Nixon's advisor and Watergate co-conspirator admits that the "war on drugs" was just a way to criminalize black people and the anti-war left.
Though the interview was conducted in 1994, a recently published report from Dan Baum reveals that one of Nixon’s top advisors and Watergate co-conspirator, John Ehrlichman openly admitted to the real purpose behind the “war on drugs.”
The war on drugs was originally declared in June 1971 by then-President Richard Nixon and the continuous fight against “drugs” has only led to racial injustice, poverty, and violations of the Constitution. This war has had few positive outcomes and mostly resulted in disastrous divides within the United States and their relations with other countries as well. So why would Nixon first declare the war, and why has the U.S. continued to pursue it?
After being asked “earnest, wonky” questions by Baum for the interview in which he was gathering information on drug prohibition politics, Ehrlichman finally snapped and replied with a pretty revealing (and damning) quote:
“‘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.'”
Though this may not come as a shock to those who already knew that the war on drugs was invented for the White House’s personal gain, it is surprising to hear a former White House advisor during that turbulent time actually admit to such a terrible act that still plagues the U.S. today. It took over 20 years, and over 40 years for the quote to be made public, but a confession as to the criminalization of communities who otherwise could have thrived or thwarted public trust in a corrupt government is almost as much of a relief as it is an outrage.
Thankfully, other countries seem to have taken note of what happened in the United States after drugs were wrongfully criminalized and have gone the opposite direction. Ireland decriminalized marijuana, cocaine, and heroin last year, stating that drug addiction is a healthcare issue that needs to be treated in that way rather than attacked with policy and incarceration. The Netherlands’ decriminalization of drugs has even led to the closing of jails because they don’t have enough prisoners to occupy them. One state governor in Mexico has proposed that opium be legalized so that local farmers can legally cultivate opium poppy.
The “war on drugs” is still taking the lives of many Americans today and won’t end unless the United States citizens see the injustice of pursuing a war created for the sake of attacking certain communities and fight back.
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