Busted: Stone Cowboys, Narco-Lords and Washington's War on Drugs
. Nation Books, $17.95 (350pp) ISBN 978-1-56025-432-4
In assessing the famed campaign of the subtitle, Gray (Drug Crazy) has brought together 33 contributors, often journalist-analysts with access to sources that vary from coca farmers in Colombia to former drug czar Barry McCaffrey. The majority agrees that the war on drugs is an exercise in futility. Journalist Ethan Nadelmann believes the policy has failed because U.S. politicians prefer""rhetoric to reality, and moralism to pragmatism."" Craig Reinarman and Joshua Wolf Shenk probe the psychology behind Americans' legal, illegal, and prescribed relationships to mind-altering substances, and report that U.S. drug warriors""fear Dutch drug policy like the Catholic Church feared Galileo."" Rowena Young considers drug use a false antidote to feelings of purposeless and social isolation. To make the point more concretely, Philippe Bourgois asks a crack dealer in East Harlem how he feels about selling drugs; the man responds:""I hate the people! I hate the environment!...But it's like you get caught up with it....Another day another dollar."" Rolling Stone writer T.D. Allman asks a group of Colombian drug farmers whether they want to get out of the coca business, and they answer with a resounding""yes."" Roger Hernandez of the Farmers' Association cries out,""We are victims of the drug consumers. We need help to break the circle."" Gray, chair of the advocacy group Common Sense for Drug Policy, has collected a vibrant group of thinkers; the opinions are diverse, and the quality of writing consistently high. Most of what they say won't be surprising to critics of U.S. drug policy, but having the arguments in one place and in an accessible format should be a boon to campus and lay readers.
Reviewed on: 11/11/2002