By GENE HOWINGTON
“This thing, what is it in itself, in its own constitution? What is its substance and material? And what its causal nature [or form]? And what is it doing in the world? And how long does it subsist?” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, VIII – 11
“All war is deception.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War
As previously discussed, “we need to differentiate between the terms ‘strategy’ and ‘tactics’. Strategy is defined in relevant part by Webster’s as ‘the science and art of employing the political, economic, psychological, and military forces of a nation or group of nations to afford the maximum support to adopted policies in peace or war’. Tactics, by contrast, is defined in relevant part by Webster’s as ‘the art or skill of employing available means to accomplish an end’ and ‘the study of the grammatical relations within a language including morphology and syntax’. By better understanding the tactics of propagandists, you not only gain a certain degree of immunity from their influence, but insight into their strategic ends.”
Today we will address strategy and tactics in the form of a case study. The context is the so-called “War on Drugs” and state’s efforts to legalize marijuana for medical and recreational use. The strategy is to exacerbate so called drug crime violence by obliquely attacking the burgeoning states effort to legalize marijuana and those who trade in legal marijuana by deliberately putting them at risk. The primary tactic in question is misdirection. When analyzing propaganda, it’s important to ask who brings the message, what do they want me to think, why do they want me to think it and how do they benefit? The leader of this campaign against the American people? United States Attorney General Eric Holder. Let’s examine the what, why and who benefits from what Mr. Holder wants you to think.
LEGAL HISTORY, ECONOMICS, AND CULTURAL CONTEXT
Although preceded by a smattering of local laws and the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914 at the Federal level, prohibition via the 18th Amendment in 1919 and the Volstead Act of 1920 which were subsequently repealed by the 21st Amendment in 1923, the term “War of Drugs” entered the American lexicon in 1971 when used by Richard Nixon to (accurately) describe his continuation and expansion of policies started under the Harrison Narcotics Act via the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. The Controlled Substance Act classified marijuana as a Schedule I drug with a high potential for abuse and no acceptable medical use. In 1982, then Vice President (and former CIA director) George H. W. Bush began pushing for the involvement of the CIA and U.S. military in drug interdiction efforts. The War of Drugs was being escalated in earnest. Many programs were started as cooperative ventures between the U.S military, the DEA and the CIA and foreign powers, resulting in billions of dollars flowing from the U.S. and into drug producing countries like Columbia, Mexico, Honduras and Panama – including the “stealth invasion” of Panama to overthrow former CIA front man, dictator and drug runner Manuel Noriega in Operation Just Cause. Many laws were passed, including the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 (Orwell wept) that included the Sentencing Reform Act.
Many people are outraged by the Federal and state government using private for profit prisons even though both have a long history of contracting out specific services to private firms, such as medical services, food preparation, vocational training, and inmate transportation. However, in the wake of the Comprehensive Crime Control Act and its included Sentencing Reform Act, the 1980′s saw explosive growth in the private prison industry. With traditionally government operated prison populations filled to overflowing by the War on Drugs and the mandated increased use of incarceration, overcrowding and ballooning costs became increasingly used by all levels of government as a rationale for outsourcing prisons to the private sector. Recognizing a gravy train when they saw it, private business interests moved from providing the simple (and reasonable) contracting of services to contracting for the complete management and operation of entire prisons in what they call in the business world (again, the irony) a turnkey solution.
The ink was hardly dry on the Sentencing Reform Act when in 1984 the Corrections Corporation of America was awarded a contract to take over a facility in Hamilton County, Tennessee to become the nation’s first jail completely run by a for profit private provider. Anyone with any experience in the business world knows this kind of on the spot preparedness comes at a significant investment and doesn’t happen by accident. This marked the first time that any government in the country had contracted out the complete operation of a jail to a private operator. Along with the Corrections Corporation of America, there other major players in the private prison industry such as the GEO Group, Inc. (formerly Wackenhut Securities) and a host of smaller companies. In 2011, Corrections Corporation of America posted $162,510,000 in net profits, the GEO Group posted $77,500,000 in net profit for that same period.
America now boasts the largest number of prisoners and the highest percentage of prisoner per capita of any nation on Earth. At 717 inmates per 100,000 citizens, the U.S. far outpaces No. 2 China with 119 inmates per 100,000. However, that’s just raw number of prisoners. When population disparity is taken in to account, China places 113th. With less than 5% of the world’s population, America houses 25% of all the prisoners on Earth. While the bulk of this is due to drug incarcerations, don’t think that those who benefit from a police state are resting on their laurels. Greed never sleeps. The newest and most rapidly growing segment of the incarcerated for profit people are illegal immigrants.
It should also be noted that the Comprehensive Crime Control Act rewrote asset forfeiture guidelines for drug arrests. The DOJ’s coffers benefited greatly from its passage into law. According to a special report for PBS’ “Frontline” entitled “Reining in Forfeiture: Common Sense Reforms in the War on Drugs ” by Kyla Dunn:
It was the passage of the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984, part of the Reagan-era ramp-up in the war on drugs, that first made this possible. At a federal level, the law established two new forfeiture funds: one at the U.S. Department of Justice, which gets revenue from forfeitures done by agencies like the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and another now run by the U.S. Treasury, which gets revenue from agencies like Customs and the Coast Guard. These funds could now be used for forfeiture-related expenses, payments to informants, prison building, equipment purchase, and other general law enforcement purposes.
But equally important, local law enforcement would now get a piece of the pie. Within the 1984 Act was a provision for so-called “equitable sharing”, which allows local law enforcement agencies to receive a portion of the net proceeds of forfeitures they help make under federal law–and under current policy, that can be up to 80%. Previously, seized assets had been handed over to the federal government in their entirety.
Immediately following passage of the Act, federal forfeitures increased dramatically. The amount of revenue deposited into the Department of Justice Assets Forfeiture Fund, for example, soared from $27 million in 1985 to $644 million in 1991–a more than twenty-fold increase. And as forfeitures increased, so did the amount of money flowing back to state and local law enforcement through equitable sharing.” [emphasis added]
To be precise, that would be an almost twenty-four-fold (23.85) increase in six years that can charitably be described as an outrageous return on investment.
To further refine the context to the current battle over the push to legalize marijuana, it is also important to note the Marijuana Transfer Tax Act of 1937 as a primary driver in the criminalization of marijuana. Many scholars and observers of the marijuana culture in this country claim that the primary motivation of those who supported the Marijuana Transfer Tax Act was their own personal profits. Who were the forces driving that legislation? Businessmen Randolph Hearst, Andrew Mellon, and the Du Pont family figure prominently in the picture.
Hemp was (and is) a very cheap substitute for the wood pulp paper pulp used in the newspaper industry (and elsewhere). As an aside, it also makes a higher quality, lower acid paper that is more durable than wood pulp paper. This conflicted with Hearst’s business interests. He not only controlled a huge segment of the newspaper publishing industry at the time, but through his extensive timber holdings was essentially double dealing to himself. Mr. Mellon, who was at the time both the United States Secretary of the Treasury and the wealthiest man in America, was invested heavily in DuPont Chemical’s new synthetic fiber, Nylon. Both parties were interested in making Nylon fabrics and rope the standard for military use as well as its expansion into commercial markets to replace other materials like silk. Never mind that Nylon degrades slowly and emits hydrogen cyanide when burned. Lots of money was to be made. Besides, who cared if marijuana extracts as well as the plant itself had been used since time immemorial as medicine and for recreation. In America, Big Pharma had already been pushing out anything that competed with their more expensive synthetic medicines by backing the various state laws concerning “poisoning” and “adulteration” that targeted extracts from hemp in addition to backing the International Opium Convention in 1925 and the Uniform State Narcotic Act which was finally enacted in 1932. Which brings us to the broader cultural context of marijuana use in the United States at the time. It wasn’t primarily a “white man’s drug” as far as recreational use went. The Harrison Narcotics Act and subsequent laws had driven the use underground and use remained primarily in immigrant minority communities. The powers that were didn’t care if Mexicans and blacks went to jail so long as money was filling their coffers. That has changed over time, especially after the 1960′s which saw a rise in recreational marijuana use across the spectrum. This broad exposure of society to marijuana gave many first hand experience with a substance that had previously been driven into the shadows and their experiences with it belied the notion that it was a dangerous substance let alone a high potential for abuse with no acceptable medical use.
And let’s not forget that the alcohol industry doesn’t want the competition either from recreational users. Marijuana’s active ingredient, THC, is literally impossible to overdose on by any traditional means of consumption. By comparison, alcohol can kill you via simple toxicity quite easily and everyone knows tobacco use causes cancer. Marijuana is safer for you physiologically and toxicologically than two perfectly legal recreational drugs.
Recently, there has been a push from states to legalize marijuana for medical use and recreational use and/or decriminalize marijuana possession. Many states have decriminalized marijuana possession: Mississippi, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Carolina, New York, and Ohio. Many states have legalize medical marijuana: Arizona, New Mexico, Montana, Michigan, Illinois, New Jersey, Delaware, New Hampshire and Hawaii. Many states have both decriminalized marijuana possession and legalized medical marijuana: California, Nevada, Oregon, Alaska, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine. Two states have simply legalized marijuana: Washington and Colorado. Polls show an all time high level of support for reforming marijuana laws (no pun intended).
Which brings us to today and Eric Holder’s latest exercise in propaganda and his deliberate manipulation of the public.
DISSECTION OF A MISDIRECTION AS PROPAGANDA
This is the anatomy of a propaganda campaign.
Lie #1 – When he was campaigning for President, then Senator Obama promised to make individual smokers and providers of medical marijuana a low priority. This was promptly revealed to be a lie. Upon taking office, Obama instructed the DOJ and DEA to escalate their operations against medical marijuana approved at the state level.
Lie #2 – The DEA told big banks to stop offering services, including credit card services to state legal and authorized medical marijuana dispensaries. This has the consequence of forcing state legal marijuana dispensers to become cash only businesses.
The old one-two in boxing terms. Here comes the feint . . .
Misdirection – Eric Holder announced reform in the War on Drugs by announcing that steps were being taken to eradicate mandatory minimum sentencing in some drug crimes. This was widely publicized and lauded as the administration finally doing something positive toward ending the War on Drugs. But not so fast.
And now, the sucker punch . . .
Lie #3 – Two weeks after announcing sentencing reforms, the DOJ via the DEA quietly confirmed what marijuana industry insiders were saying. Namely that, in a move analogous to pressuring big banks to quit doing business with state legal marijuana sellers, the DEA was pressuring armored car and security companies to not do business with state legal marijuana sellers. This has the effect of a now largely cash business being under serviced by the security industry and becoming a more attractive target to possibly violent criminals. Spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, Mason Tvert, said “It is fair to ask whether they are more concerned with maintaining public safety or maintaining their marijuana-fighting jobs. Their actions certainly suggest the latter.”
According to SFGate:
The National Cannabis Industry Association said the same thing happened to several dispensaries in Colorado within the past month, under pressure from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Colorado and California are among 18 states that have legalized the medical use of marijuana.
‘We don’t have any written document that the DEA has actually sent to the (armored car) companies. We know that the services have stopped’ for most Colorado dispensaries, said Steve Fox, the cannabis association’s director of government relations. [. . .]
He said dispensary operators have reported that the DEA has warned armored car companies it would take legal action, with the implied threat of prosecution for criminal conspiracy, if they continued to transport funds for marijuana suppliers.
Steve D’Angelo, executive director of Harborside, the nation’s largest medical marijuana dispensary, said his armored car provider told him only that ‘they had been contacted by a federal agency and had been told they should no longer provide service to us.’
He said he knows of one other Bay Area dispensary that had a similar experience, and believes it’s happening throughout California.
‘It’s a potentially crippling tactic, and of course that’s why they’re doing it,’ D’Angelo said. He said Harborside is ‘scrambling’ to find other ways to deliver cash to major creditors.
There was no comment from the transportation company, Dunbar Armored.
Karl Nichols, spokesman for the DEA’s San Francisco field office, said he knows of no organized effort by the agency to contact armored car companies and order or advise them to steer clear of marijuana dispensaries. But he said the DEA, if contacted by a company, will point out ‘the hazards of doing business … with a business that’s violating the (federal drug) law.’
