Editorial: War Crimes and Quagmires... How Low Can We Go, and Where are We Headed? 3/27/98

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The news from the Drug War front this week is both illustrative of the depths to which we have fallen, and informative as to where we might be heading. The evidence of the former points to a malignancy of the soul typical of a nation at wrongheaded conflict with itself. The evidence of the latter points to a slippery slope toward armed conflict by a nation at war with forces that it has created and nurtured.

From California and Texas come the stories of two teenage boys, used by police with less regard for their lives than for the cops' next bust. In California, Chad McDonald was released into his mother's custody by the juvenile court on condition of his ongoing cooperation with the Brea police department. His mother claims that the Brea police assured her of Chad's safety. She also claims that even after helping to bring about arrests in several cases, the police continued to insist on Chad's services as a narc.

In the end, however, word of Chad's cooperation apparently got out on the street, and upon entering a known drug den on March 1 with his fifteen year-old girlfriend, the two were kidnapped, held and tortured for two days before the girl was raped, shot and left for dead in a forest outside of Los Angeles by area drug dealers. Chad was strangled to death, his body dumped unceremoniously in an alley. Details of the boy's involvement in undercover operations were not revealed until the girl recovered sufficiently to begin telling her story. Until then, the police had been silent. Although the Brea police have refused comment on the case, they do acknowledge that minors are in fact used as informants.

In Texas, an undercover agent building his case drove 16 year-old recovering heroin addict Jonathan Kollner to the home of a dealer, not once, but six times. Each time the officer waited as the boy used the heroin. Prior to becoming ensnared in the operation, Jonathan had tested clean for twelve months.

It is an unholy war, this War on Drugs. It has led a nation -- not just any nation but the self-proclaimed "leader of the free world" -- to routinely commit acts which should be, by anyone's standard, abhorrent. We have police, across the country, who are so deeply enmeshed in unwinnable and never- ending day-to-day combat on the streets of our cities that they apparently think nothing of risking the life of a seventeen year-old boy, or re-addicting a sixteen year-old boy, sending both of them back into a world and an atmosphere that each had already proven was beyond their ability to resist, in service to their next small-time bust.

How many busts have there been? How many more will there be? Has any of it, will any of it make the drugs disappear? Will it take the money out of the market? Will it put an end to the limitless supply of kids and criminals who are lured every day to take the place of the last one to be carted off? Is any of this worth the fact that we have become a society so poisoned by the effects of our own policies that the lives of our children are worth less than the next worthless arrest report?

It would be nice to think that we have hit bottom, but the fact is that most likely, we have not. There are plenty of freedoms yet to be surrendered and plenty of kids left to be sacrificed to our tragic folly. In our country's last futile and ill-conceived war it was said that sometimes you have to burn a village to the ground in order to save it. In the current futile and ill-conceived war, it is becoming apparent that we have taken this approach to our entire society.

Adam J. Smith
Associate Director

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Issue #35, 3/27/98 Leaked McCaffrey Letter Indicates Opposition to Lifting Syringe Exchange Funding Ban | 17 Year-Old Police Informant Killed, Girlfriend Raped and Shot in California | Plano, Texas Undercover Police Bought Heroin Six Times for 16 Year-Old Recovering Addict | A Strong Day in Court for Medical Marijuana in California: Further Arguments to be Heard April 6 | House Delays Vote on Anti-Medical Marijuana Resolution: Still Time to Contact Your Congressional Representative | Campus Group Advocating Marijuana Law Reform Denied Recognition by University President | Penn State Professor Appears at Hearing: Continues Protest | Basketball Legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Busted for Pot at Canadian Border: Claims Medicinal Use | DRCNet Special Report: Colombian Situation Worsens - US Military Involvement Stepped Up - Backsliding Toward a Quagmire? | Classified DEA Report Says Drug Corruption in Mexican Military More Serious than Previously Believed | Swiss Government Angered by World Health Organization's Delay in Evaluating Heroin Maintenance Trial | Editorial: War Crimes and Quagmires... How Low Can We Go, and Where are We Headed?
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