The War On Drugs Has Failed

    icon Feb 08, 2007
    icon 0 Comments

Dear Editor:

As anchorman of The CBS Evening News, I signed off my nightly broadcasts for nearly two decades with a simple statement: 'And that's the way it is.'

To me, that encapsulates the newsman's highest ideal: to report the facts as he sees them, without regard for the consequences or controversy that may ensue.

Sadly, that is not an ethic to which all politicians aspire - least of all in a time of war.

I remember. I covered the Vietnam War. I remember the lies that were told, the lives that were lost - and the shock when, 20 years after the war ended, former Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara admitted he knew it was a mistake all along.

Today, our nation is fighting two wars: one abroad and one at home. While the war in Iraq is in the headlines, the other war is still being fought on our own streets. Its casualties are the wasted lives of our own citizens.

I am speaking of the War on Drugs.

And I cannot help but wonder how many more lives, and how much more money, will be wasted before another McNamara admits what is plain for all to see: the War on Drugs is a failure.

While the politicians stutter and stall and chase their losses by claiming we could win this war if only we committed more resources, jailed more people, and knocked down more doors - who will tell the American people the truthŠ.the way it is?

I am writing to you today with the answer: The Drug Policy Alliance.

As a journalist, I don't normally speak out on behalf of organizations that advocate a certain point of view. But when I wanted to learn the truth about the  War on Drugs, I took the same approach I did to the war in Vietnam; I hit the streets and reported the story myself. I sought out the people whose lives this war has affected.

Nichole Richardson was 18-years old when her boyfriend Jeff sold nine grams of LSD to undercover federal agents. She had nothing to do with the sale. There was no reason to believe she was involved in drug dealing in any way.

But then an agent posing as another dealer called and asked to speak with Jeff. Nicole replied he wasn't home, but gave the man a number where she thought Jeff could be reached.

An innocent gesture? It sounds that way to me. But to federal prosecutors, simply giving out a phone number made Nicole part of a drug dealing conspiracy.

Under draconian mandatory minimum sentences, she was sent to federal prison for ten years without possibility of parole.

To pile irony on top of injustice, her boyfriend - who actually knew something about dealing drugs - was able to trade information for a reduced sentence of five years. Precisely because she knew nothing, Nicole had nothing with which to barter.

Recently in Tulia, Texas, an investigator fabricated evidence that sent more than one out of every ten of the town's African American residents to jail on trumped-up drug charges in one of the most despicable travesties this reporter has ever seen.

The federal government has fought terminally ill patients whose doctors say medical marijuana could provide a modicum of relief from their suffering - as though a cancer patient who uses marijuana to relieve wrenching nausea caused by chemotherapy is somehow a criminal who threatens the public.
People who do genuinely have a problem with drugs, meanwhile, are being imprisoned when what they really need is treatment.

And what is the impact of this policy?

It surely hasn't made our streets safer. Instead, we have locked up literally millions of people who have caused little or no harm to others, wasting resources that could be used for counter-terrorism, reducing violent crime, r catching white-collar criminals.

With police wielding unprecedented powers to invade privacy, tap phones and conduct searches seemingly at random, our civil liberties are in a very precarious position.

Hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent on this effort - with no one held accountable for its failure.

Amid the clichés of the Drug War, our country has lot sight of the facts. Amid the frantic rhetoric of our leaders, we've become blind to reality: the War on Drugs is too expensive and too inhumane. Nothing will change until someone has the courage to stand up and say what so many politicians privately know - The War on Drugs has failed.

The Drug Policy Alliance counters the hysteria of the drug war with thoughtful analysis and by fighting for desperately needed reforms.

They're the ones who've played the lead role in making marijuana legally available for medical purposes in states across the country.

California's Proposition 36, the single biggest piece of sentencing reform in the U.S. since the repeal of prohibition, is the result of their good work. Now in its fifth year, this initiative has diverted more than 125,000 people from prison and into treatment since its inception.

I urge your readers to become a member of this organization. Americans are paying too high a price in lives and liberty for a failing War on Drugs about which our leaders have lost all sense of proportion.

Contact them at PO Box 97340, Washington, DC. 20077-7358


Walter Cronkite

Share on:

Comments (0)

icon Login to comment