Award-winning investigative journalist (and dad) Peter Gorman has spent more than 20 years tracking down stories from the streets of Manhattan to the slums of Bombay. Specializing in Drug War issues, he is credited as a primary journalist in the medical marijuana and hemp movements, as well as in property forfeiture reform. His work has appeared in over 100 national and international magazines and newspapers.
Peter Gorman's love affair with the Amazon jungle is well-known to people in the field. Since 1984 Mr. Gorman has spent a minimum of three months annually there generally using Iquitos
Peru as his base. During that time he has studied ayahuasca the visionary healing vine of the jungle with his friend the curandero Julio Jerena. He has collected artifacts for the American Museum of Natural History botanical specimens for Shaman Pharmaceuticals and herpetological specimens for the FIDIA Research Institute of the University of Rome. His description of the indiginous Matses Indians’ use of the secretions of the phyllomedusa bicolor frog has opened an entire field devoted to the use of amphibian peptides as potential medicines in Western medicine.
by Peter Gorman
The first laws against smoking opium were passed in California during the 1870s, making the War on Drugs in the US over 130-years-old. Those laws were passed after a trumped up scare suggesting that Chinese were dragging white women into sexual slavery. In fact, the real scare was that the Chinese, brought to the US to help build the railroads, were good workers and beginning to take jobs in the San Francisco area from whites. The lesson was not lost on future leaders of the Drug War.
During its formative years drug laws were used to alienate and or imprison not only Chinese immigrants, but southern blacks, Mexicans, jazz musicians and poor whites. During the 1950s and ‘60s they were used for the same purposes on beats, hippies, radical blacks, poor whites and gays. When it finally hit high gear, during the early 1970s, it was aimed at inner city blacks and Latinos, poor whites, marijuana smokers of all colors and creeds and anyone who challenged the status quo, from anti-war protesters railing against Vietnam to environmentalists. Of late it is also being used as a tool to also depict Latin America as a festering drug zone that must be Westernized for its own protection.
The War on Drugs has also been used by a number of administrations covertly, as both a bargaining chip with foreign powers (as in the current Bush-sanctioned permission the Afghanis have to produce opium in exchange for relative political tranquility) and as a source of ready cash for non-fundable government operations around the globe (as in Nicaragua during the Reagan years). And other countries have been quick to follow the lead of the US in realizing that a War on Drugs is both profitable and a useful tool for political purposes.
The aggregate toll of the punitive, economic and political uses of the War on Drugs worldwide has been the loss of tens of millions of years of lives to incarceration, hundreds of thousands of deaths and a century of political corruption that has affected nearly every corner of the globe.
For something so pervasive to exist and thrive has taken the complicity of thousands of co-conspirators, from small-minded sheriff’s deputies to mean-spirited prosecutors, power hungry politicians and a terrified populous willing to believe whatever they are told.
That said, it has taken a surprisingly small number of people in influential positions to make the War on Drugs happen. In the US that number is probably less than 200. Of those, the driving force behind the war totals may be two dozen people. Without them there never would have been a War on Drugs.
Grow America takes a look at those who set the Drug War in motion and the current key players responsible for its continuation.
William Randolph Hearst—1863-1951—Anything to Sell a Paper
Born on April 29, 1863 in San Francisco, William Randolph Hearst was the only child of mining millionaire and rancher George Hearst and Phoebe Apperson Hearst. He got his start in the newspaper business at in 1887 at age 23 when his father, then a US Senator, gave him the San Francisco Examiner to run.
In 1895 he bought the New York Morning Journal and moved to New York where he was in direct competition with Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World. Though the term Yellow Journalism actually referred to yellow newsprint in a comic that got on reader’s fingers, because of Hearst’s love of lurid and sensational headlines and stories the term came to mean a style of journalism which relied on lies, distortions and half-truths. His first success at manipulating the truth occurred just prior to the Spanish-American war of 1898, when Hearst helped whip America into an anti-Spanish frenzy by blaming Spain for sinking the US ship Maine that many credit with forcing our hand into entering the war.
In the early 1930s, Hearst launched an incendiary campaign against marihuana. Whether it was because his timber holdings were threatened by the possible use of hemp for newsprint, because he was racist, because he was just looking to sell newspapers or a combination of the three is anyone’s guess. But for several years headlines such as “Hasheesh Goads Users to Blood-Lust” and “Marijuana Makes Fiends of Boys in 30 Days” appeared in more than two dozen papers he owned by that time, as well as in his magazines, his newsreels and on his radio stations. In Hearst’s world, smoking a “reefer” produced “insanity, criminality and death,” and was particularly evil when Mexicans and “negros” forced white women to smoke it, bringing on uncontrollable sexual urges in them. He frequently quoted, and occasionally ran, editorials by Harry Anslinger, commissioner of the then-new Federal Bureau of Narcotics and the man called The Father of the War on Drugs.
The Hearst campaign was a rousing success. Not only did Hearst sell millions of papers on the racist and patently untrue stories, by 1931, 29 states had prohibited marijuana use for non-medical purposes—despite most people still not even knowing what it was.
Harry J. Anslinger—1892-1975—J. Edgar Hoover Penis Envy
In 1924, J. Edgar Hoover, fresh from having helped Attorney General Mitchell Palmer round up and arrest 10.000 suspected communists (all but 247 were later released; the remainder deported to Russia), was appointed Acting Director of the Federal Bureau of Identification, later changed to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. That same year, Hoover’s FBI shot and killed Pretty Boy Floyd, grabbing headlines all over America.
