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THE DRUG WAR IS A VIETNAM | 2004-01-24

A lot of people compare the Drug War to Prohibition. Actually it is more like Vietnam.

America could have won the war in Vietnam, but to do that, we would have had to fight it. We would have had to fight a real war in Vietnam to win there.

The question is, would it have been worth it to fight a real war in Vietnam to win there?

And that is the question we never asked. We sent our soldiers to die in Vietnam, but we never decided to make it a real war. You can't get more immoral than that.

What we did in Vietnam was to send our men to fight with their hands tied behind their backs. Meanwhile, we here at home lived a very prosperous life. There were lots of ways for people with influence or money to avoid serving in Vietnam.

A real war in Vietnam would have put the draft dodgers in jail. A real war in Vietnam would have put people who marched in parades carrying enemy flags in jail. A real war in Vietnam would have risked a nuclear confrontation. That would have endangered those of us at home.

The only alternative to a real war in Vietnam was surrender. Several people heard Lyndon Johnson state his attitude about that. He said, "I will not be the first American president to lose a war." So he spent tens of thousands of American lives so that the war would not be lost until Nixon was in office.

We have exactly the same situation in the Drug War. Illegal drugs could be stopped if we clamped down on all our civic freedoms. Big time drug lords, people whose names the police know very well, would be arrested and put away for good, or they would be killed. We would trample on the sovereignty of any country that harbored drug lords. We would get them, period.

There would be no more fashionable drug use among rich Americans. They would be hunted down and punished as felons.

As in any war, your house would be open to search. Rights would be suspended.

Is winning the Drug War worth all that?

The alternative is surrender. Like President Johnson, every politician refuses to declare that we have simply lost the War on Drugs and call it off. And no politician is going to openly demand that we make a total war of it.

So we don't fight and we don't give it up. The Drug War is Vietnam.