Source: The Globe and Mail
Pubdate: Tue, 09 Jun 1998
Author:  Terence Corcoran


WHEN U.S. President Bill Clinton appeared yesterday before a special
United Nations General Assembly session on illegal drugs, there was
virtually no hope that he would heed a growing number of critics --
from libertarian economist Milton Friedman to conservative William F.
Buckley and Canadian leftists Clayton Ruby and Alexa McDonough -- who
are calling for a moratorium on the catastrophic war on drugs. Instead
of ending the war, which is causing more grief and havoc than the
drugs themselves, Mr. Clinton renewed the campaign, pledged more money
and urged members of the UN to accelerate their efforts to eliminate
illegal drugs throughout the world. "We stand as one against drugs. No
nation is so big that it can conquer drugs alone," he said. "None is
too small to make a difference. All of us share a common
responsibility to defeat this common threat."

It was classic anti-drugism, of which the world will hear more over
the next couple of days as the UN cranks up the rhetoric and commits
to another assault on illicit drug use and the drug industry. For an
agency created in 1945 to further the cause of world peace, the UN is
involved in a surprisingly large number of wars -- now on people
rather than among nations. There's the war on fossil fuels to save the
world from climate change, a war on population growth to save the
world from famine and overpopulation, an emerging war on tobacco and
smoking, and the war on drugs, which comes closest to mimicking a
military operation.

The consequences of the expanding drug war are already well known and
obvious: Hundreds of thousands of people are in jail, civil rights are
under attack, cities are being turned into war zones, police forces
are growing increasingly militarized, juveniles are being entrapped
into drug deals, a global criminal class is thriving on the estimated
$400-billion (U.S.) industry, new health hazards and disease risks are
proliferating. In petitions sent to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan,
more than 500 people, many with significant public profiles and from
diverse ideological and professional backgrounds, concluded that "the
global war on drugs is now causing more harm than drug abuse itself."

A few hundred signatures won't change the UN, but the growing number
of enlightened opponents of the war on drugs, and their diversity,
must be taken as a sign that momentum is building for a change in
attitudes and policy. The politicians have yet to catch the message,
however. Self-evident though it may be that the war on drugs is an
expanding global tragedy, the UN special session this week aims to
expand the war.

Most of the new effort is designed to repair crises created by
existing anti-drug laws and enforcement measures. One item on the
agenda is money laundering, a multibillion-dollar business that exists
solely because of the criminalization of drugs. Seizing drugs and
incarcerating thousands of people doesn't work, the UN paper on money
laundering says, because it "has limited impact on overall trafficking
and abuse of illicit narcotics." In other words, the war is failing:
Prices are high and the money keeps flowing to the government-created
criminal class who have developed efficient systems to move vast sums

It may be time for a few business leaders to take up the cause against
the UN. Typically, the UN has inflated the magnitude of the
money-laundering problem -- as it has with drug use itself -- to
extract more powers for police and state authorities to search, seize
and otherwise infringe on business activities and civil liberties. To
secure support for more government intervention into business and
individual transactions, the UN claimed the financial system is at

stake. "The money laundering derived from illicit drug trafficking, as
well as from other serious crimes, has become a global threat to the
integrity and stability of financial and trading systems."

More media attention to the war's consequences is also needed. The
Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy, leading the Canadian campaign to
end the drug war, found other examples of the control mentality
building within the UN. The 1997 annual report of the UN's
International Narcotic Control Board wants governments to mount a
censorship blitz to "curb the showing by public broadcasting media,
such as the press, radio, film and television, of favourable images of
drug abuse," including hemp and marijuana.

Never mind freedom of speech or expression, the UN says -- this is a
war. Governments of countries where rights to free speech exist "may
need to reconsider whether unrestricted access to and the propagation
of such information are detrimental to the social and health
conditions of their populations." To bring the media into line, the UN
board suggests "voluntary codes of conduct" that would "limit
irresponsible statements that are sometimes made and encourage a more
balanced approach to dealing with the issues of drug abuse."

The greater the UN effort to create a mythical drug-free society, the
more oppressive its methods will become. It's time to start looking at


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