Cultural Baggage, June 24, 2009
Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.
It's not only inhumane it is really fundamentally Un-American... "NO MORE" "DRUG WAR" "NO MORE" "DRUG WAR" "NO MORE" "DRUG WAR" "NO MORE" "DRUG WAR"
My Name is Dean Becker. I don't condone or encourage the use of any drugs - legal or illegal. I report the unvarnished truth about the pharmaceutical, banking, prison and judicial nightmare that feeds on eternal drug war.
Hello my friends welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. This promises to be an extraordinary show. Later we'll have an interview with the former police chief of Seattle, Mr. Norm Stamper. But first, Moises Naim, previously served as an executive director at the World Bank and directed policy studies on economic reforms at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Dr. Naim is a member of the board of directors of the National Endowment for Democracy, Population Action International, the International Crisis Group and of the World Economic Forums International Media Council which is composed of the 100 most influential media figures in the world.
As Editor in chief of Foreign Policy magazine, Moises Naim relaunched what is now one of the world's leading publications on international affairs and is winner of the 2003 and 2007 National Magazine Award for General Excellence. Foreign Policy circulates in 161 countries and is simultaneously published in 12 languages.
Dean Becker: Dr. Naim, are you with us, sir?
Dr. Moises Naim: Yes, hi, how are you?
Dean Becker: It's good to have with us, thank you so much.
Dr. Moises Naim: Thanks for having me.
Dean Becker: Yes sir. We deal exclusively with the drug war here on the Drug Truth Network programs because we feel it impacts virtually every aspect of life on this planet right now. Would you concur?
Dr. Moises Naim: Yes, well, there are these things going on that are very important. The war on drugs is not the only thing that is shaping the world, but yes, it's an important dimension.
Dean Becker: Yes, sir. As I speak of often, it's what helping to fund the Taliban, it's enriching these barbarous cartels in Mexico and giving reason for the violent gangs to exist in our neighborhood, right?
Dr. Moises Naim: It helps; it contributes to all of that. The alternative, is of course, is not the, you know, the disappearance of the war on drugs will ensure that all of these curses disappear. But there is no doubt that the war on drugs is now carrion. As it is now conceptualized and undertaken, it is not working. 76 percent of Americans agree with the proposition that war on drugs does not work.
Dean Becker: Yes, sir. I am enlightened by much of the information that I find there on Foreign Policy and I see you have had some pieces by some folks like Misha Glenny and Ethan Nadelmann talking about this, providing their input, right?
Dr. Moises Naim: Yes, yes.
Dean Becker: And tell us, if you will, Misha Glenny has that book, McMafia. I have been trying to wrangle him into coming on to this show. But, what is it he's telling us about in that book?
Dr. Moises Naim: That book essentially looks at different dimensions of illicit trades. It looks at different regions and then at players and finds that the illicit trade, the criminal, as he calls it, McMafia – these are networks of organized criminals that are operating globally and expanding. That is just one of many books that have now been published that make that point.
Dean Becker: Yes, Dr. Naim, your, if I am right, your latest book, Illicit, examined how this, how we got to this point. It stresses the interconnections between illegal enterprises and how they recombine to start new lines, sometimes legal business.
Dr. Moises Naim: Yes, exactly. The book, Illicit, looks at different kinds of trades, of course it looks at drugs, but it also looks at the trafficking of people, of counterfeit products, of human organs, weapons, money laundering and all kinds of illicit and banned products that, in fact, despite their illicitness, are booming.
I have been researching this matter for about ten, twelve years and I have not found one single government that can claim victory or in their attempts to contain or to curb or eradicate these trades. In fact, they are all growing and in this current global economic crisis, a lot of these trades are booming while the rest of the economy is tanking.
Dean Becker: You know, an event happening today in Washington DC at the National Press Club. It's the UN Office on Drugs and Crime is combining with the US ONDCP to talk about the forthcoming World Drug Day on June 26th. They are beginning to realize that there are people like me, reformers, legalizers, if you will.
They are trying to pooh-pooh, trying to dismiss what we are saying, but then they come back and respond that what they have been doing is not working at all. Your thoughts on the continued, oh, I don't know, moralistic posturing, if you will, being the only thing holding this drug war together?
Dr. Moises Naim: Yeah, well, I actually, I shy away from talking about legalization and prohibition. I think that those two words have muddled the conversation and have paralyzed any development of better ideas.
I claim that the Washington consensus on the war on drugs rests on two pillars, first is that the war on drugs is not working, and secondly that it cannot be changed. And the only explanation for that contradiction is that the ban on smoking has evolved into the ban on thinking because if you think about it, something that doesn't work needs to be fixed.
