The Global War on Drugs

About this Episode

Guests
Sarah Brady Siff, Isaac Peter Campos, Brionna Mendoza

Our panel of historians reevaluates what we think we know about the War on Drugs. 

When and where did it really begin?
Why has it persisted?
And perhaps most importantly, will we ever be able to quit? 

They uncover how the centuries-long history of global drug prohibition prologues today's discussions of drug use, abuse, and legalization.

Panel:

  • Dr. Isaac Peter Campos, Associate Professor of History, University of Cincinnati
  • Brionna Mendoza, Doctoral candidate in History, Ohio State University
  • Dr. Sarah Brady Siff, Drug Enforcement & Policy Center, Moritz College of Law; Ohio State University
  • Dr. Nicholas Breyfogle, Associate Professor of History and Director of the Goldberg Center for Excellence in Teaching, Ohio State University

Cite this Site

Nicholas Breyfogle , "The Global War on Drugs" , Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective
February, 2022
https://origins.osu.edu/listen/history-talk/global-war-drugs?language_content_entity=en.
February, 2022

Transcript

Dr. Nicholas Breyfogle  
Hello, and welcome to The Global War on Drugs brought to you by the History Department, the Clio Society, the College of Arts and Sciences at The Ohio State University, and by the podcast Prologued. My name is Nick Breyfogle. I'm an associate professor of history and director, the Goldberg Center for Excellence in Teaching, and I'll be your host and moderator today. Thank you for joining us. Today, our panel of historians Sarah Brady Siff, Isaac Campos, and Brionna Mendoza, we evaluate what we think we know about the war on drugs. When and where did it really begin? Why has it persisted? And perhaps most importantly, will we ever be able to quit? And we'll talk today about the centuries long history of global drug prohibition, which stretches across the world from China, India and Afghanistan, through South and Central America, Europe and the United States. We'll see how this long history sits the foundation of today's discussions of drug use, abuse and legislation. With that introduction, let me lay out the plan. Each of our panelists will speak for a few minutes on questions of drug policy and drug prohibition historically, each exploring a different topic, and I'll introduce them before they speak. Then they'll take your questions, and we'll open things up for discussion. If you're interested in asking question, please write it in the q&a function at the bottom of your screen. We received several questions in advance and we'll do our best to answer as many questions as we can. Now, let's begin with Dr. Sarah Brady Siff. Dr. Siff holds a PhD in history from Ohio State and is currently visiting assistant professor at the Moritz College of Law in affiliation with the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center. She teaches a seminar on drug law and the Constitution. And she has recently written scholarly articles on the history of asset forfeiture, drug sentencing, and marijuana law enforcement. Over to you, Dr. Siff. 

