Nixon the narc

Richard Milhouse Nixon, the 37th President of the United States, was the first world leader to use the phrase “war on drugs.” Nixon’s long and tumultuous career was intimately tied to the creation and perpetuation of America’s current violent and irrational drug policies.
Recently released White House audio tapes from the Nixon era reveal that the architect of America’s modern drug war was tremendously anti-semitic, homophobic, and purposefully ignorant of the actual effects of cannabis use. He was also devious, cunning, a skilled speaker and a talented politician. Creating America’s modern war on drugs was Nixon’s greatest accomplishment and his most lasting legacy.

Dirty history

Nixon’s career was inextricably linked to the modern global war on drugs. Although most famous for resigning the presidency in 1974 in the wake of Watergate, Nixon’s political career spanned three decades of scare-mongering, witch-hunts and dirty tricks.

Nixon was first elected to Congress in 1946 on a strong anti-communist, anti-jew platform. He was soon appointed to the infamous House Un-American Activities Committee led by Senator Joseph McCarthy, which doggedly sought to expose Communist sympathizers in government, unions, show business and anywhere else they might be found. Nixon gained prominence when he convinced America that former State Department official Alger Hiss was actually a communist, then had him convicted of perjury for his denials.

In 1950, Nixon was elected as California’s representative to the Senate. Two years later WWII war hero General Dwight Eisenhower became the Republican nominee for President, and chose the 39-year old Nixon as his running mate. The pair won two terms in office, despite initial accusations that Nixon had a “secret fund” from corporate interests. Eisenhower had a heart attack in 1955 followed by a stroke in 1957, and as a result Nixon took on more responsibility than was typical for a vice-president, and became the power behind the throne.

In 1960 Nixon’s bid for the Presidency was defeated by John F Kennedy, in a very narrow victory based largely on Kennedy’s better performance in crucial televised debates. Kennedy, a pot-smoking, amphetamine using, promiscuous civil-rights promoter, claimed he was going to break up the CIA, but was assassinated in 1963 in what many believe was a military coup d’etat. Nixon returned for another try at the presidency in 1968, where he defeated Hubert and Wallace to become the president of the United States.

Nixon on tape

Nixon’s six years as president was one of the strangest and most tumultuous periods of US history, with a dramatic increase in the number of marijuana arrests, bombing in Cambodia, and nationwide protests against the Vietnam War.

Nixon’s paranoia proved to be his undoing. He had voice-activated tape recorders installed in the Oval Office, producing a huge archive of conversations and discussions which were later used to prove his involvement in Watergate. Some of these tapes have remained secret, and are being slowly released after being screened so that “personal material” can be eliminated.

Every year more tapes are released, reminding the American people that their 37th President was a foul-mouthed bigot who believed in Jewish conspiracies and was terrified that America would be destroyed from within by homosexuality and drug use.

Nixon, anti-semite homophobe

The Nixon tapes reveal that the President was virulently anti-homosexual, and equated marijuana use and homosexuality with “weak societies.” He claimed the Roman Empire fell because “the last six Roman emperors were fags.” Nixon said the Catholic church was better when “Popes were laying the nuns,” but “when the Catholic Church went to hell… it was homosexual.”

“Do you think the Russians allow dope?” Nixon asked his advisor Bob Haldemann, while discussing the impending Shafer Report. “Hell no… not if they can catch it, they send them up. You see, homosexuality, dope, immorality in general: These are the enemies of strong societies. That’s why the Communists and the left-wingers are pushing the stuff, they’re trying to destroy us!”

Nixon’s conspiracy theories didn’t only center around dope-pushing commies, he also suspected Jewish psychiatrists. “You know it’s a funny thing,” Nixon told Haldemann, “every one of the bastards that are out for legalizing marijuana is Jewish. What the Christ is the matter with the Jews, Bob? What is the matter with them? I suppose it’s because most of them are psychiatrists.”