The problem is, and this brings me to the legalization thing, is that people are very concerned when you tell them, you know, let's just legalize the whole thing. Well, that is also an extreme posture that might now work and may have consequences.
So, I think that you said that you were a reformer, a legalizer. Well, reformer is the way we need to go and look and be very, very experimental and test different things and try one approach and see if it works, then try another.
No one really knows what really should be the final solution to this thing. Outright, across the board legalization of all drugs to all people everywhere may have social costs that are as high as the war on drugs.
So, we need to find some intermediate situations, examples like Portugal recently. There's a recent report that tracks what's been the approach in Portugal seems to be working. Some European examples, some of them are controversial, but some have worked better than others.
Bottom line is I think we, what we need to abolish is the prohibition to think. The prohibition to think about drugs and how to regulate them, how to control them, is the essence of what we need to do and not just continue into this, you know, futile debate between prohibition and legalization.
Dean Becker: Fair enough, fair enough. As far as I understand it, the Mexican Legislature has passed a new bill to decrim, to somewhat parallel what they have done in Portugal. I think it only awaits the signature of Calderon. But he was the one, that I understand, that put this bill forward - so I think he will be signing that. Do you think that will do anything to slow down the progress of the cartels in Mexico?
Dr. Moises Naim: The cartels are in Mexico are not [centrally] centered. A big deal there is not the Mexican market and is not marijuana and it's not the individual user, Mexicans. The big deal there is the massive amounts of money and merchandise related to cocaine and heroin that passes from Andean countries to the big North American Market.
So, it is very telling that Calderon, who has been a very courageous president that has been more than willing to take on the big cartels, is also at the same time advancing legislation in this direction.
I have been part of a commission called the Latin American Commissions on Drugs and Democracy that is chaired by three former and well respected Latin American presidents: Fernando Henrique Cardoso from Brazil and Ernesto Zedillo from Mexico and César Gaviria from Columbia. These are three presidents who enjoy high levels of respect and popularity and who, when in power were very tough on combating drugs.
They convened a commission with 18 other people, highly, very distinguished Latin Americans and we spent a year or more, looking into different global experiences: you know, different countries, different approaches. We interviewed physicians, epidemiologists, and generals and heads of police and law enforcement and magistrates and users and so on.
The report of the commission, which can be found on the internet, essentially we came out, again, the central message is, let's abolish the prohibition to think. Let's think this through again because what we are doing is not working. And, more specifically, we say that the individual user of marijuana needs to be decriminalized.
Dean Becker: Once again, we are speaking with Dr. Moises Naim. He is currently editor of Foreign Policy magazine. You know, some of the people you mentioned, the three Latin American presidents, and yourself and others who have looked into this and, you know, I am, as I say, a reformer, and you said, maybe forego the word legalize, but as a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, it's hard not to.
Couple of others folks I wanted to throw into that hat, the Mexican ambassador, Arturo Sarukhán, The Times, Nicholas Kristoff, and now we have US Senator Jim Webb talking about the need for that blue ribbon commission to start thinking, as you say, about this. Your thoughts on those possibilities?
Dr. Moises Naim: We are detecting a shift in the mood of the country that is triggered by a variety of forces. First, I think there is heightened awareness that this is not working as I said, 76 percent of Americans have the opinion that the war on drugs is not working.
The other thing that is happening is that the crime and violence in Mexico is spilling over into the streets of American cities. So, it is far easier to ignore the problem when it is happening somewhere down south than when it is happening in your own city and that is forcing people to pay attention and think it through.
The third is, and I think you alluded to this in your initial comments, is what is happening with wars, either against FARC in Columbia or the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and there, the Pentagon is beginning to realize that there is a deep contradiction between the war on terror and the war on drugs.
The new doctrine of the war on terror and on combating insurgency is that you have to win over the population. You can't - the terrorists and the insurgents derive a lot of their support from simple citizens. Those citizens are not going to be very supportive of the governments or the US government if they lose their livelihood.
You know, a lot of these farmers in Afghanistan make a living out of producing poppies and so, the Pentagon is beginning to understand and accept the idea that there is something wrong with just going on and eradicating and trying to destroy their fields.
Dean Becker: It seems like it was four to six weeks ago Antonio Maria Costa, the UN Czar made a statement, didn't get much exposure in the US but basically they are going to stop the tearing the plants out of the ground or any opium spraying and allow the people to grow as much opium as they want until it forces them, through lower prices, to turn to wheat. That's not going to work, is it?
Dr. Moises Naim: We don't know. Again, as I said, we need to be very careful and very cautious in passing judgment about these things because we... ...there have been several examples, the truth is that historically, eradication has not worked. Millions and hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on eradicating these plants and that has not yielded lower crops nor lowered consumption.