Dr. Sarah Brady Siff  
Thank you. I'm deeply grateful to have been part of this project with Origins and for this opportunity to talk about cannabis, a plant that occupies a unique and ambivalent place in law and policy at this moment. So on my first slide, both these images are 50 years old. President Nixon had created a national commission to study marijuana and he even chose the nine of its expert members himself, but he suppressed their report in 1972 when it debunked at great length .... several of the reasons cannabis was considered dangerous. The old pot myths, you see him smoking here, that marijuana was addictive, that it caused psychosis, that it was a gateway to opiates, it caused violence and crime, etc. Meanwhile, a separate process here on the right was afoot. State-run cannabis eradication campaigns, increasingly, we're employing herbicides such as Roundup, here in this picture being sprayed on a volunteer cannabis plant by a college sophomore working a summer job for the West Virginia Department of Agriculture. What you see if you look forward from this moment is Nixon's culture war on the hippies, the end of the draft, and the end of the war in Vietnam. After that, the United States pushed herbicidal drug crop eradication on nations south of the United States border, beginning with Mexico in 1974. My feeling from reading in the sources is that cannabis, in spite of being the least dangerous among the drugs, is the most common object of eradication. So Reagan expanded the US Drug Control footprint abroad and made further war on hippie environmentalists by bringing aerial surveillance and herbicidal eradication to the homefront. The International US Drug Control presence thereby established, continues to enable the United States to maintain footholds in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. As Senator under Reagan and Nixon, Joe Biden was really deeply involved in these international efforts of drug control. So if reformers and activists want to know why President Biden won't deschedule cannabis, they should really look at the dozens of DEA entanglements with law enforcement abroad. But I don't believe that Nixon's terrible choice of politics over science in 1972 accounts for the persistence of our deep collective fear about the dangers of smoking marijuana. By the late 1930s, these fears were so well established that some states in the Midwest named cannabis a noxious weed so officials could uproot it and poison it. West Virginia is among the states that did so during a second round of legislation committed in the late 1960s, which was a response to so-called "pot pickers", a loose network of college students who shared information about where volunteer cannabis could be surreptitiously collected. The state weed laws institutionalized the myth that cannabis is a weed. In reality, it's the opposite. Its one species name, Cannabis sativa, literally means "fiber cultivated". At the time of US expansion and conflict with Mexico, cannabis was already canonized in British land husbandry as a weed destroyer, a crop that could be planted in rotation to clear the ground of other weeds, and that served as a border crop to repel certain insect pests. It was a natural herbicide and pesticide. Cannabis crops require particular soil to grow well and seasonal labor to process into fiber, demand for which was high in the age of seapower. British and Spanish colonizers tried and failed to grow it in the Western Hemisphere by importing large amounts of hemp seed from Europe and Asia. So how did this esteemed plant become a pariah worthy of fear and loathing? Could mere propaganda such as the film "Reefer Madness", with no basis in fact, explain persistent belief in cannabis-induced psychosis and violence. Previous slide please. I think it could not. Rather, "Reefer Madness" has a surprising basis in real drug effects in the effects of marijuana. Reports about marijuana, so-called, emerged in the second half of the 19th century, but the effects on users contained in those texts are very difficult to square with THC effects in spite of some overlap, and I've listed those out here. Rather, the kinds of dissociative and violent behavior - severe motor impairment, accidental death that were reported, as due to marijuana in the Mexican and US press could have been the result of ingesting native plants that were far more abundant and far more potent. One plant in particular, datura, was well and continuously distributed from Peru into Southern California. In the places shown on this map, .... drawn from dozens of anthropological and archaeological studies, indigenous groups ingested datura medicinally and entheogenically, and it had many of the same effects that were reported to be caused by marijuana. So, next slide. Native Americans across both continents took datura to experience visions that would predict the future, heal the sick. They took it in initiation rituals among younger members to locate and bind the initiate to a sort of spirit animal, and they took it to steel the nerves of warriors for battle or for childbirth. Spanish Catholic invaders, however, considered the shamanic use of plants equivalent to a pact with the devil, and one of the aims of the Spanish Inquisition had been to eradicate the practice. Barred from traditional sacred practices, the converted natives succeeded in infusing traditional beliefs into Catholic images and practice, this is very well known, and it's shown here in this Chumash art of the Virgin of the apocalypse or Virgin of Guadalupe. I believe, ... it is no coincidence that the locations of native datura use on this map are the areas where reports of marijuana users and the enforcement of local prohibitions against marijuana first emerge in the historical record, Mexico and the Southwest. By 1907, California had prohibited growing or possessing marijuana, and police were arresting and jailing people they called Indians or Mexicans for using a plant that often was not cannabis. The word marijuana did not exclusively mean cannabis until the 1930s, when courts forced law enforcement to name and specifically identify what plant was being prohibited. In the meantime datura had become a plant of great interest to pharmaceutical manufacturers during World War One. Supplies of Atropine, generally imported from Germany, were cut off at the same time Atropine was needed as a battlefield antidote for poison gas. Eli Lilly and other corporations offered extraordinary sums for harvesting. What farmers had long known as the troublesome Jimson weed, datura, researchers undertook datura breeding experiments in the United States to increase their alkaloid content, and datura was thus rendered useful by chance just at the right time, and it escaped codification as marijuana. But it left behind quite real accounts of Reefer Madness due to a tidal wave of document digitizations, historians can now begin to piece together the various plants and effects that created the idea of marijuana, and place them in the proper historical context of ongoing colonization and cultural genocide. Thank you.

Dr. Nicholas Breyfogle  
Thank you, Sarah, very much indeed. Our next panelist is Dr. Isaac Campos. Dr. Campos is Associate Professor of History at the University of Cincinnati. He's published widely on the history of drugs in North America, including his book, "Homegrown: Marijuana and the Origins of Mexico's War on Drugs". And most recently, in the edited volumes, "Cannabis: Global Histories and Histories of Drug Trafficking in 20th Century Mexico". Thank you for joining us today, Dr. Campos, I turn the mic over to you.

