Hey, Mr. Jett: Remember Prohibition?
By Andrew Looney


To the Editors of the Washington Post:

I was appalled by Dennis Jett's call to resume drug interdiction flights in Peru and Colombia ["Remember the Drug War?", Outlook, Jan. 13]. I think the most tragic thing about the killings of Roni Bowers and her baby daughter Charity in Peru last spring is the way drug war hawks like Mr. Jett callously dismiss these deaths as "collateral damage" in an impossible and misguided "war."

Mr. Jett is right about one thing: America would like to forget the Drug War. It's a nightmare we're ready to wake up from. Since Sept. 11th, most Americans have been re-evaluating their priorities, and cherishing anew things they've long taken for granted, Freedom perhaps most of all. But the War on Drugs isn't about Freedom.

If the murderous deaths of an innocent American mother and baby were part of the price of Freedom, then that would be one thing. But it's not. It's part of the price of Oppression. After all, what is the War on Drugs but an effort by the government to suppress human behavior? And what is Freedom except the right to choose for yourself what to do with your own body? So why then do Freedom-loving Americans continue to tolerate marijuana prohibition in an era when it's become OK to advertise hard liquor on TV? The fact that the victims were Christian missionaries should also make these killings serve a wake-up call to concerned church-goers everywhere, since this violent policy is obviously very un-Christian.

We should NEVER be shooting down "suspicious" airplanes. How did we get from "innocent until proven guilty" to "shoot first and ask questions later"? How many more innocent lives must be destroyed by the War on Drugs before we will accept the fact that prohibition itself is a greater danger and worse evil than "drugs" could ever be?

The phrase "war on drugs" should only have been a metaphor -- like the war on poverty, a battle just as important as the "war" Mr. Jett laments is being forgotten in the wake of the war on terrorism. In fact, we'd probably be winning the war on poverty if we took away the Drug War's $20 billion annual budget and gave it to programs that help those who are in need. But I guess it's more important to scare kids away from pot than to make sure they get enough to eat.

Drug interdiction flights are like the Drug War as a whole: they fail at what they attempt to accomplish, and instead routinely destroy innocent lives. It is not that we should be resuming them, but that we should be questioning the Drug War as a whole. We should not be escalating this so-called "war" against substance abuse into a shooting war between the government and the gangsters it profits. Doing so just guarantees that more innocents like Roni and Charity Bowers will die in the crossfire. Did we learn nothing from alcohol prohibition? Apparently not.

The War on Drugs has been a colossal and destructive failure. To continue thinking it can ever be successful is to deny reality. Mr. Jett would like us to believe that drug interdiction flights can somehow be "effective," but we all know the obvious truth: drugs are everywhere. Anyone in this country who wants drugs can get them -- even the people we keep shoving into our overcrowded prisons. Prohibition simply doesn't work, and shooting down private planes is no way to fight a social problem like substance abuse. It just bloodies the hands of those with good intentions and makes us all feel like we are the Bad Guys.

We must not allow Roni and Charity's deaths to become meaningless. Their legacy should at least be the permanent end to this wretched policy of shooting down suspected airplanes, if not a re-evaluation of our entire anti-drug "strategy." Mr. Jett urges us to "Remember the Drug War." I urge him to remember Prohibition, and I urge everyone with "qualms" about the Drug War to remember Roni and Charity Bowers.

Yours in Anger and Disgust,
Andrew Looney

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