Also, trying to create alternative crops for the farmers has not worked either. But, in some cases they are some promising experiments, but again, all I am saying is we need be open minded and try and test different things until we find something that works better.
Nothing will be cost-free, there are no silver bullets in this area and there will be costs. The trick here is to find an approach that will be less costly than the one we now have.
Dean Becker: Once again, folks, we are speaking with Dr. Moises Naim. He is editor Foreign Policy magazine. I took a look at the website today, doctor. It has stories there about Iran, Obama, the failed state index, a little bit from Banke Moon, out of the UN, North Korea, hip-hop jihad, gay pride and much more.
This is not just some staid website; it has all kinds of information about what is going on in this world. I commend you for a job well done. You guys have won so many awards over the years and you have done great works for your nation, and heck, for the world.
We have just a couple of minutes left Dr. Naim. I wanted to kind of turn it over to you: If you could, I don't know, motivate or entice people to do what they could in this world, what would you recommend? That they get away from the TV?
Dr. Moises Naim: [laughter] No, I would recommend that they get educated and learn more about the nature of the problem. Understanding the consequences that this is having elsewhere and in their own lives and in their own communities.
By this, I mean drug consumption and drug usage and also the way we are trying to limit that. And engage the politicians. The politicians will never be ahead of their constituency. So, one US Senator told me that he was, of course, that he knew that the several of his colleagues shared the notion that this is not working and that different approaches needed to be found but their constituents would not hear of that.
It will be akin to commit political suicide to be ahead of the curve in terms of arguing in favor of a different approach than prohibition. So, we cannot ask politicians to commit professional political suicide but we can tell that that we understand what is the problem and that we are willing to test other alternatives to prohibition.
Dean Becker: Alright. Well, thank you sir for being our guest. I appreciate it. Dr. Naim, I hope you'll consider coming back with us in the future. It has been a very interesting discussion.
Dr. Moises Naim: Thank you very much for having me.
Dean Becker: Thank you, sir.
Dr. Moises Naim: Bye bye.
Dean Becker: Bye bye.
I know you can get this one, it's on the TV everyday...
It's time to play Name That Drug by its Side Effects!
Runny nose, skin rash, swollen tongue, dizziness, vertigo, fainting, abnormal ejaculation, priapism, a persistent, painful penile erection leading to permanent impotence...
The answer: from Boehringer Ingelheim, Flomax, for male urinary problems.
Of late, we haven't been focusing too much on the members of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Didn't want to burn out the listeners I suppose with too many reasons to end this drug war, but we are lucky to have with us today a man who was formerly the police chief of Seattle, Washington, author of a great book, Breaking Rank: Mr. Norm Stamper is with us now.
Dean Becker: Hello, sir.
Norm Stamper: Hello, Dean, great to be with you again.
Dean Becker: Norm, you are called upon by various agencies, governmental bodies and organizations for your know how about policing and about this drug war more and more of late, right?
Norm Stamper: I certainly have been. It's been a busy several years.
Dean Becker: Now, you, as I indicated are a former police chief of Seattle as is our new czar, Gil Kerlikowske.
Norm Stamper: That's correct.
Dean Becker: Your thoughts on his appointment as the new head of the ONDCP.
Norm Stamper: Well, I have mixed reactions to it. I think Gil is an honorable man. He is intelligent, he is a quick study. He has a family member, an intimate family member who has been afflicted by drug abuse and he has some personal insights that I think could be helpful to him in his role as the country's drug czar.
Now, that's a title I would just as soon we retire. However, I noticed in a recent article that he supports that title. And so, as long as he chooses to cling to it, then I'll call him the drug czar.
What does concern me about Gil is his position essentially on marijuana. He does not accept evidence that medical marijuana is efficacious. He believes that marijuana should be a Schedule I drug. And he certainly does, on the strength of both of those two comments; he certainly does not support the legalization of marijuana.
That's a drug whose legalization, I don't care what you think the overall effects of prohibition, should have been legalized many decades ago and should not have been prohibited in the first place; it should have been regulated. So, I'm a little concerned about that as well, but time will tell. We'll see what kind of a Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy Gil turns out to be.
Dean Becker: Norm,I heard him speak early in tenure that he wanted to do away with the phrase the war on drugs and he seems to be parroting many of then same phrases that president Obama has used in regards to this drug war. But, I want to talk about the retirement of that phrase because he wanted to do away with the idea that it's a war on our own people. But, the fact of it is, it's a war on our own people, is it not?
