Intrepid libertarian Radley Balko wrote a new must-read piece on Culture 11 on the catastrophically misguided “War on Drugs”.

This has always been a pet issue of mine, even though I know the Puritanical Insanity that ever-grips this country will probably never brook anything even remotely close to full decriminalization or legalization.

Simply put, my two main points on the topic are: (1) waging a “war” on drugs causes far more suffering than it is designed to combat; and (2) the struggle is futile and wastes billions of dollars and countless human lives.

I highly recommend reading the article. Money quote:

Even if the drug war were working—even if all the horrible things the federal government says are caused by illicit drugs were accurate (and some of them admittedly are), and even if the war on drugs were proving successful in eradicating or even significantly diminishing our access to those drugs—you’d have a difficult time arguing that the benefits would be worth the costs.

But the kicker is, of course, that it isn’t working. Much of the federal government claims about the evils associated with illicit drugs are either exaggerated or misapplied effects not of the drugs, but of the government’s prohibition of them.

More to the point, none of this is working even taking drug war advocates’ positions at face value. It is as easy to achieve an illegal high today as it was in 1981, as it was in 1971, as it was in 1915. The vast majority of you reading this either know where to get a bag of marijuana, or know someone who knows where to get one. Specific drugs come in and out of vogue, but the desire to alter one’s consciousness, to escape life’s drab monotonies, or just to call in a different mindset is as strong and pervasive as it’s ever been, going back to the stone age. It’s also just as easy to fulfill.

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Just another example of following Christ’s loving, compassionate message:

A group of 43 Alaska Natives who say they were sexually abused by Catholic priests and church volunteers have sued the Jesuit order, alleging that remote Alaska villages became a worldwide dumping ground for clergy with histories of abuse…

The new suit contends that pedophile priests unsuited to serve anywhere else were dumped on Alaska and put in remote villages with little or no law enforcement, making it virtually impossible for anyone to report them. There was a calculated effort at the highest levels of the Jesuit order to “‘dump’ these ‘problem priests’ in a location in which the priests could avoid detection and continued to sexually abuse countless Native children,” the suit says.

Problem priests from seven Jesuit provinces in the United States as well as four other countries ended up in the rural villages, mostly in Western Alaska, Wall said. “They were specifically targeting the Athabascan and the Yup’ik cultures, because they wouldn’t talk,” he said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

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In the below clip, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch proves himself to be a reasonable guy and generally approves of all of Obama’s nominees.

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As to the Bush administration’s illegal excesses over the last eight years, there are a few salient options: (1) let bygones be bygones; (2) sic prosecutors after the lawbreakers; or (3) form up a South Africa-style Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

I am starting to lean toward option three. It would have the benefit of partially muting the “Witch hunt!” wing of the naysayers and, above all else, have the power to bring to light all of the illegal things that have been done in our name over the last eight years.

Here’s where the action comes in. Representative John Conyers has introduced legislation to create a Truth Commission:

There is established the National Commission on Presidential War Powers and Civil Liberties (hereinafter in this Act referred to as the “Commission”) to investigate the broad range of policies of the Administration of President George W. Bush that were undertaken under claims of unreviewable war powers, including detention by the United States Armed Forces and the intelligence community, the use by the United States Armed Forces or the intelligence community of enhanced interrogation techniques or interrogation techniques not authorized by the Uniform Code of Military Justice, “ghosting” or other policies intended to conceal the fact that an individual has been captured or detained, extraordinary rendition, domestic warrantless electronic surveillance, and other policies that the Commission may determine to be relevant to its investigation (hereinafter in this Act referred to as “the activities”).

If you want some background on the potential illegality the bill is referencing, check out the new 500-page report that was issued on Tuesday: “Reining in the Imperial Presidency: Lessons and Recommendations Relating to the presidency of George W. Bush“.

To date, Conyers’ bill has only received 12 co-sponsors. We need to get the word out to Congress that Conyers’ bill is important and has our support. If you have a few minutes, please write or call your Congressperson today to express your support for the Conyers bill: H.R. 104.

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Ah, I can feel the fresh air already. When asked whether waterboarding is torture and therefore illegal during his confirmation hearings today, soon-to-be Attorney General Eric Holder replied:

“If you look at the history of the use of that technique, used by the Khmer Rouge, used in the Inquisition, used by the Japanese and prosecuted by us as war crimes. We prosecuted our own soldiers for using it in Vietnam. I agree with you, Mr. Chairman, waterboarding is torture.”

Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) followed up, asking if foreign countries would have the authority to waterboard U.S. citizens, if they deemed it necessary for their national security. “No, they would not,” Holder replied, “It would violate the international obligations that I think all civilized nations have agreed to — the Geneva Conventions.”

Here’s the video:

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It looks as if the Bush White House repeatedly ignored the warnings of top officials that their torture plans were illegal:

President Bush and his aides repeatedly ignored warnings that their torture plans were illegal from high State Department officials as well as the nation’s top uniformed legal officers, the Judge Advocates General of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, a new published report states.

“These warnings of illegality and immorality given by knowledgeable and experienced (government) persons were ignored by the small group of high Executive officers who were determined that America would torture and abuse its prisoners and who had the decision-making power to secretly require this to be done,” said Lawrence Velvel, chairman of the “Steering Committee of the Justice Robert H. Jackson Conference On Planning For The Prosecution of High Level American War Criminals.” Velvel is a noted reformer in the field of American legal education.

“Far from American officials and lawyers authorizing or engaging in torture because it was lawful, they authorized and engaged in it because they wanted to (and) kept their actions secret from interested officials for as long as they could lest there be strong opposition to the torture and abuse they were perpetrating,” Velvel said. “They deliberately ignored repeated warnings that the torture and abuse were illegal and could lead to prosecutions, and they ignored these warnings even when they came from high level civilian and military officers.”

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The chief Pentagon official responsible for overseeing Bush’s military tribunals reveals that we unequivocally did torture:

“We tortured [Mohammed al-]Qahtani,” said Susan J. Crawford, in her first interview since being named convening authority of military commissions by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in February 2007. “His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that’s why I did not refer the case” for prosecution.

This highlights one important thing to remember about torture. Not only is it ineffective in obtaining quality intelligence, it also results in catastrophically tainted evidence against bad actors, which, in this case, led to a Very Bad Guy not being prosecuted.

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Further to my earlier post asking the question Should We Prosecute Bush for Torture?, check out this interview with Jonathan Turley, professor of constitutional law at The George Washington University Law School:

Key quote:

“If waterboarding is torture — and Barack Obama has said that it is torture — and torture is a war crime, then the president has committed a war crime if he did order waterboarding. You have to do some heavy lifting to avoid the simplicity of that logic.”

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