My book, Pills, Powder and Smoke: Inside the Bloody War on Drugs, was recently released in a Slovakian edition.
It’s been reviewed in Slovakia’s biggest newspaper, SME, by Lubomir Jasko, and it’s very positive.
Here’s the Google Translate version:
Anti-drug campaign or war against people?
Antony Loewenstein, The War on Drugs, translated by Samuel Marec, Hadart 2021
The war on drugs has turned into a war on people. So it became dangerous and without any hope of success.
A cynical game full of violence
This book is useful in any case, especially at a time when Slovakia is also facing complicated quarrels about the forms and adequacy of drug policy. Yes, it will disturb many, it can upset some – the drug campaign is considered a “sacred” and unquestionable task.
It is not an academic collection of the author’s views, but the result of the investigative work of an Australian journalist living in Jerusalem. He writes for the New York Times, the Guardian, the BBC and many other fictional media. Due to the effort (and risks) directly in the field, it is not possible to wave your hand at his criticism of the war on drugs.
Loewenstein sees the war on drugs as a global political failure organized by the United States. He regularly shows his aversion to the United States. In places, he’s really critical of everything a big world player comes up with. However, it offers a huge amount of facts and connections, and these cannot be declared worthless just because of its anti-American emotions. The author is convinced that quality journalism naturally becomes a fight against injustice.
US President Richard Nixon declared drugs the number one public enemy as early as 1971. The campaign culminated in the era of one of his successors, Donald Trump. In 2018, he called for drug dealers to be sentenced to death. Despite the huge number of victims and detainees, there is no indication that drug use is on a declining trend. The United States alone spends more than $ 50 billion each year on a fight that drugs can never completely control.
“The war on drugs is an open and hidden conflict at the same time and, in principle, a cynical game full of violence.” The winners are billions of drug cartels and generously funded national repressive forces.
In the interest of realism
The United States, represented by the DEA, is involved in many countries. In the end, they pursue political goals more than suppressing the drug business. The goal of the war on drugs is not to stop their smuggling or consumption, but to ensure cooperation between Washington and its allies.
Loewenstein gradually traverses the stories of Honduras, the Philippines, Guinea-Bissau, Australia, Great Britain and the United States itself. In these countries, he sought out victims of drug addiction, but also senior government officials, activists and former prisoners.
Each of these countries is struggling with its own version of the big problem. Honduras has been under dictatorship for decades, poor, corrupt and dangerous. It has never been free and remains – albeit obedient to Washington – a dysfunctional state.
The extremely poor Guinea-Bissau wants to get rid of the “bullying” label, but it does not have it in its hands. Every problem other than the war on drugs has been pushed aside. Philippine President Duterte has flooded the streets of Manila and other cities with blood on behalf of the drug campaign. He promised recovery through violence, and millions of people believed such a vision. Fear helps to demonize those who are pushed to the margins of society.
The United States (and, to a lesser extent, Australia and the United Kingdom) is refusing to acknowledge reality and is struggling to legalize and regulate some opiates.
The solutions that Loewenstein offers are not new. A regulated and legal drug use system is the best way of health and contributes to reducing crime. Actually, it’s time for something like a “drug fairtrade.” It is unrealistic to expect all the countries in the world to legalize all drugs at once. The starting point is a sequence of smaller steps.
It is certainly not easy to agree with every author’s proposal. We are fixed in our schemes of good and evil. However, whoever really wants to resist evil (not just in false dreams) should give priority to realism. Wars seem necessary, but if they last long, everyone will eventually perish.