07/04/18 Eric Sterling

Special Edition: Eric Sterling Director of Criminal Justice Policy Foundation in Washington DC re drug war fiasco + DTN Editorial "When will drug war failure bring focus to bear?"

Program: 
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date: 
Thursday, July 5, 2018
Guest: 
Eric Sterling
Organization: 
Criminal Justice Policy Foundation
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CULTURAL BAGGAGE

JULY 5, 2018

TRANSCRIPT

DEAN BECKER: Hi folks, this is Dean Becker, welcome to this July Fourth edition of the Cultural Baggage show. We have one guest, Mister Eric Sterling, and a Drug Truth Network editorial.

You know, it was nearly twenty years ago, I was reading everything I could find on the internet, I was trying to discern the truth about this drug war, what were the real facts involved, and one of the people I ran across, a man who became my mentor, an example I've tried to follow, though I think I've gone a little too radical for certain people's taste, but a man who I do emulate and respect so greatly.

He's the director of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, based in our nation's capitol, my friend, my ally, Mister Eric Sterling. How are you, sir?

ERIC STERLING: I'm very well, Dean, thank you, it's such a pleasure to be talking to you and your audience once again.

DEAN BECKER: And, you know, the fact is, sir, the cage is being rattled in many different ways, we are seeing once again the failure, the futility, of our policies. More specifically in regards to the folks that are headed northward, trying to escape the drug war violence, the barbarism in Central America and Mexico, and trying to make it to the safety of the United States. Your initial response to that thought please, sir.

ERIC STERLING: I always try to approach these issues comprehensively, to think what are the different drivers that lead people to give up their homelands and flee to the United States. A strong one has always been a fear of violence. My grandparents in 1921 fled the violence of the Bolsheviks in the Soviet Union, who were killing political activists who were not part of the Bolshevik party, and Lenin and Stalin were hunting them down and my grandparents fled in 1921 and my father was born shortly after they escaped.

And they immigrated to the United States in 1924. So that's an example of people fleeing from political violence. And of course, historically, people fled to America because there was religious persecution, you know, our national founding, the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock, you know, escaping from persecution in England. Catholics who fled to Maryland, Quakers who fled to Pennsylvania, south Jersey, Delaware. Protestants who fled from Germany and persecution.

So we have then of course people fleeing now because they're -- they're subject to violence because of other features of their identity, they're gay or lesbian or transgender. So, historically, America has been a place of asylum and refuge, and people who were fleeing the drug gangs in Central America, where teenagers are forced to be recruited into the gangs, young women are raped, people are kidnapped, the fear is real, and the desire for safety is strong and historically it's been honored.

But, historically, there have long been negative responses to immigrants, and this goes back, you know, very far in our past. Those who are here, fear the loss of jobs that immigrants might take. They fear the loss of political power. They fear the loss of the features of their culture.

And these are understandable. Sometimes they're exaggerated. Sometimes they're quite racist, and they've been -- they were, you know, racist in terms of the fears of the Chinese, for example, or others who are coming.

DEAN BECKER: The Japanese.

ERIC STERLING: The reality is that -- the reality is that when you study immigrants, they come and they work very, very hard. They build lives here, they're driven to succeed. The people who are willing to gamble their lives and their futures to come and start a new life are entrepreneurs, they are the risk takers, they build the capitalist system, which of course is built on risk.

So that they lead to economic growth, and the studies of immigration show that the countries around the world that are most welcoming to immigration have the strongest economies and the strongest future outlook.

Ultimately, of course, the immigrants, not only do they work hard, but they assimilate, they learn English, their children and their grandchildren go on to, you know, take their place in the American society and our nation is stronger.

What is disturbing now is that in the fear of immigrants coming from Central America, it is -- the fears are being exaggerated and the real threats of drugs being smuggled into the country from Mexico, of the opioids, of fentanyl, of methamphetamine, that are being brought in by criminal cartels, the falsehood that the refugees are responsible for this is leading to the horrendous response of taking their children, of trying to figure out strategies to deter immigration, deter asylum seekers, by a very, very inhumane response.

The children are being used to -- and are being explicitly traumatized as a way to get people not to come. This is -- this is -- this is horrendous. When you look at what constitutes a crime against humanity as defined in international law, when a policy is directed against a particular people by nationality, or by race, and they are subjected to torture and violations of the character such as taking children away and breaking up families, those are the kinds of conduct that are understood by international law to be crimes against humanity.

If one thinks about what are high crimes and misdemeanors that the Constitution lays out as the basis for an impeachment of the civil officers of the United States, any government official can be impeached by Congress for committing high crimes and misdemeanors.

A crime against humanity would be that kind of high crime and misdemeanor, and I think that it would be appropriate for a member of Congress to introduce a resolution of impeachment, charging and accusing the Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, or Attorney General Jeff Sessions, or even president Donald Trump, of high crimes and misdemeanors for carrying out a policy that constitutes crimes against humanity.

So these are my reactions to the, what we're facing on our border. It is a response to a very understandable desire to flee for refuge, it's a response that is not terribly different from many historical responses, but it is a response that is counterproductive in economic and social terms, and so cruel as to constitute a criminal law under international law -- a criminal violation under international law.

DEAN BECKER: Friends, we're speaking with Mister Eric Sterling, he's the director of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation in our nation's capitol. Eric, I want to thank you for those thoughts. You know, we hear the verbiage coming from Trump and Sessions and others that these people are MS-13, they're violent, they're murderers, they're rapists, they're animals, and yet, the pictures show us these are families, these are -- lots of children locked in cages. They are no threat to our nation, no threat to our security, and yet it continues. It --

ERIC STERLING: These are, Dean, just think about it, if you were a leader of MS-13, or an MS-13 soldier, you would be operating in your own country, where you have a -- your gang, or you're able to enrich yourself through extortion or other kinds of activity. For gang leaders to come to the United States is counterproductive. It doesn't make sense.

We have far more competent police departments than they have in Honduras or El Salvador or Nicaragua, or Guatemala. Our police forces are much more sophisticated, they are much more honest, they're much more powerful. Our courts and our correctional systems are much more powerful, much less subject to corruption. It would be a very foolish colonel who would say, gee, I'm going to try to get across the border into the United States and think that this is a place that they can carry on criminal activity more successfully than they can where through violence, intimidation, and bribery, they have power almost equal to the government.

So the fears of who's being caught at the border are very much misplaced. There certainly are people in the MS-13, and we see in many parts of the country their violence, but that is -- this response of thinking that we're going to stop them by seizing children from parents who are trying to come to the United States for refuge is really stupid.

DEAN BECKER: Yes. I agree, sir. I consider prohibition to be stupid, evil, any which way you want to look at it. Again, we're speaking with Mister Eric Sterling, he was instrumental, back in the 1980s, when I think it was Congressman Peter Rodino put forward the idea that we needed to escalate our drug laws, and I think you've had it on your conscience since that time, to kind of undo what was built back in those days.

But, I want to ask you, Eric, you know, there are fewer and fewer people standing forth proclaiming the need for an eternal drug war. Those numbers are diminishing quickly, and the number of people now stepping forward, and organizations, including the British Medical Journal, and US Congressmen, are now re-examining this policy, are now determining that we were wrong headed and we need to go in a more positive direction. Your thought there, please, Eric.

ERIC STERLING: The idea of a war on drugs, that was conceived by President Nixon in the early 1970s and then grew to its sort of modern form under President Ronald Reagan and President George H. W. Bush, those are policies that we've been following for a long time, but we're seeing that they don't work.

When I started working for the Congress in 1979, the number of people who died from all drugs from overdoses was about 6,700. Last year, in 2017, it's likely that the final figure will be over 70,000, the government has not yet released the 2017 data. In 2016, it was over 60,000 dead. So we've seen, you know, a ten-fold increase in this period of time in the number of people who've died, even though we've followed the same kind of strategy.

And so, throughout the society, we're seeing people recognizing that this strategy does not work at its primary objective, to save lives and reduce suffering. And so, the challenge is then to try to visualize what the replacement might be, and replacing the system of prohibition with a legal and regulated regime is much harder for people to conceptualize.

When people look at the chaos in the lives of people who are the most seriously addicted, on the streets, injecting in, dirty needles and sharing and so forth, they say, is that what you want to legalize, is that what prohibition repeal is going to increase? And it is very hard for people to visualize what a system of management of addiction looks like, of a system where instead of being made homeless and unemployed, drug users will be able to retain their housing, they will -- their addiction would be managed, they'd be able to work, they would no longer be outcasts.

