- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 9, 2007

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Drug war criticism

Paul Kengor rails against legalizing drugs (“A conservative take on drugs,” Forum, Sunday) as if all drugs were alike and all drugs were illegal. Of course, neither is true.

Let us consider marijuana, an illegal drug, in comparison to alcohol, which is legal and regulated. Alcohol is more addictive (15 percent of users become dependent versus 9 percent for marijuana) much more toxic and more likely to induce violent and aggressive behavior.

So why exactly is alcohol a huge and legal industry, while we arrest nearly 800,000 Americans each year on marijuana charges, 89 percent of them for simple possession? Why have we taken a popular product — used by at least 100 million Americans, according to federal surveys that even the government admits probably are gross underestimates — and given a monopoly on sales and distribution to criminal gangs rather than legitimate, regulated businesses?

The late Milton Friedman understood, as do other real conservatives, that the only marijuana policy that makes sense is treating it like alcohol, with common-sense regulations, taxes and controls.

BRUCE MIRKEN

Director of communications

Marijuana Policy Project

Washington

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Paul Kengor makes the common mistake of assuming that punitive drug laws deter use.

The drug war is in large part a war on marijuana, by far the most popular illicit drug. The University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future Study reports that lifetime use of marijuana is higher in the United States than in any European country, yet America is one of the few Western countries that still punishes citizens who prefer marijuana to martinis. Unlike alcohol, marijuana has never been shown to cause an overdose death, nor does it share the addictive properties of tobacco. The short-term health effects of marijuana are inconsequential compared to the long-term effects of criminal records.

Unfortunately, marijuana represents the counterculture to many Americans. In subsidizing the prejudices of culture warriors, government is subsidizing organized crime. The drug war’s distortion of immutable laws of supply and demand makes an easily grown weed literally worth its weight in gold. The only clear winners in the war on marijuana are drug cartels and shameless tough-on-drugs politicians who have built careers confusing drug prohibition’s collateral damage with a relatively harmless plant. The big losers are the taxpayers, who have been deluded into believing big government is the appropriate response to nontraditional, consensual vices.

ROBERT SHARPE

Policy analyst

Common Sense for Drug Policy

Washington

Justice and accountability

Dan K. Thomasson’s broad characterization of military justice is understandable but lacks both context and depth (“Military justice: Someone has to pay,” Commentary, Sunday). The military’s often-generalized term for any type of action regarding a misdeed is normally “UCMJ.” Used as both an adjective and a verb, it expresses a plan to use the Uniform Code of Military Justice as a tool to correct or punish behavior. Because the dictionary offers nine definitions for “justice,” the ambiguity is understandable.

The better word is “accountability.”

If nothing else, most sources have only one definition, and it applies precisely. Accountability is defined simply as “the state of being accountable, liable or answerable.”

The actions of military leaders and the ramifications of those actions should not be seen in the context of justice, but instead in terms of accountability.

The first lesson taught to the young leaders of tomorrow, whether in a classroom at one of the military academies or college campuses or midway up a mountain in Ranger school, is that a leader assumes responsibility and accountability for everything his or her unit does or fails to do.

The message taught by the military is simple, inflexible and sometimes unfair. It engenders a system of ownership and responsibility that is peerless in a business in which the bottom line too often ends up at Arlington National Cemetery.

If you inherit a problem, you don’t complain, gripe or file legal paperwork you analyze, assess and take ownership of the problem, making it your own. You solve it; you don’t point fingers. When you make a mistake trying to fix it, you admit it, learn from it and do it better next time.

Sometimes you do it right, and sometimes you don’t. Some mistakes you carry with you forever. You visit their graves, copy their names off a wall, think of them on the anniversary of their deaths or wear a simple metal bracelet with their names, dates and place of death.

My point is this: We are in a serious business. Excel spreadsheets are used to remind us of our ammunition count; our mistakes visit us in nightmares to remind us of when we failed. Accountability is indelibly built into our culture.

Passing judgment and defining justice for those involved with the Abu Ghraib prison scandal or Pat Tillman’s death by friendly fire are for someone with greater experience than me. However, for those unfamiliar with the military culture and justice system, remember that we do not take leading your sons and daughters lightly or for granted.

CAPT. PAUL CARRON

Army

Dahlonega, Ga.

A hollow victory

As of last weekend, the Millington Cross, commonly called the Wren Cross, is back on display in the historic Wren Chapel of the College of William & Mary (“Wren Cross returned to permanent display,” Briefly, Metropolitan, Tuesday). Is this a victory for the cross and its supporters? It depends on your point of view.

The Committee on Religion at a Public University university President Gene R. Nichol’s bureaucratic escape from the red-hot furor he created developed a compromise that it hoped would quell the dissenters and save face for Mr. Nichol. The cross sits in a discreet corner of the chapel, entombed in a glass case with a headstone describing the chapel’s Anglican roots.

Now that the cross has been reduced to an inoffensive museum piece safely sealed behind glass, no prospective student will ever need to flee in horror to enroll elsewhere. The cross, as well as its conscience-touching aura, which had been a source of death rays to the perpetually offended, is relegated as a symbol of the past. But at least the cross gets permanent exposure to the chapel’s airspace, and for some, this is victory.

For me, nothing short of a return to the original policy is a victory. It is clear that the battle over the cross was not only about the accurate portrayal of the college’s history and our First Amendment rights but also about the spiritual symbolism of the cross’s placement. The cross was unacceptably offensive while it sat on the altar of a historic Christian chapel, yet in its new case, it is deemed inoffensive despite being on constant display.

Its new display is inoffensive precisely because it makes the cross a museum relic, a display that symbolizes the secularist shunting aside of God and makes clear to us social Luddites that the college and the country have moved on. I am saddened by this policy not for myself, Christianity or God but for the misguided few who thought this was the right solution.

LISA MOUNT

Williamsburg

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