The war on drugs is aimed at the wrong culprits, based on the flimsiest information-and largely ineffective. Drugs are in any case a minor problem compared to other plagues afflicting mankind. Europe must not be sucked into this US-driven obsessionby Hugh O'Shaughnessy / December 20, 1997 / Leave a comment
Published in December 1997 issue of Prospect Magazine
How can I put this diplomatically to our newly appointed drugs tsar, Chief Constable Keith Hellawell? It is pretentious vanity of governments, international agencies or private lobbies to seek to suppress the supply of narcotics. They might as well attempt to reverse the oceans’ tides. They are wasting their time and our money in a chimerical operation riven by double standards. The supply of narcotics to those who want them and are prepared to pay for them is impossible to stop; the effort to mobilise the world in a “war on drugs” is ridiculous, particularly while so little is done to fight the damage wreaked by tobacco and alcohol.
Alcohol-like money, chess, country walks and treacle toffees-can bring great enjoyment to the human race when enjoyed in moderation. It has had a respectable place in most human societies over the ages, from the ancient Israelites to the Chibchas. It has woven itself into the culture of our own civili-sation from Homer and Moses to Shakespeare and Goya. Of course it is also the source of much excess, illness and misery, a drain on the National Health Service and a brake on productivity.
To presume that the social drinking of alcohol can be ended by government action is ridiculous. This was demonstrated in the 1930s when US federal authorities were obliged to outface the Christian Scientists and other enthusiasts for total abstention and repeal their country’s laughable legislation. Laws in favour of prohibition had been passed by a large majority in the US Congress and were repealed with an equally large majority. After almost 14 years, from January 1920 to December 1933, the US law enforcement agencies-or those of them which had not been thoroughly corrupted by brewers and distillers-returned to pursuing real crime.
Now history seems to be repeating itself-not, this time, in one country-but on a global scale and with drugs rather than alcohol as the target. The whole anti-drugs strategy is built on the flimsiest of intellectual bases. In the hall of mirrors which is the world of drugs, reliable statistics are hard to come by-the UN International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) is first to admit it. (Its officials confess that their efforts are powered by sentiment and politics, as they thrash around with scarcely a reliable statistic.)