In 1926, Harry J. Anslinger, was working prohibition with the Treasury Department. It was a thankless job compared to the newsprint Hoover was garnering. But in 1931 Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon appointed Anslinger, his future nephew-in-law, to head the new Federal Bureau of Narcotics. Unfortunately, it was a position that was likely to be even less rewarding than his work against alcohol as there was no real drug problem in the US at that time.
Fortunately, an perhaps by conspiracy, Hearst’s vast media empire had been printing outlandish headlines about a new drug menace taking over the United States: marijuana. In 1931, the Treasury Department had dismissed the issue as minor; at the end of 1932, in his first annual report on the work of the FBN, Anslinger noted that marijuana had: “now come into wide and increasing abuse in many states.” That marijuana didn’t even fall under the jurisdiction of the FBN didn’t matter. Anslinger strove to convince the American Public as well as the people who held the FBN’s budget strings, that there was a problem and it was growing daily and had to be stopped.
In his book, The Murderers, The Story of the Narcotics Gangs (Anslinger and Oursler; Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, New York, 1961) Anslinger recounts dozens of lurid crimes he attributed to the effects of marijuana. “A gang of boys tear the clothes from two school girls and rape the screaming girls, one boy after the other. A sixteen-year-old kills his entire family of five in Florida… Every one of these crimes had been proceeded (sic) by the smoking of one or more marijuana ‘reefers.’”
Though none of the crimes he mentioned were actually attributed in any way to the use of cannabis, by 1937, all 48 states had passed some form of anti-marijuana legislation. And in 1937, Anslinger worked fanatically to unify those laws under a single federal law: the Marijuana Tax Act. In a Congressional hearing on the Act prior to its passage, he noted: [Marijuana] “is dangerous to the mind and body, and particularly dangerous to the criminal type, because it releases all of the inhibitions.” He said it caused insanity, a loss of control, and was responsible for a rash of unspeakably horrible crimes across the US in recent years. In short, he took the Hearst lead and ran with it, promoting an image of marijuana as an “evil scourge” until the Feds passed the Tax Act, giving birth to cannabis prohibition.
There was no limit to Anslinger’s chutzpah. In 1948, just a decade after announcing that marijuana was the “most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind,” he testified before Congress that Communists might provide marijuana to American troops because it caused users “to become peaceful, pacifistic zombies.”
Anslinger was finally forced into retirement by President John F. Kennedy in 1962, but not before he had overseen tens of thousands of lives destroyed by his web of lies.
Richard Milhous Nixon—1913-1994—Racism, Fear and a War on Drugs
When Richard Milhous Nixon was elected the 37th President of the US in 1968, the country was in turmoil. Race riots had rocked and were continuing to rock cities across the country, the Vietnam war was raging and the antiwar movement was growing. Women were demanding liberation, gays their rights and the civil rights movement had spawned a black power movement that terrified much of America. His platform was one of Law and Order, and America’s frightened citizenry embraced him for it. More than that, Nixon thought he knew the answer: Drugs were being utilized by communists to weaken the will of Americans, causing them to question the status quo and threaten the American way of life.
Nixon surrounded himself with young zealots on the rise in Republican politics (a rogues’ gallery all its own) whose job it was to make good on Nixon’s law-and-order promises, including stopping the use of drugs, particularly marijuana and LSD, which he saw as “decimating a generation of Americans.” A local D.C. crime bill was passed with provisions that included preventive detention, no-knock searches, and an expansion of wiretapping capabilities, setting the legal groundwork for a similarly severe national crime bill, which would soon be utilized against drug users and political dissidents, among others.
In 1971, drugs, which had been primarily handled by the Dept. of Health, Education and Welfare as a social problem, were placed under the jurisdiction Justice Department’s new Office for Drug Abuse Law Enforcement, which effectively transformed the drug issue from a social one to a criminal one—with all drug crimes suddenly a Federal matter. Drug Schedules were set up under the Comprehensive Drug Abuse and Control Act and marijuana, along with LSD and several others, were placed in the most restricted category. That same year Nixon set up a panel of experts to study marijuana from a scientific point of view, stacking it with scientists who’d already come out against cannabis. He additionally advised the panel’s Chair, Pennsylvania’s Gov. Raymond Shafer, “not to come out with a report that was soft of pot.” Despite Nixon’s advice, in 1972 the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse recommended decriminalization. Nixon’s response to his own commission’s recommendations was to declare an “all out War on Drugs.” The next year, 1973, the same year that the Drug Enforcement Administration was created out of the ashes of the old FBN, marijuana arrests jumped by over 100,000 nationally. It was the beginning of the modern War on Drugs.
Dr. Robert DuPont—1936—One of Nixon’s Minions
Dirty Dick Nixon could not have succeeded in ignoring his own blue-ribbon panel’s recommendation of marijuana decriminalization without at least some science—even junk science—to fall back on. He found it in the work of Harvard-trained psychiatrist Robert DuPont.
A researcher for the National Institutes of Health during the mid-1960s, Bob DuPont did a urine study of 129 new Washington, DC inmates in Aug-Sept, 1969 and found that 45% tested positive for heroin in their urine. Despite the tiny sampling and the fact that DuPont did not look to see if there was any connection between their heroin use and the crimes for which they were put in jail, DuPont and an assistant wrote an article for the International Journal of the Addictions that noted: “The addict poses a very real threat to property as well as to persons in the community.”
