03/25/12 Misha Glenny

Century of Lies

London panel on drug reform

Audio file


Century of Lies / March 25, 2012


DEAN BECKER: For the Drug Truth Network, this is Dean Becker asking you to examine our policy of Drug Prohibition.

The Century of Lies.

This show produced at the Pacifica Studios of KPFT Houston.


DEAN BECKER: Welcome to this edition of Century of Lies. Today we are going to tune in to a recent event sponsored by Google – an international online drug conference, if you will. We’re going to just jump right into it. Here we go.


EMILY MAITLIS: Is it time to end the War on Drugs? Please welcome, first up, the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos.

JUAN SANTOS: Good evening to everyone around the world watching this event – the first Google Versus Debate. I think it’s called Debate Organized by Intelligence Squared.

The subject of discussion is one of worldwide importance. It’s going to be debated in true democratic fashion. Not just by international speakers but also by a huge audience watching all over the world who have a chance to listen to all of the arguments and make up their minds.

More than forty years ago President Richard Nixon declared the War on Drugs. Since then we have been fighting against this global problem at a great cost. Sometime we feel that we have been pedaling on a static bicycle. You look right. You look left. Yet you always see the same landscape. Demand for drugs keeps rising and, obviously, supply follows.

That is why we think it is time to have an in-depth discussion about this situation. We believe that we must look at all the possible alternatives to face this huge challenge in a more effective way - all of them. I repeat. All of the options must be considered.

Through not ideological, non-politicized, rigorous, evidence-based discussion of the costs and benefits of each alternative. The scientists and the experts must be the ones that do that analysis and research and lead the discussion which I hope all nations concerned should participate - especially the largest consumer and the largest producer countries.

In Colombia we have been I would say relatively successful. We have made great progress in reducing coca cultivation and in fighting drug trafficking. We have dismantled the once all powerful cartels but we have also paid a very high cost. We have lost our best judges, our best journalists, our best politicians, our best policemen, our best soldiers.

But the problem has not disappeared and our success has meant that this problem has now moved to other countries. So we do think it is our responsibility to determine if we are doing the best we can or there are better options. I think it is time to be creative and open-minded. We need to address the real, root causes of the consumption of drugs.

I have said Colombia cannot and will not act unilaterally. A new international consensus is needed because this is a global problem and therefor it must have a global solution.


EMILY MAITLIS: We have that from President Santos of Colombia talking about a need to be creative and to be open-minded but warning that Colombia could not act unilaterally.

Well, now to kick off the debate itself welcome our first orator in favor of relaxing drug control – Misha Glenny.

MISHA GLENNY: The War on Drugs has failed. It just doesn’t work. 40 years after Richard Nixon launched this senseless campaign drugs are more available than ever. They’re more powerful than ever.

Let’s talk a little about the unintended consequences of the War on Drugs. For this I want to quote an expert in the field who writes of “a huge criminal black market that now thrives to get prohibited substances from producers to consumers.”

The author of that quote? Why it’s none other than my opponent this evening – Antonio Maria Costa. So even those who prosecute the War on Drugs recognize the terrible damage that it inflicts.

But I want to introduce you to some of his most resolute allies. Members of a major marijuana trafficking syndicate that I got to know while I was researching my book on global organized crime “McMafia.”

These narco-traffickers support the War on Drugs. The very guys that we’re spending billions on trying to track down every year want the policy to continue. Why?! Because they’re making so much money from an unregulated, illicit market and they are so confident that they will never get busted that they’d be crazy to switch to an alternative which would regulate them. Which would tax them and perhaps pay for public health services.

What about the unintended consequences for public health? Well, in a regulated market governments can protect people from the deadliest ingredients of narcotics. But, by refusing to regulate, governments allow our young people, for example, to snort cocaine which is cut with rat poison or with fiberglass.

That is not protecting our young people. That is killing them.

And talking about killing, let’s think for a moment about the tens of thousands of innocent victims in Mexico, Afghanistan and elsewhere whose deaths are the consequence of the unintended consequences of the War on Drugs.

Why do so many Latin American leaders now insist to end the War on Drugs? It’s because it’s their compatriots who are paying with their lives for a policy of prohibition which the West can’t even enforce.

