Know thine enemy

So called ‘war on drugs’ is a total failure.

By Rowan Bosworth-Davies

Drug arrest: the so called war no drugs.As President of the UK chapter of LEAP, I am beginning to find my way around the complex world of the narcotics debate.

For myself, even when I was a police officer, I found the concept of the ‘War on Drugs’ wholly risible. It concerned me greatly when it became clear that the impact of the enforcement of the laws on drug possession seemed to fall out along racist lines!

My view then, which remains the same today, was that the use of narcotics was a personal choice, which when taken with full possession of the salient facts, was a matter for the individual.

I simply cannot reconcile the absurd situation where we permit people to drink or smoke themselves to death, and we offer them access to these narcotics of choice at every conceivable outlet, but we impose the full weight of the law and its penal sanctions on a relatively small number of perfectly harmless people who want to ingest Marijuana, or any other drug for that matter!

Let people do what they wish, ensure a supply of clean products through licensed outlets, tax the proceeds, and let people have the right to make their own decisions.

I don’t use prohibited narcotics, my personal avenue of choice to Nirvana is good red wine, taken in reasonable moderation with good food in the congenial company of good friends. I would not start to imbibe the restricted products, even if they were legalised, simply because I have no interest in them. I am sure that I am not unusual in that regard!

The issue for me is so fundamental, that I recoil from the vast panoply of structures, working parties, debates, White Papers, Parliamentary Commissions, and well-meaning discussions that surround this question. I find the whole debate meaningless, so it was a salutary experience for me to travel to Vienna in April to attend the 56th Session of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) because it taught me a number of seminal lessons.

For those of us who believe that the so-called ‘War on Drugs’ has been a total failure, and who aspire to see the day when all narcotic drugs will be available in a legally regulated environment, it is very clear that our ambitions are a long way from a reality.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)Our major stumbling blocks to progress are not the UN Conventions on Narcotic Drugs. These are merely a set of Conventions, which can be amended, reformed, or even rescinded, if the political will to agree with those proposals can be found.

No, our most vociferous and dangerous opposition comes from the multiplicity of agencies, groups, organisations and kaffeeklatsches which exist to make an input to, and otherwise take part in, the debate about narcotic drugs.

There are literally hundreds, perhaps even thousands of them, and the vast majority of them, in some way shape or form exist to churn out paper and well-meaning periodicals, research documents and other information, about drugs, about their impacts, their effects, and the social harm they cause.

Their entire existence is entirely dependent upon narcotics remaining prohibited and criminalised. Their generous expenses and their ability to talk almost incessantly in public meetings, and to generate reams of statistics of dubious value, rests entirely on the UN Conventions remaining unreformed.

There seems to be an accepted wisdom common to this group of people, that drugs cause dreadful social harm and deprivation, and that for these reasons, narcotic drugs must be rigorously controlled, using draconian methods and penalties.

For some reason, it doesn’t seem to occur to these people that it is not the drugs which are causing the harm, but the way in which societies who are signatories to the UN Conventions, are interpreting and implementing those Conventions, pursuing this deranged idea that a war can be fought against drugs, and that somehow, in some far-off, fantasy world, mankind will be the winner.

I sat in stunned silence while I listened to presentations of such manifest nonsense spoken by delegates whose entire life seems to consist of roaming the world, no doubt on high-expense account air tickets, attending meetings, conventions, workshops and other fora, representing the UN perspective, and churning out the accepted party line.

Meeting of the The Commission on Narcotic Drugs

The UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs


I have worked for the UN in the past, and I quickly came to appreciate the level of mind-numbing corruption that being employed by the UN can engineer among so many of its apparatchiks. This is not a corruption of deliberate criminality, it is a corruption of inertia and stasis. Don’t rock the boat, don’t have an original thought, don’t countenance reform, just roll along with the institutional line, and keep on parroting the mantra, ‘nothing must change’, nothing must change’!

This institutionalised level of refusal to adapt or adopt new thinking and ideas, sentences mankind to a permanent state of enslavement to policies and campaigns promoted by powerful countries who have a strong political axe to grind. The rest of the world, terrified that it will miss out on some form of benefit by being seen to be complicit with the Conventions, routinely trots along, affirming the status of these rules, and generally providing a major barrier to change.

The right to be heard and to even attend many of these meetings, depends upon one’s organisation being recognised by the wider body of attendees. If you are a member of a group whose ambitions or objectives are considered suspect, or perhaps too radical or dangerous to accommodate, you can find yourself cast out into the cold, where you cannot stand and speak, and you cannot be heard, and your voice is ignored. You don’t even need to worry about the Conventions, because you ain’t going to get close enough to them to discuss reforms, because the other NGO’s will stand in your way and prevent you. They won’t permit your membership of their wider grouping, so you don’t get to be heard.

I came home a wiser man than when I arrived in Vienna. I know now that in order to help LEAP UK achieve its objectives, my real enemies are not the narcotics laws, but those who stand like a Praetorian guard between me and the debate I hope we shall generate. These organisations will fight to the last drop of their ambitions to prevent us, because they know that if we in LEAP are successful, and we surely will be one day, their very existence becomes irrelevant, and they may have to find a real job instead.

The complacency, the arrogance and the inertia generated by these people, who want us all to believe they are on the same side as ourselves, means that those who promote the discredited ‘war on drugs’ are enabled to continue to operate, making the world an even more dangerous place for ordinary people, facilitating an ever wider campaign of violence and death, ensuring that the drug trade is cemented in the hands of organised criminals, and permitting the world’s banking structures who rely so heavily on this criminally-generated money, to remain entirely drug dependent.

To misquote Voltaire, “… I can protect myself from my enemies, may God protect me from my friends.”

Rowan Bosworth-Davies, is a former Detective Inspector with the Metropolitan Police and President of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) UK. You can read more articles on Rowan’s blog.

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  1. many thanks for this

    we are well past the point where bodies like UNODC can pretend to be here to protect us from the ‘existential threat’ of drugs — and the conventions are couched in exactly these terms

    there never was an existential threat, and there never has been – the War on Drugs is straight from the same 1984 play book as the more recent War on Terror (see the NSA revelations on June 6th)

    perpetual war, as in 1984 – and we have the very same trampling of our liberties that every war entails – out of ‘necessity’… this is the fiction most people seem happy to swallow when faced with the image of ‘terrorists’ or ‘junkies’

    in reality UNODC is now little more than a parasite – as with nigh on every institution involved in this game

    they depend upon the continuance of the drug problem because, as you point out, without the drug problem there is no UNODC (cue list of the 100s and 1000s of agencies, NGOs, etc.)

    at least we have the guys who are just pure evil here to spell out for us what the War on Drugs has really been all about — raw power and absolute control through subjugation – right from the very beginning:

    “Look, we understood we couldn’t make it illegal to be young or poor or black in the United States, but we could criminalize their common pleasure. We understood that drug were not the health problem we were making them out to be, but it was such a perfect issue… that we couldn’t resist it.” John Ehrlichman, White House counsel to President Nixon on the rationale for the War on Drugs

    “[Nixon] emphasized that you have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks,” Haldeman, his Chief of Staff wrote. “The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to.”

    one other thing, there is a typo in this sentence:

    “It concerned MY greatly when it became clear that the impact of the enforcement of the laws on drug possession seemed to fall out along racist lines!”

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