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Kingpins of Drug Legalization, Part 2
Part 2 of 2:
From the world of international finance, George Soros's contributions to the legalization movement are potentially even more significant than the entertainment industry's. His generous donations to the Drug Policy Foundation have been channeled through his Open Society Institute (OSI), an organ of his extensive Soros Foundation. The president of the Open Society Institute is Aryeh Neier, former executive director of the ACLU who also writes a human rights column for the left-wing The Nation magazine. Concerning Soros's donation, Neier said, " Soros doesn't think the drug war makes any sense from an economic standpoint. There's an enormous crime problem that is attributable to drugs, there are vast numbers of people in prison and people who are dependent on drugs." The Open Society Institute wishes to encourage these voices of dissent on prohibition, and additionally, seems to want groups like the DPF to move into the mainstream by stressing " treatment and humanitarian endeavors." What is Soros's interest in drug legalization? Ostensibly, it is purely humanitarian and libertarian, based on the anti-metaphysical philosophy of his former teacher, the positivist Karl Popper. Also his education at the London School of Economics, an institution founded to promote Fabian socialism, may have shaped his politics to something other than a simple respect for capitalism and democracy, as his foundation's literature claims. Soros may be a democrat, but in the spirit of Popper, he is no believer in the benefits of nationalism, judging from his hostility toward the conservative, nationalist party in his native Hungary. His philanthropy to the DPF could be of a piece with his other grants to Mandela's ANC and social democrats in Eastern Europe, and his creation of the Central European University. The Open Society Institute has also forged a deal with the U.S. government to expand and preserve the Research Institute of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in addition to starting a media training center. Its Health and Medical Program is involved in educating schoolchildren about drugs and alcohol, sexuality, AIDS and the environment, among other things. Perhaps the most chilling of the Institute's projects is one called "Project on Death in America." This is a description of the project as taken from the OSI's public relations literature:
"There has developed in contemporary American culture a profound dread of death and the process of dying. The goal of OSI's Project on Death in America is to understand and transform the forces that have created and now sustain the current culture of dying....Public school programs, consumer groups, media, and other forums will be used to facilitate public discussion of dying and bereavement. Finally, the project will work to influence government and institutional policies around this issue to improve the process of dying and bereave- ment in the United States....The project will support a faculty scholars program and symposia to encourage the development of special competencies related to the area of dying. "Soros himself explains the projects of the Open Society Institute and helps take us a step further in connecting his various goals:
"The OSI will directly administer programs involving research and public education as alternatives to law enforcement in dealing with the drug problem in the U.S.; research and public education on ways to help the dying end their lives with dignity, comfort, and freedom from pain...."Simply the shadowy nature of Soros's money-making ventures makes one suspicious of his good intentions. His Manhattan-based Quantum Fund, a hedge fund that bets on the devaluation of national currencies, is incorporated offshore in Curacao in order to avoid SEC regulations. Naturally, the reaction of several European central banks and governments to his habit of shorting their currencies has been resoundingly negative. He has been blamed for forcing the British pound off the European exchange-rate mechanism in 1992, as well as undermining confidence in other currencies. Judging from the power and influence he wields, one would do well to scrutinize his activities. He clearly has grand designs, and clearly he believes he can accomplish them. " I am sort of deus ex machina," he told an interviewer in reference to his activities. " I am something unnatural."
Soros helped former Princeton professor Ethan Nadelmann to establish the Lindesmith Institute in New York City, a think tank devoted to the legalization issue. Nadelmann, as an international relations theorist, has been extremely aggressive in promoting a justification for world-wide legalization. His articles crop up everywhere, in popular magazines like Rolling Stone and academic journals like Daedalus, and they all echo his essential message of the harm caused by reactionary prohibitionist regimes. In a 1990 article for the prestigious journal International Organizations he described the nature of "Global Prohibitionist Regimes" that focused on preventing piracy, slavery or drug trafficking. Throughout the piece Nadelmann implies that drug-taking is a normal, human compulsion that should not be discouraged. He concludes his article by suggesting that drug prohibition is doomed to failure because it is essentially impervious to law enforcement activity. Nadelmann is the very model of a Gramscite intellectual. At the DPF conference Trebach called him the " intellectual godfather" of the legalization movement, going so far as to say that " Ethan made me a full-scale legalizer."
