This Sunday, June 17 will mark the 47th anniversary of a shameful day in US history — it’s when President Richard Nixon’s declared what has been the US government’s longest and costliest war — the epic failure known as the War on Drugs. At a press conference on that day in 1971, Nixon identified drug abuse as “public enemy number one in the United States” and launched a failed, costly and inhumane federal war on Americans that continues to today. Early the following year, Nixon created the Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement (ODALE) in January 1972 to wage a government war on otherwise peaceful and innocent Americans who voluntarily chose to ingest plants, weeds, and intoxicants proscribed by the government. In July 1973, ODALE was consolidated, along with several other federal drug agencies, into the newly established Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a new “super agency” to handle all aspects of the War on Drugs Otherwise Peaceful Americans.
But as John Ehrlichman, Nixon’s counsel and Assistant for Domestic Affairs, revealed in 1994, the real public enemy in 1971 wasn’t really drugs or drug abuse. Rather the real enemies of the Nixon administration were the anti-war left and blacks, and the War on Drugs was designed as an evil, deceptive and sinister policy to wage a war on those two groups. In an article in the April 2016 issue of The Atlantic (“Legalize It All: How to win the war on drugs“) author and reporter Dan Baum explains how “John Ehrlichman, the Watergate co-conspirator, unlocked for me one of the great mysteries of modern American history: How did the United States entangle itself in a policy of drug prohibition that has yielded so much misery and so few good results?” As Baum discovered, here’s the dirty and disgusting secret to that great mystery of what must be the most expensive, shameful, and reprehensible failed government policy in US history.