TOP TEN DRUG WAR STORIES OF 2003
With the American public's attention firmly directed toward the daily
events of the Bush Administration's "War on Terror," the US-led and
exported "War on Drugs" continues to exact crippling costs to
taxpayers, minority groups, the environment, civil liberties and
struggling democracies around the world.
While terror alerts rise and fall and states struggle to fund their
law enforcement budgets, the total number of marijuana arrests far
exceed the total number of arrests for all violent crimes combined,
including murder, manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated
As the Drug War enters its 90th year, it continues to be characterized
by contradictory laws, arbitrary enforcement, massive wealth and
racial disparities, questionable covert operations and general media
Here are 10 of the top stories from Drug War 2003:
1) Afghanistan is now the world's leading supplier of opium for the
heroin trade. Under the Taliban regime, which banned opium, annual
production bottomed out at 77 tons in 2001, produced only in areas
controlled by the Northern Alliance. American military, as part of its
"War on Terror," allied with Northern Alliance warlords to overthrow
the Taliban regime and keep Al Qaeda at bay. Afghan opium production
has since skyrocketed to about 3,600 tons of opium this year, or 75
percent of global production.
Early in December 2003, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
traveled to Afghanistan and publicly embraced warlords Abdul Rashid
Dostum and Ustad Attas Mohammed, for calling off armed struggle with
the fragile government in Kabul headed by Hamid Karzai. Abdul Rashid
Dostum was rewarded by being named Deputy Secretary of Defense for the
Dostum has been described as a "war criminal" by groups such as Human
Rights Watch and Amnesty International, for killing thousands of
civilians in the Afghan civil wars of the 1990s and for his merciless
treatment of prisoners and, occasionally, his own soldiers.
2) While the United States declared war on Iraq for supposedly
harboring biological weapons, the US-funded War on Drugs in Colombia
plans to use an untested pathogenic fungus fusarium oxysporum to
wipe out coca. Critics say the plan proposes illegal acts of
biological warfare, poses major ecological risks to Colombia one of
the world's most bio-diverse countries and will increase suffering,
by wreaking havoc with human health, water quality and food crops.
3) On February 12, a federal jury in Philadelphia awarded $1.5 million
in compensation to two narcotics agents John McLaughlin and Charles
Micewski who claimed their boss the Pennsylvania attorney general
retaliated against them because they uncovered a drug-trafficking
ring that diverted profits to a CIA-backed Dominican presidential candidate.
Pittsburgh's Tribune Review reports: McLaughlin and Micewski said they
had uncovered a Dominican drug-trafficking ring operating in
Philadelphia, New York and other Eastern cities that funneled drug
profits to the Dominican Revolutionary Party, which they claimed was
supported by the Central Intelligence Agency and State Department.
4) Switzerland's Addiction Research Institute calls tobacco the number
one killer addiction, responsible for 71 percent, or 4.9 million of
the world's 7 million annual drug-related deaths. About 1.8 million
deaths, or 26 percent, were attributed to the use of alcohol, while
illicit drugs caused about 223,000, or 3 percent, of all worldwide
5) The FBI's annual Uniform Crime Report reveals that police arrested
an estimated 697,082 persons for marijuana violations in 2002, or
nearly half of all drug arrests in the United States. This amounts to
one marijuana-related arrest every 45 seconds.
The total number of marijuana arrests far exceeded the total number of
arrests for all violent crimes combined, including murder,
manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault.
Of those charged with marijuana violations, 88 percent were charged
with possession only. The remaining 12 percent were charged with
"sale/manufacture," a category that includes cultivation for personal
and medical use.
6) With America incarcerating the highest percentage of its own
citizens of any nation in history, Former Reagan Attorney General Ed
Meese suggests tapping prison labor as a way to slow the exodus of
September's issue of Fortune Magazine reports: Prominent conservatives
have been encouraging prisons to put inmates to work for years. The
benefits are difficult to ignore: Businesses get cheap, reliable
workers; inmates receive valuable job training and earn more than they
would in traditional prison jobs; and the government offsets the cost
of incarceration and keeps jobs and tax dollars in the US.
7) Two of America's leading conservative moralist pundits, William
Bennett and Rush Limbaugh, are chastened by the exposure of their
secret habits. Former chain-smoking Drug "Czar" and puritanical author
of The Book of Virtues, Bennett was exposed for gambling away millions
of dollars of his family's fortune in Las Vegas casinos in the past
Limbaugh, America's Number One conservative radio talk show host, has
rarely missed an opportunity to vilify drug addicts, even calling for
an increase in the incarceration of white drug users to offset the
nation's massive racial disparity in prison. He is currently under
investigation for illegally obtaining up to 30,000 narcotic
painkillers from his housekeeper and from doctor shopping. In his
defense, (Ultra-Conservative) Limbaugh has retained the services of
(Ultra-Liberal) defense attorney Roy Black.
8) Bolivian President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, Washington's most
stalwart ally in South America, is living in exile in the United
States after being toppled in mid-October by a popular uprising, a
potentially crippling blow to US anti-drug policy in the Andean region.
Last year, Lozada asked President Bush for more money to ease the
impact on displaced coca farmers. Otherwise, Lozada explained, "I may
be back here in a year, this time seeking political asylum."
The coca problem is intimately tied to issues of poverty and
disenfranchisement. In Bolivia the backlash has strengthened the hand
of the political figure regarded by Washington as its main enemy: Evo
Morales, head of the coca growers' federation, who finished second in
the presidential election last year.
9) Attorney General John Ashcroft limits judicial sentencing
discretion and the freedom of prosecutors to strike plea bargains in
criminal cases. He insists that US attorneys must seek the toughest
punishment possible in nearly all cases, using plea bargains only in
10) RAID! On May 16, New York City police tossed a stun grenade into
the home of 57-year-old Alberta Spruill, city worker and church
volunteer, who died from a heart attack during the mistaken drug raid.
On May 23, NYC police accidentally raid the home of teacher Joe
Celcis. Police smashed open the door, handcuffed several people,
pointed a gun in the face of a 12-year old girl and ransacked the
house for 90 minutes before realizing they had the wrong address. On
Nov. 5, cops in a Charleston, SC, suburb burst into the mostly white
Stratford High School at 6:45 a.m. with guns drawn and ordered mostly
black students to get down on the floor while cops searched lockers
and book bags for marijuana; students who didn't move fast enough were
handcuffed. No drugs were found in the 45-minute raid. Seventeen of
the students are suing the school district.