For all the talk about War on Drugs and its (depending on the source) success or failure, we rarely give much thought to how such a contradictory concept ever came into being. The term has been around for so long that it seems like it has always been associated with governmental efforts to stop the drug trade. Its true author would probably just chuckle at our ignorance, as he always preferred to operate in the shadows. Once famously known as “Tricky Dick’, former U.S. President Richard Nixon was the one who planted this dangerous and misleading paradigm into public consciousness, at the cost of countless lives.
Let’s rewind back to 1968, the year when Nixon finally won the elections after falling short to Kennedy eight years prior. America was deep in the quagmire of the Vietnam War, and left-wing protesters were lining the streets of U.S. cities and clashing with authorities, demanding an immediate end to what they saw as an unjust, imperialist conflict. It just happened so that a great deal of those political radicals were also involved in the hippie culture and experimented with drugs on a massive scale. In general, drugs were quite popular at the time with all segments of American society, with marijuana and LSD promoted as symbols of self-actualisation by some highly respected academics such as Harvard professor Timothy Leary and many others.
War on Drugs
Needless to say, hippies and left-wing radicals didn’t like Nixon at all, and he was well aware of it. Keen to strike back at his political enemies, he decided to attack drugs in general. To be more precise, he decided to ‘declare war on drugs’, as if there was some plausible way to do this. In reality, he declared war on political opposition, racial minorities and anyone else who didn’t fit his agenda. He first launched the phrase in the speech made in July 1971 in the U.S. Congress, asking for large budgets to fund this crusade. During this speech, he dramatically exclaimed how drugs were ‘public enemy number one’ and promised to spare no effort to put an end to this scourge.
While his motives may be highly questionable, his dedication was genuine. Within a short period, U.S. government greatly intensified its anti-drugs activities, culminating with the foundation of the Drugs Enforcement Agency in July 1973. This federal body soon became a powerful instrument in the hands of the administration that could be put pressure on its challengers, criminal or political. Indeed, DEA has become synonymous with War on Drugs, and has been the protagonist of nearly all of its ugliest battles. That’s why it’s worth remembering that it was Richard Millhouse Nixon who created the agency and set the entire chain of events into motion.
Global Influence on Drugs
A domestic campaign against drug users was just the beginning – U.S. soon started exerting its international influence to ban drugs globally. This was accomplished through the United Nations, which agreed to adopt the Convention on Psychotropic Substances in 1971, paving the way for the globalization of the U.S. approach. Smaller countries were pushed to change legislation and organize drug eradication programs, often despite their own traditional tolerance towards the drugs in question. It can be argued that the Convention actually set the stage for the rise of the international drug syndicates (i.e. Colombian cartels), which suddenly started gaining tremendous power in the ensuing decades. In turn, law enforcement agencies continued to demand large budgets to combat this threat, and the wheel of violence and deception spins on without end in sight.
Nixon’s time in the Oval Office came to an abrupt end after he was impeached for his role in the Watergate scandal and its subsequent cover-up, but large parts of his legacy remained a part of U.S. policy for decades. A hostile attitude towards all kinds of psychoactive substances is one example, since the machinery constructed to combat the international drug lords took on a life of its own. Just like drug dealing is a big business, War on Drugs created both political and financial profits for a huge number of people on the law enforcement side. Conceived by Nixon as his personal vendetta on the hippies, War on Drugs was a convenient scarecrow for every U.S. President since him to this day.
No Surprises About Nixons Drug War
Knowing the origins of this phenomenon, it’s not a surprise that it failed so spectacularly. It was never a sincere attempt to improve the society, but rather a weapon in the hands of conservative politicians, who chose to wield it in biased and often straight up corrupt manner with little oversight. Since you can’t really attack ‘drugs’, actual battlefields were mostly Third world countries where drugs were produced, and where DEA agents and other U.S. representatives could pressure local authorities into violent strategies that made for good headlines and little else.
To debunk the persistent myth how drugs are the greatest problem that our society has to deal with, we should start by taking a closer look at its author. Mr. Nixon was a proven liar and notorious manipulator who never hesitated to venture outside of the legal channels when it suited him. He was the only American president to be chased out of the office, and he was brazen enough to authorize a burglary into the headquarters of the rival party – and then lie the nation about it. That’s not a biography that inspires confidence, and we can safely conclude that his opinion on drugs is less than relevant.
However, dealing with the consequences of this catastrophic war won’t be easy. Decades of negative media coverage succeeded in vilifying drugs to a considerable extent, any current educational campaigns have to struggle against this heritage. Citing statistics that demonstrate the failure of the War on Drugs is not enough – we have to debunk the very premise on which it was waged. So the next time you read about a big drug bust or hear a politician preach against this ‘social evil’, just remember that it’s all a perfidious game started by a man who hated minorities, dissenters and peace activists.
Game over, Tricky Dick!
This article was originally written in English, If you see any errors please email us at words@The-TripReport.com