Oh yes, law enforcement…Now, this evening you may hear some witnesses from the other side who will say that the reason why the War on Drugs isn’t working is simply because we don’t put enough police resources into it.

The U.N. says that to make this business unprofitable then we would have to block 75% of the trade. The current estimate – between 20 and 30%. It’s not even close.

If you want to have the requisite police forces to do something about the War on Drugs to make it successful I’m afraid you’ll have to go to North Korea.

You know recently I was talking to a senior official of the British Foreign Office and he said to me, “When they look back in one hundred years time will they see this policy for what it is – The Emperor’s New Clothes.”

The time has come for this immoral, this inhumane, this irrational policy to stop because the emperor is not only stark naked – he’s drenched in blood from head to toe.

So, please, join in demanding an end to this senseless War on Drugs.

Thank you.


EMILY MAITLIS: Thanks, Misha. Now please welcome the orator in favor of retaining drug control, Antonia Maria Costa.


DEAN BECKER: I’d like to make note of the fact that Antonia Maria Costa is the former U.N. Drug Czar and a former guest here on the Drug Truth Network.


ANOTONIA COSTA: Ladies and Gentlemen, forget about the War on Drugs – jargon I never use. The motion tonight is not about war or peace. It’s about drug legalization. And this motion must be opposed for many reasons.

The first reason is factual. For over a century now countries have unanimously agreed that drugs are dangerous to health and must be controlled. Without doubt over time controlling some drugs has protected our health.

Listen to the numbers: Tobacco, Misha, this is a good example …or a bad example of a regulated market. Tobacco is consumed by one-third of humanity and kills 5,000,000 people per year.

Alcohol – regulated…Muslim countries – otherwise free, is consumed by one-quarter of humanity and kills 2,500,000.

Drugs – cocaine, amphetamine, etc – are universally controlled and are consumed by a fraction of humanity. Less than 5% admit to using once per year which is a very broad definition. Drugs kill 500,000 people per year – 1/10th than people killed by the regulated market Misha mentioned.

My next point is about crime. I confirm what I said and I will say it again. Drug prohibition has caused crime. We must fight it but now with the simplistic argument, “Legalize drugs and crime will disappear.” Please, Misha, the world is not flat with only two dimensions – drugs and crime.

What about health? I said and repeat that legalization will cause a drug epidemic and I give you the evidence not based on the common sense notion that greater availability of anything (drugs or anything else) causes great use and, in this case, addiction. There is something much more sinister around here.

Behind posh meetings like tonight are big investors in the expectation that drugs, one day, will be legal. And I have in mind bankers and venture capitalist and pharmaceutical companies. They are all developing drug brands and marketing plans ready to enter the drug market.

Just Google their names and you will discover that in the future there will be no more drug mafia’s as is your expectation but why cover drug investors? The pro-drug coalition can even count on politicians who expect tax revenue from drugs.

Think of California and their referendum there. Drug legalization was even suggested to Greece to avoid bankruptcy.

In short, after financial crisis, home foreclosures, job losses, the world does not need addiction and death from drug legalization.

Ladies and Gentlemen, drug legalization is privatization of investors gain and socializing on our health losses. The 1% strikes again.

I conclude with a third point - very briefly. Governments need to protect both health and security. Therefore, rather than legalizing drugs - which is the easy way out – I invite leaders to show political courage.

First, treat addiction as an illness sending addicts to hospitals rather than to jails. Second, fight corruption – the main lubricant to drug crime.

Mexico is a good example, President Fox. It ranks 99 in the world in their integrity. How can a corrupt country fight crime?

And, of course, oppose money laundering. Think of the Wachovia bank in New York caught recycling last year $480,000,000 of Mexican drug money and they were not even indicted. Governor Spitizer – you better go back to New York fast.

Ladies and Gentlemen, stand united against this threat to health and vote against the motion to legalize drugs.


DEAN BECKER: Once again, that was the former U.N. Drug Czar Antonio Maria Costa. We’re going to skip the section featuring Richard Branson of Virgin. We’re going to jump to an individual I don’t think you’ve heard from before in regards to the drug war and that is the actor, Russell Brand.