Dr. Isaac Campos  
I've actually written quite a lot about the topic Sarah was talking about. So it will be interesting to discuss in the q&a. In any case, I want to talk about something quite different. I'd like to talk about something with ramifications for our current predicaments here in the early 21st century. And I'd like to talk about the question of race and the history of drugs, and particularly, the history of drug prohibition. So of course, everybody's talking about race these days, and I think rightfully so. And race is often the first thing talked about in explanations of the origins of drug prohibition in the United States and the war on drugs. But I want to emphasize here that race doesn't always tell the whole story of this history. And furthermore, that because we are so obsessed with race in the present day, we need to be really careful when we start seeing it as an explanation for everything in the past as well. This is something that we historians are very wary of, of our present ideas really leaking into the past. And I think to some extent, the case with our understanding of the origins of drugs, prohibition, the war on drugs, particularly in the United States, this IS the case with our understanding of the origins of drug prohibitions here in the US and this is to our detriment, I think. So that is, seeing race as the primary and the, really, the only factor that people tend to emphasize. In the early drug prohibitions in the United States, it's very much to our detriment, not only with respect to our understanding of the past, but also to the interest of the public health in the present. Okay, so well, what am I talking about here? Well ... I'm talking about our obsession with race covering the tracks of wildly irresponsible exploiters of the public. All right? I'm talking about the bad guys who the historian, David Kortright, in his most recent book, calls the "limbic capitalists". That is the people and corporations and governments, who use the deep human attraction to intoxicants or other addictive media like smartphones or pornography or even kinds of food to exploit the public. And I think it's very important that we understand, remember, their huge role in the origins of drug prohibitions because they are still very much in our midst. And indeed, they are flourishing, in part, because we fail to remember their important role in the past. And we forget that role, in part, because we simplify everything down simply to racism. So to understand this, you must understand that early drug prohibitions were justified by certain narratives about drugs, certain stories. And by far the most important of these stories was the supposed effect that opium had had on the Chinese people. Opium, according to this story, was forced on them in the 19th century by greedy British imperialists. As told by a global network of highly energized extremely effective activists in the late 19th century, most of them Christian missionaries, but many of them actually also Chinese Nationalists, greedy British imperialists had forced opium on the Chinese, despite Chinese efforts to ban the drug. And then this way, a tiny little island full of pale skinned, there's race again, Anglo Saxons brought the giant and once great China to its knees. Now the idea that the Chinese nation was destroyed by opium was a wild exaggeration, but it was the story that everybody believed, thanks to the extraordinarily well-organized and energetic activists who repeated it constantly. And I'll come back to well-organized and energetic activists here in a moment. And it was that narrative which marked European imperialists and the powerful in general as the real villains in the story, that inspired the idea that governments could never successfully ban drugs on their own. According to this narrative, consumer countries needed the cooperation of producer nations. And these ideas are the origins of the supply side obsession in US and international drug policy, to which Sarah spoke somewhat in her talk. But this idea also helped fuel domestic drug policies that sought to prohibit substances that could be used by the powerful, that is, greedy limbic capitalists in Kortright's phrase to exploit the public at home. This part of the story is often forgotten when we talk just about race and race and more race to ... our detriment, because ... there are two very big lessons here that remain extremely salient today. First, of course, the exploiters remain in our midst. Obviously, there are the Purdue Pharmas of the world and their Oxycontin, and so forth. But how about the big gambling companies? You may have noticed that you can't watch a football game these days without being enticed to gamble online with all sorts of incentives like free money to begin, you know, the first hit is always free, always has been, right? Or how about your phone companies that are happy to provide your child with their very first smartphone for free? Again, the first hit is always free. Everybody knows that. Now, those gambling ads are not aimed at the casual gambler, they are aimed at the compulsive gambler, because it is through compulsive gambling that these companies make their money. And this is a critical principle of vice markets in general, as Kortright points out. These markets obey the so called Pareto principle or 80/20 rule. That is roughly 20% of the users use 80% of the product. And this stands for any kind of vice market, whether gambling or marijuana or opium or what have you. Limbic capitalists need problem users. But we seem to have forgotten this with respect to the gambling industry, or the marijuana industry, or the alcohol industry, or the video game and porn industries, in part because we are constantly obsessed with the question of the racist origins of, certainly, our drug policies. Second, even with the opioid epidemic, we see how our obsession with race obscures other important lessons. Because opioid users, usually characterized in the media as largely white, have been treated with a gentler, more public health oriented touch than 1980s crack users, who were of course characterized as largely black, it is routinely argued that drug policy, again, is all about race. Black users - punitive response, white users - public health response. And I don't think that's totally wrong. But I do think it's only part of the story and obscures another huge element in all of this. Namely, that the policy disasters of the crack era, along with some other significant events like the AIDS epidemic, help to inspire a well organized, well funded, highly energized, harm reduction movement. Those activists, like the prohibitionist activists of the late 19th century, whose effectiveness we often overlook, have been highly effective in changing the narrative about drugs and drug users. It's not simply that a lot of opioid users are white, it's that smart, energized, hardworking activists have changed the way we talk about drugs since the 1980s, in part because of the 1980s were such a disaster. But when ... all we see is race, race, race, and more race, we lose track of these critically important lessons that still have enormous salience for us today. In short, race is a huge pillar in the history of drugs, but it is only one pillar, and you don't build a big edifice with just one pillar. There were others and we forget them very much to our detriment. Thank you.

Dr. Nicholas Breyfogle  
Thank you, Isaac. Last but not least, let me introduce you to to Brionna Mendoza. Brionna Mendoza is a PhD candidate in history at Ohio State specializing in US foreign relations with Latin America during the 20th century. Her research examines the connections between the cold war and the war on drugs in the United States, Mexico and Peru during the 1970s and 1980s. As a managing editor for Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective, she has written, produced, and hosted season two of the podcast, Prologued, which examines the global war on drugs in the narrative audio format. Over to you, Brionna.