Nadelmann's speech was a Gramscite call to arms. Although he clearly saw " Black Tuesday" (the Republican victory in Congress) as a set-back, still in his view public support for marijuana decriminalization is on the rise and the media is focusing on "the evils of prohibition." We must continue hammering prohibition as the root cause of the problem, he implored, as well as continue to emphasize the progress made by the Swiss, Dutch and others for legalization. (He never mentioned their recent setbacks in Europe.) And in a line that perhaps signals the cynicism of this movement, Nadalmann exclaimed that " even the black blessing of AIDS is helping us move forward. "His strategy was clear: " Make prohibition work on our terms, not their terms....Work within the mainstream to move it in the right direction." And like his fellow speakers, he kept with the theme that any step taken for "harm reduction" by the government is a move closer to legalization. DEA special agent Roques enjoys the analogy that a single minded focus on "harm reduction" is like "trying to win a war by only treating the wounded." Prevention programs, on the other hand, are trying to protect people from being wounded in the first place and are a necessary part of any offensive/defensive strategy.
"Defensive" strategist Mathea Falco, ex-assistant secretary of state for International Narcotic Matters during the Carter administration, works at least unwittingly with the movement in the mainstream. Now the president of an institute in Washington D.C. called Drug Strategies, Falco has argued for an end to aggressive supply-side approaches, preferring instead more education and treatment. " Education and treatment," like "harm reduction" approaches, happens to be the mantra of the legalization kingpins as well. She advances this argument in a book sponsored by the Twentieth Century Fund entitled Winning the Drug War and in a widely-publicized report from her institute entitled Keeping the Score. The thrust of her works forces drug problem solutions into a false dichotomy: either supply interdiction or demand reduction, but not both. Since supply efforts appear to be failing, its time to shift to demand. This is a highly flawed strategy as any drug warrior like Wayne Roques could tell you. According to its public relations literature, the well-connected Drug Strategies receives grant money from the ubiquitous Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Soros Foundation, and boasts of having on its board popular author Michael Crichton, president of the Children's Defense Fund Marian Wright Edelman, and former World Bank president and eminent Trilateralist Robert S. McNamara, among other notables.
Falco does not quite abandon supply, or " offensive" efforts, but she would weaken them considerably. In a recent piece published in Daedalus, Falco argues for less U.S. direct involvement in drug interdiction, and more international cooperation under the guise of the United Nations. "In many ways, the United Nations can work more effectively with drug source countries than the United States," she writes. "World opinion and resources channeled through the United Nations often have more impact than bilateral pressure because they are more politically acceptable." And in a statement that she probably now wishes she could take back: " special UN enforcement teams could assist governments which ask for help in attacking the traffic, in much the same way as UN peacekeeping forces now work to end civil strife in Yugoslavia and Cambodia." Falco's suggestions to essentially defang the American drug interdiction efforts present part of a concerted effort on the part of some international relations writers to deny that drugs can be considered a national security threat. Such a revelation would come as a considerable shock to well-respected strategists like Mao Tse-tung, who used narcotics to great effect against his nationalist enemies and American forces in South East Asia.
However, a recent publication by the Rockefeller-backed Council on Foreign Relations entitled Defining National Security puts the matter succinctly: " Domestic drug consumption is a societal ill that is not usefully defined as a national security problem....Drug trafficking should not be seen as the cause of domestic drug consumption and its concomitant problems and, therefore, it should not be viewed as a significant threat to national security." Just like many of the legalization kingpins, the author defines drug addiction as being a "disease" which suggests no free will on the part of the victims. With such a definition, naturally the amount of drugs that enter the market would have no consequences; those who suffer from the disease will use them, those who do not, will abstain. Legalization and Latin America Keeping with this theme, a single line in the 1988 Mexican/American relations book Limits of Friendship summed up the conventional wisdom among Latin Americanists on the drug issue. As Jorge G. Castaneda wrote in his half of the book: "Mexico does not have a drug problem; the United States does." Since the Reagan administration began to fight the drug war in earnest, books and articles have abounded whose presupposition was this single line by Castaneda.
