On June 18 1971, the term, ‘War On Drugs’, was brought into the limelight after U.S. President Richard Nixon used it to describe a new ‘public enemy number one’.
Now, a newly published interview with one of Nixon’s top advisers claims that the real ‘public enemy number one’ in their eyes were the black and the left wing protesters which were jeopardising his campaign.
John Ehrlichman, who served as Domestic Policy Chief for Nixon, said that the drug war was merely an easy way to persecute and prosecute his main political opposition, reports the New York Daily News.
Though Ehrlichman died back in 1999, journalist Dan Baum recently unearthed an interview with the advisor from years back, when Baum had asked him to expand on the presidencies harsh drug policies.
In the interview, which was published in Harpers Magazine recently, Ehrlichman begins by brushing off Baum’s questions, like any good politician…
But before long he seems to crack, and gives Baum what he said ‘unlocked for me one of the great mysteries of modern American history’.
In the interview Ehrlichman states:
You want to know what this was really all about? 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.
What better way to ruin the communities that oppose your leadership most than to create a so called war which would cripple, humiliate, and ultimately jail them.
Although Black Americans are no more likely to buy, sell, or use drugs than White Americans, it turns out they’re much more likely to face jail time.
And this isn’t old news, it’s the same today. For example, just look at this incredible infographic from Vox which explains it all.
Ehrlichman claimed that the persecution of black people and hippies was what the campaign were after. It wasn’t just some unintended side effect.
Wow. Land of the free and all that.
Joseph Loftus is a Gold Standard NCTJ journalist with four years experience working for international and regional press.
As well as working for UNILAD and LADbible, Joseph has worked as Liverpool Correspondent for Unsigned & Independent Magazine, as well as stints with the Liverpool Echo and Warrington Guardian.