Brionna Mendoza  
Thank you. I actually feel like Doctor Campos just blew my mind a little bit. So I'm still kind of digesting and processing. So hopefully that doesn't completely distract me from what I have. But I would like to spend these last couple minutes of sort of the panelist presentation portion of this webinar to sort of propose moving, expanding the way that we think about the war on drugs just one additional level beyond the United States. Often in these, sort of, in a lot of discussions, both scholarly and publicly, whether it be policy or just kind of, like, at a bar over beers with your friends, we tend to focus heavily on the US side and the US culpability for the war on drugs. Which, rightly so, I'm not arguing with that. But I would like to propose instead a view of the war on drugs that allows for the idea of the war on drugs as a collaborative project involving the United States and other parts of the world. So, that rather than a, sort of, US imposed, sort of, imperialist project, it involves cooperation from policy leaders in other parts of the world. So, to sort of bring some examples from my own research involving Mexico and Peru in the 1970s, I'll just briefly go over a couple of examples, as well as talk about motivations. So, why might other states be interested in buying into the idea of a war on drugs, and even furthermore, a US led war on drugs? The short answer is that a lot of these states have existing histories, local and regional histories, that often involve criminalization, and sort of demonization of drugs, and those who use them. Dr. Campos talks about this extensively in his book, I highly recommend it, and he also talks about it extensively on the podcast. But when we get into the 1970s and the 1980s, I mean, when we get into the 20th century in general, and especially with the idea of communism, and the Cold War being sort of concerning issues, issues that the United States is worried about, is willing to put a lot of funding towards, we start to see this really interesting, sort of, deploying of language to, sort of, draw in court support in terms of like economic and military resources from the United States. Now to talk about Mexico specifically, very briefly, looking at sort of the history of the Mexican Revolution, which is epitomized in the 1917 constitution, the Institutional Revolutionary Party in Mexico is sort of the standard bearer of the revolution. It is largely a one party state, and in the 1960s, especially in 1968, it becomes apparent to a lot of constituents of Mexico, that the party is not revolutionary as they would like them to think, especially following the massacre of students at a plaza in October of 1968. And following that tragedy ... the PRI start to experience ... a lot more challenges to its, sort of, claim ... of this revolutionary mantle, of the claim to total power over the government in Mexico. And so, what we start to see at the same time is this coding of the, sort of, political dissidents within Mexico as ... leftist subversion, sort of, these revolutionary threats to the state. And it's often coded in, sort of, the language of anti-communism. Where it really gets interesting, is that often in the documents that I've seen in the archives, there's also discussion of these sort of student groups or these campesino groups being involved as well in drug trafficking, or existing very closely next to drug trafficking. So, if you're the United States and you're concerned about not only the Cold War, but then you're also concerned that perhaps there is evidence that potentially communist movements are funding their operations with profits from drug trafficking, you're really gonna start paying attention. But, in thinking about the, sort of, longer history of Mexico, Mexico also has a lot of reason to buy into, sort of, the resources that the US is offering to expand a war on drugs, because if drug traffickers and political dissidents are one in the same, it kind of becomes a two birds with one stone situation. So, we also see some, sort of, similar dynamics happening in Peru in the 1970s. Again, a very abridged history - Peru experiences a military revolution, also around the late 60s, that brings in this sort of, it's a military regime, but one that codes itself as progressive in a way and until 1974 overall it keeps the United States sort of at an arm's distance. It's having talks about anticommunism, and having meetings where the United States is asking Peru to expand its drug control efforts, which proves kind of, like, maybe, I don't know, being just really concerned about maintaining its sovereignty and making it clear that it is not a client of the United States, just as it is not a client of the Soviet Union. We could sort of think of this as pursuing a third wave, which has been talked about, about other countries in the global south during this time that are also implementing their own, sort of, revolutionary regimes. But, we get a really interesting tone shift in 1974 when the original leader of the military coup in '68 is actually deposed by a more conservative branch of that military government. And we see, as a result, a more conservative turn in this revolutionary military government, which, I know it's weird to call a military government revolutionary, but. And as a result, not only does the new government, the more conservative government, start to crack down on some of those more progressive elements in Peru, we also see the terms of the conversation with the United States change. The conversations between Peru and the United States become much more collaborative. Peru is actually now much more open to expanding drug control, much more open to accepting this, sort of, military and policing aid that the United States is offering, and also, notably, they are using that same language of leftist subversion being possibly funded by drug trafficking operations. So there's a sort of really interesting, what's the word I'm looking for, like, milieu of where there's this, sort of, very slippery categories that, in a way, allow everyone participating in the conversation to, I guess, in a way, kill two birds with one stone. Now, the reason I bring this up, and the reason that I personally find this so interesting, and decided to expand it into a podcast is, I think in popular conversations about the war on drugs, and how do we end the war on drugs, we're missing this really essential international element. Which is not just that the United States has, sort of, ... set the tone for international drug control over the last seventy years, or last 100, we could argue about that, but that other states have bought into this, because they have their own ... long-existing political histories, which a, sort of, war on drugs led by the United States neatly mapped onto and allowed states to sort of negotiate their position in the international sphere, in terms of winning prestige, in the eye of, you know, sort of Western-aligned nations during the Cold War to court very highly desired, sort of, resources, and also to accomplish their own domestic political goals. So, I think my major takeaway that I want to leave you with today is to encourage you to view the idea of the War on Drugs first at a global level, as a collaborative project. It is not simply spoken into existence by the United States, but it's really, sort of, created and evolved, sort of, in this, like, multi-directional conversations between the United States and other nations. So why does this matter? ... Sort of thinking about what Dr. Campos said about, like, why focusing so heavily on race can, kind of, you end up missing the big picture, I think that if conversations about the war on drugs, about marijuana legalization, about, sort of, ending the war on drugs, stay focused on the domestic spirit in the United States as heavily as they do, we are going to run into major issues with, sort of, these regional and international elements of this system that we, the United States, have put into place. I also think that it will potentially keep the United States from reckoning with not only just the violence that's enabled across the world, but also the economic dispossession of a lot of countries' natural resources. You know, in the single convention on narcotics control ... that was passed in the United Nations, ... it very specifically says that only some countries can produce opium, raw opium, but those same countries, they're not allowed to produce it into the medical derivatives, which, if you look at the prices of those derivatives, are much more lucrative than, sort of, these raw materials. So, I think that viewing, or like, thinking about the question of drug control from a more global perspective, from a longer chronology, is ultimately going to lead to a more holistic solution down the line, rather than just grappling with, sort of, the effects that it has had here in the United States. And also, we have to think about the fact that we're going to have to work with other nations to figure this out. So, if you want to hear more about all this, and also about other really interesting, sort of, global moments, whether it's Japan at the turn of the century, China during the Opium Wars, Afghanistan during the early Cold War, you can hear about all that and more on season two of Prologued. Thank you.

Dr. Nicholas Breyfogle  
Thanks, Brionna. And thanks to ... all of our panelists for those really interesting, just quick, kind of, snapshots of different ways to, kind of, think about the history of the global war on drugs. And, so yeah, no, that's a marvelous way to kind of begin and gives us a lot to really think about. This is a time now where we'll shift over ... to give you in the audience a chance to ask questions that you might have of our panelists. And so please, if you have them, type them into the q&a at the bottom, and we'll be happy to kind of make our way through as many as we can. Let me start with one that we have. We had several come through in advance of the session that I'll also try to answer. One of the questions we just had is why the very term "war" hasn't been questioned by any of the presenters. So, I guess, in some respects, what does it mean that we're doing a war? And how is this actually a war? And is the fact that we call it a war a source of some of the violence that we see coming out of this? Sarah, let me send this question your way first, about, yeah, thinking about this as a war, rather than some other term?

Dr. Sarah Brady Siff  
Well, so Kathy Friedel changed the expression from the "war on drugs" to the "drug wars", which I think actually is better. And they are campaigns. And as, you know, as far back as 100 years ago, anti-drug activists would say, we're going to wage war, or we're going to mount a crusade, the word "crusade" is sort of having new meanings to me lately, based on, you know, how far back the objectives go to the crusades, to stop, you know, people from using drugs entheogenically. So, I suppose it's more of a metaphor, but I think, you know, current commentators and activists probably also appreciate the idea of it dragging on and on with no solution. If you think of it as just a series of policy enactments over time enforced by police, from all levels of government, that doesn't quite sound like the slog that continuously being at war does. So I guess it is, at some level, a loaded metaphor. But, you know, if you want to think about the number of people who have died during these campaigns, and the, sort of, resources that are needed, the, kind of, need to bring together public opinion into some kind of cohesive support for it, I think it's quite more like, I think it works.

Dr. Nicholas Breyfogle  
Isaac, do you wanna jump in on that?

Dr. Isaac Campos  
Well, sure, I would just say that I think government's declare on war other than other states, when they want to justify the violation of traditionally sacrosanct principles. And I think the war on drugs is no exception to that. And I think this especially, actually ... takes us back to the early 20th century, ... when, you know, you would have at that time, not presidents really declaring war, but newspaper saying war is being waged and that kind of thing. Because in the early 20th century, the idea of prohibiting drugs was seen as extraordinarily radical, and, indeed, really unconstitutional, and so it required putting the country in a, kind of, war footing at least discursively to try to justify some of these policies that were really quite radical at the time. So I think that's really the key thing about declaring war on these sort of things, whether it's this or you know, poverty, or Coronavirus, or whatever it might be. So I would leave it at that.