That is a complex challenge that we have not yet made real in the imagination of the American people.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Eric, I want to thank you for your thoughts today, and for your encouragement, your motivation, your sharing of information, your perspective, which has helped me to move forward, to make friends with Congressmen and police chiefs and sheriffs, to align myself with people who have a moderate way of dealing with this situation, who no longer want to follow the same failed path which seems to lead towards more abuse, more -- leads to oblivion. Your closing thoughts, Mister Eric Sterling.

ERIC STERLING: There are now many organizations trying to do this work. The Law Enforcement Action Partnership, the Drug Policy Alliance, the Harm Reduction Coalition, Students for Sensible Drug Policy. These are just a few of the organizations throughout the nation that are mobilizing the public, policy makers, police, criminal justice officials, judges, legislators, and so forth, to develop strategies that are going to protect the public and protect drug users so that the amount of crime goes down, the amount of disease goes down, the loss of life goes down, and people who are suffering from addiction, instead of being hounded and placed at greater risk of dying, are put into context where the risk of death goes down dramatically and they can lead a successful life, and be on the path eventually to recovery.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Eric, again, I want to thank you and folks, if you want to learn more about the indepth analysis and investigation of this drug war, please go to CJPJ.org. You can learn about drug policy, crack cocaine, alcohol, heroin, opiates, cannabis, on down the line, and it's thanks to our good friend, Mister Eric Sterling. Thank you, sir.

ERIC STERLING: Thank you, Dean, it's always a pleasure to talk with you and your audience.

DEAN BECKER: It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Responsible for countless overdose deaths, uncounted diseases, international graft, greed, and corruption, stilted science, and immense un-Christian moral postulations of fiction as fact. Time's up! And this drug is the United States' immoral, improper, bigoted, unscientific, and plain f-ing evil addiction to drug war.

This is a Drug Truth Network editorial. Today is July the Fourth, the day America celebrates freedom as she cages more human beings than have ever been caged before in the history of the world. When will this matter?

The drug war empowers our terrorist enemies, enriches barbarous cartels, creates violent US gangs, ensures more death, disease, crime, and addiction. What is the benefit? What do we derive that offsets the horrors this drug war creates?

The latest horror under examination is the situation on our southern border. Families are fleeing violence of enormous proportion. Drug cartels are using their billions to bribe and intimidate, taking over police forces, military units, whole villages and towns, becoming brutal rulers of the territories they control, murdering and raping with impunity in Guatemala, Honduras, the whole Central American corridor. There should be little wonder why these brave refugees are willing to ride on top of a freight train for thousands of miles to reach the safety of the United States.

It is horrific to think that it is the multi-billion dollar drug habit of America and Americans that enriches these same cartels, whose corruption and brutality then drive these thousands of immigrant families northward.

I claim the moral high ground in the drug war. My dedication and commitment to understanding this war, declared for eternity, and the fact that nobody dares challenge my claim gives me that right.

I am the Reverend Dean Becker, contributing expert at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy there at Rice University. I'm a speaker for Law Enforcement Action Partnership, an organization with more than 150,000 members and supporters worldwide. I'm an ally to more than three thousand experts who elected to be guests on my Pacifica radio programs.

The experts who shared their knowledge on air include police chiefs and sheriffs, prosecutors and politicians, judges and ministers, prisoners and prison wardens, doctors and scientists, scholars and authors. For twenty years I have sought to clarify the nature of drug war for all of us, investing well in excess of ten thousand hours traveling with, learning from, and interviewing these same experts, nearly all friends to this day.

I wrote the book "To End The War On Drugs" and flew to Washington DC to deliver copies to the president, his cabinet, every Senator and Representative, as well as the Supreme Court justices, and that day I mailed a copy to all fifty governors.

I recently produced my seven thousandth Drug Truth Network radio segment for an international network of broadcast affiliates. Seeking diverse perspectives for a better understanding I have traveled to Canada to learn the many ways they're safe injection facilities save lives. I traveled to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, when it was the deadliest city on planet earth to see firsthand the result of drug war's corruption, the plata o plomo in barbarous, open, ugly display.

I traveled to South America to visit national leaders and coca farmers. I traveled 7,000 miles across the United States with busloads of refugees and survivors of cartel and gang violence.

This year, I traveled to Portugal to meet with their drug czar and to Switzerland to meet with their designer of a heroin protocol that gives free heroin to addicts and where for 19 years there have been zero overdose deaths.

