Drug War Prisoners

Forgetting War on Drugs Could Be Costly

Dredging the media for something humorous to enliven the day's news on prisoners of the War on Drugs can be a thankless task. January's parade of personalities in the news was definitely no joke. Here, surfacing from news clippings set aside in palmier days is a reminder of the wit of A.M. Rosenthal, famed columnist of The New York Times. The year is 1992. Bill Clinton is Governor of Arkansas. The War on Drugs has spun out of control long since. Novel solutions to the drug problem crop up on all sides. Not to be outclassed, Mr. Rosenthal records his thoughts in a Times column dated March 16. Tartly ungrammatical, the heading reads: "Forgetting war on drugs could be deadly." Excerpts follow.

I hope it will not annoy the presidential candidates and other seekers of political office if I bring up a subject they hardly mention as they dash around campaigning.

Drugs. You remember - drugs, as in drug addiction, drug crime, drug disease, drug homeless, drug guns, drug blood and drug babies. And as in the War on Drugs, declared by Washington, way back, about three years ago.

Maybe it's not worth talking about anymore. Maybe the Bush administration was right: Declare victory, put it on the back burner and put out the pilot light. Then announce a new war, against a different national killer, like the capital gains tax or something.

Politicians assume, doubtless correctly, that Americans are too stupid to understand that one day some addict from a mean street somewhere might wander into their neighborhood and teach them a civics lesson by sticking a knife in their ribs.

Rosenthal goes on to celebrate the work of his namesake, Dr. Mitchell S. Rosenthal, "head of Phoenix House, largest of the 250 American therapeutic communities." Pleas for sufficient funds to increase the number of facilities like Phoenix House have gotten nowhere. Bemoaning the government's lack of interest, our columnist unleashes his barbs of humor. Get ready.

Since so many politicians are reluctant to bring up drugs now, how about legalizing the whole thing so we can stop bothering our heads? Dr. Rosenthal, like most drug experts, says it would be suicide for America. But then, nothing is perfect.

Oh, certainly, there would be more drug use and abuse. But to keep drugs out of sight of most Americans, electrified walls could be built around the poor white or black and Hispanic neighborhoods infected by drug addicts.

Then armed guards could be posted at gates. Addicts could be shot if they tried to get out. Other residents would have to show passes from the special legalization police.

Behind the walls, addicts could kill each other off; burying them would be cheaper than treatment. Maybe bounties could be paid for death certificates of crack babies. They would just drag through life anyway.

Yes, come to think of it now, it could work. Trees could even be planted near the walls.

The piece ends with the signature: A.M. Rosenthal, The New York Times.

Thanks to the forgotten POW who sent the clipping, with the last few paragraphs underlined and the comment "WOW" inked in the margin alongside.



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