High time for amnesty

By G. Patrick Callahan, Prisoner of the Drug War

In side by side articles in The Washington Times (Weekly Edition Aug 30-Sept. 5) appeared first the allegation by Jennifer Flowers that Bill Clinton had smoked marijuana in her presence both when he was attorney general of Arkansas and later as governor. "He made it clear that if I ever wanted to do cocaine, that he could provide that," said Miss Flowers, going on to state Clinton had "also told me that there were times he did so much cocaine at parties his head would itch." These allegations were denied by Clinton's staff despite the fact that no one in their right mind believes Bill never inhaled.

The second article was entitled "Drug Question Doesn't Dent Bush," a real rah-rah Republican piece. The Washington Times usually seems like it's published by the GOP, and in this article the reporter gushingly claimed that presidential hopeful George W. Bush's candidacy had "emerged stronger than ever" from the grilling he received by the news media over his drug use "as a young man." Bush has given several possible dates when he might have used drugs, specifically cocaine, and apparently his staffers consider someone in their 40s as being a young man."

There remains little doubt that both these fellows have used controlled substances and both have cynically presided over government mechanisms that have sent untold numbers of people to prison for the same conduct. Bush in fact signed into legislation toughened penalties on the mere possession of cocaine, where a user quantity puts the violator behind bars for a year. But his drug use was called a "youthful indiscretion," and as a WASP born with a silver spoon in his mouth and with his lofty connections, he would never have been subject to jail or prison time anyway. That is for other people, the unwashed masses.

We live in a time where class, position and wealth places one above the law, albeit these particular laws are a total disaster. Perhaps to an extent this has historically been the case, and it is no secret that money buys "justice" in the United States, but the excesses of the drug war bring this insupportable paradox to light almost daily. If one is a son or daughter of a Senator or Congressman, one escapes the punishment that others­­especially poor, black or brown others­­routinely receive. A federal judge will go easy when a senator clasps his errant son's shoulders in court and spills crocodile tears, but that same judge will ruthlessly put the average Joe away for many years for the identical offense.

We have arrived at a point in this country analogous to society in Britain around the 18th and l9th centuries where social rank, wealth and peerage exempted those with influence from punishment under law.

Reaganesque zero tolerance drug edicts have also spawned an era akin to the Salem Witch Hunts, but with the enforcement prowess of a fascist state able to execute its powers on a truly gargantuan scale upon the non-compliant and those bereft of money, position and influence. This is evident by the fact that over 10 million Americans have been arrested for drugs, and the arrest machine is running full tilt, a virtual runaway train.

The irony is that many of the prominent and powerful, both within and outside of government, are muzzled by the pogrom with a horror of being branded a heretic or a drug-untermensch, and have used or use controlled substances regularly. While it is one thing to conceal the fact, as the great astrophysicist Carl Sagan did his marijuana use, it is quite another to lock people up for the same thing. The user symbiotically employs the trafficker and creates the demand, and we wonder how much of a demand did Bill Clinton and George W. Bush create? We'll never know, and honesty has not been their stock in trade. We do know, however, that America cannot long endure this high level duplicity and we suggest it has nullified the force of drug laws to the extent where they are not just draconian anymore, but hypocritical, fraudulent, futile, wasteful and destructive.

We do not care that Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Bill Bradley or Al Gore or anyone else has used a controlled substance because this is their intrinsic business and has, political ramifications aside, certainly not seemed to have hurt them in the least. Men and women in a truly free society ought to be able to do as they please so long as they behave responsibly; this is what freedom is all about. These are the natural rights of man, which in the United States have been in large measure regulated out of existence. But we are enduring a period of intolerable dishonesty. How in the name of sanity can the governor of Texas put people in prison for what he has done himself, without he at least volunteering to do his time? That goes for Bill Clinton, too, and the rest of these influential phonies.

If they are unwilling to do time in prison, then they should grant immediate amnesty to drug law violators and end the hypocrisy.

It's an old maxim: a government of the free cannot legislate the morality of its people, and it sure cannot do so when the leadership itself disregards its own legislation. It's time for amnesty, time to bring the nearly one million drug law violators in our prisons and jails home, for unlike George W. Bush, they at least have done their time.