Those hazards, he said, include possible prosecution for money-laundering or violating banking laws, because armored cars that handle large transactions are covered by bank regulations. Some DEA offices may have contacted armored car companies to convey such a message, Nichols said, but ‘as far as I know, it hasn’t been done in the San Francisco area.’”
As far as he knows. Uh huh.
This scenario logically leads to one conclusion.
The Obama Administration and in specific Eric Holder are both lying to you in a systematic way that can only be characterized as propaganda designed to hide their true agenda. An agenda that I think can be fairly characterized as profiteering at the expense of your liberty and against the will of the people.
Such government sponsored propaganda is only likely to get worse. As in more sophisticated and frequent. Just this last year with the NDAA of 2013, Congress rolled back the Smith-Mundt Act, paving the way for the government’s massive broadcasting division controlled by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (which sponsors once overseas only programming such as Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks) to propagandize American citizens directly, on American soil. We are now paying for a branch of the government specifically designed to lie to us and mislead us through mass media. Herr Goebbels would feel right at home.
“He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would suffice.” – Albert Einstein
WHY THE WAR ON DRUGS WON’T EVER SUCCEED IN ELIMINATING DRUG USE
Who is making the money today from marijuana prohibition? Timber interests, Big Pharma, Big Alcohol, Law Enforcement, Law Enforcement/Military Supply Industries, and the for profit Private Prison Industry. The why is obviously the money to be made in a police state and through prohibition. A legal practice which worked so well for alcohol. (Read that last sentence with maximum sarcasm.)
The fundamental problem with the War on Drugs is the same fundamental problem with Prohibition in the 1930′s. It is human nature to use mind-altering substances. When abused, they become a health problem. Natural law theory informs this topic to tell us that it is futile to fight human nature. Since the problems caused by abuse are medical in nature, using criminal law to address and mitigate the problem is using the wrong tool for the job. Addiction should be treated as a medical matter, not a criminal matter. Treating it as a criminal matter is creating social problems that are far more dangerous to the firmament of our society and lining the pockets of those unscrupulous enough to undermine your rights in the name of profits.
“There is no instance of a nation benefiting from prolonged warfare.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War
I’ll supplement Sun Tzu’s observation with noting that there is no instance in history of a nation waging war on its own people that has ended well . . . for anyone involved.
With an abundance of evidence the government has and is lying to us on just about every topic from the lies used to justify invading Iraq instead of Saudi Arabia, to the ability to prosecute the Wall Street criminals responsible for the CDS debacle that nearly crashed the global economy and crippled ours, to the extent of the NSAs involvement in unconstitutionally spying upon every American citizen, isn’t it getting to be time to quit listening to the propaganda and start making government work for We the People the way it is supposed to in a democratic representative republican form of government?
It’s time to start reigning in a Federal government that shows every sign of being both out of control and sold out to the narrow monied interests of corporations like the Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group and the oligarchy of wealthy individuals who like Hearst, Mellon and the DuPonts who twist the laws to serving their own profit motives instead of the best interests of all American citizens?
I think it is high time we send a loud and clear message to the Department of Justice and Eric Holder that a war on our own citizens as an excuse to prop up the departmental budgets and false rationales for building a police state and the corporate welfare for the private prison industry and filling DOJ coffers at the expense of our liberty needs to stop now.
I think it’s time to end the failed “War on Drugs”.
I think it’s time to end the “War on Rights and Liberties”.
Mostly, I think it’s time for our government to quit lying to us and using propaganda as a weapon on our own citizens.
What do you think?
Source(s): Boston.com, “Reining in Forfeiture: Common Sense Reforms in the War on Drugs” by Kyla Dunn, Forbes, The Guardian, Huffington Post (1, 2, 3), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia (assorted general sub-references/links)
More information on the armored car situation at “Evil: DEA Bans Armored Cars From Picking up Pot Shop Cash” by xxdr zombiexx.
Note: This column was originally published at Res Ispa Loquitur (jonathanturley.org) on August 25, 2013. It has been re-edited for presentation here.