Stubborn facts versus thick skulls

Sean Gonsalves


coined the phrase “facts are stubborn things” has apparently never come

across drug war advocates – a self-righteous bunch, undeterred by trivial

matters of fact.


me share a few of these trivial facts with you. According to the United Nations

Drug Control Program (UNDCP), the illicit drug industry is an annual market of

$400 billion. That’s eight percent of world trade – higher than the exports

of the automobile industry, worldwide.


course, the illegal drug business creates huge profits. A kilo of raw opium in

Pakistan costs about $90 on average. In America, a kilo of opium sells for about

$290,000. The UNDCP says that illicit drug profits are so inflated that 75

percent of all drug shipments would have to be intercepted by law enforcement

agents in order to seriously reduce the profitability of the business. Right now

drug cops, internationally, only intercept 30 percent of cocaine shipments and

10 to 15 percent of heroin shipments.


1969, the Nixon administration spent $65 million on the drug war. In 1982,

Ronald Reagan – the patron saint of “free-market” conservatism –

increased “big government” spending on the drug war to $1.65 billion. The

“liberal” Clinton administration upped the ante to $17.1 billion in 1998.


figure, obviously, does not include the $99 billion that the National Institute

on Drug Abuse conservatively estimates to be the economic costs of drug abuse in

America. And even though a 1994 Rand Corporation study found that increasing

drug treatment is the single most effective way to reduce drug consumption, 60

percent of drug costs go toward drug-related law enforcement, incarceration and



driving all these illicit drugs in the U.S. market? The popular misconception

has the problem being one of all those baggy-jean, bandana-wearing gang-bangers

and crack-addicted, promiscuous black Jerry Springer show guests. But according

to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 74 percent of

all illicit drug users are white.


being locked up? Mostly poor blacks that see the profitable drug industry as

being their most realistic opportunity to achieve the “American dream.”

According to the Justice Department, 70 percent of all U.S. prisoners are either

drug offenders or were regular users prior to incarceration. There are now more

Americans in prison than there are on active duty in the military.


1990 and 1996 the number of blacks in federal prison for violent and property

crime decreased by 726. But in that same time period, the number of blacks in

federal prison actually grew by 12, 852 in the category of drug law violations.

Only 11 percent of America’s illicit drug users are African-American but my

people account for 37 percent of those arrested for drug violations, according

to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.


incarceration rate for black men in America is four times as high as it is in

South Africa. Two years ago the American Psychologist reported that harsh

measures like three-strikes-and-you’re-out laws disproportionately imprisons

blacks and Hispanics “who are guilty of little more than a history of

untreated addiction and several prior drug-related offenses…States will absorb

the staggering cost of, not only constructing additional prisons to accommodate

increasing numbers of prisoners who will never be released, but also warehousing

them into old age.”


let’s not harbor any illusions that the drug war is about going after

smugglers and kingpins. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy,

of the 1,506,200 arrested in 1996 for drug law violations, 75 percent

(1,131,156) were for drug possession. Only 25 percent were for the sale or

manufacture of a drug.


aid to Colombia is alleged to have something to do with going after drug

kingpins. Right now Colombia is embroiled in a civil war. If you read

declassified documents and scholarly essays written by our military planners,

you’ll find that their primary concern is using violence to establish a nice

climate for foreign investment, especially on behalf of U.S. based corporations.


idea that we are helping the Colombian government fight drug trafficking would

be laughable if it didn’t mean death to so many Colombian peasants who are

murdered and repressed with our crucial support. The Columbian government has

the worst human rights record in the hemisphere. And it is estimated that

Colombian narcotics cartels spend $100 million annually in bribes to Colombian



drug war advocates are immune to facts. Meanwhile, the poor abroad, and

particularly the black poor here in America, are taking it on the chin. As a

former boxer, I can tell ya: a fella doesn’t take it on the chin without at

some point either fighting back or getting knocked out. Neither option is very

promising when the arena is not a boxing ring.


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