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Ideology Cola Award 2004 BEST DOCUMENTARY: The War on Drugs director Frank Wiering, producer Cristina Berio
A question arises from viewing this new Dutch documentary, filmed largely on the US East Coast and in English, on the so-called US war on drugs - does fascism work to make this a better world? If any lessons are to be learned from recent history, the answer is an obviously resounding No. In the film, one police officer tells of seizing gold teeth from the mouths of drug suspects to add to his collection. What does that remind you of?
The film differs from the more sensational approach taken by most US media to the same subject. "The War on Drugs" is thoughtful, methodical and serious. It doesn't show us just one hapless victim as US media usually do, but tries to portray the entire system, from Congress, to judges, to DAs, all mired in this corrupt enterprise. It takes you from the cops on the beat chasing small time street dealers, seizing the cars of people who purchase powdered flour from police posing as drug dealers, to the new private prison industrial complex reaping profits from it, to the terrible waste and havoc this war creates in poor communities. These are all aspects of shifting the burdens of society to the poor and working classes that our systematic capitalist social structure regularly practices.
"The War on Drugs" touches on increasingly familiar aspects of this far-reaching trade. The fact is that most of the victims of this war are the users, small time dealers and others caught in its web, rather than those that really benefit: the cartels, the big time dealers, the banks, the government agents, prison guards who smuggle drugs into prison, aspects of the judicial system, and the private prisons systems now listed on stock exchanges as a great growth industry to invest in.
For many in government today the drug war is seen as a win-win situation. Politicians make points with voters who might be seriously concerned with drug abuse. DAs, lawyers and others guarantee themselves jobs. Entire police departments get their funding from allegedly drug-related seizures of cars, property, businesses and cash from often completely innocent people. Such seizures have been written into law as civil matters so the state need not prove one guilty; just a thread of suspicion is enough. Victims of such seizures then have the burden of proving they are not guilty.
Joanne Page of the Fortune Society, a group that assists people coming out of prison, tells of the great impact this war has had on women. Women never used to go to prison for minor drug offenses but now they are going in great numbers for long terms. I recently saw some best and "honestly real" interviews in Larry Flint's "Jail Bait" videos of women that have been in prison. (I had to do some research for this piece). Common denominators are drugs (largely meth), boyfriends who are users or dealers, and how this illegal part of their lives led them to other crimes and prison, often leaving children in the care of the women's parents or the state. Now there are laws that require anyone from doctors to social workers to report to the state as child abusers any mothers they think are doing drugs The result is that while the mothers are in prison the children face the hazards of foster homes. This raises the question of who are the real child abusers?
Eric Sterling, former council for the House Judiciary Committee, rues the day he had anything to do with writing the Federal drug mandatory sentencing guidelines. He is haunted by all those who have been committed to prison for long periods of time up to life with no parole for minor drug offenses. He states that these rules were written into law at the last minute, with no testimony or hearings, becoming the bases for wrecking many individual lives as well as entire communities.
He shows the official statistics, drugs are cheaper and more plentiful, that there has been no broad diminishment in drug use, in fact for some drugs its risen but there has been a massive increase in imprisonment, social chaos and a real diminishment in basic civil liberties. One doesn't know what walk of life may require a urine test to prove oneself innocent. Not exactly what the US Constitution says. He tells of the 30 billion dollars spent on prisons recently while over 4 million drug addicts cannot find treatment because it just isn't made available. The California Prison Guard Union has become one of the most powerful unions and lobbying groups in the State and uses that power to get more funding for prisons. Some communities' livelihoods are based on an increasing prison population. The drug war has turned doctors, teachers and children into informants for the State. Again we ask, what does this remind you of?
To go back to the first question "does fascism work?" It certainly doesn't work for the mass of peoples but for the fascist it does have its successes. Unless we are to assume the entire governmental structure is made up of incompetents, all the evidence shows that the so-called drug wars were not about eliminating drugs and drug addictions but about a broader agenda of a brutal social control.
VPRO TV production (Holland) - directed by Frank Wiering and produced by Cristina Berio.
How many people are actually killed by drugs?
The number of drug deaths in the US in a typical year is as follows:
· All illegal drugs combined kill about 4,500 people per year, or about one percent of the number killed by alcohol and tobacco. Tobacco kills more people each year than all of the people killed by all of the illegal drugs in the last century.
Source: NIDA Research Monographs
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