Yet, rather than admitting that this drug problem may cause a security threat to the United States, these same writers have urged the U.S. to give up the war and concentrate on demand instead. One example of this current trend is Rensselaer Lee's 1989 book The White Labyrinth: Cocaine and Political Power. At the heart of this well-documented account of the South American drug war lies the thesis that vital American interests of promoting economic growth, enlarging democracy and even fighting Marxists guerrillas are being hindered by continuing with this war. He presents a convincing portrait of the Herculean task of fighting the intricate, determined and well-prepared drug lords of Colombia and Bolivia, but he leaves the reader with no clear sense of the policy alternatives. However, although he does not advocate legalization as the answer, he presents a strong case for it in his conclusion. Despite it all, he ends by suggesting that the United States would be better off encouraging economic and political development and de-emphasizing the drug war. Lee's tentative verdict notwithstanding, some prominent figures in Latin America have come forward to demand legalization. The former Colombian prosecutor general Gustavo de Greiff has argued for some variety of legalization on the editorial pages of the Washington Post. His message contains a certain gravitas because of his ostensible rigor in fighting the narco-traffickers in his homeland. For his "coming out" on legalization, de Greiff has become the toast of the legalization movement and the recipient of an award from the Drug Policy Foundation.
Despite the defeatism and legalizing sentiments of many within the Latin American studies community, one is beginning to see greater resolve on the part of Latin Americans themselves in fighting the drug war. According to James A. Inciardi, a well-known spokesman against legalization, there is no meaningful sentiment for legalization in neither Venezuela nor Colombia; instead, those countries are afraid that the United States is wavering in its commitment to the fight. Growing fears about the "narcodemocracies" in Columbia and Mexico from former DEA director Joseph Toft and Mexican investigator Eduardo Valle Espinosa may be galvanizing more resistance to the narcotraffickers. Presidents Zedillo Ponce de Leon of Mexico, Sanchez de Lozada of Bolivia and even Samper of Columbia are taking strong, or at least well-publicized, actions against narcotrafficking due to revelations of the corruption it has brought to the political systems. Additionally one might expect these actions to continue as Latin Americans become more aware of the growing drug use in their countries. Clearly Latin Americans see drugs as a security threat and a threat to extending the economic benefits of NAFTA throughout the region.
Capturing the Culture
The strategy of the Gramscite intellectual is to wage his war within the superstructures of civil society, in other words, to capture the culture. This could be done through media and academic sources, as we have seen above, but also through modes of entertainment. When one realizes this, the changes that have occurred in popular culture over the last four decades become more understandable. It is difficult not to notice, for instance, the extent to which drug-related themes have dominated movies and popular music since the 1960s. It is also hard to imagine an aspect of the dark side of popular culture that has been exposed in greater detail than the drug culture. Actors, musicians and other personalities that have succumbed to addiction and even death are not pitied, but are lionized by the media. Though the vehicle of endless talk shows they discuss in detail their lives with drugs and how they became "clean." The intended message is that this dissuades the public from drug use, even though an underlying message is that glamorous and attractive people enjoyed drugs for long periods and managed to pull themselves together with hardly a hair out of place.
Yale University law professor Steven B. Duke has suggested a reason for this cultural phenomenon. In a book entitled America's Longest War: Rethinking Our Tragic Crusade Against Drugs, he provides a valuable summary of the many legalization arguments currently being made. Particularly useful is one section entitled " Autonomy Costs" in which Duke and co-author Albert Gross list several reasons why drug prohibition is a blow to human freedom, citing its racism, elitism and even religious intolerance among prohibition's many faults. The book breaks no new ground, and repeats many of the time-tattered fallacies about successful programs in Europe. Yet it allows the reader a meaningful glimpse into the mind of the typical legalizer. Note for instance this passage on how prohibitionism maintains the status quo and suppresses new ideas: The 1960s, with its love-ins, flower children, sexual liberation and social protest, was a time of intellectual and moral ferment. Virtually every idea and every institution was questioned. One institution subjected to intense scrutiny was drug prohibition. The questioning was so effective that numerous states decriminalized marijuana, and virtually everyone between the ages of fifteen and thirty tried the drug. This social protest contributed greatly to progress in civil rights and put an end to the Vietnam war. Most of those who are now in control of the drug war were frightened by the sixties, and still are....Drug prohibition is motivated in part by a fear of the resur- gence of the essence of the sixties, which was social revolution.
Perhaps it is not surprising that Yale Law School professors still pine for the idealism of the sixties: as George Orwell wrote, there are some mistakes only intellectuals can make. A recent work by Myron Magnet does much to debunk the myth of the 1960s as a liberating decade. Much of the current problems we endure today--illegitimacy, homelessness, domestic violence, urban poverty--can be traced, according to Magnet, to the new culture of permissiveness promoted by sixties radicals and their allies in the intellectual communities. Their belief in the liberating power of drugs has been especially damaging to the underclass and has turned them into permanent, dependent " victims." Vogue magazine, perhaps not noted for exposes on weighty themes, recently outlined the connection between drugs and glamour and their potential influence on the young. In this revealing piece Charles Gandee points to the beginning of Hollywood's depiction of the drug world in films like The Man with the Golden Arm in 1955. Since the mid-fifties when the topic was regarded as scandalous, now movies about drugs and addicts are commonplace. Popular music started dealing with the drug issue by the mid-sixties, but has made up for lost time with an even more aggressive push.
Hardly regulated to the radio airwaves, this message about norming drug usage reached more young people with the advent of cable TV and Music Television (MTV) by the late 1970s and early '80s. According to Gandee, many of MTV's music videos adopt a "value-free" approach to dealing with the drug issue. The new trend that he notices, however, is how the drug culture is now permeating the message of the fashion industry, and how some famous models that are widely admired by girls and young women have publicly admitted their habit of, and indifference to, illegal drug use. Rolling Stone, the well-known broadsheet of the "mainstream" counterculture, devoted a May 1994 issue to the issue of drug legalization. It featured a lead piece co-authored by Ethan Nadelmann and the magazine's sybaritic editor Jann Wenner which predictably decried the "futile war on drugs." Other contributors described drugs like crystal methamphetamine (" ice"), a dangerous stimulant, in a typically "value-free" style. Such is the message this mass-circulation magazine sends to its young audience. But Rolling Stone is not the only culprit.
Scholastic Update, a magazine designed as a classroom tool to teach high school students about current event, shows us another way in which children may conditioned to a new "common sense." In its article entitled Where Do You Stand? one will find a highly biased argument in favor of legalization. The piece features highlighted quotes by teenagers saying that marijuana is harmless, as well as picturing marijuana "fashions." In addition it lists various popular television performers and rap musicians who have used and enjoyed marijuana in their shows. Of course, the only anti-legalizers cited in the piece are stodgy politicians. Two recent books by film critics have pointed to Hollywood's willingness to extend the counterculture's norms and values into the traditional mainstream culture. Of the two, Michael Medved's Hollywood vs. America is perhaps more optimistic about Hollywood's desire to change its message to correspond more closely with public attitudes. Although he mentions the 1988 star vehicle Tequila Sunrise as unusual in its depiction of charismatic and romantic drug dealers, other more recent films have stressed an anti-drug message. Richard Grenier is more pessimistic, and realistic, about Hollywood's intentions in Capturing the Culture, a book of reviews which he prefaces with a thesis that much of Hollywood is carrying out a Gramscite strategy to destroy traditional American norms. For Grenier, there must be an underlying reason why producers would back such counter-value pictures like Tequila Sunrise even though the public has made it clear that overt drug norming does not sell theater tickets. More financially successful are covert strategies like in the film The Big Chill which attempt to norm drug usage less obviously. The war for position, in other words, can be more effective than the war of maneuver. The drug legalization movement, deeply entrenched within intellectual circles and Hollywood smart set and perhaps gaining influence within schools and the media, could continue to have a major influence over the "common sense" of minority groups and young people.
What Do the Kingpins Have in Common?
In a DEA information booklet self-effacingly entitled How to Hold Your Own in the A Drug Legalization Debate, the question was asked, what motivated the legalizers? The following response was provided: Some of the media, certain quarters in academia and some frustrated Americans see legalization as an option which should be discussed. The panel discussed some of the factors possibly motivating advocates of legalization in order to appreciate the complexity of the debate. The group noted that many who advocate legalization are attempting to "normalize" the behavior of drug-taking and that many are people who have tried drugs without significant adverse consequences. Others see potential profit in legalizing drugs and still others simply believe that individual rights to take drugs should be protected. The group also acknowledged that the legalization concept appeals to people who are looking for simple solutions to the devastating problem of drug abuse.
No doubt all these motivations describe certain people within the movement, but these are by no means the entire list. It is tempting to see if one can find the common thread that links all those who have an interest in seeing the legalization movement succeed. This is difficult to do because not everyone who participates in the movement has the same end in mind. It is possible that many " marriages of conveniences" are struck for the sake of achieving limited goals, e.g., DPF conference attendees like the Families Against the Mandatory Minimum or ACT-UP may simply wish for sentencing reform or needle-exchange programs, etc. On the other hand, it is interesting to note that many of the legalizers have been long-time advocates of a stronger security state. For example, Patrick V. Murphy, perhaps the most visible law enforcement official in the movement, has pushed throughout his long career for both legalization and a national police force.
