Chomsky never tried Marijuana!!!
Q: You've spoken out against the War on Drugs, explaining that it's
essentially a means to lock up poor people, that it actually increases
drug use, and that it serves as an excuse to control foreign nations.
Would you briefly elaborate on these points?
A: Let's grant that there's a drug problem, for the sake of argument
-- drugs meaning, you know, cocaine, marijuana and so on. Suppose you
accept that. How do you deal with it? There are studies -- government
studies and others -- that say that the most cost-effective way is
prevention and treatment. More expensive and less effective is
policing; still less effective and more expensive is border
interdiction. And the most expensive and the least effective is
out-of-country operations, like what they call "fumigation" -- which
is, in fact, chemical warfare -- in Colombia and so forth. I've seen
it firsthand; it really is chemical warfare. So those are the basic
facts, and I don't think anyone questions them very much.
Now take a look at the way the Drug War is conducted over the past 40
years. It goes back farther, but start from 40 years ago: There's very
little spent on prevention and treatment. There's a lot on policing, a
ton of stuff on border control and a lot on out-of-country operations.
And the effect on the availability of drugs is almost undetectable;
drug prices don't change on measures of availability. So there are two
possibilities: Either those conducting the Drug War are lunatics, or
they have another purpose.
Well, in the law, there's a standard way of trying to determine
intention, and that's by looking at predictable consequences. You have
40 years of experience with almost no effect on what they claim
they're trying to do, and you have very predictable consequences -- in
fact, several. At home, you lock up the people who are essentially
superfluous. The economy shifted dramatically in the '70s away from
domestic production and towards financialization and the export of
production. That leaves a class problem: What do you do with
unemployed workers? We happen to have a very close class/race
correlation in America, so that means, overwhelmingly, black males and
Hispanic males. Well, you know, we're a civilized country, so you
don't assassinate them -- you stick them in jail. And, in fact, the
incarceration rate has been shooting up, especially since the early
'80s; it's now way out of line with any other comparable country.
Meanwhile, overseas, the War on Drugs contributes to counterinsurgency
operations. So a rational conclusion is that those are the purposes.
The only alternative I can think of is sheer lunacy.
Furthermore, it's known, just from experience, that prevention works.
Here we get to the question of what's the drug problem. Well, in fact,
by far the worst problem is tobacco: Tobacco kills way more people
than hard drugs, 20 times as many or some huge number. So that's a
really dangerous substance. The second most dangerous is alcohol,
because of its direct consequence to the user, but also because it
harms others. Marijuana doesn't make you violent; alcohol does. So it
contributes to abuse, violence -- drunk driving kills people. It's a
Anyway, what happened is that, without any criminalization, the usage
of these substances has declined pretty significantly among more
educated people. And it's the same with say, red meat. It was a
lifestyle change, and it became a healthier lifestyle with no
criminalization. That's just education -- basically, prevention. So I
think there's almost no other rational conclusion other than the one I
mentioned: that the Drug War is not intended to deal with the use of
drugs. It's intended for other purposes, namely those that are the
actual and predictable consequences of it.
Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia, made a pertinent comment a
couple years ago. He said, "If you want to destroy coca here, then let
us destroy the tobacco in North Carolina and Kentucky. It's a far more
dangerous substance. It kills way more people than coca does." That's
a joke, obviously -- the United States isn't going to let him do that.
Then again, it just shows up the cynicism of the whole program.
Q: You mentioned that money from drugs is used to support American
covert operations or counterinsurgency operations. Can you explain how
that got started and how it still works today?
A: The best source on this is Alfred McCoy's The Politics of Heroin.
He traces it back to early postwar Europe, post--World War II, where a
prime concern of Washington was to undermine the antifascist
resistance and the labor movements in Italy, France and Germany in
order to restore traditional social structures, including fascist
collaborators. It actually started earlier, before the war was over,
as US and British troops moved up the Italian peninsula with help from
the Mafia. In France, to break the powerful labor movement, the US
occupying forces needed strikebreakers and, more generally, goons.
They reconstituted the Corsican Mafia for that purpose and, in
payment, allowed them to restore the old heroin connection based in
Marseilles, which the fascists had crushed.
After that, the center of the drug trade quite consistently followed
the path of US intervention and subversion. The heroin trade moved
from the French Connection to Southeast Asia, where the so-called
"Golden Triangle" -- the area around Burma, Thailand and Laos --
became a major drug-producing area with the help of the US as it waged
secret wars against the populations of those countries. It then
shifted to Pakistan and Afghanistan in the '80s as the US supported
the Afghan resistance -- including warlords -- against the Soviet
occupation. Obviously, the terrorist operations carried out in Central
America under the Reagan administration were funded through the
cocaine trade, which was partly exposed in the Iran-contra hearings,
though mostly suppressed. It's quite natural: These operations need
thugs and black money, which commonly translates as illegal drugs.
