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2600 Virginia Avenue, NW, Suite 100
Washington DC 20037
World Wide Web: http://www.LP.org
For release: May 26, 2000
For additional information:
George Getz, Press Secretary
Phone: (202) 333-0008 Ext. 222
E-Mail: 76214.3676@Compuserve.com
On Memorial Day, let's remember
the War on Drugs' 140,000 victims

WASHINGTON, DC -- As America prepares to honor its military dead on Memorial Day 2000, perhaps it's time to remember the 140,000 tragic victims of another war: The War on Drugs.

That's the very serious suggestion offered by the Libertarian Party today, as the nation gets ready to commemorate with parades and ceremonies the men and women who died fighting for freedom.

"The 140,000 men, women, and children who died because of the War on Drugs are just as deserving of remembrance as the military personnel who died fighting America's other wars," said Steve Dasbach, the party's national director.

"Keep in mind, the War on Drugs has been one of the longest, costliest, and deadliest wars in U.S. history. The only difference is that our fallen veterans were killed by the guns and bombs of a foreign power -- while the victims of the War on Drugs were killed by the policies of their own government."

But Memorial Day traditionally honors only war dead. Rhetoric aside, does the "War on Drugs" really qualify as a war?

Absolutely, said Dasbach: The War on Drugs has lasted longer than any other war in U.S. history, has been more deadly than most conventional wars, has cost billions of dollars, and involves tens of thousands of military personnel. The numbers:

  • Duration: President Richard Nixon first officially declared a War on Drugs in 1972 -- so the conflict has been raging for 28 years.

  • "The War on Drugs has lasted longer than World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War combined," noted Dasbach. "And since the enemy - -- the 36% of Americans who have used drugs, or 94.7 million people -- just gets stronger every year, there's no end in sight."

  • Victims: Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman estimated that drug prohibition causes 5,000 homicides a year -- children killed in drive-by shootings, adults killed in drug-related robberies and murders, and so on.

  • "If that number is accurate, the 28-year-long War on Drugs has resulted in 140,000 American casualties -- far more than the battlefield deaths of the Vietnam and Korean wars combined," said Dasbach.

  • Cost: Since 1989, the armed forces have spent in excess of $7 billion on anti-drug operations. In fiscal 1997 alone, The Pentagon appropriated $947 million for military anti-drug efforts.

  • Where does that money go? To pay for the military personnel who inspect cargo for the U.S. Customs Agency, translate wiretaps for the DEA, analyze military intelligence files on foreign drug gangs, fly helicopters to transport police officers, track money-laundering operations for the Treasury Department, scan the Gulf of Mexico with radar, and disrupt drug sales on the streets of Washington, DC.

  • Troops: More than 8,000 military personnel and thousands of National Guard troops are currently participating in anti-drug missions on U.S. soil, according to government figures.

  • "And those numbers don't include the 19,000 state and local law enforcement officials who are assigned full-time to the War on Drugs, and who are increasingly being armed with military-style weapons and tanks," said Dasbach. "The fact is, a massive army has been recruited for this war."

    In addition, high-tech military equipment has been thrown into the anti-drug battle, including AWAC reconnaissance planes and Relocatable-Over-the-Horizon Radar (ROTHER) installations.

    But despite all that money, equipment, and personnel, the DEA admits that only about 10% of illegal drugs entering the U.S. are seized by law enforcement officials, according to the Los Angeles Times - -- which means that the War on Drugs has been a 90% defeat for the U.S. government.

    And that's why, said Dasbach, it's time to end the Drug War, declare a Drug Peace, and commemorate on Memorial Day the victims of this tragic war.

    "We honor the men and women of our armed forces because they were willing to sacrifice their lives to protect our nation," he said. "We should honor the 140,000 victims of the War on Drugs because they were sacrificed by politicians in an unwinnable war that has ravaged our nation for 28 years.

    "Our only hope is that by remembering them -- and the misguided war that killed them -- they will not have died in vain."

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