Drug Warriors Are Despicable Creatures

There were 87 beheadings in Saudi Arabia in 2014, up from 79 in 2013. One thing that might cause you to lose your head in that great ally of the United States in the war on terrorism is drug trafficking.

The last beheading of the year was of Sadruddin Saeedullah Khan, a Pakistani national, who was convicted of smuggling “a large quantity of heroin” into the Saudi kingdom. He was decapitated by sword in the western province of Mecca after both the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Judicial Council upheld the “religiously right” death sentence imposed by a local court. The Interior Ministry reminded the public that the government “continues the fight against drugs of all kinds as it inflicts serious harm on the individual and society.”

Saudi Arabia is not the only country that executes people for drug trafficking. The same is true in Singapore. Over 75 percent of the hangings in Singapore are for drug-related crimes. Under Singapore’s Misuse of Drugs Act, the death penalty is mandatory for if one is caught with over 30 grams of morphine, 15 grams of heroin, 30 grams of cocaine, or 500 grams of marijuana. War, Empire, and the M... Laurence M. Vance Best Price: $5.24 Buy New $9.79 (as of 09:10 UTC - Details)

Some conservatives in the United States like the Singapore approach.

In 1996, Newt Gingrich, then a member of Congress, introduced the Drug Importer Death Penalty Act of 1996 (H.R.4170) “to provide a sentence of death for certain importations of significant quantities of controlled substances.” The bill died in committee.

In a 2009 appearance on “The O’Reilly Factor,” O’Reilly and Gingrich had this exchange about the drug war:

O’Reilly: Now, they have no drug problem in Singapore at all, number one, because they hang drug dealers — they execute them. And number two, the market is very thin, because when they catch you using, you go away with a mandatory rehab. You go to some rehab center, which they have, which the government has built. The United States does not have the stomach for that. We don’t have the stomach for that, Mr. Speaker.

Gingrich: Well, I think it’s time we get the stomach for that, Bill. And I think we need a program—I would dramatically expand testing. I think we have—and I agree with you. I would try to use rehabilitation, I’d make it mandatory. And I think we have every right as a country to demand of our citizens that they quit doing illegal things which are funding, both in Afghanistan and in Mexico and in Colombia, people who are destroying civilization. War, Christianity, and... Laurence M. Vance Best Price: $8.95 Buy New $9.95 (as of 09:10 UTC - Details)

In a 2011 interview with Yahoo News, Gingrich was asked if he still stood by the Drug Importer Death Penalty Act that he introduced back in 1996. Gingrich replied:

I think if you are, for example, the leader of a cartel, sure. Look at the level of violence they’ve done to society. You can either be in the Ron Paul tradition and say there’s nothing wrong with heroin and cocaine or you can be in the tradition that says, “These kind of addictive drugs are terrible, they deprive you of full citizenship and they lead you to a dependency which is antithetical to being an American.” If you’re serious about the latter view, then we need to think through a strategy that makes it radically less likely that we’re going to have drugs in this country. Places like Singapore have been the most successful at doing that. They’ve been very draconian. And they have communicated with great intention that they intend to stop drugs from coming into their country.

Drug warriors are despicable creatures.

Although most conservative drug warriors don’t go as far as Gingrich and advocate the death penalty for drug traffickers, they are still despicable creatures because they want to lock up drug users in cages. I’m not just talking about lawmakers, judges, prosecutors, and police. I am also talking about common, ordinary Americans who feel the same way.

For the past 18 years, David Padilla has lived inside a medium-security prison in Fairmont, New Jersey. His crime? Possessing a substance the government didn’t approve of. A year after his arrest in November of 1996, a The Other Side of Calv... Laurence M. Vance Best Price: $19.84 Buy New $29.95 (as of 08:35 UTC - Details) judge found him guilty of conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute cocaine. He was arrested after he and his codefendants were apprehended moving drugs out of a Philadelphia hotel in a suitcase. State police later found two handguns in a trapdoor in their borrowed van. Because Padilla had two previous drug charges, the prosecutor—a despicable creature if there ever was one—asked the court to weigh the priors, and the judge sentenced him to life in prison. Padilla, who is now 47, has a wife, children, and—now—grandchildren. “There is no doubt in my mind that I feel I should have been punished. No doubt about it. But I don’t agree that I should die in prison,” said Padilla.

No, David, not only should you not have to spend the rest of your life in prison, you should not have been punished at all. You should have sought treatment, got help from your family, got some new friends, exercised self control, been more careful, considered your wife and kids, turned to religion, or found a real job. But regardless of what you chose to do, you should never have been locked in a cage.

Stephanie George, who was likewise serving life in prison for possessing a substance the government didn’t approve of, was released from prison about a year ago after being locked up for 17 years before President Obama commuted her sentence. Police found (don’t they have anything better to do?) half a kilo of cocaine (about 1 pound) and more than $10,000 in George’s attic. Because she already had two small-time prior drug offenses, she was sentenced to life in prison thanks to federal mandatory sentencing laws. George was 26 and a mother with three young children when she was locked in her cage. While she was in prison, her grandparents died, her father died, and her youngest son died.

Like David, Stephanie should have sought treatment, got help from her family, got some new friends, exercised self control, been more careful, considered her kids, turned to religion, or found a real job. But the fact that she The War on Drugs Is a ... Laurence M. Vance Best Price: $5.87 Buy New $5.95 (as of 09:10 UTC - Details) didn’t do any of these things and made bad decisions still doesn’t mean that she should be locked in a cage.

Drug warriors are despicable creatures. All of them. From the congressmen and state legislators who make the drug laws to federal and state DEA agents who work for agencies that should not even exist to prosecutors and judges trying to score political points for being “tough on crime” to local police who take a break from issuing tickets to bust people for drugs to the armchair drug warriors who sit and drink alcohol at counters in bars and in recliners in their living rooms while calling for those who get smashed from other substances to be locked in cages.

This is the essence of the drug war: locking up men and women in cages who consume, possess, manufacture, buy, sell, smoke, distribute, transport, cultivate, give away, or “traffic in” a substance the government doesn’t approve of.

Drug warriors—whether they advocate the death penalty for drug crimes or just locking up people in cages who sell drugs to make money or just want to get high—are despicable creatures.