simply have to do some analysis on that second number. I’m not doubting it but if the drug war is actually costing that much to put it in perspective with some reasonably safe assumptions (that 218B per annum spending is close in 2010 dollars to accurate over the course of the last 40 years) you are left with two sets of numbers either of which are really problematic.

    Either the US has spent 8.5T or 9.75T on the drug war the last 40 years. I hate national debt clocks and do not mean to suggest you can just subtract drug war spending from the current national debt and arrive at a number that suggests where the debt would be without Drug War spending but still –

    The current national debt is about 13T.

    For an opening salvo from a major news organization this is pretty good despite its numbers problems. I really hope this , along with the Administration’s smart decisions in the same area opens a genuine conversation. I’m skeptical though.

  46. 46
    Midnight Marauder says:

    @Gene:

    I get the feeling the Brits, French, Germans and other Western European nations don’t have the same level of people being gunned down over drug deals as we do, even though opiates, cocaine, etc. are illegal there.

    They also have a very different drug policy than we do. Take a look at what happened to Portugal after they decriminalized drugs over there.

    The paper, published by Cato in April, found that in the five years after personal possession was decriminalized, illegal drug use among teens in Portugal declined and rates of new HIV infections caused by sharing of dirty needles dropped, while the number of people seeking treatment for drug addiction more than doubled.
    __
    “Judging by every metric, decriminalization in Portugal has been a resounding success,” says Glenn Greenwald, an attorney, author and fluent Portuguese speaker, who conducted the research. “It has enabled the Portuguese government to manage and control the drug problem far better than virtually every other Western country does.”

  47. 47
    Dave Paulson says:

    All I have to say is that the CAMP raids in Cali have stopped since Obama took office. The medical marijuana dispensaries have finally been allowed to operate without fear of federal intervention. We could very well see legal recreational pot come November. What needs to happen now if for the FDA o change the Schedule I classification.

  48. 48
    AhabTRuler says:

    @Midnight Marauder: I attended the presentation of that paper at the Cato institute (I still feel dirty, but the deli-tray was excellent).

    For me, the most striking numbers were those indicated the steady decrease in new-HIV cases amongst drug users and the number of drug related deaths. That, for me, speaks to the harm reduction that is key.

    Overall, the policy seems well thought out, although continued economic difficulties will no doubt test the boundaries of Portugal’s patience.

  49. 49
    Jay B. says:

    @Midnight Marauder:

    True — imagine if we had some readily accessible parallel case right here in the USA too. Like if gangsters and Kennedys ran a huge, if illegal, part of our economy and that led directly to turf wars, carnage and a raft of illegal activities. And then, when this hypothetical ‘prohibition’ was over, all of that stopped. I’m pretty sure people would still use whatever drug we outlawed, but then, they did anyway, regardless of the law.

    We’ll never know, of course, what it would be like if, say, heroin, coke or pot was legal because history started in 1911, but it would be interesting if we had some kind of drug that IS legal and addictive and we could weigh its merits versus its costs.

  50. 50
    mclaren says:

    Less noticed:

    Barack Obama has a history as president of saying one thing and doing another.

    I’m not going to say that he lies, because he probably intends to do what he promises to do…and I’m not talking about some wacky “Manchurian candidate” scenario. I’m just saying — Obama now has a pretty significant history after the last 18 months as president of saying one thing, and going another.

    Examples:

    Obama promised he wouldn’t sign a health care bill without a public option, and he ridiculed in public the notion of mandates. Obama wound up signing an HCR bill without a public option but with mandates.

    Obama promised to shut down the federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries. So now local police have stepped up their raids on medical marijuana dispensaries, and the feds have done nothing about it.

    Obama talked about creating a ‘constitutional framework’ for dealing with suspected terrorists, then he goes and wildly violates the 5th and 6th and 8th and 14th amendments of the constitution by kidnapping people without charges and without access to a lawyer and hurling ’em into a dungeon forever, without a trial (Obama tried to rename this atrocity with the euphemism “preventive detention,” but out here in the real world we call it “felony kidnapping”). And now Obama has signed off a program to assassinate American citizens if the President doesn’t like what they say. How in the world is that constitutional??????

    Obama promised to shut down Gitmo and end the military commissions and replace them with civilian trials in courts of law. Obama wound up keeping Gitmo open and abandoning civilian trials and instead doing kangaroo court military commissions so unfair that the former lead prosecutor for the army resigned in protest.

    Obama promised his administration would be more open and transparent than the previous regime. Obama wound up blocking the release of the Abu Ghraib pictures, his DOJ argued in federal court against having to disclose the names of federal telecommunications lobbyists, and on and on and on.

    In instance after instance, Obama has promised one thing and done the exact opposite.

    No liberals seem to notice or care. Democrats rapturously applaud when Obama makes his inspiring speeches full of splendid promises and then they studiously ignore the flagrant contradiction when he breaks his promise and does the exact opposite.

    Isn’t it time someone pointed out publicly that Obama has made a habit of saying one thing and doing another?

    I’m not saying I won’t vote for him in 2012, because if the choice between Palin and Obama, well, gee, that’s not a tough one. I’m not saying “vote for Nader,” because that’s just stupid. I’m just saying…Obama keeps promising one thing and then doing another. Someone should start pointing it out.

  51. 51
    andrea says:

    @Fergus Wooster:

    In my dream world, someone inside the Beltway will finally admit that with the cameras rolling.

    Sadly, Bunny Colvin is not real.

  52. 52
    Lee from NC says:

    @mclaren:

    Perfectly stated.

  53. 53

    I moved to Europe.
    Mission Accomplished.

    Enjoy.

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