Drug War

Nixon Invented the Drug War to Decimate Hippies and Black People, Former Adviser Confesses

Politics, not policy.



President Richard Nixon launched the War on Drugs for one specific reason: to decimate his perceived political enemies—the anti-war left, and black people. 

That's according to an anecdote in a lengthy cover story for Harper's, in which journalist Dan Baum recounts an interview he conducted with John Erlichman, a former Nixon staffer who was jailed for one year due to his involvement in the Watergate scandal. Unprompted, Erlichman confessed the true purpose of federal drug prohibition: 

"You want to know what this was really all about?" he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. "The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I'm saying? We knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did." 

The dastardly plan failed only in the sense that Nixon ultimately lost—a victim of his criminal behavior and utter lack of scruples. But the War on Drugs certainly brought ruin, poverty, and crime to minority communities, cost the nation outrageous sums of money, and expanded the scope of the federal government's oppressive power. This was not done for any noble public purpose—it was a political gambit, nothing more. 

The road to hell may be paved with good intentions, but it's not only paved with good intentions.

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  1. While the criminal boasting of a Nixon flunky should be taken with a large grain of salt, it’s always been obvious there had to be massive political considerations behind the WoD. Because, with government (and humans in general), there always are.

    Of course, will this revelation (if true) change its course at all? Nope. Because now the political considerations are about all the people invested in profiting off the WoD. Oops!

    1. Like all the speeches and praise for minimum wage laws to keep blacks and poor white trash unemployed, and gun control laws to keep blacks defenseless, the proggies always have a rug at hand for sweeping things under.

      1. Don’t forget abortion… the whole purpose was to keep black women from having black babies

        1. Wrong! Abortion was fairly common and accepted up until the 1820s and on, when the Protestant powers freaked out at all the immigrant Catholics (Irish and Italians) who were outbreeding the Protestants. They began pushing state legislatures to make it illegal. Heck, even the Catholic church wasn’t solidly against abortion until around then.

          1. As with all things that involve the Catholic Church the actual history is much more tortured than to say that the Church was solidly against abortion until the 1820s. There were periods they were against abortion, periods when it was OK sometimes and periods when it was allowed.

            1. I said

              the Catholic church wasn’t solidly against abortion until around [1820s and on]

              You said I said

              to say that the Church was solidly against abortion until the 1820s

              Not only did you reverse what I said the Church’s position was, you implied I said it was solidly in that position, whereas I said it wasn’t solidly against that position.

    2. It is my opinion that many of those political considerations are frightfully mundane. Lots of full-employment, simple graft and Union jobs.

      1. Yup.

        Jobs and graft are far less esoteric (and far more obvious) a motivation for the War on Drugs than a hunt for the secret racist or hippie hater or whatever. Hell, some people might actually really hate drugs, for real. It’s not exactly an unknown animus throughout history.

        1. “It’s not exactly an unknown animus throughout history.”

          ^ This. Humanity has had a highly ambivalent relationship with drugs since the inception of civilization. Probably since before that, even.

          1. ??? Citation required.

  2. Erlichman confessed the true purpose of federal drug prohibition:

    I understand why Woodrow Wilson, FDR and JFK all had it in for the Negro but how did they see the hippie menace coming?

    1. Prophetic Mescaline trip.

    2. A hippie has been a threat through the millennia. Under a different name, the hippy has always undermined the society. Demi-mondes, Bohemians, Flappers, Beatniks, Greasers – all these and more were The Hippy, working hard to lead us to destruction.

      1. Dionysus was the original hippie.

        1. Thank you! I was trying to remember if Old Testament ever bitched about the youth acting inappropriately while giving them some cutting nickname, but drew a blank. Mystic cult with drinking and banging crazy chicks (who sometimes rip you apart with their teeth) sounds on-target, though.

      2. …Troubadours.

      3. Hepcats were the original libertarians. “Do your own thing and let others do theirs” is a loose translation of Ayn’s non-aggression principle written down in 1947. Pre-code Movies like Three on a Match and Possessed show the crowd Frank and Ayn ran with were anything but squares. In The Fountainhead, Dominique takes steps to protect Howard’s career from having a doting WCTU prohibitionist for a client. Most pot parties in the sixties turned into intense debates on the merits and demerits of Heinlein and Rand’s ideas, and lots of us were productive and proud of it..

    3. Woodrow Wilson saw the anarchist/communist hippie menace coming.

      See the First Red Scare and Creel Committee and Palmer Raids to see Wilson’s reaction.

      (Is your washroom breeding Bolsheviks?)

  3. It was very effective, too. I voted for McGovern in November 1972 and got arrested in a DEA funded bust in May 1973.

    The Republicans weren’t always stupid in everything they do. But, like the Democrats, they have always been reliably evil.

    1. I voted for McGovern in November 1972

      Your friend Pauline Kael had bad taste in movies.

    2. “It was very effective, too”

      It reduced the number of blacks and hippies by 10%?

  4. Erlichman doesn’t know Black people like to smoke marijuana? (and whitey does likes his heroin)

    Typical out of touch Republikkkan square

    1. He knows that. And used it against them.

    2. I’m disturbed by NIxon’s racism but admire his disdain for hippies.

      1. As if Tom Bombadil isn’t a pot smoking hippie demi-god creature

  5. Was this interview tape recorded?

  6. The Link to Harper’s aint’ working for me, so question – Is there any evidence of this, or is it another- “Some dead guy told me something once, and since he can’t refute my account let’s all believe my version of the story.”

      1. I read the same thing in National Review when Reagan was President.

        1. The quote is supposedly from 1994.

        2. yeah it’s a lot more believable that some ex-con would make up a story to get free publicity for his steamy sex novel than our country’s royalty changing laws to go after black people – and then not talking about it for half a century.

    1. Come on, now, everyone knows that journalists are one of the most honest and trusted professions in our society, after lawyers and used car salesmen.

  7. “Stormfront or SJW?” could be played here – the implication is blacks will, of course, keep using drugs at a high rate because they’re black! But the anti-Nixon angle complicates it and makes you wonder whether the racist point was intentional (Stormfront) or a slip (SJW).

    Neat puzzle!

    1. If you watch The House I Live In, you’ll know that the drug laws originate in the late 19th and early 20th century as a means to deport Chinese (opium laws) and Mexicans (marijuana laws).

  8. “We didn’t admit it at the time, but practically the whole New Deal was extrapolated from programs Hoover started.” ? Rex Tugwell

  9. So Nixon started the war on drugs to decimate hippies and black people.

    And the Democratic majority in Congress that enacted the enabling legislation ? ? what was their motivation? And all the generations of Republican and Democrat politicians who continued, and continue to this day, the same war on drugs? And what about the majority of American voters who, until very recently, were firmly in support of the war on drugs? What about the black preachers who supported strict drug law enforcement? Was every one of them motivated by a desire to decimate hippies and black people?

    Forgive me if I am skeptical about this.

    1. What, are you some kinda hippie-lover?

      1. I love hippies, firearms, nunchaku, Japanese swords and dried conservative ears.

    2. Democrats have no blame in anything bad. As long as there is one republican, somewhere…

      See: California, Flint

    3. Not skeptical. If you want to read it in National Review, it’s in the issue named “Will the Reagan Administration OD on the War on Drugs”. Before the internet. On dead trees.

      1. I am not skeptical about Ehrlichman making the statement. What I am skeptical about that being the foundation for the broad support that the WOD enjoyed across party lines. Fighting drugs was supported by all groups, races, etc., except for libertarians and some on the far left. Were all the supporters motivated by a desire to decimate hippies and black people,

        Also, I seem to recall black leaders claiming that it was drug use that was decimating the black population, and for that reason it was supposed to be racist not to fight the war against drug use.

        I have said this before: Nixon did not so much lead the nation into the War on Drugs as take the nation where it already wanted to go. Blaming it all on Nixon’s desire to “get” hippies and blacks is a rhetorical trope that leaves far too many accomplices in the WOD fiasco off the hook.

    4. Are you really skeptical? There motivation at the time was probably some spending bill(s) so they could go home to their constituents and say “look what I gave you”. A politicians motivation is rarely what they profess it to be. Today, it’s a jobs program for unionized government law enforcement. The DEA, or any other government entity, is really no different than an entitlement program. Once the checks start flowing, there will be someone who’s willing to fight tooth and nail to keep them flowing. Which gives the politicians the opportunity to offer up even more “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” sachems between themselves. Which starts the whole cycle all over again.

    5. Go to druglibrary.org for historical data on prohibitionism. War and economic collapse are also factors, seen at 1929crash.com

  10. That’s according to an anecdote in a lengthy cover story for Harper’s, in which journalist Dan Baum recounts an interview he conducted with John Erlichman

    I don’t suppose he got that on tape?

    I mean, it wouldn’t surprise me if it was true, but still…

    1. Nearly that exact quote has been attributed to one or another Nixon-staffers for years by the dope-addled elements of the left. If Erlichman actually said it in an interview with Baum he was repeating a quote previously falsely attributed to him. Is there a term for that?

      1. I’m holding Robbie responsible for the misspelling of Ehrlichman

      2. National Review is leftist. Got it.

      3. You left out the dope addled right.


        “[Nixon] emphasized that you have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks” Haldeman, his Chief of Staff wrote, “The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to.”


  11. Yeah, I see no reason I should believe anything John Erlichman said.

    1. It’s the same reason we now take the sage advice of disgraced former Sec. of Defense, Robert Mcnamara.

      1. McNamara has made a career out of reporting on the mistakes made during his time in power.

        That’s a far cry from a passing observation in a single interview.

  12. “You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect.

    Right. And that journalist could really sniff out the blunt honesty of a man who went to prison for one of the largest political cover-ups to be publicized — I mean, guys like that just ooze honesty and trustworthiness in their public statements.

    This is complete Scooby Doo-level cartoonish villain nonsense. Anyone who takes it seriously is taking the word of a criminal over the word of another criminal, for yet another unprovable story that proves all of the things that the left would like to be true. Just think: if we had an Obama staffer who went to jail for Benghazi telling us (without proof, mind) that one of his policies was motivated by his love of Muslims or as part of his plot to implement socialism, how much credibility would that person have? How much credibility would the media give him?

    So why are we assuming that this dipshit is telling us the gospel truth?

  13. That’s not even the most infuriating part of the article. “The drug war is a governmental creation and a giant failure, ehat we really need is for the government to legalize, but control the distribution of (and tax, of course!) drugs.” Also, someone who thinks its problematic that 20% of the people consume 80% of the weed and alcohol. Uh, no, that’s just how consumption works. Except maybe with toilet paper and food, but still probably 40% consume 60% in those.

  14. End the war on drugs. Decriminalize and legalize drugs.

    It will reduce political and police corruption.

    It will remove money, guns and power from cartels and gangs.

    It will greatly reduce gang violence and end drug war violence, which will save the lives of children and adults.

    It will protect children since there will not be a monetary incentive for dealers to push drugs.

    Fewer fathers will be in prison, therefore more fathers will be with their children and families.

    More kids will attend school since there will not be the easy money from dealing drugs to lure them into leaving school.

    It will remove money from the inner city gangs which will in turn make it much harder for gang members to purchase guns.

    It will free up money that was used on law enforcement to be used for drug education and treatment. Also freed up resources could be shifted to law enforcement in Murder, Rape, Pedophilia, Human Trafficking, Violent Assault, Burglary/Robbery/Theft, Reckless Driving, Border Security, Fraud, Government Corruption, Vandalism and Cyber Hacking.

    It will remove the problem of drug smugglers crossing the border illegally and lessen the danger to border security and residents of border towns.

    Court expenses will be reduced from the reduction in cases.

    States expenses will be reduced because they will need fewer jails.

    1. The idea that law enforcement will give up all this funding seems unsustained.

      Are there fewer firefighters because of dramatic increases in fire safety?

  15. I’m currently reading Walter Karp’s The Politics of Misrule, and despite being written in the early 1990s, a lot of what it theorizes and attempts to explain holds true today.

    Relevant to the discussion here is Karp’s assertion that the party bosses in Texas sent President Nixon after the blacks, who were actually starting to rally behind a Republican reformist governor who campaigned independent of the Republican machine. Of course, such a nuanced detail gets lost amid the racism dog whistles and confirmation bias that “Republicans are who we thought they were; AND WE LET EM OFF THE HOOK!”

  16. “[Nixon] emphasized that you have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks” Haldeman, his Chief of Staff wrote, “The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to.”

    1. That quote is real. I’m wagering Dan Baum fabricated the Ehrlichman quote.

      1. The Baum quote fits. So I’m not ready to dismiss it. But as you point out – the documentation is less than adequate.

    2. Their problem lately sure as hell doesn’t look caucasian. It is refreshing that folks fianlly realize that the ku-klux left the dems for the GOP after Herb Hoover defeated Whiskey Al Smith. Cartoonists will miss God’s Own Party.

  17. Aside from the politics let us look at constituencies.

    The right believes drug prohibition can work.
    The left believes gun prohibition can work.

    Politicians take advantage.

  18. People in chronic pain chronically take pain relievers.

    PTSD mostly. For which there is currently no medical test.

  19. actually it was welfare and preferential employment that ruined the black family. one point for hiring a black person and one point for hiring a woman so hire a black woman and get two points and it leaves the black man with no job. Welfare for the family as long as there was no man in the house so out, the black man is no longer needed in the home either. these are all democrat ideas that destroyed the black family unit which drove them to drugs. and yes Nixon was an asshole

  20. Ya right…. sure he did…. I mean the public back when he was President really wanted Free love and all the drugs they could take… Is this silly Horse Crap or what.

    Nixon had a pretty good record on Race Relations, he might have been paranoid but he was also a moderate.

    Of course I love that part about hating hippies, since I do…. Nasty parasites that are non-productive and want everything for free.

    The only reason some people can be hippies is because other people do the work…

  21. Ya right…. sure he did…. I mean the public back when he was President really wanted Free love and all the drugs they could take… Is this silly Horse Crap or what.

    Nixon had a pretty good record on Race Relations, he might have been paranoid but he was also a moderate.

    Of course I love that part about hating hippies, since I do…. Nasty parasites that are non-productive and want everything for free.

    The only reason some people can be hippies is because other people do the work…

    1. Actually, we got free love and more… Eat your heart out you impotent mystic!

  22. Tim Leary put it simply: “I always thought the enemy was the Republican Party.”
    And guess what, with communism exposed as another altruistic socialist murderfest, Republican nationalsocialism is the last hideous ideology left standing. Where it goes, war flourishes and the economy dies of an overdose of looter prohibitionism.

  23. Fuck you Nixon. I hope you’re burning in hell you piece of shit.

    But I belive, Nixon only gave a name to a racist un Constitutional policy that really took off when the FDR socialists on the Supreme Court interpreted the commerce clause to their liking.

  24. If this man really did say that, he must have done so before he died…in 1999. If he really said it, why haven’t we heard it before now?

    This is a “quote” that would confirm the deeply held beliefs of his ideological opponents. It would have been trumpeted across the media (as is happening now). It is exactly the sort that people would accept uncritically because it confirms what they want to be true. And the man it is attributed to is dead and cannot deny it.

    I call bullshit. This is not a real quote.

  25. We should be skeptical of the authenticity of those quoted remarks, which do not come directly from Ehrlichman but are hearsay, attributed to him by a journalist in an article published in Harper’s seventeen years after Ehrlichman’s death and twenty years after the interview in which the remarks were allegedly made. If the author actually heard such a sensational confession from Ehrlichman, why did he keep a lid on it for so many years and report it only after Ehrlichman was no longer around to contradict it?

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