President to the stars

Nixon and Satchmo

While vice-president, Nixon had a strange encounter with jazz great Louis Armstrong. Armstrong was on a “goodwill tour” for the US state department, and was waiting in the VIP Lounge of the Paris airport with his troupe of musicians. The story, as told by Armstrong’s keyboard player Tommy Flanagan, is that Nixon walked into the lounge with his secret service guards, saw Armstrong, and immediately rushed up to him. Nixon effusively praised the pot-smoking jazz trumpeter, telling him he was “a national treasure… like the Statue of Liberty!”

It turned out that they were all on the same plane, going to Moscow. Nixon claimed to be Armstrong’s “biggest fan,” and repeatedly asked if there was anything he could do for his musical hero. Armstrong said “Yeah! Would you mind carrying these?” and handed Nixon a few pieces out of their large pile of luggage. Nixon happily agreed, never knowing that he had proudly carried the whole band’s pot stash right through Russian customs.

The President and the King: joining forces against pot smokers and Beatles fans.The President and the King: joining forces against pot smokers and Beatles fans.The Prez and The King

Years later, as President, Nixon had a unique opportunity to meet another world-famous musician, Elvis Presley. In 1970, Elvis wrote Nixon a long, poorly handwritten letter requesting a visit with the President and suggesting that he be made a “Federal Agent-at-Large” in the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. Elvis claimed to have made extensive study of “drug abuse and Communist brainwashing techniques,” and wanted to help save his country from hippies and communism.

Elvis was eventually received at the White House by Nixon, where the two spent some time in the Oval Office together. Although no transcript of their conversation exists, a summary of their talk written by Nixon’s staff indicates that Elvis showed the President his collection of law-enforcement paraphernalia, and then derided the Beatles, saying they had been a “real force for anti-American spirit.”

Nixon clearly agreed with the King’s assessment of the Fab Four, as John Lennon was already on Nixon’s infamous “enemies list,” with a thick FBI file investigating his anti-war activities. Nixon was personally behind efforts to deport Lennon in 1972.

Yet despite Elvis’ claim to dislike the Beatles, five years earlier he had hosted them in his Hollywood home. For one enchanted evening, on the night of August 27, 1965, the lads from Liverpool and the King hung out, jammed and swapped stories about life on tour. “We all drank scotch and coke or bourbon and Seven Up,” explained Lennon in a memoir of the event. “Elvis only had Seven Up. He didn’t touch any of the cigarettes that were offered around, either.”

While offering to serve as Nixon’s anti-drug spokesman, Elvis was already a heavy user of prescription drugs. Within two years Elvis was admitted to hospital for hepatitis, pneumonia and overuse of prescription drugs. Five years later Elvis was dead at the age of 42, due to heart failure brought on by prescription drugs and poor attention to his personal health.

Nixon and Sammy Davis Jr

Nixon was inspired by Elvis’ visit more than he let on, and a year later he was courting another celebrity to join his anti-drug campaign. Nixon met with Sammy Davis Jr on July 1, 1971, and convinced the post-Rat-Pack entertainer that he was not the racist bigot he was later revealed to be.

Davis agreed to host a TV special against drugs, to be sponsored in large part by the Hoffmann-La Roche pharmaceutical company. Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs officials even wrote up some suggested sketches for Davis, including a Laugh-In style film called Pot Is a Put-On.

In the end, however, all these plans fell through, and all President Nixon got from Sammy Davis Jr was a televised embrace at the 1972 Republican National Convention.

Alcohol vs marijuana

One of Nixon’s most successful celebrity recruits was TV personality Art Linkletter, best known for his shows People Are Funny and Kids Say the Darndest Things. Capitalizing on Linkletter’s grief over his daughter’s committing suicide while on LSD, Nixon quickly appointed him to the National Advisory Council for Drug Abuse Prevention.

Linkletter’s daughter was the perfect symbol for Nixon’s campaign against psychedelic drugs. In the words of her father, “Diane was not a hippie. She was not a drug addict… she was a well-educated, intelligent girl from a family that has traditionally been a Christian family and has been straight.” Linkletter claimed that his daughter “had no personal problems” and blamed her death entirely on LSD.