DuPont was rewarded for his work by being given the position of Administrator of the Narcotics Treatment Administration of DC’s Dept. of Human Resources and a green light to hand out methadone to DC’s heroin addicts from 1970-1973. In June 1973 he became the nation’s second Drug Czar, and in July of that year became head of the newly-created National Institute of Drug Abuse, where he had massive funding available for marijuana (read: anti-marijuana) research, a position he held until 1978, when President Jimmy Carter’s notion of decrim forced him to step down.
During his tenure, NIDA funded an organization called The Seed, a teen treatment program that the US Senate accused of brainwashing.
The organization Straight, Inc., was modeled after The Seed. Operating between 1976 and 1996, it was notorious for its emotional and physical brutality on youngsters that resulted in dozens of suicides and dozens more patients going insane. DuPont, left NIDA in 1978 and began consulting for Straight in civil actions brought against the organization.
DuPont has remained a ferocious advocate for both drug prevention and rehabilitation clinics and for urine testing. In 1983 he teamed with former DEA head Peter Bensinger to form Bensinger, DuPont and Associates, a company which promotes workplace urine testing, provides the testers, certifies collection sites and oversees the medical results. In 1988, when Wayne Huizenga became a major partner in Psychemedics, the world’s largest drug hair-testing company, DuPont became its Scientific Advisor. When Straight was forced out of business and remade itself as the Drug Free America Foundation in 1996, DuPont was on its board. He has pushed for student-athlete drug testing in schools, student participation in all extra-curricular activity in schools and for all new drivers to be drug tested. He also continues to push for drug testing for all welfare recipients and has been a leading spokesman against medical marijuana in general and California’s Prop 215 in particular. He remains a key player in the War on Drugs, frequently citing alcohol prohibition as his idea of a model for continued drug prohibition.
Gabriel Nahas and Peggy Mann: The Bad Scientist and His Flack
While Bob DuPont is a self-serving political animal who appears to make Drug War decisions based on how much money he’ll make, the true zealot of bad marijuana science is Gabriel Nahas. An anesthesiologist by trade, Nahas began doing marijuana and biology studies in the late 1950s at Columbia University in New York City. Studies that may not be truly appropriate, as he has since commented, as they were done to “prove the very great danger of marijuana in all fields of biology.”
Over the course of nearly two decades of “research”, Nahas’ experiments “proved” that marijuana damaged chromosomes, the immune system, sperm cells, female reproductive organs, did permanent damage to the brain and host of other horrible things to the human body. For much of the 1960s and throughout the early 1970’s, largely thanks to writer Peggy Mann—a true-believer in the most specious anti-marijuana research ever conducted—and the articles she wrote for Reader’s Digest, Nahas’ work was taken seriously by a frightened public. For years he was considered the scientific voice of the anti-marijuana movement by prohibitionists worldwide. But by 1972, other researchers began to try to duplicate Nahas’ work; to their dismay, no one was able to replicate a single one of his experiments as his methods were so flawed their results were meaningless.
By 1975 Columbia University held a press conference to publicly disassociate the institution from all of his marijuana research. A year later he was fired by the National Institutes of Health. His funding was eventually cut off by NIDA, and in 1983, Nahas himself admitted that some of his studies had perhaps been flawed.
Nonetheless, Nahas was appointed as a special advisor to the UN Commission on Drugs and the DEA and Reader’s Digest continued to tout his work as proof of marijuana’s biological damage to the human body. By the early 1990s, Nahas basically fled to France, where he found solace as a special drug consultant with the administration of Jacques Chirac. He continues to satanize marijuana (he is currently the Scientific Advisor for the fanatical anti-marijuana Drug Watch International) and insists that new studies prove all of his old ones. Unfortunately, his utterly discredited work continues to be touted by prohibitionist groups worldwide.
CARLTON TURNER—The Man Who Loved Urine
A true-believer prohibitionist, third rate scientist and political hack, Carlton Turner spent the years 1971-1980 toiling for the US government at its NIDA-sponsored University of Mississippi marijuana farm. His job was director of a research project attempting to synthesize components of crude marijuana that might have medicinal properties for potential use by pharmaceutical houses.
Turner’s zealotry against marijuana was regularly evidenced during his time at the pot farm. “There is no other drug, used or abused by man which stays in the body as long as marijuana and there is no other drug, legal or illegal which affects every major organ of the body, and every system of the body and every cell of the body,” was a favorite of his, as was his claim that he considered “marijuana to be the single biggest health problem in our nation…”
In 1978, at the height of the Mexican paraquat scare, Turner even designed a bogus “paraquat-detector” for pot smokers that he tried to sell through High Times magazine. The magazine refused to run the ad.
But despite these and similar unsupportable statements made by Turner, he would have gone unnoticed into history except that in 1981, at the urging of Vice-President George Bush, he was made a Special Advisor on Drug Issues to President Ronald Reagan, a position he retained until 1986.
During those years he wreaked havoc on the lives of millions in a number of ways: His recommendation to Nancy Reagan that she visit Straight, Inc., put the brainwashing cult-like “youth rehab center” on the map. His wrong-headed insistence that pot stayed active in fat cells long after smoking convinced Nancy Reagan that urine-testing was the only way to identify druggies in the military and keep them out of the work force and led to the mandate that all enlisted military personnel and all employees of any company doing business with the federal government be drug-tested—ushering in the era of urine testing in the US.
