Those antidrug ads–the latest one is on page 33–have poked a hornet’s nest of reader protest. As we explained when we published some heated letters (Feb. 10), this magazine’s advertising acceptability policy carries a strong free-speech bias; we are against censoring ads whose content we disagree with. And yes, we do disagree with the message of most of the antidrug ads sponsored by the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Our objections are multifold: (1) The ads are a waste of taxpayer dollars ($150 million annually). Surveys have shown that such ads don’t achieve their goals and have even turned on some kids. (2) They’re defending a bad policy, i.e., the drug war. One ONDCP campaign, launched during the 2002 Super Bowl, harps on the theme that buying drugs supports terrorism. But you could as well argue that the drug war finances terrorism–by driving up prices and profits to such astronomical levels that for every kingpin they catch, ten new ones jump to take their place. The ONDCP campaign emphasizes propaganda against marijuana, a drug less harmful than alcohol that should be decriminalized. (3) The domestic drug war is not only unwinnable, it has exacted a high social cost. It has eroded civil liberties and left the Fourth Amendment in tatters. The $40 billion a year spent on it would be better used for programs that help the poor; it engenders violent crime, plus overburdening the cops with minor dealer-user busts, clogging the courts and packing the prisons; it has jailed a disproportionate number of young African-American males; it has made doctors fearful of prescribing strong narcotics for pain and wrongly criminalized the medical use of marijuana. (4) The failure of US prohibition has led to a disastrous interdiction policy of US interventions in grower countries. Congress has allocated $2 billion to Colombia’s antinarcoterrorist campaign, and the Pentagon is stealthily committing more US troops to this brutal war. The vast profits to be made from the US traffic have generated corruption among police and government in the poor grower countries. Here’s the truth about drugs: Prohibition, incarceration and interdiction aren’t working. Treatment, education and decriminalization work.


Commenting on Howard Dean’s loudly applauded antiwar speech at the Democratic National Committee meeting, House majority leader Tom (Hammerhead) DeLay charged that Democrats “are fast becoming the appeasement party of the future.” There’s a mindless, thuggish quality to DeLay’s broadsides (he says Democrats want “unlimited unemployment compensation so somebody could stay out of work for the rest of their lives”), but we must ask: Is he–and the Republican Party for which he is a prominent voice–saying that the 59 percent of Americans who favor giving UN inspectors more time are appeasers? Does he think people who argue against a pre-emptive war that has no relationship to US security concerns are appeasers? And what does he mean by “appeasement party of the future”? Is this Administration already planning more Iraqs? DeLay wants to see democratic debate snuffed out entirely. Still another argument for regime change–in America.


Press Secretary Ari Fleischer slammed Dan Rather’s Saddam Hussein interview and warned US networks not to give Iraqis airtime to make unsubstantiated charges: “If it’s all lies, why put it on in the first place?” But presumably it’s OK to let George W. Bush go on TV and spin such fantasies as the war will create a democratic Iraq and bring Israeli-Palestinian peace, that the Star Wars antimissile defense has been proved to work, that eliminating taxes on stock dividends will stimulate the economy, etc.