Pubdate: Wed, 23 Mar 2016
Source: New York Daily News (NY)
Copyright: 2016 Daily News, L.P.
Author: Adam Edelman


THE "WAR ON DRUGS" was actually a political tool to crush leftist 
protesters and black people, a former Nixon White House adviser 
admitted in a decades-old interview published Tuesday.

John Ehrlichman, who served as President Richard Nixon's domestic 
policy chief, laid bare the sinister use of his boss' controversial 
policy in a 1994 interview with journalist Dan Baum that the writer 
revisited in a new article for Harper's magazine.

"You want to know what this was really all about," Ehrlichman, who 
died in 1999, said in the interview after Baum asked him about 
Nixon's harsh antidrug policies.

"The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, 
had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand 
what I'm saying," Ehrlichman continued.

"We knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or 
black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with 
marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both 
heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their 
leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them 
night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying 
about the drugs? Of course we did."

Ehrlichman served 18 months in prison after being convicted of 
conspiracy and perjury for his role in the Watergate scandal that 
toppled his boss.

The Rev. Al Sharpton said Ehrlichman's comments proved what black 
people had believed for decades.

"This is a frightening confirmation of what many of us have been 
saying for years. That this was a real attempt by government to 
demonize and criminalize a race of people," Sharpton told the Daily 
News. "And when we would raise the questions over that targeting, we 
were accused of all kind of things, from harboring criminality to 
being un-American and trying to politicize a legitimate concern."

In 1971, Nixon labeled drug abuse "Public Enemy No. 1" and signed the 
Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act, putting into 
place several new laws that cracked down on drug users. He also 
created the Drug Enforcement Administration.

By 1973, about 300,000 people were being arrested every year under 
the law - the majority of whom were African-American.

The drug war was continued in various forms by every President since, 
including President Ronald Reagan, whose wife Nancy called for people 
to "Just say no."

Ehrlichman's 22-year-old comments resurfaced Tuesday after Baum wrote 
about them in a cover story for the April issue of Harper's, titled 
"Legalize It All," in which he argues in favor of legalizing hard drugs.

The original 1994 interview with Ehrlichman was part of Baum's 
research for his 1997 book, "Smoke and Mirrors: The War on Drugs and 
the Politics of Failure," in which Baum laid bare decades of 
unsuccessful drug policy.

But the quotes never appeared in the book. Baum said Tuesday he 
excluded the jaw-dropping quotes because they "didn't fit."

"There are no authorial interviews in ('Smoke and Mirrors') at all; 
it's written to put the reader in the room as events transpire," Baum 
told The Huffington Post via email. "Therefore, the quote didn't fit. 
It did change all the reporting I did for the book, though, and 
changed the way I worked thereafter."

The shocking interview with Ehrlichman later surfaced in a 2012 
compendium of "wild, poignant, life-changing stories" from various 
writers titled "The Moment," but the quotes received little media attention.

Many politicos have surmised that Ehrlichman, who would die five 
years later, made the stark revelations because he was angry Nixon 
never pardoned him of his Watergate-related offenses.

Sharpton said the damage done by the war on drugs' cruel policies 
doomed generations of black people.

"Think of all the lives and families that were ruined and absolutely 
devastated only because they were caught in a racial net from the 
highest end reaches of government."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom