In a “shocking” revelation, John Ehrlichman, former advisor for President Richard Nixon and co-conspirator in the Watergate scandal admitted that the War On Drugs was “manufactured” in order to criminalize African Americans.
In an interview with Harper’s, Ehrlichman candidly shared: “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying?
“We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities.
“We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
Writer Dan Baum explains how Nixon’s decision negatively affects the economy and continues to marginalize minorities some 40 years later.
Nixon’s invention of the war on drugs as a political tool was cynical, but every president since — Democrat and Republican alike — has found it equally useful for one reason or another.
Meanwhile, the growing cost of the drug war is now impossible to ignore: billions of dollars wasted, bloodshed in Latin America and on the streets of our own cities, and millions of lives destroyed by draconian punishment that doesn’t end at the prison gate; one of every eight black men has been disenfranchised because of a felony conviction.
During his tenure, President Obama has lobbied for criminal justice reform and the release of many low level offenders who were sentenced to decades in jail for non violent crimes including drug possession.
“I am a very strong believer that the path we have taken in the United States in the so-called war on drugs has been so heavy in emphasizing incarceration that it has been counterproductive,” said Obama.
“You have young people who did not engage in violence who get very long penalties, who get placed in prison and then are rendered economically unemployable, are almost pushed into the underground economy, learn crime more effectively in prison — families are devastated. So it’s been very unproductive.”