I'm quite proud to say that millions of people around the world value my strong opinions on drug policy and listen to my radio programs on the web as well.

For 20 years, I have sought the full unvarnished truth about the drug war. I've refined my understanding of the mechanism, the many entanglements, lies, and perversions comprising drug war morality, words spoken pontifically, as if from on high, that allows this vicious and evil construct to survive.

My beliefs, truly my morals, compel me to expose what I know to be an abomination. My singular goal in life is to obtain a one hour broadcast debate with the latest director of the DEA, of the ONDCP, or the FBI, top dogs of the drug war, those whose words and pronouncement are used to justify and create this misery, good folks like Jeffrey [sic: Jefferson] Beauregard Sessions and his ilk, to allow the American people to hear both sides and to then determine if sufficient benefit is being derived to offset the horror we inflict on the world by continuing down this same path forever.

Or, should it be ended forthwith? I say legalize and fear not. I submit that legalization will require a simple governmental control, similar to the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act, which required manufacturers to label their product with the exact content and percentages of what was contained therein.

We should also provide warnings of danger, dosage recommendations, and links to medical help and treatment facilities. Products should be tested by the government to ascertain the contents before being sold to the public, then it's buyer beware. Adult buyer beware.

We'll have lots of room in prison to hold anybody who would dare sell to our children. Daily costs should be set to be similar to a pack of cigarettes, costly but not enough to lead the user to commit a crime to support their habit.

Barbarous cartels would immediately begin losing tens of billions of dollars in profits from selling drugs to our children, and would thus lose their eternal seed money with which they fund other criminal enterprises. Cartels would begin losing influence and power when plata o plomo loses most of its power to corrupt, as the black market in drugs is eliminated.

The number of refugees fleeing to the US would quickly drop as well, as the power of the cartel billions begins to disappear. Over a period of just a few months, most of the harms of the drug war will disappear forever.

Terrorists will no longer turn cannabis and opium flowers into weapons via the black market. Violent US gangs will lose 30 to 40 billion dollars a year, and will have little hope of continuing to attract America's children to lives of crime or addiction.

When a dose of pure drugs is available at the drug store for a few dollars, the snake oil salesmen will all but disappear.

Once products of known quality are on the druggist's shelf, overdose deaths will soon be only those committing suicide. Will there still be horrible accidents, lives forever altered, families fractured, and children getting in trouble, even dying? Certainly. But we must stop and realize we have that situation now. It is exponentially compounded by confusion, secrecy and paranoia.

The list of complications is huge. We cannot ignore what is before our eyes. The United States, land of the free, is now the world's leading jailer, imprisoning more of our citizens and not even just per capita, but as for any nation of any size for all time. We are the champions of the world.

We can no longer ignore the nearly fifty million arrests for nonviolent drug offenses. We must fully open our eyes and really see the crowded outdated ineffective prisons and clogged courts.

Heroin is now being replaced by carfentanyl, which is thousands of times stronger than heroin and thousands of times more profitable for criminals around the world who use these easy profits to set up other criminal regimes, including human trafficking, gambling, and of course plata o plomo, which allows the black market to flourish, unleashing barbarism and creating massive swaths of political and corporate greed and corruption.

We must realize that the strength of one gram of carfentanyl is equal to more than three kilos of pure heroin. Sneak it across the border, hidden in a regular envelope, it's less than the size of a sugar packet. Mix it with six and a half pounds of most any shiny powder and sell it for tens of thousands of dollars. Controlled substances?

As a bonus, we'll soon empty half our prisons and use the money saved for education and treatment, when drug users are no longer considered criminals law enforcement will regain millions of citizens as allies, as we begin to mend police relations that have long been strained via distorted and yes bigoted implementation of these drug laws.

The full list of the benefits from legalization extend well beyond what I have presented here. I look forward to a day of truth, recognition of jubilation, the end of prohibition, but in the end, we will find it so obvious and easy to just treat illegal drug users the same way we treat alcohol users, or the way we treat those who use dangerous but currently legal drugs, and when we will simply once again just judge people by their actions, not their habits, like it used to be in America.

I am Dean at DrugTruth.net.

I urge you to please check out our 7,000 radio programs at Drug Truth, and I remind you once again that because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag. Please, be careful.