A new quote attributed to President Nixon’s former aide has revealed the true intention of Nixon’s War on Drugs. According to Nixon’s former chief domestic adviser John D Ehrlichman, the War on Drugs was originally intended to allow the government to arrest, raid, and vilify the main opponents to Nixon’s presidency, those being the anti-war left and African Americans.
Ehrlichman, who died in 1999, was originally interviewed in 1994 by journalist and author Dan Baum for his book Smoke and Mirrors: The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure, although the quote never appeared in the book, and was never published elsewhere. The interview with Ehrlichman has now been published as part of the April issue of Harper’s, in an article by Baum entitled Legalize It All: How to win the war on drugs. From the Harper’s article:
You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
According to the author Dan Baum, the quote didn’t fit the tone of the book, and was never included. However, Baum has admitted that this new understanding informed his understanding of the War on Drugs and his work since.
Since Nixon first declared the War on Drugs in 1971, $1 trillion have been spent, with little to show for it. In the meantime, a growing list of former international government and business leaders calling for a rethink on how to solve the problem of drug abuse and addiction.