Norm Stamper: It is. When Nixon pronounced drugs public enemy number one and declared all out war on them, he was, make no mistake about it, declaring war on people; mostly young people, people of color, and poor people. There is ample evidence to justify what I have just said. That was the emphasis of the drug war when it was originally launched.
So, it's wonderful to hear the president and the drug czar saying that we want to end the rhetoric of the war on drugs but that becomes a cynical proposition if you continue to target, for example, the tens of millions of Americans who, ordinary Americans, who smoke marijuana and not even have a conversation about it. That suggests to me that whatever we call it, it continues to be a war waged by the American government against its own people.
Dean Becker: Exactly. We are speaking with Mr. Norm Stamper, former police chief of Seattle, Washington, author of a great book, Breaking Rank.
Norm Stamper: The subtitle is: an expose of the dark side of American policing, and it's a book that addresses what I consider to be all of the major issues facing the institution of policing and policing's relationship with the communities we serve. So, racism, sexism, and homophobia and other brands of bigotry as well as this mindless prosecution of the drug war and a variety of other topics are included in that book.
Dean Becker: Well, you know, I hear a lot of folks talking about the drug czar and Obama, can't move immediately towards solving these drug war problems - that they have other fish to fry. I want to submit that we could take away 500 million dollars a year from Osama Bin Laden. We could take away about 30 billion from these barbarous cartels and we could take away the reason these violent street gangs exist in America. Seems like a win-win to me, your thoughts.
Norm Stamper: Well, you are making altogether too much sense, Dean. I mean, the problem, I think is that even in the face of the wisdom you just stated, we have public officials from the very newest to some of the most senior, who have all grown up against the backdrop of propaganda of the drug war. They don't want to be seen as soft on crime. They don't want to be seen as soft on drugs. They don't want to be seen as public officials who would in any way encourage drug use by young people.
So, they have a very well defended, and I mean that in a psychological sense, they have a very well defended fortress against any kind of argument that we could save money and save lives and improve the health and the safety of Americans if we were to end this drug war.
So, there are people, I am one of them, who on a practical level, believes that there are certain things that the president can do during his first term and other thing that he ought to consider strongly during his second term. Now, I can buy, personally, as a drug policy reformer, worthy, incremental reforms on the path toward truly sane and sensible drug policy which would end prohibition and replace it with a regulatory model.
The only problem, however, with this line of thinking is that we deny justice day by day by day and individual by individual by individual when we don't move now to redress the manifold harms caused by this drug war.
Individuals, families and communities put at much greater risk than that caused by drugs or even the drug culture than by the drug war. So, we have got to recognize that justice delayed is in fact justice denied and for no other reason, look for ways to mitigate the horrible effects of the drug war and to do that now, not tomorrow.
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Law Enforcement Against Prohibition
These men and women have served in the trenches of the drug war as prosecutors, judges, cops, guards and wardens. They have seen first hand the utter futility of our policy and now work together to end drug prohibition.
Please visit leap.cc.
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He once dug a tunnel through the Himalayas to help Al Quaida smuggle opium. When his house gets raided, his dogs shoot the SWAT team. He developed a strain of marijuana so strong that even Tommy Chong won't smoke it. He is the most interesting man in the world.
“I don't always do drugs, but when I do, I prefer marijuana.
Stay informed, my friends.
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Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the Abolitionist's Moment
War is over if you want it. The drug war is over as well. It's just awaiting your approval. The evidence is overwhelming: the science, the ramifications, the injustice, the lost lives, the families fractured and forfeited.
Judges handcuffed to iniquity. Politicians trapped by the bones they made. The great wall of blue, corrupted and inbred. All await your approval, your thoughts, your voice – before they will stop feeding their evil cornucopia the lives of their fellow man.
Please, do your part to end the madness of drug war.
Do it for the children.
Dean Becker: Alright, my friends, I hope you have enjoyed the show. You know, following the discussion we had with Dr. Moises Naim and with police Chief Norm Stamper, I want to say this. I am soft on drugs but I am hard on crime. I want to judge people by their actions, not the plant products in their pocket.
If you get a chance, tune in to our most recent Century of Lies show. It features Allen Clear. He is the Director of the Harm Reduction Coalition. You can check that out at drugtruth.net. Our next Century of Lies will feature Peter Moscos. He is another member of LEAP. He is also author of a book, Cop in the Hood: Policing Baltimore's Eastern District.
You know, you guys are the answer. You know, I can't do this without you. I can't do anything without out you to tell you the truth about it all. So, do what you can and please remember that because of prohibition, you don't know what's in that bag. Please, be careful.
To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the Unvarnished Truth.
This show produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT, Houston.
Tap dancing on the edge on an abyss.