Other Unconstitutional War
by Laurence M. Vance: Support
long after World War II ended that U.S. troops were once again involved
in another foreign war. This time, however, there was a notable
difference. After North Korea invaded the South in 1950, President
Truman intervened with U.S. combat troops in a United Nations police
action. There was no congressional declaration of war. There
was not even the slightest pretense of consulting Congress.
On five different
occasions, the United States had declared war on other countries:
the War of 1812, the Mexican War (1848), the Spanish-American War
(1898), World War I (1917), and World War II (1941 against Japan,
Germany, and Italy; 1942 against Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania).
issued these declarations of war doesnt necessarily mean that
they should have been issued. It just means that it was recognized
that a major military engagement called for a real declaration of
war by the Congress according to Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution.
But not only
did over 36,000 American soldiers needlessly die in the Korean War
when we entered that conflict under the auspices of the UN, the
results of this unconstitutional action are still with us today.
Since the armistice was signed in 1953, a day has not gone by when
the United States has not had thousands of troops stationed in South
Korea. There are at least 25,000 U.S. soldiers still in Korea, some
no doubt the grandchildren of the soldiers who fought in the Korean
But this Korean
intervention also set a terrible precedent, as no declaration of
war has ever been issued since World War II even though the United
States has been involved in many military conflicts since then,
with some of them being major wars like Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
A War for
Our Own Good
U.S. military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen,
Somalia, Libya, and now Uganda, there is currently raging another
destructive and unconstitutional war at home. And this one has been
going on for over forty years.
It was just
over 40 years ago that President Richard Nixon began the federal
war on drugs. Said Nixon: In order to fight and defeat this
enemy, it is necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive. The
President declared drug abuse to be Americas public
enemy number one and a national emergency. He
continued his military rhetoric in a special message to Congress
on drug abuse prevention and control, calling for a full-scale
attack on drug abuse on many fronts. To wage an
effective war against heroin addiction, he called for a
worldwide escalation in our existing programs for the control of
narcotics traffic. Legislation then recently passed in Congress
provided a sound base for the attack on the problem of the
availability of narcotics in America.
None of this
means that the federal government didnt fight against drugs
and drug abuse before Nixon. Although all drugs in the United States
were legal up until the 20th century, the federal government began
introducing anti-narcotics laws in 1905. It was Nixon, though, that
formally declared war on drugs, appointed the first drug czar, and
oversaw the establishment of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in
1973. The drug war escalated again under President Ronald Reagan
in the 1980s with his wifes Just Say No campaign.
Although 15 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana
for medical use, the federal war on drugs continues unabated and
enjoys wide bipartisan support.
But what has
the decades-long federal war on drugs actually accomplished? How
much has it cost? Has it curtailed drug abuse? Has it, in fact,
been any more successful at curtailing drug abuse than Prohibition
was at curtailing alcohol abuse? Why, unlike Prohibition, was it
imposed without a constitutional amendment granting the government
the power to do what it is doing? And should the power even be granted
through the amendment process, or should the federal war on drugs
the federal war against alcohol known as Prohibition was constitutional
owing to the 18th Amendment, most Americans would today undoubtedly
agree that its repeal via the 21st Amendment was a good thing. But
all of the unconstitutional wars the federal government is
now waging including its war on drugs should be ended
the war on drugs is a failure. It has failed to prevent drug abuse
or reduce the demand for drugs. It has failed to keep drugs out
of the hands of addicts and away from teenagers. It has failed to
stop the flow of drugs into the United States. According to the
latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health conducted by the Substance
Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: Drug use
in the United States increased in 2009, reversing downward trends
since 2002. There was even a spike in the number of Americans
admitting to using ecstasy and methamphetamine. The governments
own Government Accountability Office has even said that the anti-drug
D.A.R.E. program has had no statistically significant long-term
effect on preventing youth illicit drug use.
The costs of
the war on drugs exceed its benefits. According to a study released
last year by the Cato Institute, spending on the drug war tops $41
billion a year.
The war on
drugs has clogged the federal court system. Chief Justice William
Rehnquist made this point as far back as 1989. And in testimony
before the Senate Judiciary Committee last month, Supreme Court
Justice Antonin Scalia remarked that it was a great mistake
to put routine drug offenses into the federal courts.
The war on
drugs makes criminals out of too many otherwise law-abiding Americans.
The DEA made almost 31,000 arrests last year. According to the FBIs
latest report on Crime in the United States, over 1.6
million Americans were arrested on drug charges in 2010, with almost
half of those arrests just for marijuana possession. There is one
drug arrest in the United States every 19 seconds.
The war on
drugs unnecessarily swells prison populations. Over half of the
federal prison population and about 20 percent of the state prison
population are imprisoned due to the drug war.
The war on
drugs hinders legitimate pain management. Physicians that specialize
in pain treatment face the increasing danger of arrest by the DEA
for prescribing their patients a dose of painkillers higher than
some government-set maximum.
The war on
drugs has resulted in gross absurdities. Due to the Combat Methamphetamine
Epidemic Act, which is title VII of the USA PATRIOT Improvement
and Reauthorization Act of 2005, over-the-counter allergy-relief
products like Sudafed have been rationed and their use criminalized
because they contain pseudoephedrine, which might be used in the
illegal manufacture of methamphetamine.
The war on
drugs has destroyed financial privacy. Deposit more than $10,000
in a bank account and you are a suspected drug trafficker. Travelers
carrying what the government thinks is too large an amount of cash
are subject to harassment and having their property confiscated.
The war on
drugs has provided the rationale for militarizing local police forces.
The Pentagon has transferred millions of pieces of surplus military
gear to local police departments. The majority of the 130-150 raids
per day conducted by SWAT teams are to serve search warrants on
people suspected of drug crimes.
The war on
drugs has resulted in outrageous behavior by police in their quest
to arrest drug dealers. The city of Daytona Beach Shores was recently
ordered to pay four dancers and two bartenders (and their attorneys)
a total of $195,000 to settle a federal lawsuit after they were
illegally strip-searched during a raid on their club. The women
were strip-searched in front of a group of male officers after police
were told that some employees were selling prescription pills and
other illegal narcotics to patrons. A federal judge found that the
search warrant did not authorize a strip search of anyone in the
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M. Vance [send him mail]
writes from central Florida. He is the author of Christianity
and War and Other Essays Against the Warfare State, The
Revolution that Wasn't, and Rethinking
the Good War. His latest book is The
Quatercentenary of the King James Bible. Visit his
© 2011 The New American
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