Nixon and Linkletter spent some time in the Oval Office together, discussing the differences between alcohol and marijuana. In these conversations, Linkletter provides Nixon with an argument which Nixon later repeated to others many times.

AL: “There’s a great difference between alcohol and marijuana.”
RN: “What is it?”
AL: “The worst that you can have when you’re in with other alcoholics is more to drink, so you’ll throw up more and get sicker and be drunker.”
RN: “And that also is a great, great incentive, uh…”
AL: “But when you are with druggers, you can go from marijuana, to say heroin. Big difference.”
RN: “I see.”

Later on in the same conversation, Nixon finally seems to grasp the strange double-think between drinking to “have fun” and toking to “get high.”

AL: When people smoke marijuana, they smoke it to get high, in every case. When most people drink, they drink to be sociable. You don’t see people…”
RN: “That’s right, that’s right.”
AL: “They sit down with a marijuana cigarette to get high…”
RN: “A person does not drink to get drunk.”
AL: “That’s right.”
RN: “A person drinks to have fun.”

Nixon on drugs

In 1970 Congress passed the Comprehensive Drug Abuse and Control Act, which placed marijuana on Schedule 1, meaning that it was considered to be highly addictive and dangerous, with little or no medicinal value.

Yet at the same time, in response to pressure from Congress, Nixon also created a special Presidential Commission to specifically look at marijuana issues and make recommendations on a more appropriate marijuana policy. Nixon appointed Governor Raymond Shafer of Pennsylvania, a former prosecutor with a hardline reputation, to lead the commission.

The “Shafer Commission” made an incredibly thorough examination of all facets of cannabis use and prohibition. They received testimony from police, judges, doctors, politicians, students, lawyers, clinicians and many others, producing thousands of pages of transcripts. They also commissioned dozens of surveys, studies and projects, and travelled to many other nations to examine their cultural and social mores in relation to cannabis.

Despite their initial anti-pot leanings, the commission ultimately bowed to the weight of the evidence, and issued a remarkably tolerant and accurate report. The commission report, titled Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding, found that marijuana use caused “no significant physical, biochemical, or mental abnormalities,” and that “most users, young and old, demonstrate an average or above-average degree of social functioning, academic achievement, and job performance.”

The report also found that marijuana did not cause violent behavior, did not lead to heroin or other drugs, and concluded that “neither the marihuana user nor the drug itself can be said to constitute a danger to public safety.” The commission found that the evidence on marijuana “does not justify a social policy designed to seek out and firmly punish those who use it.”

The report recommended that “Federal and state laws be changed to no longer make it a crime to possess marijuana for private use. State laws should make the public use of marijuana a criminal offense punishable by a $100 fine. Under federal law, marijuana smoked in public would merely be subject to seizure.”

These findings were not what Nixon had wanted to hear. The tapes reveal that Nixon had put immense pressure on Shafer to have the commission’s findings back Nixon’s drug war, telling him “keep your commission in line.”

“You’re enough of a pro,” Nixon told a nervous Shafer, “to know that for you to come out with something that would run counter to what the Congress feels and what the country feels and what we’re planning to do, would make your Commission just look bad as hell.”

When he learned that the commission was going to recommend decriminalization despite his efforts, Nixon told his advisor Bob Haldeman how they would counteract the commission report. “I want a goddamn strong statement about marijuana,” growled Nixon. “I mean one on marijuana that just tears the ass out of them.”

Ultimately, Nixon ignored the Shafer commission, punishing Shafer by dead-ending his career and blocking him from further promotion. Nixon followed through on his threat to wage a real drug war; marijuana arrests skyrocketed during his tenure, jumping by over 130,000 between 1972 and 1973, totalling over 420,000 arrests.

Nixon and the Nazis

Many historians claim that Nixon was intimately involved in Project Paperclip, a secret US intelligence project which brought hundreds of Nazi scientists and high-ranking military officers into America after World War II.

Those brought into the employ of the newly-formed CIA included Klaus Barbie, the infamous “Butcher of Lyons” known for having his trained German Shepherd castrate his victims. Barbie was relocated to Bolivia and put to work in the new war against Communism. He was paid with US tax dollars to train paramilitary death squads which viciously suppressed South American labor-union movements during the 1960’s and 70’s.

These squads continue to violently eliminate those who oppose US corporate interests, under the guise of fighting the war on drugs (CC#20, South American Holocaust).

`Hmmm, this smells like damn good coffee!``Hmmm, this smells like damn good coffee!`Nixon’s drug war

Nixon’s administration saw the genesis of many extreme “anti-drug” campaigns which continue to this day. At the same conference where Linkletter was made part of Nixon’s drug war team, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare officially handed over the power to schedule and classify drugs to the Justice Department. The trend of putting drug policy control into the hands of cops instead of doctors continued, and today all federal drug-enforcement power lies with the Justice Department.

Nixon created the Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement (ODALE) which used agents from the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, the Bureau of Customs, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. The agents were redeployed as “strike forces” which pioneered the use of “no-knock warrants,” and other “extra-legal” tactics and procedures.

Nixon’s administration was the first to consider biological warfare in their war on drug-plants. Nixon’s team investigated the use of insects to consume poppy crops, dubbing their theoretical bug the “screw worm” because it was supposed to die after intercourse. Department of Agriculture scientists experimented with mutated weevils, but were unable to guarantee that the worms would not also attack other crops.

Nixon abandoned the idea, but it has returned in the form of more advanced biological warfare techniques. A fungus called Fusarium Oxysporum is being researched by the US government to attack “drug crops” and Florida governor Jeb Bush has proposed releasing it in his state.

Nixon’s administration also pioneered the tactic of using America’s financial clout to force other nations into drug war compliance. Senior staff debated the merits of “heroin diplomacy” ? using America’s veto power to prevent international financial organizations from lending money to non-compliant nations.

Although introducing this tactic made senior staff nervous, the “certification” of nations as being drug war compliant is now a major aspect of US foreign policy.

Media manipulation

Nixon was a pioneer of using mainstream media to propagate his anti-drug message. In 1970, before his Presidential Commission had even issued a report, Nixon’s anti-pot propaganda team was already in action. Nixon called in the vice-presidents in charge of programming the three major TV networks and the three largest ad agencies, as well as production heads and program producers who were collectively responsible for over 90% of prime-time television, to attend a special conference at the White House.

In a carefully scripted “impromptu” speech, Nixon told the gathered executives that “between the time a child is born and he leaves high school, it is estimated he watches about 15,000 hours of television… If this nation is going to survive, it will have to depend to the great extent on how you gentlemen help raise our children.” They were then shown an hour and a half of “shocking” films about narcotics addiction.

The event was a great success, and within months shows like Hawaii Five-O, The Mod Squad, Marcus Welby MD, Room 222 and many others had begun adding anti-drug segments into their shows. An internal White House memo boasted that “at least twenty television programs this fall will have a minimum of one anti-drug theme in it as a result of our conference.”

At a similar White House Conference on Drugs for the radio industry the next month, it was “suggested” that the Federal Communications Commission would be supportive of licensees who provided free time for anti-drug commercials.

Next came the highly publicized Drug Abuse Prevention Week, followed by a National Drug Alert timed to coincide with the opening of school. Regular “high-level” briefings were held for media executives, and there was also a special White House anti-drug meeting for religious leaders.

Within a year the White House had received $37 million in free drug war advertising, a figure which has ballooned into billions of dollars in paid and free government anti-drug advertising, as well as contracts between TV networks and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, compensating networks for running episodes with anti-drug scripts (CC#25, TV takes prohibitionist payola). Government officials now claim the average American child sees over 140 anti-drug ads each year.

A new legacy

Nixon’s hatred and fear of homosexuals, Jews and blacks are now considered as the views of a less enlightened era. It is time for America to put Richard Nixon’s legacy behind them, to re-assess his bigoted drug war, and take a closer look at the marijuana report which was shelved over three decades ago.`Hmmm, this smells like damn good coffee!`

? For more on the Nixon administration’s drug war manipulations, read “Agency of Fear” by Edward Jay Epstein: