more thoughts on the book Drug Warriors and their Prey
EDITOR"S NOTE: September 3, 2023
Brian, bless him, is using 'Nazi' as a rhetorical device to evoke the all-too-real threat that Drug Warriors pose to democracy, and, of course, to key off of the premonitory rhetoric of Richard L. Miller himself. I almost hate to add this hopefully unnecessary equivocation, knowing as I do that most Drug Warriors, for their part, truly MEAN IT when they call folks like myself 'scumbags' and 'filth.' It is indeed this, ahem, Nazi terminology of the Drug Warriors that has rendered the so-called free world anxious and edgy since the 1970s, when Nixon first targeted his political opposition with what he called a war on drugs, which was actually an ugly and anti-American campaign to militarize the world and turn it into good guys and bad guys based on a simplistic but unacknowledged Christian Science metaphysic. By doing so, Herr Nixon --er, I mean Richard -- has turned America into a police state and egged on racist and salivating SWAT team members to GO GO GO!
I guess what I'm saying is: I can appreciate the surprise of those who object to the "Nazi" analogy, but at the same time I'm just a little suspicious of such qualms, since they make me wonder if those who cherish them have truly understood how far the Drug War has already gone in destroying American democracy. Last I checked, for instance, the 4th and 5th Amendments had left the building and drug laws had resulted in the election of Donald Trump. Meanwhile, we free Americans can be removed from the workforce without trial if we dare to use the kinds of substances that have inspired entire religions, as amoral inquisitors examine our urine and other excreta for signs of our allegiance to the new state religion. Smacks rather loudly of Nazism to me. But call the Drug Warriors what you will, I'm easy, as long as you start recognizing (at long last) what they're doing, which, as the following facts help establish, is nothing less than turning the entire world into a police state.
I don't know what pisses me off more: the litany of anti-democratic outrages detailed in "Drug Warriors and Their Prey" by Richard Lawrence Miller, or the fact that most Americans do not consider the Drug War to be anything worth fretting about. "Sure, it's a problem," they'll say, "but only in the sense that overfishing and oil spills are a problem. It's nothing to become excited about!" So when I merely mention the link that Miller demonstrates between Nazi Germany and Drug War America, I'm considered "harsh" and "hardcore." I'm "over-the-top." Well, I think it's about time that SOMEONE was over-the-top because the response to the Drug War by the average American has thus far been decidedly UNDER-the-top, to put it mildly. Of course, there's a good reason for that: Americans know that if they protest the Drug War using their actual names, they will be subject to prejudice and the potential loss of a job. And yet this fact alone validates Miller's thesis! Drug warrior bluster and threats have intimidated Americans into abject silence on this subject.
You don't like drug testing? You're free to refuse it, of course. This is America after all! You may never get a job in the States, but you can protest 24/7 - unless, of course, a local drug squad takes exception to your rants and raids your home in an effort to shut you up, either by arresting you for the presence of a marijuana stem (40) or by merely scaring the hell out of you.
The Holocaust did not happen overnight. It was fomented by a long-standing campaign of ever-increasing hatred toward the scapegoated group, a hatred that inspired and helped to justify evermore draconian laws. In 1933, the Jews were removed from government service. In 1935, they were denied German citizenship. In 1936, they could no longer teach in public schools. In 1938, their assets were seized. 1 Etc., etc.
I contend along with Miller that the Drug War is just such another inexorable campaign of ever-increasing intolerance, targeted this time not against Jews, but rather against drug users, with the ultimate goal (spoiler alert) being the destruction of American democracy. Like the war on Jews, it is a bipartisan effort based on the perceived need to eradicate a scourge from the body politic. And like the war on Jews, the war on drug users is a bipartisan effort. On the left, we have Jesse Jackson who told America that drug dealers "should face wartime consequences." On the right, we have William Bennett, who called on government to seize the property and driver's licenses from drug users and subject them to public shunning. (82)
To his credit, Jackson eventually called for the end of the Drug War in 2011, 2 but cigarette junkie William Bennett continues to stubbornly call for the inhumane treatment of drug users, in between coughing fits, of course: "Cough-cough... Take away their... cough-cough... health insurance, damn them! Cough-cough!"
