Smoke and Mirrors: The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failureby Dan Baum
For sheer government absurdity, the War on Drugs is hard to beat. After three decades of increasingly punitive policies, illicit drugs are more easily available, drug potencies are greater, drug killings are more common, and drug barons are richer than ever. The War on Drugs costs Washington more than the Commerce, Interior, and State departments combined - and… See more details below
For sheer government absurdity, the War on Drugs is hard to beat. After three decades of increasingly punitive policies, illicit drugs are more easily available, drug potencies are greater, drug killings are more common, and drug barons are richer than ever. The War on Drugs costs Washington more than the Commerce, Interior, and State departments combined - and it's the one budget item whose growth is never questioned. A strangled court system, exploding prisons, and wasted lives push the cost beyond measure. What began as a flourish of campaign rhetoric in 1968 has grown into a monster. And while nobody claims that the War on Drugs is a success, nobody suggests an alternative. Because to do so, as Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders learned, is political suicide. Dan Baum interviewed more than 175 people - from John Ehrlichman to Janet Reno - to tell the story of how Drug War fever has been escalated; who has benefited along the way; and how the mounting price in dollars, lives, and liberties has been willfully ignored. Smoke and Mirrors takes you right into the offices where each new stage was planned and executed, then takes you to the streets where policies have produced bloody warfare. This is a tale of the nation run amok - in a way the American people are not yet ready to confront.
Baum, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, traces American drug policy back to the presidency of Richard Nixon, when several eager young aides were given the opportunity to turn their personal contempt for drugs into national policy. Despite several studies that recommended the legalization of marijuanain 1969 more Americans died per year by falling down stairs than from a drug overdoseNixon's team declared marijuana public enemy number one. Baum traces a connection between an attack on marijuana use in Vietnam and the sharp increase of heroin use among the soldiers, a habit with far greater consequences once they brought it home. The war on drugs grew with each new president, swelling prison populations and shrinking school budgets, though the number of deaths due to drug use remained low. Baum can scarcely mask his contempt for the methodology used by these early drug czars, and his sarcasm toward Nixon's boys and their successors, the "Bennettistas," is ugly. Baum's scrutiny of the truth behind the drug hysteria, however, is impeccable, and the second half of the book serves as a horrifying catalogue of a bloated policy run amok. Baum details several cases where individuals were murdered in their homes by overzealous police; the investigations had been spurred by rumors. Baum theorizes that Los Angeles millionaire Donald Scott may have been killed because local drug agencies were eager to take over his beautiful ranch. In 1991, 80 percent of people who had property confiscated were never formally charged with a crime. And routine police use of drug-sniffing dogs can also lead to false accusations: The Pittsburgh Press found in 1991 that 96 percent of the US currency in use was tainted with enough cocaine to make the dog respond.
A passionate salvo in the bitter debate over drug policy.
- Little, Brown & Company
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- 5.50(w) x 8.12(h) x 1.00(d)
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