The war on drugs.
Any stepped-up war on drugs, like most anticrime crusades, invariably diminishes the freedom of innocent citizens while leaving the criminals untouched. Those who doubt this can study the genesis of anticrime and antiterrorism bills down the ages, including the batch that have just been passed by congress. (The main factor in crime "waves" is demographics. Technically speaking, the fewer abortions, the more crime down the road.)
Antidrug campaigns tell us something about the Presidents who launch them. The consequences of Nixon's war on drugs, as Edward Jay Epstein's excellent Agency of Fear recounts, was G. Gordon Liddy and the infrastructure of the Watergate break -in. The outcome of Reagan's crusade, spearheaded by George Bush, has been, predictably enough, an avalanche of disinformation to the effect that drug smuggling into the United States is masterminded by Fidel Castro and the Sandinista directorate.
The disinformation technique is simplicity itself. Drug smugglers facing severe jail sentences have discovered that by claiming knowledge of the participation of Cuba and Nicaragua in their misdeeds they are likely to receive lenient treatment.
An example of this came this summer, in a story by Joel Brinkley in The New York Times for July 19. The headline read "U.S. Accuses Managua of Role in Cocaine Traffic," and the lead reported that an "affidavit, sworn testimony by an agent of the United States Drug enforcement Administration," claimed that the Sandinistas, specifically Frederico Vaughan, an aide of Tomas Borge, were involved with Colombians in drug smuggling. On the basis of the affidavit, Vaughan was indicted [see Joel Millman, ]False Connection," The Nation, September 22].
Now, the D.E.A. based its testimony on statements made by one of the genuine smugglers it had arrested. It is scarcely suprising that this smuggler should have said anything likely to increase his chances for a light sentence. But as Ronald Kuby and William Kunstler, on behalf of the Center for Constitutional Rights, pointed out to The Times (in a letter the paper did not see fit to publish), what is disturbing is the willingness of the D.E.A. "to clothe such patently unreliable testimony in a Government affidavit and the utter credulity with which the American press views the finished product. The . . . agent, of course, did not swear to the truth of the smuggler's statements but merely swore that the smuggler made them. Thusly are the words of an anonymous drug pusher transubstantiated into 'sworn testimony' fit for Times reportage."
Instead of talking about czars, Mondale should stay in character and charge that Reagan has allowed a fine all-American drug industry to go overseas to runaway sweatshops in Third World countries like Jamaica and colombia. A Mondale Administration will stand by the dope growers of Humboldt County and the sturdy refiners of the Northeast. A Mondale Administration will not hesitate to propose protectionist legislation to force foreign competitors to half drug dumping and to make them reflect the true costs of production, shorn of slave wages and government subsidies. A Mondale Administration . . . but you get the idea.