Joel Miller's first book, Bad Trip: How the War Against Drugs is Destroying America, is a devastating examination of government anti-drug policies. Publishers Weekly calls the book a "well-researched, bitingly written account," and "a formidable challenge to the reigning prohibitionist orthodoxy."
Miller, a former aide for the California legislature, is a veteran of several now-defunct online startups (including the libertarian e-zine Real Mensch) and the former commentary editor at WorldNetDaily.com. He was senior editor at WND Books, a collaboration between the website and publisher Thomas Nelson, and is now senior editor at Nelson Current.
Though Miller's personal tastes run more to home brewed beer and pipe tobacco, he started writing regularly about the war against drugs while working for WorldNetDaily. Bad Trip has been praised by ABC Radio host Larry Elder and Fox News legal correspondent Judge Andrew P. Napolitano. Miller spoke with former colleague Jeremy Lott on the ingenuity of drug smugglers, on why anti-drug laws are the terrorist's best friend, and on what this year's election means for the war against drugs.
Reason: Several members of the Bush administration have pushed the line that if you buy illegal drugs, you're funding terrorism. Is that true?
The answer is yes—partly—but it's their fault. The laws against drugs are what create the market in which drugs are so incredibly profitable. There's no other reason a coca bush should be worth more than a privet shrub. Without prohibition, terrorists could no more profit from drugs than from growing bananas. They'd have to turn to other sorts of funding.
Reason: Such as?
Well, FARC in Colombia has made a fair bit by kidnapping people, and before the Soviet Union fell, terrorist organizations were funding themselves through subsidies from Communist governments. But today nothing is so lucrative as drugs; kill prohibition and you hit their bottom line.
Reason: How much do these groups depend on drug money?
Well they're all in pretty deep. FARC in Columbia, ELN, and AUC—three factions that are at war either with themselves or the central government—rely on profits from either taxing the drug trade in the areas that they patrol, or from protection money, or from growing the drugs themselves. According to a confidential 2003 Columbia government report, it is impossible to tell the difference between the AUC groups and the traffickers. The same report claimed that AUC drew up to 80 percent of its money from trafficking.
Before the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, the Taliban oversaw the production of 70 percent of the world's opium poppies. Osama bin Laden administered their profits, laundering them through the Russian mob. He pulled in about 10 or 15 percent of the total, which gave him an estimated annual income of $1 billion, and that kind of money can buy a lot of flight lessons.
This has been going on for a while. In 1984, the U.S. Justice Department estimated that Yasser Arafat's PLO procured about 40 percent of its light weaponry by trading hash and heroin.
Reason: You come down hard on the police for drugs-inspired corruption. What has modern prohibition done to law enforcement?
Modern prohibition provides an incredible incentive for cops to go bad, in little ways and in big ways.
The big are embodied in cops like Joseph Miedzianowski. People around the case referred to him as the most corrupt cop in the history of Chicago, which is quite an achievement considering the kind of corruption that comes out of Chicago. He was busted in 1998 after a long and fruitful career of dope pedaling, extortion, lying to obtain search warrants, torturing suspects, stealing money, stealing jewels, stealing guns, even ratting out the identity of an undercover cop to a gang member.
Amazing amounts of corruption have come from the profits and the power that police are able to pull from their involvement in the drug trade.