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The War on Drugs: Unhealthy For All Living Things: A History of “The WOD”, Part 5

(War on Drugs. . . .)

America’s Rape Camps In the first part of this two part series (Alternatives, Issue 10), I detailed the appalling conditions and practices, including the forcible rape of many prisoners, in many of our penal institutions. Such conditions “do more damage to a young person than his use of marijuana,” said then New York State Representative Ed Koch before he became mayor of New York City in the early ’70s. Prisoner rape was epidemic even back then. Today, this noxious practice has only worsened after three long decades of prison population expansion, thanks in part to The WOD. Side effects of prisoner rape are murder, suicide, AIDS, severe psychosis, and increased recidivism. Tens of thousands of mostly small, young, adult male prisoners confined for the first time for non-violent crimes, such as possession of a little too much pot, are being raped daily in America’s prison gulag. And now, with adolescent prisoners being placed with adults, there is a virtual guarantee of rape and sexual slavery, violations of two amendments to the Constitution.

Bosnia’s “rape camps” are surely trifling compared to those of the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” Many, if not most prisoners enter confinement with severe emotional problems and exit much worse, according to Dr. Terry Kupers in his newly published book, Prison Madness (1999). U.S. correctional institutions are producing sociopaths and psychopaths, notes Dr. James Gilligan in his book, Violence; Our Deadly Epidemic and Its Causes (1996). Conditions in the American gulag have gotten so bad that this year, for the first time in its 37 year history, Amnesty International is putting aside its long-standing policy of only investigating human rights violations abroad to focus on the U.S. As a survivor, and president of Stop Prisoner Rape, Inc., I am on Amnesty International’s speakers bureau for its current campaign.

The Rules By Which We Live “Let’s treat every American like a presidential candidate: If you’ve ever used drugs, you shouldn’t have to answer questions about it. Not only would such a don’t-ask/don’t-tell policy save the $17 billion the federal government currently spends on drug prohibition, but it would also let hundreds of thousands of non-violent drug offenders out of prison so they could lead productive lives—and maybe even run for president themselves as hypocritical Republicans.” —Steve Dasbach, National Director, Libertarian Party

Thus runs one solution to end the controversy over Governor George W. Bush’s alleged cocaine use. It’s funny, but it raises a very big question. Why not simply give every suspected drug user the same right to “privacy” the GOP presidential front-runner demands? Better yet, why accept such a distortion of the rules by which we live? If a youthful George W. Bush had been tried according to now Governor George W. Bush’s own unforgiving drug policy, he’d be a felon, and likely sent away to a maximum security prison for anywhere from ten years to life. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are doing hard time around the country—stays measured in decades if not life-spans—because of their youthful dabbling in the white stuff.

Look at it another way. If George W. Bush had been busted for his youthful use of drugs, he’d be unable to raise $50 million and capture the Republican nomination for President. And therein lies the difference. He didn’t get caught. The same applies to William Jefferson Clinton. He didn’t get arrested when he didn’t inhale that joint that one time. But he might have been, and if he had been, America would have been deprived of his leadership for the past eight years.

There is nothing moral or intelligent about a system such as this. Human dignity and potential should not depend on whether people get caught or not. There are hundreds of thousands of Americans who have received criminal penalties, including draconian prison sentences, for doing just what these two presidential actors have done. I think of the ones who get caught as being George’s and Bill’s personal Jesus Christs. It’s weird, but like Jesus, the ones caught in the system are made to suffer for the sins of these two hypocrites.

The point is, what’s good for our presidential candidates is good for the people of America. Right? Either our laws should be applied equally to all, regardless of class, wealth, position, race ..... or they should be changed to accurately and fairly reflect the behavior of our society. This is what was done in repealing Prohibition, and it is long past time to do it again with the rest of the drugs our society continues to use.

Campaign 2000 America is living in sin in a hide-away called The WOD. But it’s time for the affair to end. Even TIME, America’s mainstream weekly newsmagazine, called The WOD, in a bold, two-page wide headline, “A GET TOUGH POLICY THAT FAILED.” (Feb. 1, 1999).

Wars aren’t easy affairs to end. Even if the politicians came to their senses and called off the War On Drugs, we couldn’t proclaim to ourselves as a nation that we’ve shot our WOD, open the prison gates, and free all those brutalized men, women and children. They are casualties of this war and they’re going to need lots of therapy and other health care, lots of job training and decent housing, or they’ll be climbing through our windows with evil intent. It’s the least we can do to make restitution to them. We need nothing less than a domestic “Marshall Plan” to rehabilitate America from the self-inflicted wounds we suffer as a result of this War on Drugs.

In the final analysis, not everone who uses drugs abuses them, which is one of the great lies of The WOD. The truth is, as with alcohol, most people who use drugs do so in a fairly responsible manner.

When will the millions of people of all walks of life, in all social classes, and of all economic means of our society emerge from the peculiarly hypocritical “Don’t ask, don’t tell” state we find ourselves in after decades of The WOD, and simply tell the truth about it? When will the doctors and the lawyers, the police officers and the therapists, the teachers and the architects and the truck drivers and the students and the farmers and the engineers . . . when will we just admit in public that many of us use substances that are currently and unjustifiably illegal?

Earlier this century, Mahatma Ghandi exhorted the Indian people to openly break unjust laws and throw off the fetters of their oppression through non-violent civil disobedience. Individually, such actions only hurt the individuals and never could break the tyranny of the British empire. But when hundreds, then thousands, then hundreds of thousands of people “came out,” the justice and prison systems were soon overwhelmed with people no longer afraid of what the system could do to ruin them. The empire changed its laws.

Laws are human constructs. They come and they go, changing according to cultural shifts and economic/political “realities.” When a law is bad, enough dissent can dissolve the construct. It is time to speak out! Bush and Clinton have put the issue of personal use on the political map—let’s thank them for it! Campaign 2000 offers a perfect opportunity to resuscitate the body politic and go for national healing.

If we continue the course we’re on now, the words of Emile Zola in J’Accuse (1898), could eventually become an apocalyptic prophecy: “Truth is on the march, and nothing can stop it…When truth is buried in the earth, it accumulates there and assumes so mighty an explosive power that, on the day when it bursts forth, it hurls everything into the air.”

This article only begins to describe the position and the proportions of a very large and dangerous metaphorical iceberg that floats off our bow, menacing our human rights.

The following books and periodical were very helpful in the research for this article:

  • The Emperor Wears No Clothes by Jack Herer;
  • Smoke and Mirrors; The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure by Dan Baum;
  • The Politics of Heroin in South East Asia,McCoy;
  • Dark Alliance by Gary Webb
  • The Progressive Review, an online zine edited by Sam Smith. s

Tom Cahill is a long-time political activist, and is currently president of Stop Prisoner Rape Inc. Tom lives on the Mendocino Coast of California. He can be reached at PO Box 632, Fort Bragg, CA 95437, or 707/964-0820. www.spr.org

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