Pubdate: Fri, 13 Jun 2003
Source: DrugSense Weekly
Author: Stephen Young
Note: Stephen Young is an editor with DrugSense Weekly and the author of 
"Maximizing Harm: Winners and Losers in the Drug War."


"We believe we have turned a corner, particularly with the coca crop, in 
Colombia." - Paul E. Simons, the U.S. State Department's top 
counternarcotics official, quoted by the Associated Press June 3, 2003 - 

For at least 30 years, the United States has repeatedly turned corners in 
the drug war.

Back in 1973, it was President Richard Nixon who metaphorically strolled 
down the street of drug policy before veering off at an intersection.  "We 
have turned a corner on drug addiction," said Nixon.

With all the 90-degree directional shifts announced since then, the 
prohibitionists can't help but be a bit disoriented. Grab a compass if you 
want to keep your own bearings.

In 1999, it was former drug czar Barry McCaffrey, proclaiming that 
adolescent drug use "has just turned the corner."

Sounding even more sure that same year was President Bill Clinton's Health 
Secretary, Donna Shalala: "Last year, I optimistically told you that in the 
fight against illicit drug use, we may have finally turned the 
corner.  Well this year's survey definitely shows that we've not only 
turned the corner, we're heading for home plate." The umpire, it seems, did 
not rule favorably.

The previous President Bush said in 1990: "I can tell you that our drug 
czar had a good report to the Nation the other day, showing that we've 
turned the corner, that we're making progress in our war against drugs." 
The drug czar at that time, William Bennett, actually overshot the drug 
corner by a few steps and turned at a casino entrance instead - strictly to 
savor the second-hand tobacco smoke.

These are but a few of the corners turned in the drug war through the 
years.  Simply do a Google search on "drug" and "turned the corner" to find 
drug warriors famous and unknown rapturously describing that quick pivoting 
sidestep leading to a drug-free utopia.

But the promised land remains distant.

When I read corner quotes, I envision uptight, well-groomed narc versions 
of R.  Crumb's "Keep on Truckin'" cartoon character ( ), always stretching one 
optimistic foot toward the future, even if it's locked in place, never 
really going anywhere.

But worse than standing still, or simply walking around the block and 
returning to the same place, each new corner of the drug war takes society 
into increasingly hazardous realms.

At least that's how I interpret it.

The appeal of the corner metaphor lies in its vagueness. It doesn't really 
mean anything.  "Turned a corner" implies significant but non-specific 
progress towards a goal even though the goal remains unattainable.

The phrase might be appropriate in some situations, but to repeat the same 
lame line over 30 years is an insult to the public, especially with the 
number of new drug crises appearing throughout those three decades.  The 
overuse of "turned a corner" demonstrates the shallow historical knowledge 
of most anti-drug professionals.

Or perhaps the prohibitionists are eager to turn new corners because they 
don't want to face the disastrous truth about the drug war as it stands 
right in front of them. If they could resist the urge to turn and instead 
face the ugliness head on, they might realize it's time to follow a 
straight path away from the drug war.

Even one more turn around one more corner represents nothing but another 
dangerous detour.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake