The following essay is one of the primary reasons why I stopped blogging for a few weeks. It was extremely difficult to write; the subject matter is painful. However, I felt it was important enough to embrace the uncomfortable emotions and complete it.
While I haven’t, to date, posted anything about Steve Kubby and his imprisonment, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been following his case. There was nothing I could contribute that hadn’t been reported, or more eloquently written, already. Furthermore, I was completely uneducated about the scope and breadth of the war on drugs. With shame, I admit how clueless I’ve been on this subject.
Mistaken raids on little, old ladies and immigrant families make it on the local news at times. You know, kind of “no harm, no foul,” types of stories. I’ve seen those reports, and yes, they did anger me. The local news, though, doesn’t relate the terror. Articles don’t go into detail about the almost no-knock raids at midnight, while the home’s inhabitants sleep inside. Newscasters don’t go into detail about the flash grenades and the black-swathed SWAT teams. The aspects of raids covered include implied stereotypes like “20-something thug,” “drug user,” “mistakes were made,” and “oops, no harm done.”
Since learning about Kubby, his family and his plight (and that they’re not alone in their victimization), the realization that the war on drugs has nothing to do with drug usage smacked me in the forehead. I can’t deny it any longer. The war on drugs is about intimidation, control and fear. Let’s take a look at the stereotypes I mentioned in the previous paragraph, not only to bust their myths, but to prove what are the real goals in the war on drugs—the intimidation, control and fear of regular folks.
[Examples in this essay are from the Drug War Victims list complied by Peter Guither at Drug WarRant—all 36 listed victims died from drug raid tactics]
“20-something Thug.” There is a general assumption that if the goons invade your home on a drug raid, even if they broke into the wrong home, you’re a youthful thug anyway or they wouldn’t be there in the first place. This line of thought is a complete fallacy. Of the 36 victims listed on Guither’s site, 14 were over the age of 40 when they were killed; 5 were under the age of 20. That means over half of the list—53%-- doesn’t fit this stereotype. The oldest victim listed, Annie Rae Dixon, was 84 years old and bedridden when her home was raided and an officer’s gun accidentally discharged, killing her. The youngest victim, Charity Bowers, was 7 months old when the plane she traveled on was shot down by the Peruvian Air Force. This foreign government was given incorrect information by the US government, as part of an agreement between the two countries to stop drug trafficking. The plane carried missionaries, not drugs.
“Drug User.” Raids on homes imply that those who live there are involved with drugs in some way. Of the 36 victims, only 7 cases involved drugs actually located in the premises the victims were in. Two of the cases I counted in the total of seven involved medical marijuana users. Shirley Dorsey (56) committed suicide to save her boyfriend, Byron Stamate (70), from charges of growing cannabis for her to use to manage her debilitating back pain. Peter McWilliams (50), who used cannabis to stave off the nausea side effect of the medications he took for AIDS and non-Hodgkins lymphoma, stopped using cannabis after being arrested. His mother’s home, held as collateral for his bail money, would be lost if he tested positive for marijuana usage. He died choking on his own vomit. So really, only 5 of the victims involved possible recreational drug users. Two victims grew pot; John Hirko (21) allegedly had cannabis seeds on his premises (in an bag that was not fire damaged, despite being recovered from his home, which ironically was set on fire by a smoke grenade used during the raid); two of the cases involved searches that revealed half an ounce and two ounces of cannabis. Did the discovery of marijuana in any of these cases warrant death?
“Mistakes were made.” Yes, mistakes occurred in all of these cases. Mistakes were on the investigating agency’s part and the results were deadly. Alberta Spruill(57) died of a heart attack after flash grenades were set off in her apartment during a raid. The police had the wrong address. Accylene Williams(75) died of a heart attack after a raid of his home. He was tackled and his hands were tied behind his back. The raid’s informant gave the police the wrong address. Ashely Virrareal(14) was shot to death in a DEA raid targeting her father. Her father hadn’t visited her home that day (she lived with her grandmother); she was in the family car with a family friend when she was shot in the head.
“Oops, no harm done.” Things can happen when conduction police business. Unfortunately, the consequences can snuff out someone’s life. Curt Ferryman(24) sat in his car when a DEA agent knocked on Ferryman’s car window with a gun. The weapon discharged, killing Ferryman. He was unarmed. Charmene Pickering(27) was a passenger in a car pulled over because the driver was a drug suspect. In the process of arresting the driver, an officer’s gun discharged, killing her.
The war on drugs targets senior citizens, school children and everyone in between. Social and economic status has no bearing on how an individual will weather an attack—Donald Scott (61) was a millionare when his home was raided and he was shot to death. Victims come from varying racial backgrounds. Both men and women have died at the hands of raiding marauders. People have died from being shot in the back and from accidental misfires. Police officers have been mistaken as robbers and have been killed (as in Cory Maye’s case).
It hasn’t mattered that the house didn’t match the warrant—the raid commenced as ordered. It hasn’t matter that the stake out perp didn’t match the description of the sought individual. All cases embroiled people who were regarded as guilty until proven innocent, despite the discrepancies.
I’m going out on a limb here, but I have my suspicions that the intimidation, control and fear not only affects the people being raided, but also the team members conducting the intrusion. They can’t all be non-thinkers, so oblivious the obvious, can they? Are the officers trained, warped, to follow the paper trail and commander orders, despite the visible errors? Humanity can only hope.
If the war on drugs were actually about extending help those addicted to harmful substances, people would be able to seek out help rather than secure jail time. Paramilitary raids to uncover a handful of pot seeds wouldn’t even be entertained.
There is no way to whitewash the ugliness of dead children, flash grenades and smoke bombs. Faceless, black garbed, armed soldiers screaming and breaking down doors frighten, intimidate and demand control.