War on Drugs Costs American Lives and Liberties

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Patrick Dorismond is the latest casualty in the War onDrugs. The 26-year-old security guard and father of two rose to nationalprominence on March 16 when he and a friend stepped out of the WakambaBar on Manhattan's Eighth Avenue. Dorismond apparently felt insultedafter a stranger asked him where he could find marijuana. A disputereportedly erupted. When the would-be pot buyer yelled for help, one ofhis associates stepped forward and allegedly shot Dorismond fatally inthe chest.

Of course, the supposed drug buyers really were undercover NYPDofficers. Their effort to entrap an innocent, unarmed man in a narcoticssting operation caused his violent, untimely death. Eric Adams of 100Blacks in Law Enforcement laments that Dorismond could "be killed forsaying no to drugs."

This case immediately became politicized when First Lady HillaryClinton, Rep. Charles Rangel (D - Harlem), the Rev. Al Sharpton andother rabble rousers slammed Mayor Rudy Giuliani over the shooting.Giuliani has refuted their charges of police trigger-happiness byobserving that the NYPD fatally shot 11 mainly-criminal civilians lastyear, versus 41 in 1990 under Democratic Mayor David Dinkins - a 73percent reduction.

Lost among these ricocheting accusations is the fact that the War onDrugs is largely responsible for killing Dorismond as well as Mario Paz.Armed with a search warrant and overwhelming firepower, a SWAT teamraided Paz's Compton, California home last August 9. They lethally shotthe retired grandfather twice in the back, then interrogated his widow -clad in a towel, panties and handcuffs - and four other residents ofPaz's home. Officials neither found drugs on Paz's property, nor filedcharges against his survivors. Mario Paz's fatal mistake was that heoccasionally received mail for Marcos Beltran Lizarraga, a formerneighbor suspected of drug dealing. Oops.

Since the days of "Just Say No," this domestic quagmire has lastedlonger than the Vietnam War. It has killed, detained and bulliedinnocent citizens and non-violent offenders in a futile campaign tovacuum every last cannabis seed from America's streets. This fool'serrand isn't cheap. Between 1990 and 1999 alone, federal anti-druglaw-enforcement activities have cost taxpayers $81 billion. States andcities have spent even more. Meanwhile, low-cost drugs have become evenmore plentiful.

The War on Drugs carried Deborah Quinn to jail in February. With one legand no arms, she barely could get there alone. The severely deformed,39-year-old Arizona woman was caught selling $20 worth of marijuana to apolice informant. While on probation for that incident, authoritiesfound four ounces of grass in her home. So, they sentenced her to oneyear in a secure unit at St. Mary's Hospital in Tucson. Arizonataxpayers will pay $126,000 to incarcerate Quinn where she can getappropriate medical care. That sum reportedly could padlock fourmurderers annually.

Mohave County prosecutor Jace Zack says that if Quinn "didn't go toprison, she'd have a free ride to deal drugs forever."

"Deborah Lynn Quinn may have only one leg and no arms," repliesthe Libertarian Party's Steve Dasbach. "But the people who put her injail have no heart."

Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey, meanwhile, employs propaganda techniquesinimical to a free society. As Salon.com's Daniel Forbes recentlyrevealed, the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policyallowed the TV networks to re-sell some $25 million in ad time theOffice purchased. In exchange, broadcasters inserted anti-drug messagesin NBC's "ER," Fox's "Beverly Hills 90210" and other shows.The Drug Czar's office even suggested script alterations.

That's awful, but that's entertainment. Far worse, U.S. News &World Report, Parade, USA Weekend and three other major magazines split $4.9million in similar federal credits for publishing anti-drug news articles.McCaffrey's office evenhelped choose writers for two anti-drug pieces in The SportingNews.

Czar Barry should be toppled for his Kremlinesque effort to manipulatethe news. Of course, it takes two to mazurka. The magazine executiveswho peddled their editorial integrity like street walkers have earnedtheir pink slips.

The War on Drugs burns through innocent human lives, tax dollars andcivil liberties more swiftly than a joint at a jazz festival. Copscertainly should prevent those on illegal drugs or legal alcohol fromoperating cars and heavy machinery. Beyond that, government should dolittle more than counsel moderation. That's sound advice for adults whoseek mind expansion, from either marijuana or martinis. As for the Waron Drugs, it's high time to hoist a white sheet up the nearest flagpole.

Deroy Murdock

Deroy Murdock is a senior fellow with the Atlas Economic Research Foundation and a policy advisor for the Cato Institute.