Dr. Nicholas Breyfogle  
Let me ask a slightly different question that I'll send your way, Brionna, because I think it builds off of some of the things you were talking about. We've had a couple of questions where the audience is interested to know, how has the global war on drugs, kind of, intersected with, kind of, CIA activity in the global south during the Cold War? And what has been, and this is related but different, but also what has been the role of the DEA, kind of, historically in the global war on drugs? So these, kind of, ... two American institutions, organizations, what's their role been in this whole process?

Brionna Mendoza  
Yeah, that's a great question. And often, when it comes up, actually, one of the more common responses I get, when I tell people I study the war on drugs it's, you know, it's kind of, we know now that the CIA was involved in drug trafficking in some ways, which I actually tend to think is the least revealing part of the CIA involvement and DEA involvement in, sort of, administering a war on drugs abroad, you know? It's not a surprise that when there's a lot of money, you know, that some people are, kind of, gonna jump in on that. We see it in domestic police forces here in the United States all the time. Now, as to how the war on drugs intersects with, sort of, US action abroad and the Cold War more largely during the 20th century, I do think that, I think I find it most helpful actually, to think of the war on drugs as a tool in the toolbox of US foreign policy and, sort of, aims to extend its reach abroad. So when I see in documents, or I hear people talking about, sort of, flare-ups, perhaps, whether it be in, sort of, CIA covert action, whether it be in, sort of, renewing or intensifying drug control efforts, I think about what other, I believe, I would love to hear what my other panelists think about this, that you tend to see other, sort of, geopolitical developments in those same areas. A great example of this, I would say, just not my original research, it's from Dr. James Bradford, his work on Afghanistan, the United States doesn't really care about Afghanistan for a very long time until we get into the Cold War, because the Soviet Union sort of shares this border with Afghanistan. And then, also within that same milieu, Afghanistan is going through this very, sort of, beleaguered movement towards nation-building and really trying to establish a cohesive state, which is creating all this, sort of, tension between, like, intertribal tension within the country, which just, sort of, adds to more sense of tension and instability in the region, of which is concern to the United States for a number of reasons. One, because it does occupy a strategic area in the Cold War. And two, there's a lot of opium that comes out of Afghanistan. So, I tend to think of it as, sort of, an indication of, sort of, larger geopolitical aims for the United States, because the US's mission in the world is not, at its core, to stop, I would say, stop all drug control. It's, sort of, to establish a world order based on its political and economic systems that it has. I'm trying to think, I'm thinking about the DEA as well. Someone had asked about the DEA. It has a very storied, sort of, interesting, if you look at the history of DEA, which I would say, was perhaps best explained by Matt Pembleton. In his book, I forget the name of the book, I'll put it in the chat. But, he sort of talks about how the early predecessor to the DEA, that's the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, which is established in the '30s, kind of manages to weasel its way into a foreign policy role, ... in many cases against the wishes of foreign governments. The FBN, which later turns into the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, and then to the DEA, tells this really interesting story of a, sort of, pre-World War Two pre-Cold War US trying to expand its footprint abroad, but not quite having the, sort of, stature and economic resources necessary yet to do so. But, when you look at, sort of, that earlier history, you still see those aspirations. So, that's what I would, sort of, I think that's how I think about how these, sort of, these contexts intersect with each other.

Dr. Nicholas Breyfogle  
Sarah, Isaac, do you want to add in on that? The question of the CIA, DEA and kind of larger contexts.

Dr. Sarah Brady Siff  
Well, so, I just want to say something brief, which is that the US Army starting in World War One had a, sort of, secretive agency called the Chemical Corps. And I believe when the CIA was created in 1947, it inherited the work of the Chemical Corps, which was using and investigating pharmaceutical properties of various plants as weapons and warfare. So I think the CIA inherited a longer tradition of drug-related developments and technological, sort of, responses ... to conflict abroad. And that was something that I didn't know until recently, I didn't realize until recently. And then ... once wind of the CIA's activities with LSD and, sort of, secret experiments, you know, on people without their knowledge came to light, they changed the name of the Chemical Corps to something that sounded much more spy-like, and I can't remember, it's "something corps". So I think, you know, this reminds me of this process where, like, institutions are created, and then they're there, and you have to do something with them. So, we created a prohibition enforcement apparatus for alcohol, and then alcohol prohibition ended, but the apparatus was still there. And that's when US, you know, federal-level drug prohibition really, sort of, got the wind at its back. So, you know, bureaucracies can have a life of their own, in a way, that sometimes is not detectable through, you know, over over time. But, you know, something similar happens with ... spraying defoliants in Vietnam, it becomes, you know, we have these airplanes, they can spray herbicides, let's use them. So I guess that's what I would add about the CIA, that it's, like, not just born in 1947, but it's continuing some of this previous work, and some of it is related specifically to drugs, so. I'm interested in the other in the other question that's come in about racism domestically in the war on drugs, too. I'd love to hear what anybody else has to say about that.