But Richard Miller obviously anticipated pushback from his comparison of Nazi Germany with Drug War America. That's no doubt why he opens the book with the following quote from Russian linguist Max Weinrich, written in 1946.
"Are the Jews the only minority that is threatened by Nazism and all it stands for? Is it too academic to ask: what minority is next to be singled out - or is it a group that is still to be molded into and elevated to the rank of a minority?" (1)
Personally, I don't see the problem with Miller's comparison. I say rather that we have a duty to raise a red flag when the processes that led to the Holocaust are underway in our own country. Besides, if Drug Warriors can call us scumbags and murderers without being accused of hyperbole, why is it over-the-top for me to suggest in turn that they themselves are Nazis? Even as I write this, the media and politicians are seeking new ways to turn Americans against drug users in the name of fighting drugs. True, there are attempts underway to medicalize the supposed drug problem, but everyone seems to agree that drug use is, indeed, a problem.
This brings me to my first of three criticisms of Miller's book. The only way that one could seriously question the analogy between Nazi Germany and Drug War America is by denying Miller's unspoken premise that drug use is normal, not pathological and/or immoral, as Drug Warriors would have it. And yet Miller provides little or no evidence to make that case. Through this omission, he leaves the wishy-washy impression that drug use is not a problem, exactly, but he never comes close to suggesting that drug use can be a positive good. He seems unaware of the fact that the Vedic religion was inspired by the use of a psychoactive substance, that the Inca considered the coca plant to be divine, or that Mayan ritual involved the ingestion of psychoactive mushrooms. He also fails to point out the fact that the philosophy of William James was inspired by altered states.
The war on drug users looks far more sinister in light of these inconvenient truths than it does when we look upon drug use as merely an unnecessary, but usually harmless, activity. Viewed in the light of history, the Drug War is, in fact, a war upon religious and academic freedom, and not simply a crackdown on irresponsible hedonists, as the Drug Warrior would have it.
My second criticism of Miller is that he fails to recognize that it's meaningless even to talk about "drug use," since drugs constitute such a wide range of substances, seemingly with nothing in common except for the fact that their use pisses off politicians.
Drug use is not merely okay or normal. Drug use can be beneficial in a host of ways that are only limited by our imagination. Psychedelics can inspire a love of music, morphine can generate a surreal appreciation of mother nature, MDMA can teach compassion (experientially, so to speak), and coca can provide the mental focus and stamina necessary to complete a difficult, time-sensitive task. We never consider such uses, of course, but only because we've been programmed from childhood to consider drugs to be bad. We are told, moreover, that we are infants with respect to such substances and could never, ever use them wisely - no, not at any dose, at any time, for any reason (and this in a country that preens itself upon its faith in science).
My third criticism of Miller's book concerns his failure to recognize a crucial fact: namely, that the war on drugs represents the establishment of a state religion, i.e., the religion of Christian Science. For there is no scientific or logical reasoning that compels me as a rational being, will-I or nill-I, to accept the conclusion that drugs are bad: that conclusion is rather the principle of faith upon which Mary Baker Eddy founded her church. This is yet another fact that places the Drug War in a far more sinister light than Miller could suggest by merely giving us the milquetoast assurance that drug use is not problematic. The persecution of drug users would still be objectionable in that latter case, of course, but the true Nazi-like evil of the Drug War cannot be fully appreciated without understanding these backstories and their implications, namely that, as already stated above, the Drug War is an attack on academic and religious liberty.
I had a fourth criticism, but then I realized that the book was published in 1996. Richard could not know then that the Drug War would eventually bring about the election of a Drug Warrior who wants to invoke the final solution to the so-called drug problem. If re-elected in 2024, Trump now plans to murder drug users. Talk about tough love. This is especially galling when one considers that Trump never would have been elected in the first place had millions of minorities not been removed from the voting rolls by drug law: laws which one now suspects were designed -- successfully it now seems -- to bring about just such Drug Warrior victories at the polls.