RUSSELL BRAND: I don’t think having wars on anything is a solution. I think that even in the nomenclature of declaring war against a problem will exacerbate and enhance the problem.

I’m a recovering drug addict and know that drug addiction is an illness. It’s a disease. So by criminalizing that you criminalize a huge percentage of the population. You malign them and stigmatize them. You generate more crime. You create a criminal culture.

And speaking from the perspective of a sufferer – is simply not helpful. You feel like you’re outside of the mainstream culture.

You and Richard made some interesting points about influential figures. I mean the President of the United States – he’s kind of influential. Steve Jobs – he’s kind of influential.

GEOFFREY ROBERTSON: and Russell Brand also….what was your drug of choice?

RUSSELL BRAND: I don’t know if it was a choice – that’s the nature of the disease. I used a lot of heroin. I used a lot of crack. I used a lot of marijuana. I used a lot of alcohol.

I think regardless of the state of legislation prescribed to the drug…I don’t think the drugs are not dangerous. I don’t think people should be taking drugs. I think that the country…I don’t take drugs. I don’t drink but I think that by treating it as a crime instead of treating it as an illness we have the wrong perspective.

I think we need to behave altruistically and compassionately towards people who are ill and I think that then we can systematically effect our society more positively. I think the minute you say that someone is a criminal you ostrasize them.

GEOFFREY ROBERTSON: OK, so you’re not the enemy.

RUSSELL BRAND: I don’t think we should regard anyone as enemies or vilians in our culture. Setting up people who have got drug problems…I think we need to inclusive and tolerant. This is from my own experiences as a suffering drug addict.

I think the more inclusive the host culture is the better we can resolve these problems.

GEOFFREY ROBERTSON: Russell, thanks very much for being with us.


DEAN BECKER: Alright you are listening to Century of Lies on the Drug Truth Network. We’re chopping up a recent online debate put together by Google’s Versus Debate – an international panel.

Please forgive the electronic chirple, warble whatever it is that’s kind of intruding on this recording but that came from Google. Let’s continue.


GEOFFREY ROBERTSON: We now have hanging out Vicente Fox, the former President of Mexico. Can you hear me, Vicente?

VINCENTE FOX: Yes, very clear. Hello to everybody.

GEOFFREY ROBERTSON: Thank you for joining us. You were the democratically elected President of Mexico in the year 2000. You said when you started that the War on Drugs is the mother of all battles. How do you feel about it now?

VINCENTE FOX: I feel that in the case of Mexico it’s most urgent that we stop the war. We need to reach peace because a peaceful and cultural and joyful resolution is the only way that human beings can perform at their very best.

So we have to stop the war that has caused close to 60,000 young kids killed, up to 25-year-olds among them, many innocent among them. Over hundreds of policemen and hundreds of military…

GEOFFREY ROBERTSON: Is there a climate of fear in Mexico today because of the War on Drugs?

VINCENTE FOX: It is the loss and the cost incredible that has caused the loss of hope for the future. Our young cannot even think about the future. They want this war to stop.

Number two, this war has caused a strong and heavy economic burden on the development of the nation - the loss of tourism, the loss of foreign investment, the loss of state of growth.

There is my friend, Hernando Enrique Cordoso. When I was President the Mexican economy was 25% larger than the Brazilian. Today the Brazilian economy is 50% larger…

GEOFFREY ROBERTSON: I’m going to come back to you but you’ve come under pressure from the White House, haven’t you, in 2006 not to decriminalize small amounts of cocaine and cannabis?

VINCENTE FOX: Of course Mexico’s consumption of drugs is not penalized. United States consumption of drugs is penalized. Millions of consumers in that nation are working on the street without nobody making them responsible for what they call a crime…

GEOFFREY ROBERTSON: President Fox I’m going to come back to you later but because of our shortness of time I’m going to you, Johan. Is this just a metaphor “War on Drugs” or are people being hurt?

JOHANN HARI: It’s not like the War on Poverty which is a politician’s metaphor. This is an actual war fought with actual guns just as much as Viet Nam or Iraq. It’s really one to expand the mechanism by which that happens.

When you criminalize a really popular substance it doesn’t vanish. You transfer control from doctors and pharmacists to armed criminal gangs. Those armed criminal gangs have no way of establishing contracts. …

GEOFFREY ROBERTSON: Are they quaking in their boots? The cartels?

JOHANN HARI: On the contrary. We know that they are absolutely on the side of maintaining the War on Drugs.

Jorge Ramon, the head of Mafia Creuenza, was caught on wiretap saying, “This war is an absolute sham that keeps all of us in business.”

Everyone watching this should know that the cartel bosses watching tonight have definitely got a side in this debate and it ain’t ours.

GEOFFREY ROBERTSON: Right. What about other authoritarian countries? What about China? What do they do?

JOHANN HARI: Well we know that any country that enforces the War on Drugs has a significant rise in the homicide rate which is really important to understand. After alcohol prohibition ended in the United States the homicide rate fell by 20% and never rose again to the same level…

GEOFFREY ROBERTSON: Very quickly…China and Russia, please…

JOHANN HARI: China is currently, as we speak, detaining half a million addicts in what are effectively gulags – torturous, absolutely widespread. They’re forced-labor camps. That’s the face of the War on Drugs in the largest country in the world.

GEOFFREY ROBERTSON: What about Russia, finally.

JOHANN HARI: Russia is following the Chinese model, absolutely, and it’s the reason why Russia has the fastest rising HIV rate in the world because when you crack down really hard on heroin addicts they hide their needles, they throw them away and share them.

The War on Drugs is the biggest friend the HIV virus ever had.

GEOFFREY ROBERTSON: Johan, thank you.

EMILY MAITLIS: I am now going to invite Eliot Spitzer – the advocate against tonight’s motion, “It’s time to end the War on Drugs.”

ELIOT SPITZER: Thank you, Emily. Let me invite General McCaffrey up. General do you, just to set the stage and so everybody understands, not only where General and the United States Army, which is, not to continue the metaphor of war, but also were in charge of drug policy during President Clinton’s presidency. Is that correct?

BARRY McCAFFREY: Yeah and I’ve continued since then being heavily involved in prevention primarily but also drug and alcohol treatment programs throughout the United States. I try to be supportive of the National Institute of Health research programs. I’m still very much engaged in the issue.

Governor Spitzer, if I can, let me just begin by complimenting Antonio Maria Costa on his comments. They really summarize nicely what we’re talking about. There’s no reason for us to debate whether we’re either going to prohibit a major drug cartels from murdering 60,000 Mexicans or, on the other hand, having effective prevention education programs reducing the consumption of alcohol and illegal drugs by adolescents from the 6th to the 8th grade and trying to deal rationally with a medical model on dealing with, in the United States, 307,000,000 – probably 16,000.000 of us have a chronic substance abuse problem.

So, the underlined 1 data point that we got to get it in the table…The United States, which frequently we mention in this debate, we have reduced drug consumption by a third in the last three decades.

Cocaine use is down by some 43%. Meth use has been cut in half. If you’re in high tech industry in the armed forces, etc. we have minimal drug use.

The bottom line is what I support is prevention and education and effective drug treatment while remaining adamant that we will confront international crime in the production of drugs.

ELIOT SPITZER: Well, General, you have given us stupendous summary of what the primary objectives are and I just want to make it clear that when you listen to the powerful statements from Richard Branson and the others – we do not oppose any of what they are saying in terms of prevention, in terms of treatment. Do you…do we, in the United States, send users to jail merely because they are users?

BARRY McCAFFREY: Look, I’ve been in half the jails and prisons in America. We have a disgracefully high incarceration rate, I might add. Probably 2.1 million people behind bars. I’m heavily involved inadequate treatment capacity we’ve built. We have about 3 and a half million people in treatment – way under what the requirement is.

But, as a general statement, if I walk out the front door of this beautiful resort hotel smoking a doobie it would be almost impossible to get arrested, for God’s sakes – never mind prosecuted and jailed.

You end up behind bars, I’d say 80% of the people behind bars have an alcohol or drug problem “but I was breaking into your house or stealing your car or doing male street prostitution.”