Dr. Nicholas Breyfogle  
Well let me, let me pass the question on to the rest of the audience, because I think this is an important one. ... The question is this one, and I'll read it just to quote it, because it's a very thoughtful comment here. "I appreciate the international global perspective in thinking about the war on drugs, but this war has completely devastated generations of African American families in the United States, which the international global community do not seem capable of addressing. It can be incredibly hurtful, dismissing, and minimizing to overlook the impact of intentional efforts and policies to use the war on drugs to create economic and political advantages for some and disadvantages for others." And I'd love to, yeah, I'd love to hear from our panel about their thoughts and answer to that, that question and, particularly, the intentionality and the, kind of, connection between domestic and international. Isaac, do you want to take a stab at this first?

Dr. Isaac Campos  
Yeah, sure. You know, I think sometimes the intentionality of it is exaggerated. So I, so for example, in the 1980s, the classic example of ... drug policies with obviously extremely racist outcomes, built on extremely racist images of drug users and drug, you know, extremely racist tropes about drug users, crack moms and all this kind of thing, right? Some of the leading advocates of punitive drug policies in the 1980s were actually African American leaders. And I think this speaks to a broader, this kind of speaks to Brionna's point, that there's a broader prejudice against drugs, not just in the United States, but among people generally, that helps to support these really terrible policies that have had such horrific consequences for African Americans in the United States, recently for Mexicans South of the border, and so on and so forth. So I, and I think it's, one of the things that, and again, I think we get back to this question of when we're looking, when we ... frame it as this, kind of, intentional effort to punish certain groups, which I think in some cases you might apply that model, but I think it's more a general sense that drugs need to be fought with the kind of, you know, missionary impulse. And this hasn't always stemmed from racist origins, often it stemmed from almost a missionary impulse toward the supposed victims just with terrible consequences. And thus, what I'm trying to argue for is a willingness to see this more complex picture, because if we don't, I think then we lose track of some other elements of this that are extremely problematic as well. So, I certainly don't deny the racist discourses and the racist outcomes that have come with many of these drug policies, for sure. But what I would like to suggest is actually the origins of these are often a little more complicated than simply a desire to, you know, punish certain populations.

Brionna Mendoza  
I'll jump in here.... I think it's important to note, just again, that even though we're talking about an international, sort of, a wider, sort of, global view on the war on drugs, that it's taken in concert with domestically what is happening, I know that I personally feel that there are many, many scholars and activists, often who are people of color, who are contributing more extensively, and with a level of analysis that I could never bring to the question. I think that when I think about it from a global perspective, I am, like, the United States is responsible not only for the domestic harm it has done, but also for the havoc that herbicides have wreaked on, you know, indigenous communities in Peru and Bolivia, for example, and ... so I think, you know, sort of, honestly, like an international movement between communities who have been harmed by the war on drugs, in part, sort of, the solidarity between these groups, rather than help from the UN or, you know, insert international organization here, would would be able to better address it. Thinking about Dr. Campos's comments, I'm not sure that I entirely agree. Like, I see what you're saying, I appreciate what you're saying. I also think that when I think about the sort of, like, missionary approach to fighting to, sort of, demonizing drugs, like, I feel like that can't be viewed, especially in a US context, outside of, sort of, a white missionary perspective, sort of, you know, like, white Christianity. So I'm gonna be like noodling on that. But I think there have also been a lot of examples, not just in, like, in drugs, but in, for example, sort of US action in Central America in the '80s, and then how the US waged war in Afghanistan during the war on terror. There are a lot of examples of US action abroad, and US foreign policy being, sort of, these laboratories for experimenting and learning how to deal with racialized populations that are often just, like, disregarded. I think I agree on the intentionality point, but I also just wonder, to what extent it's just disregard and like not caring, like, how these actions will affect poor people and people of color? So it does kind of, I think the questions are just so inextricably linked, this, sort of, question between domestic policy and action abroad. I think there's also a lot of relief that is desperately needed in the United States right now. But I think that I would be most upset if our policymakers ... just stopped at, sort of, solving the domestic questions without thinking the sort of legacies that affect other places in the world. 

Dr. Sarah Brady Siff  
May I? So, I guess I cannot get into this post-racist mind frame, because I feel like everywhere I look at particular structures or the development of cultures of enforcement, with regard to drugs, there is a racist element. And, you know, the word "racist", people don't like it, because it's a noun, and if you're a racist then you're irredeemable, but it used to have this meaning where, like, just pertaining to race. And so just as a couple of examples, when customs officers started searching passengers coming, you know, from abroad with opium, it was because the local people really didn't like the Chinese immigrants, so, you know, these cultures of, like, illegal searches, or unconstitutional searches, begin in this, like, racial hatred. When sentencing becomes split in the 1920s, between possession and sale, you look at the examples of enforcement and the sellers are all Chinese or black, and the users who are worthy of sympathy are all white. This is not just, you know, happening suddenly due to the opioid epidemic, it's ... these problems are long ingrained in the legal structures, and the, sort of, cultures of enforcement of the war on drugs. So I, you know, I used to focus more on federalism, and how policy is made, and cooperation/non cooperation, but the race stuff kept coming out of the sources. And the more you look for it, the more you see it in just about every point where there's a change, or where there's a ramping up in the way drug prohibition is handled in the United States. So I guess I'll put myself on on the opposite side of the, you know, post-racial divide and say that, you know, this is extraordinarily significant, I would say, the most significant element of these histories.

