On the Other Hand...

Death in the Afternoon

by Jim Davies

It sounds like an Agatha Christie mystery, but it's not. It's not even fiction at all, it's fact; and though there is certainly a mystery here, it's no Whodunnit. The people who caused the Death of the Vicar (actually, he was a Methodist Minister in Boston, not an Anglican in St Mary Mead) are perfectly well known; the mystery is why the citizens of Boston let them get away with it, and are letting them get away with similar behavior as I write.

The victim in question was Rev. Accelyne Williams, a gentleman of 75 years who had spent many years ministering in the Carribean to residents who had taken drugs unwisely and wanted to kick the habit. He had come to Boston to retire.

It was the middle of the afternoon of March 25th this year that his killers arrived, unannounced. There was a team of them, bursting in to his home with all deliberate force, armed to the teeth. They had just tied up Pastor Williams with a view to ransacking his apartment when he went into cardiac arrest, having been literally frightened to death by the violent suddenness of the invasion. He died without ever understanding what was going on.

Friendly Fire

Had he survived, Pastor Williams would have learned that the invasion was a mistake. His killers were members of the Boston Police Department, and they had been authorized to carry it out by the chief there, Paul Evans, who has since done nothing to cancel all similar raids but who acknowledged that Mr Williams was, quote, "an innocent victim of the continuing war on drugs."

The invaders, you see, had been told by one of their snitches that if they raided Mr Williams' home they would find a cache of prohibited drugs and guns. And Commissioner Evans, acting with the apparent approval of the people of Boston and their "leaders", had authorized his agents to apply maximum force and enter homes without the "knock and announce" principle that has been at the root of Anglo-American justice administration for the past several centuries; the first thing Pastor Williams knew about the arrival of these thugs at his door was when it burst off its hinges under the impact of their battering ram.

The snitch, as it happens, was inebriated at the time he collected the intelligence for which he was paid by the people of Boston, as a result of which he provided the Fuzz with the wrong address. None of those who bought this bum steer bothered to cross check it with any other information. Egged on,perhaps, by the glorification of this kind of police work by such TV programs as "COPS", the team in question just put on their battle gear and went off to place Mr Williams in mortal danger. While it's true they had no intention of killing him, it's also true they took no particular precaution to keep him alive. If it were not that their employers own the courts and the jails, they would today be behind bars for manslaughter, minimum.

I can't deny that if a war needs to be waged, unhappily people will die who are non-combatants - even members of one's own "side". The Brass call that "friendly fire." When you may be shot at yourself, you're naturally inclined to shoot first and ask questions later. So if war is waged, innocents die.

The question here is therefore whether this war truly has to be waged. Should the government's War on Drugs, in fact, be "continuing" at all?

No More War!

I'm indebted to the Washington, D.C. Drug Policy Foundation for the details of the above report - and that institution is one that believes it should not. They take the view, as I do, that this War is long past-due for termination.

I'm not quite a pacifist; if someone seemed to place my life at risk, I'd see nothing wrong in resisting with deadly force. By me, defensive war is okay. But for anything short of that, I'm as anti-war as any Vietnam protester.

So, is the alleged "threat" of drugs one which we must forcibly resist? Are we in any kind of mortal danger from those who would offer to sell us crack? If not, then this decades-long, nationwide War on Drugs is an offensive war, and so should be absolutely unacceptable to a peace-loving people.

To ask that vital and necessary question is to answer it; with one important exception, drug dealers threaten nobody at all. Nobody's arm is twisted, if they decline the salesman's offer. The entire transaction is voluntary.

The exception is the case that the salesman misrepresents his product - that he offers perhaps a loss-leader, with the promise "it will make you feel great" while failing to warn of its possibly addictive quality. Then when his customeris hooked, he sells it in quantities that may place his life at risk.

Now, that exception is quite small. Out of 20 million users, fewer than 4,000 ayear OD on illegal drugs - one hundredth as many as die from nicotine use - and easily manageable by means of civil damage suits, rather as you or I might sue Chrysler if they misrepresented the safety of a car they sold us.

That apart, then, what "our" government is waging war on is a particular type of trade, with no force or threat being used by buyer or seller. We who choose not to buy (to "Just Say No") stand in absolutely no danger from the salesman. It's a totally offensive, aggressive war and so it should be ended at once.

There are many reasons for ending it. This tragedy of "friendly fire" is one, the real crime it generates (through the sky-high prices that prohibition causes) is another; the devastation of innocent families through imprisonment is another and the power it gives government over your cash is the biggest.

But to my mind, war is a terrible thing to wage and never has any justification except that of extreme defensive need. No such need exists. It should be ended at once, and its authors tried, Nürnberg style, for waging it.