In 1983, when the DEA sprayed marijuana crops in several states with paraquat, Turner publicly noted that it would serve pot smokers right if they died from smoking it.
In 1985 he called for the death penalty for drug dealers.
But Turner was finally done in by his love for his own bullshit, when, in 1986, a year before Ronald Reagan ever publicly uttered the word AIDS, Turner announced on several occasions that “Marijuana leads to homosexuality, the breakdown of the immune system, and therefore to AIDS.”
He was vilified in the press and forced to resign in December of that year. He almost immediately went to work as a high-priced consultant for urine testing companies, pushing drug-testing across America and the globe, growing wealthy on a myth he helped create.
Nancy and Ronald Reagan—1911— and 1921—2004: The Hollywood Doll and the Great Bozo
When Ronald Reagan took office in January, 1981 as the 40th president of the US even his critics could not guess how much damage would be done in the name of the War on Drugs during the next eight years. His administration’s policies—as well as some, like Mandatory Minimums, which were pushed by Democrats trying not to look soft on the drug issue—incarcerated millions, cost millions more their jobs, set the stage for the seizing of billions in legitimate assets while corrupting every level of police enforcement in the country, undermined the Constitution, left hundreds of thousands dead in Central America and created a boom in the prison-building business that rivaled the WPA. All that, while refusing to authorize clean-needle exchange, hastening the spread of the AIDS epidemic—which Reagan didn’t even acknowledge until 1987—and watching the spread of crack as it ravaged the inner cities of America. Not to mention having 91 of his appointees indicted, the highest number in US history.
Having taken on the anti-marijuana zealot Carlton Turner as a defacto Drug Czar in 1981, Reagan declared that his administration was renewing a focus on the War on Drugs in 1982. A year later, members of his administration—and perhaps Reagan himself—were deep in black-bag operations in Nicaragua trying to overthrow a legitimately elected Sandanista government. As would be discovered in 1988, when Congress cut off all support for the Contra’s—a right-wing paramilitary group spearheading the anti-Sandanista movement—in 1983 because of their record of human rights atrocities, Reagan’s boys began illegally selling arms to Iran and funneling the profits back to the Contras. Simultaneously they were permitting the Contras to move huge shipments of cocaine to Panama—and from there to the US—the profits of which were also fueling the Nicaraguan war.
At home, in 1984, Reagan signed the Omnibus Crime Bill, which called for setting up a Sentencing Commission to establish criminal penalties for drug crimes (which produced the racist and horrific Mandatory Minimum sentencing guidelines three years later), and also encouraged asset-forfeiture by permitting the policing agencies responsible for the forfeitures to keep the moneys generated by those forfeitures. The asset-forfeiture component of the 1984 bill led to more than a decade of official corruption throughout every branch of police work because funding, rather than fighting crime, became the imperative of that work.
In 1984 as well, Nancy Reagan kicked off her Just Say No to Drugs campaign, encouraging neighborhood groups to have children rat on their parents’ casual drug use, among other things.
A 1986 Anti-Drug Crime bill gave the death penalty to drug kingpins, and drug-testing was mandated for more than a million federal employees, including all enlisted members of the military. Drug testing was soon expanded to include mandatory testing of all employees of any company that did business with the federal government. The 1987 Mandatory Minimums kicked off a decade of wild prison expansion as hundreds of thousands of offenders were given long sentences.
Despite all these and other efforts, during Reagan’s tenure the price of cocaine and heroin on the street dropped by more than half, and crack cocaine hit inner cities and sparked turf-war bloodbaths, while suggestions that needle-exchange might reduce the spread of AIDS were not even considered.
William Bennett—1936—The Compulsive Gambling, Drunken Moral Arbiter
In terms of actual service, Bill Bennett’s tenure as Secretary of Education from 1985-1988 and then as Drug Czar under Papa Bush in 1989-1990, are so short it’s hard to imagine that he deserves a spot in this gallery of monsters. And if his accomplishments—negative impact—during those years were measured only in hard events, he probably wouldn’t be. But Bennett is much more than the sum of the things he’s done. He has been one of the key propagandists for the Drug War for nearly 25 years, setting himself up as America’s moral compass, while at the same time being a hard drinker who sometimes appeared to be drunk while on camera, a cigarette smoker, and, as America found out a couple of years ago, an inveterate and compulsive gambler who has lost millions over the years.
During his tenure as both Secretary of Education and as Drug Czar, Bennett used the bully pulpit to call for a hard line against drug users. He asked Reagan to have all school kids urine tested for their own good, declared that all drug use was abuse, and said that if kids turned in their friends who used marijuana it would be a sign of real friendship, rather than snitching. "The casual user, the weekend user, the so-called recreational user, that person needs to be confronted and face consequences, too," Bennett said while asking for more prison cells in which to put the casual user as a “consequence” of his choices. He frequently bellowed that the occasional user of any illegal substance—read marijuana--was as equally guilty for the “murder and mayhem” in our cities as people who actually spilled blood over drug war profits. He challenged those who called for legalization or any curbing of government drug war excesses as “morally weak” and “scandalous,” and publicly questioned their integrity.
