Why Barack Obama Loves the War on Drugs

Do you remember the scene when Barack Obama opened the government to suggestions from the audience (the American public) in the first ever Internet Town Hall Meeting, back in March of 2009, shortly after he took office?

Hmmm, although that was welcomed as a great new idea, one very much in keeping with the first president "elected via the Internet," we haven't had many such meetings since then. In fact -- not any.

Wonder why? The following would make you suspect the administration would welcome such initiatives. "With more than 100,000 questions submitted to the White House Web site for the forum, it gave the administration a significant number of e-mail addresses for future outreach and the next campaign."

Well, that sounds good.

But then:

Obama joked at one point about the most popular question from his online audience-whether he favored legalizing marijuana and could that turn around the economy.

"I don't know what this says about the online audience," he said with a smile, adding that he opposed legalizing the illicit drug.

Snicker: "Potheads! Drug addicts! Slackers!"

But, above all, Obama was winking to his audience: "We're never going to change our drug policy."

Move to the present. The Global Commission on Drug Policy has just issued its report.

Wait, let me give you three choices. The commission indicated:

  1. The war on drugs is insufficiently intense, and we should redouble our efforts and devote more resources worldwide to fighting this scourge.
  2. Our war on drugs is just fine -- tremendously effective, combatting even greater drug use and addiction around the globe, we should pat ourelves on the back.
  3. The War on Drugs is spearheaded primarily by the U.S., which should be ashamed of itself for forcing a global policy that it knows is a failure.

The answer -- 3! Now wait a second, what bunch of hippies wrote this mess?

Here are 12 of the commission's 19 members:

Asma Jahangir - human rights activist, former UN Special Rapporteur on Arbitrary, Extrajudicial and Summary Executions, Pakistan; Carlos Fuentes - writer and public intellectual, Mexico; César Gaviria - former President of Colômbia; Ernesto Zedillo - former President of México; Fernando Henrique Cardoso - former President of Brazil (chair); George Papandreou - Prime Minister of Greece; George Shultz - former Secretary of State, United States (honorary chair); Kofi Annan - former Secretary General of the United Nations, Ghana; Mario Vargas Llosa - writer and public intellectual, Peru; Paul Volcker - former Chairman of the US Federal Reserve and of the Economic Recovery Board, US; Richard Branson - entrepreneur, advocate for social causes, founder of the Virgin Group; Ruth Dreifuss - former President of Switzerland and Swiss Minister of Home Affairs.

Wow! Surely THIS group will be taken seriously! And the data are irrefutable: the report cites UN figures that opiate use increased 35% worldwide from 1998 to 2008 and cocaine use by 27%.

Think again. The United States and Mexican governments instantly rejected the commission's findings.

The report seemed to anticipate such a rejection, and said:

Political leaders and public figures should have the courage to articulate publicly what many of them acknowledge privately: that the evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that repressive strategies will not solve the drug problem, and that the war on drugs has not, and cannot, be won.

The report called for drug policies based on methods empirically proven to reduce crime and promote economic and social development.

You can hear Republicans groaning: "C'mon, now -- if that ain't communism, then nothing is."

But that wasn't the worst of it for America. The commission was especially critical of the U.S., saying it must abandon anti-crime approaches to drug policy and adopt strategies rooted in healthcare and human rights.

Moreover, the commission indicated, the United States was oppressing the rest of the world with its war: "We don't see the US evolving in a way that is compatible with our [countries'] long-term interests." (Can we revoke Shultz's and Volcker's citizenships for signing onto this?)

Healthcare!? Republicans know that's a watchword for socialism. Human rights? People have a right to take drugs? That's crazy! Other countries? Screw other countries!

Of course Republicans reject these crazy notions. But, here's the rub -- nobody disdains them more than the Obama administration -- nobody!

Here's how the office of White House Drug Tsar Gil Kerlikowske responded in discounting the panel's recommendations.

"Drug addiction is a disease that can be successfully prevented and treated," said a spokesman for the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Drugs are an uncontrollable force, one God put on earth to enslave humankind. People who take drugs become addicts -- the National Institute on Drug Abuse says so. So, first we have to prevent people from taking drugs, which causes the disease, whatever that takes. And it takes a lot, it seems, to deter many Americans from using drugs.

And, for any Americans who take too many drugs (and what, pray tell, is a right amount of drugs to take -- trick question -- there is none), we in America can treat the disease.

Pretty soon, no more addiction. Pretty soon, no more drug use!

The commission, on the other hand, thinks that drug users who don't hurt others should be left alone, and assisted medically or otherwise when their drug use is harmful.

Absurd! Where do Europeans get such bizarre ideas?!

In the United States, the pre-eminent "liberal" policy put in place to oppose (actually, alongside) military-police efforts against drugs is that users are all addicts, or prone to become addicts, for which they can be treated. The disease theory of drug use (and addiction and treatment) is the reason the drug tsar gives for rejecting the commission's report.

Thus, it is a liberal administration that is most fervid in fighting the war on drugs -- and is most optimistic -- despite a few small setbacks -- in succeeding. We're on the verge of curing addiction -- and then no one will take drugs any more!

So don't expect American drug policy to change during our lifetimes. We're doubling down, with God at our side, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse leading the charge.

While some claim the disease theory of addiction is humane -- a replacement for moralistic drug and alcohol policies -- it is actually just (quoting Alan Marlatt) the moral model of substance use in sheep's clothing.

Screw those Europeans, Latin Americans, and Asians!