By just about every measure available, the war on drugs has been an abject failure. In the forty-five years since Nixon declared the so-called "war," a string of destructive policies, strengthened in concurrent administrations, have earned us world-leading incarceration rates and draconian sentencing laws that disproportionately impact communities of color. If you've been paying any attention at all, this much has been clear for some time.
A less cynical observer might view the targeting of minorities as an unfortunate byproduct of a well-intentioned initiative—sure, studies prove that black people face longer sentences on the same drug convictions compared to their white counterparts, but maybe this was all some sort of misunderstanding?
Apparently not. Dan Baum's new cover story for Harper's includes an eyebrow raising interview with John Ehrlichman, Nixon's chief domestic advisor, who basically confirms that the whole point of the Drug War was to victimize black people and the antiwar left:
"At the time, I was writing a book about the politics of drug prohibition. I started to ask Ehrlichman a series of earnest, wonky questions that he impatiently waved away. “You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
Read the full article here.
Feature image via YouTube