Just in case you wondering if the fruitless War on Drugs was a manufactured scheme to disrupt poor urban communities, your suspicions are now realized.
John Ehrlichman, who served 18 months in prison for his part in the Watergate scandal, was Nixon’s chief domestic advisor when the president announced the “war on drugs” in 1971. Richard Nixon, not exactly known for his social liberalism and bon vivant lifestyle, was determined to eradicate the growing drug endemic with the creation of the War on Drugs. This utterly inept program and expansion of government would eventually cost billions of dollars, as well as destroy urban communities.
Dan Baum, a journalist with Harper’s, wrote in the April cover story of Harper’s about an interesting interview he conducted with Ehrlichman in 1994 while working on a book about drug prohibition. Ehrlichman, perhaps looking to win back goodwill after being part of one of the dirtiest presidencies in history, offered some incredibly candid insight into the motives behind the drug war.
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.
Well, that’s just lovely. Apparently the racial consequences of this complete and utter charade were not just accidental, but rather deliberate.
Baum, who’s preparing to launch “Legalize It All”, the cover story for next month’s edition of Harper’s, articulated why he chose not to include the quote in his 1996 book, Smoke and Mirrors: The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure.
There are no authorial interviews in [Smoke and Mirrors] at all; it’s written to put the reader in the room as events transpire,” Baum said in an email. Therefore, the quote didn’t fit. It did change all the reporting I did for the book, though, and changed the way I worked thereafter.
Most of us already knew the cynical intentions behind this phenomenally failed program. But it only seems fitting that a member of the most cynical administration on earth would be the one to confirm it.
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