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Noam Chomsky on Drugs

Political Activist


Drug War intended to frighten people into obedience

The "war on drugs" was redeclared by Bush with a huge government-media propaganda campaign just in time to provide a pretext for the invasion of Panama to kidnap a thug who was convicted in Florida for crimes mostly committed when he was in CIA payroll. The "war on drugs" also had an important domestic component. Much like the "war on crime," it served to frighten the population into obedience as domestic policies were being implemented to benefit extreme wealth at the expense of the large majority, one part of broader processes to which we return.

The alleged threat was later transmuted from Drugsto narcoterrorism, exploiting opportunities offered by 9/11. By the end of the millennium, total US military and police assistance in the hemisphere already exceeded economic and social aid. That is a new phenomenon. Even at the height of the Cold War, economic aid far exceeded military aid.

Source: Hopes and Prospects, by Noam Chomsky, p. 56-57 , Jun 1, 2010

Drug War punishes Bolivia for promoting democracy

In Bolivia, efforts to promote democracy, social justice, and cultural rights, and to bring about desperately needed structural and institutional changes are, naturally, bitterly opposed by the traditional rulers: the Europeanized, mostly white elite in the eastern provinces, the site of most of the natural resources currently desired by the West.

To punish Bolivians, the Bush administration canceled trade preferences, threatening tens of thousands of jobs, on the pretext that Bolivia was not cooperating with US counter-narcotic efforts. In the real world, the UN estimates that Bolivia's coca crop increased 5% in 2007, as compared with 26% increase in Colombia, the terror state that is Washington's closest regional ally and the recipient of enormous military aid.

As discussed earlier, "drug wars" are curious affairs. The same is true of condemnation (and decertification) for alleged noncompliance with US demands on counter-narcotic efforts.

Source: Hopes and Prospects, by Noam Chomsky, p.215 , Jun 1, 2010

Drug war has focused on blacks and Hispanics

At home, fear of crime--particularly drugs--was stimulated by “a variety of factors that have little or nothing to do with the crime itself,” the National Criminal Justice Commission concluded. The results have been described by criminologists as “the American Gulag,” “the new American Apartheid,” with African Americans now a majority of prisoners for the first time in U.S. history, imprisoned at well over seven times the rate of whites, completely out of the range of arrest rates, which themselves target blacks far out of proportion to drug use or trafficking. Abroad, the threats were to be “international terrorism,” “Hispanic narcotraffickers,” and most serious of all, “rogue states.”
Source: Acts of Aggression, by Noam Chomsky, p. 28-29 , Jul 2, 2002

Poisoning crops & biodiversity justified as "war on drugs"

Listen to testimonies of poor peasants: the worst terror that they have suffered is from direct US terror, namely fumigation. Fumigation completely destroys their lives. It destroys their crops; it kills their animals.

These are poor coffee farmers, mostly. Once the coffee trees are destroyed and the land is fumigated & poisoned, it's poisoned forever. Not only are lives destroyed and crops, but biodiversity is also destroyed, and rather crucially, the tradition of peasant agriculture is destroyed.

The fumigation is officially justified as a "war on drugs." This is hard to take seriously except as a cover for a counterinsurgency program, and another stage in the long history of driving peasants off the land for the benefit of wealthy elites and resource extraction by foreign investors.

The consequence is that if this area ever goes back to agriculture, it will be monoculture for agro-export with laboratory-produced seeds, bought from Monsanto. There's no real other alternative.

Source: Power and Terror, by Noam Chomsky, p. 69-70 , May 25, 2002

Drug use is falling anyway; drug war is fraudulent

The utterly fraudulent war on drugs was undertaken at a time when everyone knew that use of every drug-even coffee-was falling among educated whites, and was staying sort of level among blacks. The police obviously find it much easier to make an arrest on the streets of a black ghetto than in a white suburb. By now, a very high percentage of incarceration is drug-related, and it mostly targets little guys, somebody who’s caught peddling dope. The big guys are largely ignored.

Drug-related crimes, usually pretty trivial ones, are mostly what’s filling up the prisons. I haven’t seen many bankers or executives of chemical corporations in prison. People in the rich suburbs commit plenty of crimes, but they’re not going to prison at anything like the rate of the poor.

Source: The Common Good, interviews by David Barsamian, p. 35 & 38 , Feb 7, 1997

Drug War is an excuse for US military intervention abroad

Now when some client state complains that the US isn’t sending it enough money, they no longer say “we need it to stop the Russians,”-rather, “we need it to stop drug trafficking.” Like the Soviet threat, this enemy provides a good excuse for a US military presence where there’s rebel activity or other unrest.
Source: What Uncle Sam Really Wants, by Noam Chomsky, p. 82-83 , Jan 13, 1991

Target tobacco & alcohol instead of marijuana

At the time the drug war was launched, deaths from tobacco were estimated at about 300,000 a year, with perhaps another 100,000 from alcohol. But these aren’t the drugs the Bush administration targeted. It went after illegal drugs, which had caused many fewer deaths-3,500 a year.

The administration also targeted marijuana, which hadn’t caused any known deaths among some 60 million users. In fact, the crackdown exacerbated the drug problem.

Source: What Uncle Sam Really Wants, by Noam Chomsky, p. 83-84 , Jan 13, 1991

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Page last updated: Jul 06, 2014