Still unconvinced about the Nazi nature of the war on drugs? Let's close with a quote from Chimney Pot William Bennett, drug czar during the Bush Administration. In the 1990s, this self-righteous nicotine addict was incensed by drug users - especially those who managed to lead normal lives without bothering anyone. It really teed him off apparently. I mean, if drugs really are evil, as Bennett maintains, then drug users should be having problems. If that's not happening, the users are setting the wrong example, and so it's up to good citizens to MAKE problems for these users! So, with that harebrained reasoning in mind, Bennett ascended the bully pulpit at the White House where he exhorted all good Americans (I almost typed "all good Aryans") to treat such problem-free drug users as follows.
"These are the users who should have their names published in local papers. They should be subject to driver's license suspension, employer notification, overnight or weekend detention, eviction from public housing, or forfeiture of the cars they drive while purchasing drugs." (7)
Jawohl mein Kommandant!
Links between Nazi Germany and Drug War America
Nazi Germany identified Jews with yellow stars; Drug War America identifies enemies of the state through drug tests. (4)
Nazi doctors were expected to report undesirables to the state; American doctors are expected to report positive drug screens to authorities. (184)
The Nazis kept broadening their definition of Jew, thereby creating more victims for the state to persecute; the Drug War keeps adding new drug laws to the books, thereby creating more victims for the state to persecute. (15)
The Nazis demonized their prey by calling them communists (62); Drug Warriors demonize their prey by calling them hippies, filth and/or scumbags.
Nazis portrayed Jews as the cause of most crime; Drug warriors portray drug users as the cause of most crime. Miller quotes an Arizona detective as follows: "Drugs, food stamps and guns are synonymous."(16)
The Nazis enriched themselves by plundering their victims; Drug Warriors enrich themselves by plundering drug users. The Charlottesville police claimed ownership of four different fraternity houses in the 1990s, citing (surprise, surprise,) drug use on the premises! 3
Nazi media censored history to support the dehumanization of Jews; Drug Warriors censor history to conform with Drug War ideology, as when Disney removed positive references to marijuana and LSD from "The Making of Sgt. Pepper." (25)
Nazis blamed Jews for urban blight, thereby holding their victims responsible for the damage inflicted by Nazi laws; Drug Warriors blame drug users for urban blight, thereby holding their victims responsible for the damage inflicted by drug laws. (24)
Nazi judges based a sentence on a pattern of conduct, not an individual act. The RICO statute allows American prosecutors to do the same. They can ignore the facts of an individual case in order to "send a message" to would-be drug users instead. (66)
Nazi scientists produced academic papers that put a scientific face on anti-Semitism; scientists in the age of the Drug War produce papers that put a scientific face on drug policy, chiefly by limiting research to abuse and misuse and never positive use. (26)
In Nazi Germany, civic duty was more important than civil liberties; in Drug War America, civic duty to fight drugs renders the details of a case unimportant." "One of the most brutal aspects of civic duty," Miller writes, "is its disregard of mitigating circumstances." (69)
Shops in Nazi Germany featured signs telling Jews to go elsewhere; shops in Drug War America feature signs telling drug users looking for work to go elsewhere. (89)
In Nazi Germany, it was considered criminal to criticize the state; in Drug War America, criticism is met by public ostracism and extrajudicial punishment. After an Idaho resident questioned marijuana laws in a letter to the editor, a local drug squad raided the letter writer's house and arrested the writer for possession of "marijuana stems." (40)
The Nazis could punish citizens for crimes they committed before the act in question was made illegal. Drug Warriors have sent drug users to jail using the same principle. (66)
Quotes from "Drug Warriors and Their Prey" by Richard Lawrence Miller
"Maryland's governor demanded the revocation of fishing licenses held by drug users."
"The 1991 Workplace Drug Testing Act... stated that employees fired on basis [sic] of false urine tests generally could not sue employers for damages, nor sue for defamation if the employer released false test results." (87)
"Those who make war on drug users criminalize the physical bodies of victims, and one's physical body is as inescapable as the genealogy that Nazis used to identify Jews. The crime of drug use is thereby a 'status crime.'"