In fact, people behind bars are not arrested and jailed for possession for two joints.

ELIOT SPITZER: Just so it is clear and time is short we have to apportion among many witnesses and having spent many years as a prosecutor and a governor overseeing a huge prison system, we do not incarcerate just for use – it is the violence that attends that sends people to jail. We treat users, is that correct?

BARRY McCAFFREY: Without question. Again, I go back to real world law enforcement, prosecutors, jailed….that isn’t the problem. The problem with heroin and methamphetamines isn’t whether they’re legal or illegal it’s that they’re furiously addictive and you end up with medically, social work-related problems.

You end up chronically addicted and then you’re life is abject misery. We’re going to get you in recovery and we know how to do it.

ELIOT SPITZER: General, I’m going to come back to you in subsequent chapters, in particular, why, and we will not use the metaphor war, it is the wrong metaphor. We do not disagree with you, Richard, about prevention and dealing with users. We’re going to come back to kids in particular.

Ed Vulliamy, I want to ask you, if, since the topic of the first chapter was the cartels…what, in your view, would be the single best way to go right at bloodstream of those cartels?

ED VULLIAMY: The one thing that stands a chance of throttling all the misery that’s been discussed on both sides of this argument – you stop the swill of blood money from the cartels gratefully received by the real cartels which is the international banking system.

ELIOT SPITZER: And how do you do it?

ED VULLIAMY: Antonio Maria Costa has referred to the Wachovia case. It was a rare glimpse of how all of this works. $110 million – small change – that was direct drug money.

$376 billion – medium-sized bank – 4 years – a lot of money. Improperly taken – not from the banking system in Mexico but little holes in the wall. Nobody goes to jail. They get a gentle rap on the knuckles. They’re in the clear. We stop that.

If this thing didn’t make any money for anybody whether it’s the cartels…

ELIOT SPITZER: Ed, that clock is going to run down. I’m going to interrupt…

ED VULLIAMY: We’ll take it over is the other side wins this argument then it’s not going to work. You throttle the money. Go off of the money. We want to see the rattle with handcuffs in the boardroom and the bankers in the cells – not the poor addicts.

ELIOT SPITZER: Alright, stop right there. Listen, you’re right. We have to turn off the spicket of blood money and we have lousy prosecutors who have no backbone who aren’t doing it but if we legalize these drugs which is what they’re saying – what would happen to consumption?

RICHARD BRANSON: [inaudible]

ELIOT SPITZER: You’ll get your chance, sir.

ED VULLIAMY: What we have is a political class which is prostituted to the banking system and doesn’t have guts to take on…

ELIOT SPITZER: Alright, but we can stop the blood but I want to go to Sandeep Chawla who is also from the U.N. Sandeep, Let me ask you this. You have studied drug issues. You’re up there on the Hangout.

Sandeep, answer this question for me. If we were to increase the access to drugs do you think that use would go up or go down?

SANDEEP CHAWLA: I think use would definitely go up as would public health costs. Crime rates may come down. Public health costs and use would definitely go up. You have the evidence of alcohol and tobacco. You can have it again for many other substances like this where use would go up.

So what we are looking to do here is…we do not need to stop the War on Drugs, cartels and traffickers but we do need to stop the war on drug users and we need to treat them.

ELIOT SPITZER: So we all agree on that. Everybody on both sides of this has agreed that we need to treat those who are users but continue the prosecution of those who distribute and grow.


DEAN BECKER: Again, that was Eliot Sptizer speaking at the Google Drug Conference and distorting – taking half the truth and trying it into his whole truth.

It is the bankers that are most fiscally responsible for this drug war but yet none of them have ever been sent to jail for their participation in this madness. None of them have ever been brought to trial. None of them have been put in jail. None of them have been arrested for their part in this eternal war on drug users.

There is no basis to this drug war. It is a scam. Please visit our website, http://endprohibition.org. Prohibido istac evilesco!


For the Drug Truth Network, this is Dean Becker asking you to examine our policy of Drug Prohibition.

The Century of Lies.

This show produced at the Pacifica Studios of KPFT Houston.

Tap dancing… on the edge… of an abyss.

Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org