6. “We are Winning the War on Drugs” was a Lie

by Project Censored
Published: Updated:

Sources: In These Times, 2040 N. Milwaukee Avenue, 2nd Fl. Chicago, IL 60647-4002, Date: 5/20/92, Title: “Drug Deaths Rise as the War Continues,” Author: Mike Males; EXTRA!, 130 W. 25th Street New York, NY 10001, Date: September 1992, Title: “Don’t Forget the Hype: Media, Drugs and Public Opinion,” Author: Micah Fink

SYNOPSIS: When President George Bush went before the nation on September 6, 1989, to give a special address about the seriousness of the drug problem in the United States, the media and the public responded with alarm. By the end of that month, 64 percent of the public believed that drugs posed a greater threat than nuclear war, environmental degradation, toxic waste, AIDS, poverty or the national debt. The New York Times alone pub­lished 238 articles on drugs — more than seven articles a day-that month.

Fast-forward to 1992: The federal anti­-drug budget has mushroomed to over $10 billion dollars; and the president proclaims, “We are winning the war on drugs.” The problem with this proclamation is that it is a lie.

The sobering fact is that Americans are in greater danger from drugs today than ever before. In fact, despite “winning the war on drugs,” drug deaths in the U.S. are skyrocketing at a much higher rate than drug arrests.

Before the Reagan/Bush administra­tions began their war on drugs, deaths from drug abuse and drug-related murders had declined from a peak of 8,500 per year in the early 1970s to 7,700 in 1982. Since 1982 the numbers have steadily climbed. Drug abuse deaths have risen by 50 per­cent and drug-related murders have tripled — to more than 13,000 in 1990. This is the steepest increase and highest level in history.

Today’s drug statistics are startling:

-During a single week of the present­ day drug war (as opposed to the “pre-drug-­war era”), there are 15,000 more arrests, 5,000 more pounds of cocaine seized, 10,000 more people sent to drug treatment and 100 more drug-related deaths.

-Street drugs (marijuana, LSD, co­caine, heroin) are not the main killers, as they are portrayed. Rather, prescription drugs (barbiturates, stimulants) are most lethal, accounting for more than 8,000 deaths annually, while street drugs ac­count for 3,000 deaths. (Also overlooked is the “legal-drug” death toll: 400,000 an­nually from tobacco, 100,000 from alco­hol.)

-Teenagers are often portrayed as the most at-risk group for drug abuse. How­ever, of the 13,000-plus drug-abuse deaths in 1990, adults aged 20 to 59 accounted for 11,000 of those fatalities.

-Marijuana, LSD and other hallucino­gens account for fewer than five deaths a year but make up more than half of all drug arrests.

-Prescription drugs cause more than half of all drug deaths but comprise only 10 percent of all drug arrests.

-White adults over the age of 25 ac­count for two-thirds of all drug deaths but account for only one-third of all drug ar­rests.

It is more than ironic that the main­stream media that helped Reagan/Bush create a drug war hysteria remain silent or ignorant of the real problems that exist today.

 SSU Censored Researcher: Nicole Novak

COMMENTS: The sincerity of the Reagan/ Bush administrations’ war on drugs was first questioned by Project Censored in the #4 Censored Story of 1989, which asked, “Does the administration really want to win the war on drugs?” The answer, based on the experiences of one of the nation’s top federal narcotics prosecutors, Richard Gregorie, was “no.”

Gregorie’s aggressive and successful eight-year assault on big-time cocaine bosses and drug-corrupted officials from Miami to Medellin was stopped by the State Department, and in January 1989 Gregorie quit in disgust to go into law practice in Miami.

The same issue resurfaced as the #5 Censored Story of 1990. Titled, “Contin­ued Media Blackout of Drug War Fraud,” the nomination revealed the experiences of Michael Levine, a retired undercover agent from the Drug Enforcement Agency. His critical expose of the DEA closely parallels the experiences of Gregorie.

And now the American public is learn­ing about the tragic results of the war that never was. Mike Males’s article about ris­ing drug deaths clearly contradicts Presi­dent George Bush’s optimistic “We are winning the war on drugs” statement.

At the same time, the mainstream media-once so eager to herald the War on Drugs are less eager to confess its failure and the toll it has taken in human lives.

Investigative author Males says his article in In These Times sparked addi­tional coverage only in the alternative press and not in the mainstream media. He notes that while there has now been some sporadic coverage of various experts who feel we’re “losing” the war, there has been “nothing on the spectacular rise in drug deaths.”

Males feels the public “needs to be informed that despite rosy claims of offi­cials, the single biggest tragedy — drug death increases-is provable by a solid outcome measure that shows the drug war is a disaster.”