His Police Foundation had been funded during the 1970s by the Ford Foundation to study this issue. In a recent Washington Post op-ed piece, he repeated the usual legalization arguments about how the "war on drugs" has not worked, and called for legalization. In a rhetorical flourish typical among the legalizers, Murphy refers to the drug war as a "jihad." " During the Bush administration," Murphy writes, " the amount of money spent enlarging the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Agency, and on increasing the number of prisons, more than doubled from $3.5 billion to $9 billion. Yet it has not led to a commensurate reduction in the size of the drug trade."
Although an advocate of a national police force, clearly his advocacy does not extend to the ones currently in existence. Shadow players within the legalization movement are tax exempt foundations. Not just upstarts like the David Geffen Foundation or the Soros Foundation, but even "establishment" institutions like the Ford Foundation have been dependable money sources for legalization studies. During the 1970s Ford funded the Drug Abuse Council which recommended decriminalization, and it has also contributed to the Drug Policy Foundation more recently. This funding remains consistent with most of their projects that have endorsed statist solutions for all problem solving. It is hard to ignore the interconnections within the movement and what they might mean. Major foundations like the Ford Foundation that have been supporters of socialist causes and world government have commissioned studies favoring legalization. Other foundations promoting similar foreign policy objectives like the Twentieth Century Fund and the Rockefeller Foundation's Council on Foreign Relations have also funded studies that recommended revamping our entire approach to the issue, as we have seen above.
As the DPF conference demonstrated United Nations organizations like the World Health Organization have sponsored studies--with, in my opinion, highly suspect data collection techniques--that have favored legalization. Major international financiers like George Soros have donated money to the cause in the interest of " public debate" on the issue which apparently works within his larger objectives. Advocacy groups like the ACLU, long-time allies of international Communism, have pushed for legalization as a civil--and human--right issue. The homosexual community, closely aligned with the ACLU has committed money to drug legalization as well. This dedicated lobby has forged strong links to teachers' unions like the National Education Association and the medical community. Its recent push for health care reform clearly appears motivated in part by the need to treat the alarming drug addiction among homosexuals. The legalization kingpins, few in number, but highly visible and with powerful backing may be considered as part of a "counter hegemony" movement that continues to work to abolish limited government and democratic capitalism by undermining their moral foundation.
This is the Gramscite endgame. If they are successful, they will destroy the capacity of a large part of the population to even take care of itself, let alone participate in a deliberative democracy or a market economy. The squeeze on middle class and working people, the guardians of the system, will be two-fold: break a large percentage of them down with drugs, and then force the remainer to pay for their welfare. This should not be regarded as a conspiracy theory. These diverse groups cited above clearly share common interests. After all, they 1) hold in contempt the traditional Judeo-Christian norms of our culture, and 2) desire to advance statist solutions for any and all problems. They do not, however, need to conspire; their interests naturally draw them together. Those who wish to combat the kingpins ought to raise the level of debate to the moral issue. As the ancients remind us, happiness means some possession of the four cardinal virtues: courage, prudence, temperance, and justice. Drug use assaults all these virtues because it makes man more of a beast, a creature only concerned with physical desires. If we believe in the classical notion of politics as the search for the good regime, and that philosophy as the search for the good life, we could not easily arrive at a conclusion that these can be achieve through greater access to mind-altering substances.
Abandoning the wisdom the ancients, the legalization kingpins are the spiritual descendants of the utilitarian Jeremy Bentham, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud, all who reduced man to nothing more than bundles of idiosyncratic, materialistic and sexual desires. But they also return us to the pre-Socratic tradition of the Sophists, who taught rhetoric over reason. It is doubtful whether democracy under this philosophical conception today could sustain itself anymore than it could in the sophists's day. The state of legalization they describe would be a place fit not for men, but only for gods and beasts. Therefore, in the struggle against the legalizers' "counter hegemony,"one should first know the extent of the movement, its potential to do harm, and its likely agenda--the Gramscite endgame. Exposing the movement's various interconnected parts is key to this fight along with holding up to ridicule their abstract arguments. This will force the kingpins from their comfortable "war of position" in a dangerous "war of maneuver" which they know they cannot win. All along, one must reject the idea that legalization is merely a public policy choice, and continue to stress this as a moral battle for the lives of our children and for the soul of a good society. The culture war is winnable, but only if you know your enemy.