The Most Destructive and Devastating War in American History

By R. Lee Wrights

“The drug war has arguably been the single most devastating, dysfunctional social policy since slavery.”

– Norm Stamper, retired Seattle Chief of Police

The most destructive and devastating war in American history was not the Vietnam War, not World War II, not even the Civil War. The most destructive and devastating war in American history is the 40-year War on Drugs. It is a war in which thousands die each year, which wastes billions of dollars, and which has put more people in jail than any other nation in the world. It has come to the point where the War on Drugs is deadlier and more destructive than all the dreaded drugs scattered upon its battlefields.

Like all our nation’s wars, the War on Drugs was manufactured out of fear, based on lies, and has proven ultimately to be a miserable disaster not only for the American people, but for the world. Sadly, any war is such a profitable and advantageous enterprise for power mongers that they learn nothing from history, in fact, choose to ignore history’s lessons. America’s first failed experiment with Prohibition in the early 20th Century, when the social evil that had to be exorcized from society for the public good was Demon Alcohol, provided a great windfall for organized crime. Today, the people who benefit the most from the insane and senseless War on Drugs are the organized gangs of the world: the 20,000 street gangs in the U.S., the international drug cartels — and the federal government.

These gangs have a vested interest in continuing this ongoing carnage because it lets them consolidate and expand their power, extort more money from taxpayers to fight the drug war, and confiscate the savings and property of anyone “suspected” of being involved with drugs. While U.S. politicians wring their hands over the rising bloodbath in Mexico, as drug cartels battle for control of the drug trade, the U.S. government curiously keeps no official records of those killed, even innocent bystanders and police officers, in the drug war battles on American soil.

The War on Drugs is in reality a war on the American people. It is a war on individuals’ life, liberty and property. The War on Drugs has wiped out personal privacy, eroded personal liberties, given the government power to confiscate your property without even accusing, let alone convicting you of a crime, and put so many harmless marijuana smokers in jail on 20-year sentences that there’s no more room for rapists and murders.

America was settled by people who refused to be told what to do, who wanted to live their lives their way. All of the great achievements and advancements in history were brought about by people who were told, “It can’t be done.” Everybody told the Wright brothers that man was not meant to fly. It reminds me of the Chinese proverb: those who say it can’t be done should step out of the way of those who are doing it.

After 40 years of shredding the Bill of Rights in a vain and vicious crusade to eradicate the Demon Drug, the drug war is a total and abject failure; the government can’t even keep drugs our of prisons. As in most wars, the first people to realize that the war is lost and is an unnecessary and immoral waste of human life are the warriors themselves. In their recent report “Ending the Drug War: A Dream Deferred” Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) noted that 67 percent of the nation’s police chiefs agree the war is a failure and should end. They should know; the organization is composed of current and former police officers, prosecutors, judges, FBI and DEA agents, corrections officials and military officers who have been on the front lines of the War on Drugs.

The LEAP report notes that more than 120 million Americans have used illicit drugs, including many in the present and past presidential administration, yet have gone on to lead productive lives. Oddly, these same officials are relentless in continuing and expanding a failed policy under the delusion that they can curb or prevent drug abuse in others. Here again, President Obama’s actions contradict his words; he has actually increased federal drug war funding for punishment and interdiction, and increased the frequency and number of federal drug raids on medical marijuana providers in states who have legalized such practice.

We can stop all the foreign wars in which the United States is mired, bring all the troops home, and yet we will still be raining death and destruction on the American people if we continue the War on Drugs at home. Leigh Maddox, a former Maryland State Police captain called America’s failed drug polices “nothing more than a killing field, battering communities, pillaging minorities, and subjecting generations of Americans to poverty, violence and a depth of hopelessness…”

Alcohol prohibition ended after only 14 years when politicians and bureaucrats finally admitted they could not enforce a law most Americans not only rejected but openly defied. Why has it taken America 40 years this time to learn that which took less than two decades in the last century to learn? Prohibition is now, as it always has been, a doomed, unenforceable public policy. With 76 percent of the American people agreeing that the War on Drugs is a failure and should be ended, even the current array of historically-challenged politicians in office should be able to learn from our own not-so-distant past and bring the War on Drugs to a merciful end. It is time to put an end to the insanity of the longest, most devastating and destructive war in American history.

“Anyway, no drug, not even alcohol, causes the fundamental ills of society. If we’re looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn’t test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed and love of power.”

– P.J. O’Rourke

R. Lee Wrights is a writer and political activist living in Texas. He is the co-founder and editor of the free speech online magazine Liberty For All. Contact Lee at