War Party Persists
Edward S. Herman
The War on Drugs
U.S. Nuclear Nightmare
GENDER & SEXUALITY
All Occupations Are Local
LESSONS & POTENTIAL
Deficits and Debts
Resistance In Occupied Iraq
Nicolas J.S. Davies
Agitate the Hood
Cultural Items of Note
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
The War on Drugs Has Become the War on the American People
Insisting that the “damage done by drugs is felt far beyond the millions of Americans with diagnosable substance abuse or dependence problems,” President Obama made October 2011 National Substance Abuse Prevention Month. However, while drug abuse and drug-related crimes have unquestionably taken a toll on American families and communities, the government’s own War on Drugs has left indelible scars on the population.
Indeed, although the Obama administration has shied away from using the phrase War on Drugs, its efforts to crack down on illicit drug use—especially marijuana use—have not abated. Just consider, every 19 seconds someone in the U.S. is arrested for violating a drug law. Every 30 seconds someone in the U.S. is arrested for violating a marijuana law, making it the fourth most common cause of arrest in the United States.
So far in 2011, approximately 1,313,673 individuals have been arrested for drug-related offenses. In 2009, police arrested an estimated 858,408 persons for marijuana violations. Of those charged with marijuana violations, approximately 89 percent were charged with possession only. Moreover, since December 31, 1995, the U.S. prison population has grown an average of 43,266 inmates per year, with about 25 percent sentenced for drug law violations.
The foot soldiers in the government’s increasingly fanatical war on drugs, particularly marijuana, are state and local police officers dressed in SWAT gear and armed to the hilt. These SWAT teams carry out roughly 50,000 no-knock raids every year in search of illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia.
As author and journalist Radley Balko reports, “The vast majority of these raids are to serve routine drug warrants, many times for crimes no more serious than possession of marijuana.... Police have broken down doors, screamed obscenities, and held innocent people at gunpoint only to discover that what they thought were marijuana plants were really sunflowers, hibiscus, ragweed, tomatoes, or elderberry bushes (it’s happened with all five).”
The Case of Philip Cobbs
Take the case of Philip Cobbs, an unassuming 53-year-old African- American man who cares for his blind, deaf 90-year-old mother and lives on a 39-acre tract of land that’s been in his family since the 1860s. On July 26, 2011, while spraying the blueberry bushes near his Virginia house, Cobbs noticed a black helicopter circling overhead. After watching the helicopter for several moments, Cobbs went inside to check on his mother. By the time he returned outside, several unmarked police SUVs had driven onto his property and police in flak jackets, carrying rifles and shouting, had exited the vehicles and were moving toward him.
Although the officers insisted they had sighted marijuana plants growing on Cobbs’s property (they claimed they found two spindly plants growing in the wreckage of a fallen oak tree), their real objective was clear—to search Cobbs’s little greenhouse, which he had used that spring to start tomato plants, cantaloupes, and watermelons, as well as asters and hollyhocks. The search of the greenhouse turned up nothing more than used tomato seedling containers. Incredibly, police had not even bothered to secure a warrant before embarking on their raid of Cobbs’s property—part of a routine sweep of the countryside in search of pot-growing operations that cost taxpayers upwards of $25,000, at the very least.
Thankfully for Cobbs, no one was hurt during the warrantless raid on his property. However, that is not the case for many Americans who find themselves on the wrong end of a SWAT team raid in search of marijuana.
The Case of Jose Guerena
On May 5, 2011, a SWAT team kicked open the door of ex-Marine Jose Guerena’s home during a drug raid and opened fire. Thinking his home was being invaded by criminals, Guerena told his wife and child to hide in a closet, grabbed a gun and waited in the hallway to confront the intruders. He never fired his weapon. In fact, the safety was still on his gun when he was killed. The SWAT officers fired 70 rounds of ammunition at Guerena—23 of those bullets made contact. Guerena had no prior criminal record and the police found nothing illegal in his home.
Tragically, Guerena is far from the only innocent casualty in the government’s War on Drugs. Botched SWAT team raids have resulted in the loss of countless lives, including children and the elderly. Usually, however, the first to be shot are the family dogs.
As Balko reports: “When police in Fremont, California, raided the home of medical marijuana patient Robert Filgo, they shot his pet Akita nine times. Filgo was never charged. Last October  police in Alabama raided a home on suspicion of marijuana possession, shot and killed both family dogs, then joked about the kill in front of the family. They seized eight grams of marijuana, equal in weight to a ketchup packet. In January  a cop en route to a drug raid in Tampa, Florida, took a short cut across a neighboring lawn and shot the neighbor’s two pooches on his way. And last May , an officer in Syracuse, New York squeezed off several shots at a family dog during a drug raid, one of which ricocheted and struck a 13-year-old boy in the leg. The boy was handcuffed at gunpoint at the time.”
Clearly, something must be done. There was a time when communities would have been up in arms over a botched SWAT raid resulting in the loss of innocent lives. Unfortunately, today we are increasingly accepting of the use of SWAT by law enforcement agencies for routine drug policing and the high incidence of error-related casualties that accompanies these raids.
What’s more, the government is providing incentives to the SWAT teams carrying out these raids through federal grants such as the Edward Byrne memorial grants and the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grants. As David Borden, the executive director of the Drug Reform Coordination Network (DRCNet), pointed out, “The exact details on how Byrne and COPS grants are distributed has not been studied, at least not to my knowledge, but an examination of grant applications by one of my colleagues found that they overwhelmingly focus on the number of arrests made, particularly drug arrests. Byrne grants also fund the purchase of equipment for SWAT teams.”
Unfortunately, while few of these raids even make the news, they are happening more and more frequently. As Borden notes, “In 1980 there were fewer than 3,000 reported SWAT raids. Now, the number is believed to be over 50,000 per year…. About 3/4 of these are drug raids, perhaps more by now, the vast majority of them low-level.”
Balko’s research reinforces this phenomenon. Based on more than a year’s worth of research and culled only from documented SWAT team incidents, Balko cites “40 cases in which a completely innocent person was killed. There are dozens more in which nonviolent offenders (recreational pot smokers, for example…) or police officers were needlessly killed. There are nearly 150 cases in which innocent families, sometimes with children, were roused from their beds at gunpoint, and subjected to the fright of being apprehended and thoroughly searched at gunpoint. There are other cases in which a SWAT team seems wholly inappropriate, such as the apprehension of medical marijuana patients, many of whom are bedridden.”
Not Always at War
Despite the government’s current fanaticism about marijuana, America has not always been at war over cannabis. In fact, in 1619, all farmers of the Jamestown colony were required to grow cannabis for rope and other military purposes. Over the next 200 years, a variety of laws required hemp harvesting. In some cases, landowners could be imprisoned for neglecting their duty to grow hemp. Oftentimes, a surplus of hemp could be used as legal tender, even for paying taxes. In 1850, there were 8,327 hemp plantations in the U.S.
It was only later, during the early 20th century, that the government embarked on an all-out assault on marijuana, largely due to corporate business considerations that favored the production of cotton over hemp and racist policies that tied Hispanics and blacks to marijuana use. For example, even though blacks only account for 15 percent of the drug-using population, the vast majority of drug arrests and convictions affect black drug users. Incredibly, more than 70 percent of prisoners convicted of nonviolent drug offenses are black or Latino.
The time has come to put an end to the government’s racially-weighted, militant war on marijuana. It is a failed, costly and misguided program that has cost the country billions. As critics rightly point out, the war on marijuana has also resulted in a massive increase in incarceration rates. According to Joe Klein, writing for Time, “We spend $68 billion per year on corrections, and one-third of those being corrected are serving time for nonviolent drug crimes. We spend about $150 billion on policing and courts, and 47.5 percent of all drug arrests are marijuana-related.”
Worse, the government’s War on Drugs seems to have actually exacerbated the drug problem in this country, funding criminal syndicates and failing to restrict its availability or discourage its use. Indeed, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health revealed that as recently as 2005, 58 percent of the public found marijuana readily available, with 50 percent of 12 to 17 year olds declaring it easy to get.
A growing number of legal scholars, including Bruce Fein, who served as a high-ranking Justice Department official during the Reagan administration, are calling for an end the prohibition on marijuana and treat it like alcohol by regulating and taxing it at the state level. Their rationale is that instead of allowing marijuana to flourish as a profitable black market crop, it should be taxed and regulated in a manner similar to tobacco and alcohol, which many in the medical community believe to be far more harmful than marijuana. Not only would that lessen violent criminal activity associated with the manufacture and sale of marijuana, but it would also provide an economic boost to ailing state and federal coffers. As it now stands, marijuana is the United States’ largest cash crop (it brought in an estimated $35 billion in 2005), with a third of this production coming from California—the state’s largest cash crop.
Repeal the Prohibition
Recently, over 500 economists—led by Nobel Laureate George Akerlof, Daron Acemoglu of MIT, and Howard Margolis of the University of Chicago—signed an open letter to the President, Congress, State Governors, and State Legislatures expounding the immense economic benefits of legalization. They pointed out that if marijuana sales were taxed at the same level as cigarettes and alcohol, the government would make up to $6.2 billion annually. Additionally, a repeal of the prohibition of marijuana would save federal, state, and local governments an estimated $7.7 billion annually by ending the need for enforcement of drug laws.
Acknowledging the medical benefits of marijuana, especially for those who suffer from Alzheimer’s, HIV/AIDS, and multiple sclerosis, 16 states, as well as the District of Columbia have also legalized it for medicinal purposes. Most recently, the California Medical Association, which represents more than 35,000 physicians statewide, called for the legalization and regulation of the plant.
As always, special interests have a lot to say in these matters, and it’s particularly telling that those lobbying hard to keep the prohibition on marijuana include law enforcement officials and alcoholic beverage producers. However, when the War on Drugs—aka the war on the American people—becomes little more than a thinly veiled attempt to keep SWAT teams employed and special interests appeased, it’s time to revisit our drug policies and laws.
John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated, and practiced in the area of constitutional law. This article originally appeared on the Rutherford Institute website.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.