"Rather than grant access to a drug [i.e. marijuana] that could improve the condition of people who are physically unfit, Drug Warriors demand that unfit people be rounded up and imprisoned." (71)
"Drug squads routinely get motel employees to provide guest lists that are then matched against a drug offender profile." (127)
"One Denver Continental Airlines clerk received $5,800 in finder's fees from federal drug agents." NOTE: Yes, law enforcement suborns airline employees to rat on fliers. The employee is just being a good citizen, of course, while making an odd buck while they're at it!
"The US Supreme Court has ruled that ordinary acts such as traveling on a Greyhound Bus are reasonable cause for a drug squad search of all passengers and luggage."
"In 1991, the US Supreme Court upheld the reasonableness of mandatory life imprisonment for simple possession of drugs."
5% of proceeds from the sale of the above product will go toward getting Brian a decent haircut for once. Honestly. 9% will go toward shoes. 50% will go toward miscellaneous. 9% of the remainder will go toward relaxation, which could encompass anything from a spin around town to an outdoor barbecue at Brian's brother's house in Stanardsville (both gas and the ice-cream cake that Brian usually supplies).
You have been reading essays by the Drug War Philosopher, Brian Quass, at abolishthedea.com. Brian is the founder of The Drug War Gift Shop, where artists can feature and sell their protest artwork online. He has also written for Sociodelic and is the author of The Drug War Comic Book, which contains 150 political cartoons illustrating some of the seemingly endless problems with the war on drugs -- many of which only Brian seems to have noticed, by the way, judging by the recycled pieties that pass for analysis these days when it comes to "drugs." That's not surprising, considering the fact that the category of "drugs" is a political category, not a medical or scientific one.
A "drug," as the world defines the term today, is "a substance that has no good uses for anyone, ever, at any time, under any circumstances" -- and, of course, there are no substances of that kind: even cyanide and the deadly botox toxin have positive uses: a war on drugs is therefore unscientific at heart, to the point that it truly qualifies as a superstition, one in which we turn inanimate substances into boogie-men and scapegoats for all our social problems.
The Drug War is, in fact, the philosophical problem par excellence of our time, premised as it is on a raft of faulty assumptions (notwithstanding the fact that most philosophers today pretend as if the drug war does not exist). It is a war against the poor, against minorities, against religion, against science, against the elderly, against the depressed, against those in pain, against children in hospice care, and against philosophy itself. It outlaws substances that have inspired entire religions, Nazifies the English language and militarizes police forces nationwide.
It bans the substances that inspired William James' ideas about human consciousness and the nature of ultimate reality. In short, it causes all of the problems that it purports to solve, and then some, meanwhile violating the Natural Law upon which Thomas Jefferson founded America. (Surely, Jefferson was rolling over in his grave when Ronald Reagan's DEA stomped onto Monticello in 1987 and confiscated the founding father's poppy plants.)
If you believe in freedom and democracy, in America and around the world, please stay tuned for more philosophically oriented broadsides against the outrageous war on godsend medicines, AKA the war on drugs.
PS The drug war has not failed: to the contrary, it has succeeded, insofar as its ultimate goal was to militarize police forces around the world and help authorities to ruthlessly eliminate those who stand in the way of global capitalism. For more, see Drug War Capitalism by Dawn Paley. Oh, and did I mention that most Drug Warriors these days would never get elected were it not for the Drug War itself, which threw hundreds of thousands of their political opposition in jail? Trump was right for the wrong reasons: elections are being stolen in America, but the number-one example of that fact is his own narrow victory in 2016, which could never have happened without the existence of laws that were specifically written to keep Blacks and minorities from voting. The Drug War, in short, is a cancer on the body politic.
Rather than apologetically decriminalizing selected plants, we should be demanding the immediate restoration of Natural Law, according to which "The earth, and all that is therein, is given to men for the support and comfort of their being." (John Locke)
Andrew, Christopher "The Secret World: A History of Intelligence" 2019 Yale University Press
Aurelius, Marcus "Meditations" 2021 East India Publishing Company