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February 1, 2008 - Gonzaga Bulletin (WA EDU)

OpEd: War On Drugs Must End

By Ryan Langril

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

A couple weeks ago police raided the house of a man in Chesapeake, Va., on the suspicion that the home contained a hydroponic marijuana growing operation. A single officer forcibly entered the house, unannounced, in plainclothes - and was shot and killed by the frightened owner, who had reported a robbery the previous week.

The hydroponic marijuana plants turned out to be Japanese Maples. The police entered only on the word of a single informant and did not try to get a confirmation before raiding the house. Nevertheless, the man sits in jail charged with first-degree murder.

Last year, in Atlanta, a SWAT team entered the home of a 92-year-old woman, again unannounced. Again they were mistaken for burglars and confronted by the homeowner, but this time the woman was the victim.

After the team shot her, they handcuffed her and left her to bleed to death while planting drugs in what they discovered to be an innocent woman's basement.

These two horrific scenarios are a result of the way the War on Drugs has morphed from a well-intentioned campaign to discourage drug use into a war against American citizens, a war in which we are not even awarded the noncombatant rights our soldiers give to foreign civilians.

The use of SWAT teams, police paramilitary units, has become commonplace in raids against non-violent, suspected drug users and dealers.

The United States used to be a place where its citizens didn't have to fear the government, proudly standing in contrast to the USSR and its terrifying secret police. We can't honestly say that today. This misbegotten War on Drugs has shown how frightening unrestricted police can be.

The men and women who are sworn to protect American citizens have been trained to view some neighborhoods as war zones. One sheriff in Georgia claims the conventional method of warrants and arrests is not working and plans military-like occupation of homes.

"We want to change our strategy. We want to make this more like a Normandy invasion," Clayton County (Ga.) Sheriff Victor Hill said, evoking the image of a campaign to capture an objective regardless of human losses.

Problems with this war are abundant. Perhaps the largest is that that it perpetuates itself. The more brutal and ruthless we allow vice squads to become, the more lucrative the drug market becomes.

The increased profitability in the drug market gives incentives to drug lords to counter the police in increasingly violent ways and to push drugs in more oppressive ways, creating an unwinnable situation for the police.

The harder the police fight, the more profitable drugs become. The government creates both enemies and discards our rights in order to keep us from making bad personal decisions.

The right for us to be secure in our homes and persons against unreasonable searches and seizures is a necessary one; but to protect us from dangerous marijuana growers the government sees fit to subject us to spontaneous raids on the mere presupposition of guilt.

The War on Drugs has become a war against the American people and it must stop. There's no virtue in drug use, but the damage that the reckless disregard the government shows in pursuing a win-or-die strategy only fuels the fire and pocketbooks of its enemies and leaves innocent civilians and police officers as collateral damage in an unwinnable war with unclear objectives.

Ryan Langrill is a senior at Gonzaga.

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