Bennett, who has had a close relationship with the rightwing Heritage Foundation since early in his career, continues to be a powerful voice for the rightwing on several social issues, including the Drug War. Since leaving the Drug Czar’s office he has taken several high-profile positions, including hosting a nationally syndicated radio show, has been a co-director of the Partnership for a Drug Free America, and was a Baby Bush speechwriter during the 2000 campaign.
Bill Clinton—The Man Who Imprisoned America
Any discussion of the current drug war has to begin with former President Bill Clinton. Coming into office in January 1993 as the 42nd president, people weary with the War on Drugs saw hope in a baby boomer who admitted on MTV that he’d at least once smoked a joint, though he added at the time that he “didn’t inhale.”
Unfortunately for millions of Americans, the ridicule Clinton suffered over his “didn’t inhale” hypocracy would mark his entire drug war stance. While America thought he’d be less strident on the drug issue than either Reagan or Bush, nearly from the beginning of his presidency he was more hard-nosed, though he looked gentler doing it. When he took office there were 1.3 million Americans in local, state and federal jails and prisons. By the time he left, that number had surpassed 2 million, with 60% of all federal prisoners and 25% of state prisoners incarcerated for non-violent drug crimes. Roughly 1.000 new prisons were built during his tenure to accommodate the 700,000 new prisoners, a building boom of epic proportions, and more than 100,000 new police were added to the total rosters nationally. He instituted mandatory drug testing for all prisoners and parolees. In 1994, he introduced the death penalty for extremely large marijuana growers.
Forfeiture abuses were already well under way before Clinton took office, but continued unabated during his tenure until Sen Henry Hyde (R-IL) finally rammed a bill curtailing the trend down Congress’ throat in the late 1990s. Federal needle-exchange programs were proposed on the strength of evidence they save lives but shot down by a Clinton administration afraid to look soft on drugs. Medical marijuana bills were passed in several states, but the Clinton crew, rather than allowing for state’s rights, went after the doctors and their patients with a vengeance. It was also during Clinton’s tenure that laws were passed prohibiting those convicted of a drug crime—including misdemeanors—of getting or keeping HUD housing, and college students convicted of a drug crime lose their eligibility for federal student loans. The border with Mexico—a dream of Reagan’s—was fenced off and militarized, with at least one death attributed to US Marines guarding it.
On the international field, Clinton launched Plan Colombia ostensibly to stem the flow of cocaine coming out of there, spraying glyphosate on coca crops while simultaneously training elite Colombian units in the art of jungle warfare. To date the plan has proven useless in stopping the production of cocaine but it has successfully forced over 1 million Colombians from their homes, destroyed tens of thousands of acres of food crops and helped position Mexico as the world’s leading cocaine transshipment point.
Barry McCaffrey—The General Stooge
While Lee Brown was Clinton’s first Drug Czar, it is retired General Barry McCaffrey who was brought in during Clinton’s second term in 1995, who is remembered as Clinton’s Drug Czar. At first seen by the reform movement as a joke, as he knew nothing about drugs (with the possible exception of moving heroin for Air America during the Vietnam war), McCaffrey proved to be the perfect point man for Clinton’s drug war. Tell him what to say—even when a complete lie—and he’d say it with conviction. But call on his military instincts and you had the most decorated general in America ready to carry out the most abusive schemes without questioning them.
It was McCaffrey—along with Health and Human Services head Donna Shalala--who took center stage when confronted with indisputable federal evidence that needle-exchange saved lives and shot down any possible chance of implementing a federal needle-ex program. It was McCaffrey—again with Shalala nearby—who called California’s Prop 215, allowing for medical marijuana use, “Cheech and Chong medicine.” It was also McCaffrey who pushed hard for inserting anti-drug messages in movies and television programs. He also came out so strongly against hemp that he threatened Canada with closing our borders if they insisted on shipping hemp to the US. He actually talked of hippies “boiling down their hemp shirts and mixing the residue with alcohol to make marijuana” and admitted in a letter to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan that he was afraid that hemp foods would blow the billion dollar drug-testing business out of the water.
Internationally he was a buffoon. He referred to Gen. Jesus Rebollo, Mexico’s Drug Czar, as a man of “absolute, unquestioned integrity,” just two months before Rebollo was arrested (and later found guilty) of being the Juarez Drug Cartel’s key corrupt point man in the Mexican military. McCaffrey also took time out from stumping against the Arizona Medical Marijuana initiative in 1995 to fly to Peru to congratulate Vladimir Montesinos, the power behind Peru’s president, on his work at stopping cocaine traffic—when everyone else in the world knew that Montesinos was the primary liason between the coca growers in Peru and the cocaine finishers in Colombia.
But McCaffrey will primarily be remembered as the architect of Clinton’s Plan Colombia, which has dropped hundreds of tons of herbicide on coca plants and villagers while arming paramilitary death squads in the name of cutting off the supply of cocaine from that country, a campaign that to date has resulted in more cocaine at cheaper prices, rather than less.
Joseph Califano—Why Tell the Truth When a Lie Will Do?
Of all the people in the Rogues Gallery of Drug War Monsters, past and present, undoubtedly the most complex is Joseph A Califano, Jr. A devout Catholic and lifelong democrat, Califano was chief domestic policy advisor under Lyndon B. Johnson, and one of the primary architects of Johnson’s heroic Great Society, a package of more than 200 federal social reforms that included major civil rights and anti-poverty measures, created Medicare and Medicaid, food stamps, affirmative action, the National Endowment for the Arts and guaranteed a free high school education for everyone in the US, among a host of other initiatives.
