International Drug War correspondent muses on war

Outside the window of my American home, spring is preparing its annual art fair, with colorful flowers poking their heads through snow, and trees just beginning to show new leaves.
My neighbor’s cheerful children are laughing and twirling as they cavort in their yard. On the street, huge SUV’s, their drivers opulent and often porcine, roar past like speedy tanks.

In the shopping mall in the small college town near where I live, a man shops for jewelry for a young woman he has just fallen in love with.

“I want to get her the most exquisite pearl in the universe,” he says, his eyes beaming with love. “Her name is Pearl, she is an absolute gem of a woman, and if I did not have her now, with all this war and the economy going into the dump, I fear that I would be too sad. As it is, I am scared for her and the world.”

I leave the mall after observing that – for most people around me – normal American life seems to go on as usual. Appearances can be deceiving.

The grim specter of war, both at home and abroad, is tainting the carefree consumerist happiness that Americans like to feel. It is sobering the country up. It is making people think seriously, some of them for the first time ever, about democracy, morality, and courage.

When I tried to make plane reservations to visit marijuana activist Loretta Nall in Alabama (she’s holding a drug war vigil in the state capitol on March 18th), the reservations agent told me she could not “in good conscience” make a flight booking for me.

“After 9-11, we’ve been struggling to survive,” she confided. “We might not be flying much longer. The government won’t even give us a loan, but they have $150 billion to spend on this war that nobody in the rest of the world wants us to have. In the meantime, we’ve lost nearly 40% of our employees and we are not sure how long the airline will last.”

Perhaps the airline lady did me a favor. The US government just announced that it expects airlines to run background checks on ticket buyers. To enjoy the privilege of giving your money to an airline for a ticket, you will give up your right to privacy. The airline and the government will scrutinize your life, and assign your flight ticket a color warning code. If you are deemed high risk, you either will not fly, or you will fly only after somebody has, literally and figuratively, stuck their finger up your ass-hard.

Three weeks ago, the Homeland Security czar advised Americans to buy duct tape and plastic to use for protection against terrorist chemical warfare attacks. He warned that attacks were imminent, with “sleeper cells” ready to wreak havoc on US civilians.

One would have thought that the federal government, supposedly dedicated to protecting us from terrorists, would have assisted our duct tape and plastic by assigning every law enforcement agent in the federal workforce to anti-terrorism duties.

Instead, we found out last week that the federal government was instead spending hundreds of thousands of dollars investigating, surveilling, and arresting glassblowers, artisans, and entrepreneurs who are involved in making colorful smoking accessories that some people use for smoking cannabis.

We also found out that the US and the UN, apparently in control of a right-wing puppet government in Holland, had finally convinced a Dutch government to try to begin shutting down half the country’s fabled cannabis coffeeshops, en masse.

And despite the allegedly imminent terrorist threats, and the impending war against “evildoers” like former US-CIA employees Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, the federal government has since 9-11 been sending its own “sleeper cells” to attack sick and dying medical marijuana patients in wheelchairs, bespectacled pot growers like Cannabis Culture grow god Ed Rosenthal, and little girls.

That’s right – little girls.

I just returned from San Antonio, Texas where I visited with the family and friends of 14-year-old Ashley Villareal.

By all accounts, Ashley was a bright, kind and innocent Latina angel, living with her elderly grandmother in a respectable middle-class San Antonio Hispanic neighborhood.

One evening in February, she went out with a family friend to move the family car around the block so she could park the freshly-washed vehicle under a cover. Before she got more than a few feet from her home, however, DEA agents in unmarked cars surrounded her car and shot her to death.

Ashley didn’t have any illegal drugs. The only drugs her grandmother had were heart medications. The DEA found nothing illegal. They tried to cover up what they did.

The sweet girl is now dead in the ground, buried in a grave piled high with flowers watered by tears.

The DEA hasn’t apologized for what its agents did (they never do), and the agency has continued to harass the family of the dead child.

“Who are the real terrorists?” one of Ashley’s young friends said to me, with tears welling up in her eyes. “No Arab ever did anything to my people. It’s always the police and the DEA.”

It would all be too depressing, except that good people are rising up like Jesus did from his three-day tomb.

When I listen to the only uncensored news still available, at www.kpfk.org and www.democracynow.org, I hear about high school students, nuns, Christian fundamentalists, soldiers, police, and even a few politicians who have staged protests against the US government’s warlike ways.

I hear about regular people willing to stand and fight for freedom, even if it means getting arrested, beaten, or fired.

I hear about Ed Rosenthal, facing life in prison for growing plants, who could’ve run to Canada, but instead went to court and stood trial, told the truth to the media, and is now poised to see his conviction overturned because jurors have publicly denounced the judge and the federal government’s view of medical marijuana.

I hear about Marc Emery, who continues to sell cannabis seeds and give away all his profits to help people who are being persecuted.

And I hear about Loretta Nall, the Alabama activist who faces false criminal charges by refusing to bow to the drug war corruption that has caused her home to be invaded and her children to be threatened by police.

In Baghdad, six million people live. Many are women and children. Few have anything to do with Saddam Hussein, an ex-employee of the United States- the US supplied Hussein with chemical weapons during the Iraq-Iran war.

Many of those Baghdad residents, humans just like you and me, will meet the same fate that Ashley Villareal did. They will be living their lives, loving the moments they have left, enjoying their families, and then America will unleash on them the hounds of hell. Their fragile bodies will be ripped apart, their blood spilled, their consciousness freed from mortal concerns.

How can we stand by and let it happen?

If you are reading this website, it is probably because you believe in marijuana, or at least in freedom and justice.

If you are an American who cares about human rights and what is right, there should be an inner voice of conscience crying out to you now, asking you what you are doing to further the cause of peace and freedom.

What George W. Bush, Condoleeza Rice, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Donny Rumsfeld and all the other people who love war and oil money are going to do to Iraq, they will next do to you. The police state apparatus of secret surveillance, illegal searches, false charges, covert detention, narks, drug dogs, urine testing, and the demonization of pot users is in full swing.

And even if you have nothing at all to do with drugs, like Ashley Villareal, you can still suddenly find yourself living underground, too soon called to heaven with Jesus.

The romantic man I met at the jewelry store in the mall told me his beloved Pearl was that moment playing in a park with a young child whom she had been taking care of for three years because the child’s parents were irresponsible.

That romance and compassion, of a man in love, of a young woman raising someone else’s child for the sake of the child, is the spirit of the true America.

The real Americans, the real patriots I know- they do not support war or Bush. They believe in love, caring, and happy life for everyone. They want the Garden of Eden, not the gates of hell.

America does not want war- the American government wants war.

What can we do to keep the American government from destroying the world?

Whatever answer comes to your mind, as long as it is an answer that creates peace and good karma, please make it so.

Spring flowers are arriving, and life is ever so precious.

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