On how it works today, you should check with people who follow these
matters more closely than I do, like Alfred W. McCoy or Peter Dale
Q: Could you tell us about the connection between the drug cartels and
the large institutional banks?
A: Money laundering commonly goes through banks, which pretend not to
know about it. The scale is estimated to be huge. An interesting
illustration of how it works is Operation Greenback, launched on a
Treasury Department initiative in 1979, when investigators discovered
a sharp increase in cash deposits in South Florida banks as well as
cocaine imports. The investigation was aborted by the Reagan
administration, which evidently did not regard banks as an appropriate
target -- except for bailouts when they get into trouble.
Q: You subscribe to the theory of anarchism or anarcho-syndicalism.
Could you point out how your views on drugs and the Drug War tie into
A: The Drug War, in my opinion, is a very highly illegitimate use of
state power. We can ask the question what should be done, but I think,
for the reasons I mentioned, what's actually being done is completely
illegitimate. Anarcho-syndicalism is a commitment to overcome the
illegitimate use of power, including state power, but also any other
kind of power, like corporate power or patriarchal families or
whatever it may be. There's a connection in that sense. This is simply
an instance of the illegitimate use of power by concentrations of
power that shouldn't exist in the first place.
Q: At times, you've been outspoken against the Libertarian Party and
its ideals. Recently, libertarians such as Ron Paul have courted
marijuana users on the basis that they oppose the Drug War. Why do you
A: What's called libertarianism in the United States is a significant
deviation from traditional libertarian thought. Traditionally, say in
Europe, "libertarian" meant the anti-state wing of the socialist
party. In the United States, "libertarian" means ultra-capitalist; it
means permitting capitalist institutions to function essentially
without constraint, or virtually with no constraint. That's a recipe
for one of the worst kinds of tyranny that exists: unaccountable
Take a look at individual libertarians -- say Ron Paul. He may be
perfectly sincere, but as I read his programs and other programs of
the Libertarian Party or the Cato Institute and so on, they
essentially would give free rein to unaccountable concentrations of
private power. And that's about the worst kind of tyranny you can
imagine. Whatever government is -- say our government -- it's to some
extent accountable to the public, and the public can compel it to be
fairly accountable, at least in principle. That's why we have things
like New Deal reforms and so on: It's public pressure. On the other
hand, you and I can say nothing about the policies of Goldman Sachs or
General Electric. In principle, our only relationship to those
institutions is to consume what they produce or to serve them as an
obedient work force. We can maybe own some shares, but that's
meaningless given the concentration of shareholding. So they're
essentially unaccountable to the public except through a regulatory
apparatus that can be developed through the state in our society,
which can somewhat tame the excesses and destructive capacities of
Q: You and your friend and former colleague, the late Howard Zinn,
have promoted the idea of change coming from the bottom up, from
people organizing, rather than through elected leaders. You saw this
in the civil-rights and antiwar movements, and it's evident in the
marijuana movement today. Does recent progress in the campaign for the
legalization of marijuana give you hope for other causes?
A: First of all, I wouldn't go quite so far as what you said before --
there's an interaction between elected officials and popular activism.
So, for example, let's go back to the New Deal legislation or the
other liberal welfare-state measures that went on from the New Deal
right up through the Nixon administration. Nixon was basically the
last liberal president, and those liberal measures were in substantial
part the result of popular activism, from CIO organizing in the 1930s
up to the activism in the '60s and on to their impact in the early
'70s. They had an impact on legislation and on public officials. So
it's not one or the other; you can do both and recognize what the
interaction is like.
Marijuana legalization is a cause that's moving forward, and I think
it makes sense. It could be a dent in state controls that should be
relaxed or eliminated. Just how to proceed raises interesting
questions. I don't think, exactly, let's legalize everything -- you
have to consider the circumstances that exist, the culture that
exists, the society that exists, how people will react to the
legislation and other choices. It's not such a simple matter. I think
we can move in the direction of treating hard drugs the way we treat
tobacco, but you'll probably have to move in stages.
Q: Nixon was a liberal? HighTimes readers more likely see him as the
man who started the modern War on Drugs. Could you explain?
A: Nixon did a lot of rotten things much worse than starting the
modern War on Drugs, but the same is true of other liberal presidents.
His liberal initiatives included the Occupational Safety and Health
Administration (OSHA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the
Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and much else. No president since
Nixon has passed such liberal initiatives. His perceived "class
treachery" appears to have been a factor in the substantial
business-led backlash against democracy and rights that took off in
Q: Lastly, HighTimes readers may be curious if you've ever tried marijuana?
A: No, never even … I'm very conventional.Stumble It!