In the art of debate, there’s only one result that feels better than an outright win – the long-delayed “I told you so.” Today, many people that have theorized that the “war on drugs” was designed specifically to target people of color appear to have their “I told you so” moment.
In a 1994 interview with journalist Dan Baum, former domestic policy chief for President Richard Nixon, John Ehrlichman, spoke candidly about the true intentions behind the former president’s war on drugs, according to the Huffington Post.
“You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
For years, the war on drugs has been painted by some as an attempt to completely disrupt the black community. If Ehrlichman’s quote is believed to be true, this was the specific intention of the campaign, and not just a coincidence or side effect like many have claimed.
When Baum was asked why he didn’t reference this conversation in his 1996 book, Smoke and Mirrors: The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure, he told HuffPost that it wouldn’t have fit in with the book’s theme.
“There are no authorial interviews in [Smoke and Mirrors] at all; it’s written to put the reader in the room as events transpire,” Baum said. “Therefore, the quote didn’t fit. It did change all the reporting I did for the book, though, and changed the way I worked thereafter.”
However, this isn’t the first time the quote’s been made public, after it appeared in The Moment, a 2012 collection of stories from writers and artists.
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