The War on Drugs
Williams, Daniel, Contemporary Review
THE war on drugs was declared in 1983. What has been achieved since the declaration? Have we won the war? And if not, will we ever win the war? Do we even expect to win the war on drugs? General Douglas MacArthur once said, 'It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.' And he also said, 'In war there is no substitute for victory'. So surely to lose the war on drugs is to lose our way of life--to lose what we know as society.
So, how are we doing in this war? In order to answer that, I feel we should ask ourselves first if we have ever taken drugs. How many of us have smoked marijuana in our lives? As more generations read this essay, the answer will become obvious--that almost everyone of us has smoked it, no matter who we are or where we come from. What about more potent drugs? How many of us have taken some form of cocaine or opiate or synthesised drug? Though the number is reduced when referring to higher class drugs, the question we should really be asking is how many of us have been affected, perhaps by a family member or a friend, who has become addicted? Is it right that we should accept that while those closest to us cheat us, and steal, some drug dealer, uneducated and wearing a mask across his face, should be able to drive a Lexus?
In a war on drugs we should be strong, unmerciful, and uncompromising. And where in the first place is there room for compromise? How do we punish those using drugs? Should they be punished at all?
We must understand that drugs are illegal, and that they are illegal for a good reason: taking drugs is something that we all know is wrong, just as we know that mugging someone is wrong, or speeding down the motorway is wrong. Users become a weak chain in society and to family life because they take and they take, and give only to cartels and corrupt governments. Surely it is not right to think that we are wrong for punishing people who break down the social structure for their own selfishness (and while I understand that some people are more vulnerable than others, there is never an excuse for crime; especially not for the majority). Drugs from the famous Golden Triangle have been a massive problem for Thailand, the main transit point for opium and amphetamines. What did Thaksin Shinawatra, the former Prime Minister of Thailand, do about this? And what did he achieve?
Firstly, he proved my argument of public education and social denunciation (especially amongst the young) wrong. Social advancement of drug condemnation will not be quick enough; even existent. In terms of social advancement, we are more likely to each own iPads than collectively denounce illicit drugs. (Even if future generations read this essay and iPads are outdated, drugs will still be ubiquitous.) When the Thai authorities realised this in 2003, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra fought harder, deciding to target not the consumption source, but the distributing source. While Human Rights organisations worried about the death toll of drug dealers, Thaksin Shinawatra worried about the death toll of victims of drug abuse. His policy consisted of:
1. Targeting dealers;
2. Users to be considered as patients if in need of treatment;
3. Allocated targets in each province concerning the number of arrests and seizures;
4. Awarding government officials for achieving targets;
5. Ruthless implementation.
Despite accusations by the political opposition of corruption (which are ambiguous), his strong stance against such a highly moral issue was admirable, but the results were mainly deplored by the national and international media: flawed blacklists, innocent deaths, extrajudicial killings, children subjected to seeing the killings, and trigger-happy policemen. But one thing is true. This is true: I have a large family in Thailand; two of my relations were involved in illicit drugs. One was a dealer, and the other was a user; both of them stopped, however, under Shinawatra's policies for fear of being shot, and both started again when Shinawatra was ousted and the policies eradicated. …