Dr. Isaac Campos  
Well, I would, a., say it's not a post-racial argument, it's just a historical argument. And second of all, I would point out that many of the people who were opposed to drug prohibitions were also using racist justifications in the early 20th century. Everybody was using racist justifications for just about everything. So there were justifications that, well, only people of inferior races develop problems with drugs, so therefore, it's not necessarily a problem. Right? So just pointing at race misses a big part of the story, and I think that's where we go wrong. So like, as you said, if you look for race, you find it, certainly, but if you only look for race, then you miss a lot. And that's the big point that I want to make here, is that we need to look for the origins of these policies, and more than just racial animus or intentional racial, kind of, punishment. It was Charlie Rangel, the longtime Harlem congressman, who in the 1980s was telling Ronald Reagan he wasn't being tough enough on drugs, because his constituents were telling him they needed something tougher done on drugs. So it's more complicated than simply trying to punish black people. It's a story that involves many different elements that we've, kind of, raised here today, and I just think it's very important to keep keep an eye on that, or else we're going to miss a big part of the story.

Dr. Nicholas Breyfogle  
I think we have time for one more question. I'm sorry, there's still a few that are still open, that we'd love to get answered. But I wanted to just quickly, one of the questions here says that the historical perspective is important, but in this case, history seems to tell us all the things not to do. You know, worried about international entanglements, merely obfuscates any real solutions. So, if I was to ask you, and you have a sentence, just to kind of keep it short, what does history teach us that we should do? Not just what we shouldn't do, but what we should do moving forward? Sarah, do you want to take off on that to start? Brief and quick.

Dr. Sarah Brady Siff  
We shouldn't take law enforcement word for it, because history shows that they cut corners, and fabricate, and are not trustworthy sources in a lot of instances having to do with drugs. Drugs invite corruption, drugs invite dishonesty, and we should quit looking to law enforcement as the source of all of our data, as the source of all of our anecdotes, and as the source of all our solutions.

Dr. Nicholas Breyfogle  
Isaac, what are your solutions? What does history teach us we should do?

Dr. Isaac Campos  
Well, I think history teaches us that people are gonna want access to both sedatives and stimulants, and that we should provide access to both sedatives and stimulants for all the people who want to use them, but ... provide a kind of access that is heavily regulated in the interest of the public health. And not in regulated in a punitive sense, but regulated in the interest of the public health. So trying to prevent major drug use epidemics, but to try to abandon the fantasy that we're gonna have a drug-free world as people like to say, which is utterly absurd.

Dr. Nicholas Breyfogle  
Brionna, what are your pearls of wisdom to end us with in terms of what we should do in the war on drugs?

Brionna Mendoza  
I think that history teaches us that we should really listen, first and foremost, to a variety of perspectives. Not just in terms of a variety of world leaders, but also a variety of, sort of, social, sort of, like, social groups, and social strata. Like, we should be thinking about the people on the ground, as well as what the person who has been on local city council for 15 years thinks, as well as, you know, sort of regional and then national leaders. I also definitely agree that history has shown us what we shouldn't do, but I can't let go of the fact that, well, assuming that my formulation of the war on drugs as a collaborative project is correct, that maybe we should throw everything out except for the collaborative approach. I'm not sure that this is a mess, it's not a mess that the United States built on its own, although it built a lot of it on its own, and I think that ultimately it's not a mess that it's going to be able to clean up on its own. Whether or not the world is responsible for helping the United States to clean it up, that's a very different question, but, yeah.

Dr. Nicholas Breyfogle  
Thank you. And thank you all for all your comments today, and for your questions. I always find the hour that we do these runs by so much more quickly than we could ever imagine. My apologies to those whose questions we couldn't get to today. Well, let me just say thank you, to everyone here very much for joining us today. I'm grateful to Sarah Brady Siff, Isaac Campos, and Brionna Mendoza for sharing their expertise and their passion for history. Please join me in giving them a virtual round of applause. Thank you. And I'd also like to thank the College of Arts and Sciences especially Jade Lac and Maddy Khurma. And also the Department of History, the Harvey Goldberg Center for Excellence in Teaching, the Clio Society, and the podcast Prologued for their sponsorship. And once again, thank you, our audience for your excellent questions and your ongoing connection to Ohio State. Stay safe and healthy, and we'll see you next time. Thanks so much. Bye bye.

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