Thursday, April 20, 2006

Drug War Hypocrisy

The war on drugs is one of the main sources of hypocricy. Never mind the Oxycontin-addicted bloviater Rush Limbaugh. How about this?

As you may know, Canada has a much more liberal attitude towards soft drugs, and has been a hair's breadth away from legalising marijuana on several occasions, most recently in the last couple of years. In every instance, pressure from the U.S. has caused the Canadian government to cancel legislation to decriminalise or legalise this harmless substance. In the most recent case, the American ambassador threatened trade sanctions, claiming that border security would have to be increased, and all truck traffic across our mutual border inspected. With the majority of Canada's foreign trade being with the U.S., this would have been devastating for Canadian businesses.

During this period, U.S. drug enforcement authorities targetted Canadian marijuana activist Marc Emery, arranging for his arrest and extradition to the U.S., where he faces hard time.
Only months before Emery's arrest, another prominent case involving Canadian relations with the U.S. was in the news. That was the story of Illinois Air National Guard Major Harry Schmidt. Schmidt, you may recall, disobeying direct orders from controllers, attacked a Canadian contingency of troops near Kandahar in Afghanistan, killing four soldiers and wounding eight more. A military court investigating the incident gave Schmidt and his wingman, Maj. Umbach a mere slap on the wrist for this tragic and deadly error in judgement.
The reason for the court's leniency? Schmidts responsibility for his own reckless behaviour was diminished by the fact that he had been issued amphetamine 'go pills' before the mission, which clouded his judgement and made him act in a more aggressive manner.

Judge for yourself between these two cases:

Marc Emery, charged with selling marijuana seeds over the internet, faces possible life imprisonment.

Harry Schmidt was charged with four counts of manslaughter, and eight of aggravating assault, as well as dereliction of duty. All charges except the dereliction were dropped. The dereliction charge was then move from criminal to a 'non-judicial' forum (I don't really understand what that means, not being familiar with U.S. military legal procedures). Scmidt's case was resolved in July, 2004. Harry's eventual punishment for killing 4 and wounding 8 was the loss of 2 months pay, about $5700 and a reprimand.

This from Wikipedia:
The letter of reprimand, written by Lt. Gen. Bruce Carlson, 8th Air Force Commander, said Schmidt had "flagrantly disregarded a direct order", "exercised a total lack of basic flight discipline", and "blatantly ignored the applicable rules of engagement."
On July 8, 2004, Schmidt's lawyer Charles Gittins announced plans to appeal the ruling and to file a lawsuit against the Air Force over the public release of documents in the case.


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