Having resided in a many small towns, I witnessed up close and personal the futile and catalyzing effect of President Reagan’s so-called War on Drugs. In Wewoka, for example, the local authorities had three maybe four squad cars and a handful or two of sheriff vehicles to patrol the entire county. Per capita, the local drug economy was reported to have been in excess of that in Los Angeles, California. Obviously, the locals didn’t have the resources to combat this festering drug activity. So we exploited their inability to take action. Being that as it was, we really didn’t have to sweat the police doing too much of anything to stop the flow of drugs coming through this small town.

During the 1980s, Wewoka was to the drug dealers of Seminole County what Tijuana, Mexico is to the Columbian and Mexican drug cartels—a drug trafficking hub. The Dope-Game was so off-the-chain it seemed as if everybody (Black) either sold dope or smoked it. Too Hollywood for a small town, occasionally the flow of things would get disrupted by the feds.
As in the big city, after months, if not years of investigation, the indictments would be served by some 300 or better law enforcement officers composed of local, state and neighboring counties—the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI), FBI, DEA, ATF, and the IRS. The Alphabet Boys made for quite a spectacle every time they kicked-in doors in Wewoka.

Trapped with wire-taps, surveillance photos and video, and the occasional decoy─which was not the norm because our network did not allow anyone but certified ‘hood stars and knocks to purchase─ the scenery was reminiscent of slaves being captured and loaded onto slave ships. Many friends and associates were herded together like cattle and shackled in pairs due to a shortage of restraints when making court appearances. Eventually, many would see the inside of a state or federal penitentiary.
Despite these efforts, state repression was futile when it came to curbing local drug activity. This, as contemporary history has told, was anticipated by the likes of President Reagan and other government officials who knew all too well that when it came to repressing the drug economy not only would it fail by simply making room for the next generation of drug dealers by removing the previous, but so too that it had to fail in order to boost the American economy. If anything was to come of these efforts, they provided untold trillions of dollars to the U.S. economy and made drug dealers around the nation, the world for that much, step our Game up. Out with the old and in with the new, who learned from the mistakes of the old—no phone talk, pagers or open exchanges that could be monitored. The aspiring hustlas would step-up shop and seize the reins to make Dope-Boy Magic. Sadly, none of us slowed down enough to think about the fact that our strings were being pulled as if puppets in a grand scheme to poison our own people. A seed was planted, however, the day Conan stepped to me and asked: “Do you think it’s wrong if another homie sells dope to the homie’s momma?”

As if yesterday I recall Reagan’s so-called war kicking up dust in my backyard. It was on-and-cracking with the “One-time.” “Three Suspects Held In Police Officer Shooting” read the headline in the Wewoka Times Newspaper. Conan had let the pistol smoke on the 5.0 (police) as they attempted to raid Pooch’s. After close to a year in the county lock-up all charges were dropped. The ‘hood held it down for him—no witnesses! Things really got off-the-chain after that shooting.
Chaos had long spoiled the tranquility of the home. My mother was a registered nurse, who had been laid-off when the local hospital closed. Employment opportunities being scarce, next to nonexistent for Black folks, provided vigor to the roller-coaster ride of circumstances that forced her to try her Game hand. Looking back today I see the dominoes falling one-by-one. She had pulled a bad hand. Despite having did all the right things (i.e., graduating high school valedictorian, college, career, marriage, etc.) there was a storm brewing.

What started as a hustle ended with addiction…. It was the summer of ’86. Moms and I had taken the short drive to a trap-house in New Lima—a rural community outside of Wewoka. Ear hustling from the rear seat of my Grandpa’s van, I vividly recall her and Honey Jackson speaking about the new drug (crack-cocaine) as their sherm smoke dulled my senses. It wasn’t long after that a huslta or two was in traffic connecting dots between home base and distant shipping ports.

And so the story goes, from privilege to underclass households I had a front-row seat to watch crack-cocaine flourish. What was once a rich man’s high was now the poor man’s destruction. We were ignorant of its affects. The addiction deserves little explanation. Yet what does is the Blueprint that transfigured our parental and communal structures into an atmosphere ravaged by social neglect.

The chaos that came of the crack-cocaine epidemic would forever change the relations amongst the afflicted. Overnight we went from mentors of humble origins and kids breakdancing on the block for fun to knocks and domestic terrorists without conscience armed to the teeth eager to rob, steal, and kill for the spoils of the trade. Where we once became friends before becoming anything else, everyone in the Dope-Game became everything else before becoming friends. This made for an environment that had an alienating affect on individual and community bonds. The first sign of a problem, this caused us to turn-on each other as if cannibals because we had no foundation to fall back on. Cats got so cold in the Game that they would literally give you a piece of dope to smoke before they would give you a plate of food to eat. The value we once placed on community solidarity was transfixed to a “block” represented by the neighborhood gang of trap-stars as a place not to be respected insofar as the greater community was concerned, rather a place to be respected and used to make Dope-Boy Magic.

Moreover, the epidemic gave way to Afflicted Deliberations (Chapter 2). It enslaved the mind of both the knock and dealer alike. There was this sense of euphoria despite whichever end of the pipe one was on that was addictive. The knock found escape in his or her “pipe dreams.” The dealer sought escape from poverty and with money came power. The need for diplomas and degrees went out the door as young Black men flooded the streets in the “Pursuit of Happiness.” Despite Mom’s developing habit, she remained adamant that I received that “honky” education. So much so, her methods often left welts on my backside and did more to discourage me. Besides, I thought I had it all figured out from seeing the hustle stacks she made. It didn’t take a diploma or a degree to get rich! All I needed was some powder-cocaine, a Mason jar, baking soda and presto! Dope-Boy Magic did the rest.

So there it was there, the birth of a means that seemingly provided financial security to those trapped in the ghetto. Crack-cocaine would create an opportunity, to say for lack of better term, for a large-scale drug economy that didn’t exist with marijuana or other drugs. This was so for reasons: (1) In 1984 Congress passed the Borland Amendment cutting aid to the guerrilla based anti-communist army (i.e., The Contras) in Central America. Thereafter, President Reagan gave Lt. Colonel Oliver North the “green-light” to form a private network to fund the Contras. The primary source of funding would stem from pumping tons of cocaine into the ghettoes of America (Chapter 3—Tribalism); and (2) After the Contras had successfully overthrew the communist governments of Central America, the newly established democratic governments would roll-out the red carpet to accommodate the North American Free Trade Agreement (N.A.F.T.A.), which gave American Big Business access to Third World quasi-slave labor to man foreign manufacturing companies. Suddenly, many Americans, particularly Latino and Black Americans, found that their labor was no longer needed and thus they were left unemployed with mouths to feed.
* * *
THE WAR ON DRUGS was anything but! Like many other rhetorical wars announced by politicians and enacted by political institutions such as legislators, courts, and prisons, it masked deeper social and racial agendas. Namely, the record disenfranchisement that ensued from drug related arrests and racially tinged laws such as the crack vs. powder cocaine statutes, which were purposefully designed to permanently lock predominately Black and Latino Americans into positions of second-class citizenship (Chapter 7—The Web of Injustice). Crime and welfare reform would gain tremendous momentum as America’s right-wing media machine exploited pictures of crack babies, knocks and drug related violence to elevate this so-called war from a rhetorical one to a literal one for political gain.
Without question, the War on Drugs was a recipe for Domestic Genocide. For it created a repository of ghetto youth to feed into Reagan’s political ambitions to decimate and exploit this sector of American society.

When reflecting on the fact that this war did absolutely nothing to curb the drug trade or use of illicit drugs, yet catalyzed catastrophe, the foregoing becomes irrefutable. To this end, Alfred McCoy would provide not only the history of America’s failed drug wars, but so too the reason why they failed.

AMERICA’S FIRST WAR ON DRUGS HAD A MAJOR… impact on the global drug trade. As U.S. troops withdrew from Vietnam in 1971-72, President Richard Nixon inadvertently created a new market for Southeast Asian heroin by declaring a war on drugs in Europe. Though strong diplomatic pressure, Nixon forced Turkey to eradicate its opium fields and France to close its heroin laboratories, cutting the connection that had long supplied 80 percent of America’s heroin. Ironically, however, Nixon’s victory in Europe unleashed market forces that would soon expand drug trafficking on five continents.
America’s first drug war thus produced paradoxical strengthening of the global narcotics traffic. By the late 1970s, the simplex of the Marseille New York [Italian Mafia] connection had given way to a worldwide commerce that tied rising First World consumption to spreading Third world production. With producers and consumers now dispersed about the globe, the international traffic knitted into a cat’s cradle of smuggling routes far more resistant to suppression than ever before.

Conventional literary metaphors seem too flat, too linear to convey the explosive volatility of the global drug market. In his restless pursuit of drug dealers across the arc of Asia, President Nixon seems rather like Mickey Mouse in the animated Disney film Fantasia—a “sorcerer’s apprentice” frantic to stem rising waters by attacking the bucket-carrying brooms with an ax, only to have the chips resurrect as full-grown brooms and the flood turn into a torrent.

The first of America’s five drug wars was a precursor and accurate predictor of failures to follow as the Unities States launched similar campaigns in Latin America. Not only did Nixon’s drug diplomacy unleash forces that would stimulate drug trafficking worldwide, it exposed a self-defeating dynamic that would occur in all subsequent U.S. drug wars….

In explaining the global spread of drug abuse over the past thirty years, commentators have often focused on the reasons why addicts [and people who sell drugs] turn to drugs—structural unemployment, youth drug culture, Third World poverty, or the moral crisis of post-industrial society. While all provide a partial explanation, an excusive emphasis on these demand factors ignores the economic reality that illicit drugs are, like cigarettes or alcohol, commodities with distributors….
The self-defeating dynamic first seen in Asia was repeated, with striking similarity, as the United States extended its drug war into the Andes. During the 1980s, surging U.S. demand for cocaine raised Latin America’s coca traffic to unprecedented levels… By the late 1980s, cocaine was growing into a major commodity that was integrated, albeit invisibly, into legitimate inter-American economic relations.

Ignoring the lessons from Nixon’s drug war in Asia, the Reagan White House pursued a parallel policy in Latin America with predictably dismal results. During the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan received Nixon’s drug war, redirecting its focus from Asian heroin to Latin American cocaine. To Nixon’s arsenal of bilateral negotiations and DEA interdiction, Reagan added regional diplomacy and intensified enforcement….

That President Reagan sought to intentionally ignore these lessons, unquestionably, speaks to the fact that the War on Drugs (n.b., the War on Communities of Color) was a political ploy designed to fuel the American economy and political ambitions. It was a war, like all wars, that was to become profitable in countless but conceivable ways. At the bottom of the food chain would be us—the Black and poor have nots….

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