Califano later worked for the Carter Administration as the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare from 1977-79 and during the Reagan years was instrumental in retooling both Medicare and Medicaid.
That said, Califano has a real streak of 1940’s catholicism-by-rote running through him: when it comes to drugs, his outspoken belief is that all use is abuse and his (until recently) stance is that the answer to drugs is more prohibition, more jail time.
Califano’s real dive into the anti-drug pool began in 1992, when, at the suggestion of James Burke, chairman of the Partnership for a Drug Free America, he founded the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA). Among its goals were to “inform Americans of the economic and social costs of substance abuse” and “to provide those on the front lines with the tools they need to succeed.” Associated with Columbia University and with Califano as its chair, CASA has raised over $150 million since its inception to further those ends. Unfortunately, CASA’s research into substance abuse has produced very little of value and a lot which has been proven flat out wrong. But Califano’s CASA lies have made great soundbites—the “tools” for those who want to continue to foster the intractably cruel drug war, thus serving the Partnership and other prohibitionists well.
Among its contrived reports, in 1994 CASA reported that 25% of all women on welfare were abusing alcohol or drugs. The US Dept. of Health and Human Services debunked that number, saying the true figure—using the same study—was 4.5%. Califano’s team had arbitrarily used the figures representing “use” as if they represented “abuse.” The HHS noted that CASA’s work “was susceptible to serious misuse by people who take it out of context.”
In 1997, CASA reported that 12-year-olds who said they knew a friend or classmate who used acid, cocaine or heroin more than doubled between 1996 and 1997. The figure flew in the face of a federal report that had just been released showing teen drug use was unchanged during the same period. It turned out that CASA’s data did not eliminate older friends, people the 12-year-olds saw on the street and so forth, from their numbers.
In 2002, CASA claimed that 89% of teens who used drugs or alcohol were likely to have unprotected sex, a figure that made every nightly newscast in the country. The actual study data, when scrutinized by other researchers, showed that the real number among the 15-17 year-olds studied was 5%. But CASA, seeking headlines, had utilized numerical slight of hand to combine the 15-17 year-olds with an 18-24 year-old group (including married couples), then added in the number of teens who thought they knew someone who might have unprotected sex if they had drugs or alcohol. Voila! 89%.
Califano has similarly used completely invented numbers to claim that the tolerance of cannabis in Holland has been a complete failure.
There are dozens of other examples of shoddy, manipulative or invented CASA reports. Joseph Califano doesn’t apologize when found to be wrong, even apparently with intention. CASA serves its purpose: to keep the fuel on the fire of drug war rhetoric, and keep the people listening to soundbites on the evening news terrified of what drugs are doing to America. For Califano, who loves the limelight, that seems to be enough. It’s a long way from the Great Society.
John Walters—The Hard Line Fanatic
Confirmed as George W Bush’s Drug Czar in December, 2001, religious-conservative John P Walters, had already spent nearly 15 years fighting the drug war as a dangerous fanatic responsible for the misery of millions. During the Reagan Administration, Walters was Assistant to the Secretary at the US Department of Education, responsible for developing anti-drug programs. He also served on the National Drug Policy Board development of anti-drug programs. From 1989-1991 he was top deputy to Drug Czar William Bennett during the first Bush Administration, and Director of Supply Reduction from 1991-93, when he left because he felt Bill Clinton wasn’t doing enough to fight the Drug War. “President Clinton has shown little concern about the carnage drugs cause,” is how he and Bill Bennett described Clinton’s drug war attitude in a 1995 op-ed in The Washington Times, even while Clinton was in the process of imprisoning more non-violent drug users than Reagan and Bush combined.
Though he claims to view first-time drug users leniently, Walters is perhaps the most strident drug war warrior of the whole Rogues’ Gallery. He favors more prisons and harsher prison sentences for all drug users and particularly marijuana dealers, is against drug-treatment as “soft”, and has called for continuing the disparity between powder cocaine and crack in mandatory minimum sentencing. He refers to racial profiling in the War on Drugs an “urban myth”, will not consider needle-exchange and is credited as a key architect in the recent media blitz that ridiculously connects smoking pot with terrorism and the destruction of the World Trade Center.
His strident positions led even former Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey—whom Walters replaced—to note after Walter’s nomination that “Some of his positions in my own view need to be carefully considered by the confirmation committee.”
On the international side, Walters has pushed for further involvement by the US in Colombia and throughout all of Latin America as a way to control drug manufacture, though he has never commented on the deal made by the US with the Afghan Northern Alliance that permits our former allies to produce all the opium they want in exchange for calm in Afghanistan.
Walters is one of the primary people responsible for the myth of pot potency that has once again been resurrected. As recently as July 21, 2004 he was quoted in a Reuters’ story as saying: "Marijuana today is a much more serious problem than the vast majority of Americans understand. If you told people that one in five of 12- to 17-year-olds who ever used marijuana in their lives need treatment, I don't think people would remotely understand it."
Left out of Walters comment was that he was one of the people responsible for pushing mandatory treatment for kids caught with drugs .
Mel and Betty Sembler—Rotten to the Bone
Mel and Betty Sembler have probably done as much or more than any other private citizens in recent memory to further the worst aspects of the War on Drugs.
Mel, a shopping center builder by trade, and Betty founded Straight, Inc. a “tough-love” rehab clinic for pre-teens and teens in Florida in 1976. Boosted by glowing success stories in Reader’s Digest and elsewhere, Straight grew to become the world’s largest chain of adolescent drug-rehab clinics. While the Straight approach was lauded by Nancy Reagan, Carlton Turner, Robert DuPont (a Straight consultant after leaving NIDA) and other drug war warriors (Papa Bush even made a tv commercial for it as President), many likened its rehab methods—which didn’t include doctors or social workers, but did include strapping kids up, locking them in rooms for days, beating them, forbidding them to eat and occasionally breaking fingers or permitting rapes—to POW camps. An estimated 40 kids committed suicide during or after their time in Straight facilities around the country. Lawsuits against Straight, Inc. for child abuse finally forced it to close shop in 1993, but the Semblers, large Republican donors with excellent political connections, survived.
More than that: thrived. In 1989, George Bush named Mel Ambassador to Australia, following Sembler’s work as a leading fundraiser for the Bush Presidential campaign. Shortly after he returned at the end of 1992, he was named Florida’s representative to the Republican National Committee, and in 1997 became the Finance Chairman for the Republican National Committee.
In 1996, Straight Inc. surfaced as the Drug Free America Foundation, which pushed for drug testing of all high-schoolers—they only got the athletes and those interested in extracurricular activities—all new drivers and to extend workplace drug testing. While Sembler didn’t own a drug-testing outfit, the DFAF was set up to advise companies on setting up drug free workplaces, including providing drug testing, which Sembler’s former partners and consultants—including Robert DuPont—did.
Betty Sembler has been included in the White House Conference for a Drug Free America, served on the Governor’s Drug Policy Task Force in Florida and has been on the board of DARE international. The DFAF and Betty Sembler’s new group, SOS, have been instrumental in trying to fight the right of people to access medical marijauna.
Mel Sembler was named Ambassador to Italy by Bush Jr. in Nov, 2001, where he continues to push his anti-drug message.
Through their message that teen drug use must be nipped in the bud, they have fostered a continuing skewed look at teen experimentation that has not only resulted in widespread teen drug testing and the horrors of Straight, but in promoting teen drug hysteria on every level. The Semblers are now promoting drug conferences in both Latin America and Europe, creating drug problems where none exist.
Karen Tandy—The DEA’s New Top Gun
Too early in her career to have had much national impact as yet, Karen Tandy, who was sworn in as the Administrator of the DEA on July 31, 2003, has nonetheless cut her teeth on drug war victims sufficiently to know that if given her leash, this dog will justify her appearance in this Rogue’s Gallery.
Tandy has a sufficient history of disregarding defendant’s rights and overreaching in asset forfeiture to signal that she is a bad egg to whom defendants are guilty, period. She once withheld over 60,000 pages of unindexed files from defense attorneys until three days before a trial. She traded the perjury of one defendant for intimate visits with his wife, in order to secure a wrongful property seizure that was eventually won back in court. At least once she changed the wording of a plea agreement to set a defendant up for a second arrest after agreeing not to in a case that was later thrown out. There are many other examples of similar Tandy actions that border on the illegal, and she has been reprimanded by the courts on more than one occasion.
But Tandy is well-connected. A veteran Justice Department Official, both as prosecutor and former asset-forfeiture chief administrator, she has been involved in anti-marijuana campaigns from Bong busting to moving against California’s medical marijuana clubs and their ill clients. And she has promised more of the same. During questioning by Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) in her 2003 confirmation hearings, she was asked “Do you believe the DEA’s limited resources should be consumed on raids of medicinal marijuana providers? If so, what priority would you give such raids…?” She answered “…in my view, DEA’s priorities should reflect the need to encourage adherence to the law.” She later added that “…as Administrator of the DEA, it will be my duty to see to the uniform enforcement of federal law. I do not believe it would be consistent with that duty for me to support a moratorium on the enforcement of this law, or any law, in selected areas of the country.”
The Partnership for a Drug Free America (PDFA) and Other Anti-Drug Anagrams
While the Partnership for a Drug Free America, as a private, non-profit group which runs the advertising/classroom and community meetings for the Drug Czar’s office is the most well known of the anti-drug anagrams, there are several other groups which work hard to distort truth and invent outright fictions meant to keep a gullible American Public terrified of drugs. Without them, its doubtful the War on Drugs could operate at nearly the level it does.
The PDFA, of course, sponsored primarily by pharmaceutical houses, and liquor and cigarette manufacturers, has the most treacherous track record, from its early 1987 ads claiming to show the brainwave of someone smoking marijuana, when it actually showed the brainwave of a coma patient, to its 2004 ads equating casual drug use with supporting worldwide terrorism and by extension the people who destroyed the World Trade Towers.
The Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program is a close second. Established in 1983 in Los Angeles, the program sends police to schools to allegedly teach youngsters about the dangers of drug use. The problem is that every serious study ever done shown that kids who’ve been in DARE programs experiment with drugs more than kids who have not. The program has also had deleterious effects in that many officers suggest that if kids have seen drugs at home they should report it, and many have, leading to hundreds of kids learning that if you listen to a cop, your parents go to jail and you wind up in a foster home.
The Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), founded in 1992 at the request of former PDFA head James Burke, doesn’t do much except collect lots of money from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (they will fund anything anti-drug) and the William Randolph Hearst Foundation, hold lots of fundraisers, seek grant writers and local business donatons. CADCA occasionally writes press releases, and works to get urine testing in schools and holds local anti-drug events around the country. They are a coalition of local anti-drug groups existing primarily as a voice to maintain drug hysteria and thereby keep the profitable war on drugs in place.
The Parents Resource for Information on Drug Education (PRIDE), is perhaps the oldest of the anagram anti-drug groups. A local group from Omaha, PRIDE is frequently called upon by media outlets for comments related to drug issues. Unfortunately, PRIDE’s information generally perpetrates the worst drug war lies, continuing to insist that marijuana adversely affects the immune system, lowers male reproductive rates, is addictive, is a stepping stone drug and so forth.
Several people deserve dishonorable mentions in a Rogue’s Gallery of Drug War Monsters. Among them:
MARK SOUDER—Republican, Indiana
US Representative Mark Edward Souder is definitely on the religious right on most issues. He has voted against needle exchange, and medical marijuana in D.C. Souder Chairs the Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources, which authorizes legislation for the ONDCP, and for oversight of federal drug-control efforts (including international and interdiction programs, law enforcement, and prevention and treatment initiatives). He has also pushed hard for expanding militarized borders. But his most serious drug war crime to date was the 1998 drug law amendment he authored for the Higher Education Act, which denies any college or post-graduate student federal loans for a minimum of one year for any drug crime conviction, including misdemeanor possession. It’s estimated that more than 50.000 people annually have been directly affected by the law. Unfortunately, as minorities are much more frequently convicted of drug crimes, particularly in inner cities, those are the people disproportionately affected by the law. Souder himself has said the law is being misapplied, that it was intended to be applied only to those who got drug convictions after they were already receiving aid, as a way to steer college students away from drugs. He bears watching as he looks to be a Republican Party mover, and willing to champion the hard party line on most drug issues.
Wayne Huizenga—The Hair Test Man
Founder of Blockbuster Entertainment and the owner of the Miami Dolphins, Huizenga entered the drug war game in 1989 when he became a major partner in Psychemedics, a company which produces hair-testing kits. With Blockbuster as its base client, Psychemedics now includes Anheuser-Busch, the Federal Reserve System and General Motors among its 1,000 or so clients. While most states still don’t use hair-testing for a variety of reasons (mostly the urine testing lobby), Huizenga and his lobbyists got hair testing approved in Florida in 1996, with Psychemedics’ test grandfathered in while any new competitive hair test products will require stringent testing that Psychemedics’ product could not pass. A strident right-winger, Huizenga probably could care less who actually does dope, so long as his hair-testing kits sell.
Joe Biden—Blind Spot for Drugs
While Senator Joe Biden (D-MD) has a record on abortion rights, women’s rights, hate crimes and gay rights (except for gay marriages) that slots him as a liberal, when it comes to the matter of drugs he can get just as caught up in the Partnership’s hysterical bullshit as anyone trying to cover their ass and not look soft on drugs. While he does not favor increasing penalties for drug use, and has called for an end to mandatory minimums and racial discrimination in drug enforcement, he makes this Dishonerable Mention on the Rogue’s Gallery for his ridiculous Rave Act, which passed in 2003. The Rave Act, which had not even been able to get a hearing in either the House or Senate, was passed by being tacked onto a Child Abduction Act and signed into law by President Bush. The law makes venue owners and promoters responsible for any drug activity that occurs on their premises, even if they have tried to prevent it. Two guys pass a joint in a bar bathroom: the owner is responsible. A group of Texans eat a little speed at Billy Bob’s, and the owner’s of Billy Bob’s are responsible. But the law probably won’t be applied that way: it will be applied primarily as a tool to eliminate free speech, as in its very first application: A May 30, 2003 benefit concert at an Eagle Lodge in Montana for two groups advocating marijuana legalization was called off when the manager of the venue said she got a call by someone in the DEA. The caller told her that if anyone smoked a joint the lodge could be fined $250,000.
A bad law that can be used to have a chilling effect on free speech and Biden knew it.
Sue Rusche—Taken with Political Power
Co-founder of the National Families in Action, Sue Rusche promoted the first round of paraphernalia raids in the late 1970s and shortly thereafter became a focal point for community anti-drug activists around the country. From 1984 to 1990, she wrote an anti-drug syndicated column called Straight Talk on Drugs that helped keep the issue in more than 100 papers nationally. She has worked with the White House Conference for a Drug-Free America, serves on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s advisory committee, the science advisory board for DARE and on numerous other prohibitionist boards. She writes books and articles and continues to be a major force, both behind the scenes and in front of the cameras, for the prohibitionist movement, spreading misinformation anywhere she can.
Conclusion: A few people who deserve mention in any Rogues Gallery of Drug War Monsters have been missed—Dr. Janet Lapey, prohibitionist hysteric and Dr. Eric Voth a bad scientist, both from Drug Watch International; Peter Bensinger, former DEA chief, partner of Robert DuPont in urine testing biz, and Otto Moulton, a longtime anti-marijuana activist come to mind.
Add to these the media conspirators, those who repeat the lies or the statistics without seeing if they make sense, the do-gooders, members of the public who have been browbeaten to believe whatever evil they hear about drugs, some interested parties—those pushing the legal drugs—and you’ve got a Drug War. The interests of a few served by the sacrifice of the lives of millions. That’s why we call them monsters.