Pubdate: Tue, 05 Apr 2016
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA)
Copyright: 2016 PG Publishing Co., Inc.


Nixon's Drug Assault Hurt Blacks and Dissidents

Did Richard Nixon create the war on drugs as a political tool to 
attack African-Americans and dissidents? A Nixon aide claimed as 
much, and it would not be surprising.

Mr. Nixon's paranoia was well known, even before he left office in 
disgrace in 1974. He divided the world between friends and enemies. 
Blacks and left-wing war protesters were clearly in the latter camp.

An article about the war on drugs in this month's Harper's magazine 
cites a 1994 interview the writer conducted with John Ehrlichman, the 
former Nixon domestic policy chief, who characterized the 
administration's policies as an intentional assault on people. "By 
getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks 
with heroin ... and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt 
those communities," said Mr. Ehrlichman, who died in 1999.

Mr. Nixon launched the war on drugs in 1969. He appeared to 
understand that his policies against illicit drugs were really a war 
against people. Whether or not Mr. Nixon intended to target specific 
groups, African-Americans, along with young and poor people in 
general, have borne a disproportionate share of the casualties in the 
war on drugs.

In 1971, Mr. Nixon called drug abuse "Public Enemy No. 1." He signed 
new laws that cracked down on users and created the Drug Enforcement 

By 1973, hundreds of thousands of drug users, most of them 
African-American, were arrested under the new laws.

The war on drugs also contributed mightily to raising the U.S. prison 
population more than eightfold. Since the Nixon years, the tab for 
the war on drugs has run up to an estimated $1.5 trillion. Yet 
addiction rates are higher today than in 1969.

Fortunately, today's epidemic of opioid and heroin addiction has 
marked a dramatic shift in public attitudes and policies on drugs. 
Both liberals and conservatives understand that drug addiction is a 
disease that must be treated.

Forty years after Richard Nixon, Americans are beginning to outgrow 
the metaphor of war. They have discovered treatment. A lot of people 
have suffered in the meantime.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom