Iraq is not the only wildly expensive, counterproductive, and underreported war America is engaged in. The other one -- also leaving thousands of ruined lives in its wake -- is the War on Drugs. And like Iraq, it’s a war where right/left labels do not apply.
Right now, for example, a coalition of groups ranging from the ACLU to the Heritage Foundation have come together to support President Bush’s proposal to eliminate funding for regional anti-drug task forces. The Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program, as it's called, has been guilty of some of the worst abuses of police power in this country, including the appalling incidents in Tulia, Texas, where 16% of the local black population was swept up in a task force sting operation on the uncorroborated word of a single corrupt cop.
And it's not just Heritage, but a host of other conservative groups, including the National Taxpayers Union, Citizens Against Government Waste, Americans for Tax Reform, and the American Conservative Union that have lined up in support of the president’s proposal.
For a long time now I’ve written about the need to put an end to the failed drug war -- a $40 billion dollar a year debacle that has unfairly targeted people of color, and siphoned resources from the war on terror.
It's a common sense position that has attracted supporters from all parts of the political spectrum. I mean, really, on how many issues do Jesse Jackson, George Soros, the ACLU, Cato, Bill Buckley, George Shultz and the Heritage Foundation agree?
The ones refusing to see the obvious are those running for office, who are so afraid of saying something that can be used against them in future attack ads they end up saying nothing and allowing the corrupt status quo to prevail.
But that may finally be changing. I never thought I'd find myself praising drug czar John Walters but his testimony in front of Congress earlier this year shows that the White House may finally be willing to course-correct on the drug war:
"Break the business...Don't break generation after generation [of poor, minority young men], is what we're going for."
"The issue is how do we best reduce the supply of drugs in the United States at the national and at the local and regional levels…you are chasing primarily small people, putting them in jail, year after year, generation after generation."
And on Friday, the Christian Science Monitor reported that "the approach to the war on drugs in the United States could be changing -- by shifting attention away from small-time drug dealers and individual users toward major drug traffickers."
Demonstrating that politicians -- even normally clear-thinking ones -- are often the last to get the memo that the times they are a changin', a number of Democratic Senators, including the usually reliable Russ Feingold and Mark Dayton, are fighting to keep the Byrne grants alive.
Imagine that: I'm agreeing with Bush and Walters and taking on Feingold and Dayton. It once again proves that the time has come to stop looking at the world in terms of right vs. left, and start looking at it in terms of right vs. wrong.
Let's hope this newfound common sense is real and not just more "compassionate conservative" b.s.