Pubdate: Mon, 07 Sep 1998
Date: 07/09/1998
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Author: Thomas J. O'Connell M.D.

Editor -- During Bill Clinton's visit to China, a favorite theme has
been human rights, an area in which his qualifications are both
gilt-edged and wildly conflicting. As the American president, he
embodies the historic legacy of the Enlightenment, that 18th-century
philosophy which first articulated the idea that ordinary humans have
``rights'' and directly inspired this nation's revolutionary manifesto.

Although human rights have progressed unevenly and sometimes violently
in America, we have ultimately extended them to blacks, women, and the
poor -- at least in theory.

As our chief executive, Clinton also presides over a drug war which,
at American insistence, has become global policy. Since the end of the
Cold War, this policy has been responsible for more human rights
violations than any other. The critical insight necessary to reach
that conclusion: awarding a lucrative monopoly to a violent criminal
market is not sane public health, nor is diligent failure in pursuit
of that policy's irrational goals responsible government. The
unnecessary deaths, ruined lives and political corruption produced are
a matter of record.

When enough people develop the necessary insight, that record will
become an indictment of leaders who proclaim with religious fervor
that criminal prohibition is the only permissible policy and doubters
must be ``legalizers'' who wish to sell drugs to children.

History will not treat such leaders any more kindly than it has the
earlier advocates of an equally bogus policy: John C. Calhoun,
Jefferson Davis, or Roger B. Taney, for example.

San Mateo