Here’s a talk I did last week at the international Akzept Conference in Bielefeld about prohibition and the failed “war on drugs”:
Made by Adam Scorgie, who directed the cult film, The Union, his new work promises to be the film on the subject of cannabis prohibition. Thanks to the team for a wide-ranging, lively and stimulating interview.
If you want to support their work, click here. And the film will be released next summer.
As I have mentioned before, the Dutch geekfest Observe, Hack, Make (OHM 2013) was not just a chance for geeks to play with cool tech toys, the whole event also had a very strong political track. While there was inevitably a lot of focus on whistleblowing in the wake of the Snowden disclosures, another speaker track attracted a lot of attention: global drug policy and the failure of prohibition.
This was a track I suggested and I was pleased that three speakers were given the chance to discuss this on the main stage. While coming to the subject from radically different perspectives and experiences, the underlying message of all three was that the “war on drugs” was an abject failure that caused massive and increasing harm to the global population.
John Gilmore was first up. John made his dosh during the tech boom, and has since spent significant sums trying to reform the failed drug policies within his home country, the good ol’ US of A. Of course, there, it was always going to be an uphill battle. The USA is the fountain head of prohibition, ramming the drug conventions of 1961, 1971, and 1988 through the United Nations by brute diplomatic force.
To this day, the US remains the key power ensuring that the UN upholds these conventions, despite the fact that the policy of prohibition has manifestly failed, despite the fact that many countries have experimented successfully with harm reduction and decriminalisation of personal use, and despite the fact that these laws are from a different era and are wildly out of date — in the 1960s HIV and AIDS had yet to emerge, and rapidly mutating “legal highs” were unknown.
And let’s not forget that the USA is the world’s biggest consumer country of drugs. It is America that drives this illegal market. And it is in America that 20 states have legalised the medicinal use of cannabis, and two states have fully legalised the use even, gasp, purely for pleasure. The hypocrisy is breathtaking.
But change is afoot. Primarily, I believe, because the USA no longer needs the “war on drugs” as a pretext for invading/interfering with other countries, now it has the “war on terror”. But also because of the excellent work of research and educational civil society groups. The Beckley Foundation, set up by Amanda Feilding in 1998, is one such.
Amanda gave an excellent talk, focusing on the dual nature of Beckley’s work: policy and scientific research. Her view is that sound national and international policy cannot be developed unless it is based on evidence, research and facts. Yet the current “war on drugs” has become almost an article of faith that too many politicians are afraid to challenge.
Beckley aims to provide the research and the facts. It funds and establishes scientific research that enables leading scientists, such as Professor David Nutt in the UK, to research the potential therapeutic benefits of currently illegal drugs, and also to assess the different societal harms caused by all drugs, both licit and illicit. To date, the prohibition orthodoxy has inhibited free scientific research to the detriment of many people across the planet.
Amanda was pleased to be able to announce two new research projects just starting in the UK, into the potential therapeutic benefits of psilocybin (magic mushrooms) and LSD. Beckley has also recently commissioned a cost benefit analysis of the legalisation of (only) cannabis is the UK. The results will be formally announced in September, so for now I shall confine myself to saying that they are encouraging.
Using such research, Beckley is thus in a position to advise governments about developing fact-base policy. One of the key areas of the world investigating potentially beneficial alternatives to prohibition is Latin America, and Amanda has developed close working relationships with a number of governments across the region.
And understandably so — Latin America, as one of the key producer regions of the world, has been ravaged by the drug wars. Violent organised crime cartels have grown so wealthy and powerful that they can subvert whole countries, corrupt governments and law enforcement, and terrorise whole populations in their quest to dominate the illegal drugs trade.
In Mexico, since the war on drugs was ramped up 7 years ago, it is estimated that over 70,000 innocent people have been kidnapped, tortured and killed in drug-related violence. Many have simply been disappeared.
LEAP is a unique voice in the global drug policy debate. The organisation, only 11 years old, has over 100,000 supporters and a presence in 120 countries. We consist of police officers, judges, lawyers, prison governors, intelligence personnel, and even drug czars. What unites us is a shared professional knowledge, experienced across the spectrum of drug law enforcement, that prohibition has egregiously failed.
Over the last 50 years drug use has exponentially increased, the potency of illegal drugs has increased, they are ubiquitously available, and the price of street drugs has gone through the floor. Faced with this information, how can our governments claim they are winning the “war on drugs” to create a “drug free world”? Quite the opposite — prohibition has enabled a global and exponentially growing black market.
I became aware of the drug prohibition failure while I was working for MI5. One of my postings involved investigating terrorist logistics, which meant that I had to work closely with UK Customs across the UK. This experience made me very aware that the “war” had been lost. It also made me very aware, early on, that there was a massive overlap between the illegal drug market and terrorist funding.
The US DEA estimates that over half of the designated terrorist groups around the world gain the bulk of their funding from drugs money. So on the one hand prohibiting drugs and fighting the “war on drugs” sends the market underground and that black money provides a key revenue stream to the terrorists. On the other hand the West is also waging the “war on terror”. What they give with one hand they take away with another.
One stark example of this is the current melt-down in Libya — country that was “gratefully” liberated by NATO two years ago. The dictator was tortured and killed, MI6 and the CIA were helping the “spontaneous” rebels. the infrastructure was ruined, and the bulk of the country is now run by bandit militias which brutalise the inhabitants pr impose hard-line Islamism on them. Many predicted this would happen, including myself.
What was not predicted was the explosion in the drug trade. Over the last decade western Africa has become one of the main transit regions between the producer countries (Latin America) and the consumer countries in Europe. It now appears that this lucrative trade has not only resulted in destabilising countries, leading to violent narco-states such as Mali and Guinea-Bissau, the trade has also become a stream of income to Al Qaeda affiliated groups in Libya. Which is bad for western security, is bad for the stability of Libya, but is also bad for the people of Libya, where there has reportedly been an explosion of drug use and rocketing infections of HIV.
There have been many successful attempts to alleviate the penalisation of drug users in many European countries — Portugal, the Netherlands and Switzerland spring to mind. Because of more liberal decriminalisation laws, all these countries have seen a decrease in drug use and associated crime, plus good health outcomes and the freeing up of law enforcement resources across the spectrum to go for the drug traders.
However, we in LEAP would argue that only full regulation, control and taxation of the drug market will deal with the scourge of the international drug trade. Until that happens, this global trade, estimated by even the UN at being worth between $320 billion and $500 billion per year, will only profit organised crime cartels and terrorist organisations.
The “war on drugs” has failed. Albert Einstein said that the very definition of insanity was to continue to do the same, even if it repeatedly fails, in the hope that you will eventually get a different outcome. That is what we are seeing with prohibition.
And the geek community understand this too. Of course they do, they are scientists. I was heartened by their interest and by their response. Let’s all campaign to end this insanity.
Here is a video of my talk at OHM on the subject:
Today I am limbering up to attend the Dutch geek festival, Observe Hack Make (OHM 2013). A lot of talks from whistleblowers, scientists, geeks, futurists and bleeding edge tech people. The visionaries?
You decide — all talks will be live streamed and available afterwards. Enjoy!
Joining the event to discuss the need for a sensible and evidence-based rethink about drug policy will be many other speakers from groups such as Transform, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, the Beckley Foundation, Release, former Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire Tom Lloyd, and of course, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.
The head of LEAP UK, former Met police detective and forensic money-laundering expert Rowan Bosworth-Davies, will be speaking on Sunday19th May.
I shall be speaking at the conference on the Saturday afternoon, and then enjoying the evening with Howard Marks et al. Come along if you can.
Here’s the full article about MI6 “ghost money”, now also published at the Huffington Post UK:
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, has recently been criticised for taking “ghost money” from the CIA and MI6. The sums are inevitably unknown, for the usual reasons of “national security”, but are estimated to have been tens of millions of dollars. While this is nowhere near the eyebleeding $12 billion shipped over to Iraq on pallets in the wake of the invasion a decade ago, it is still a significant amount.
And how has this money been spent? Certainly not on social projects or rebuilding initiatives. Rather, the reporting indicates, the money has been funnelled to Karzai’s cronies as bribes in a corrupt attempt to buy influence in the country.
None of this surprises me. MI6 has a long and ignoble history of trying to buy influence in countries of interest. In 1995/96 it funded a “ragtag group of Islamic extremists”, headed up by a Libyan military intelligence officer, in an illegal attempt to try to assassinate Colonel Gaddafi. The attack went wrong and innocent people were killed. When this scandal was exposed, it caused an outcry.
Yet a mere 15 years later, MI6 and the CIA were back in Libya, providing support to the same “rebels”, who this time succeeded in capturing, torturing and killing Gaddafi, while plunging Libya into apparently endless internecine war. This time around there was little international outcry, as the world’s media portrayed this aggressive interference in a sovereign state as “humanitarian relief”.
And we also see the same in Syria now, as the CIA and MI6 are already providing training and communications support to the rebels — many of whom, particularly the Al Nusra faction in control of the oil-rich north-east of Syria are in fact allied with Al Qaeda in Iraq. So in some countries the UK and USA use drones to target and murder “militants” (plus villagers, wedding parties and other assorted innocents), while in others they back ideologically similar groups.
Recently we have also seen the Western media making unverified claims that the Syrian régime is using chemical weapons against its own people, and our politicians leaping on these assertions as justification for openly providing weapons to the insurgents too. Thankfully, other reports are now emerging that indicate it was the rebels themselves who have been using sarin gas against the people. This may halt the rush to arms, but not doubt other support will continue to be offered by the West to these war criminals.
So how is MI6 secretly spending UK taxpayers’ money in Afghanistan? According to western media reporting, it is being used to prop up warlords and corrupt officials. This is deeply unpopular amongst the Afghan people, leading to the danger of increasing support for a resurgent Taliban.
There is also a significant overlap between the corrupt political establishment and the illegal drug trade, up to and including the president’s late brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai. So, another unintentional consequence may be that some of this unaccountable ghost money is propping up the drug trade.
Afghanistan is the world’s leading producer of heroin, and the UN reports that poppy growth has increased dramatically. Indeed, the UN estimates that acreage under poppy growth in Afghanistan has tripled over the last 7 years. The value of the drug trade to the Afghan warlords is now estimated to be in the region of $700 million per year. You can buy a lot of Kalashnikovs with that.
So on the one hand we have our western governments bankrupting themselves to fight the “war on terror”, breaking international laws and murdering millions of innocent people across North Africa, the Middle East, and central Asia while at the same time shredding what remain of our hard-won civil liberties at home.
On the other hand, we apparently have MI6 and the CIA secretly bankrolling the very people in Afghanistan who produce 90% of the world’s heroin. And then, of course, more scarce resources can be spent on fighting the failed “war on drugs” and yet another pretext is used to shred our civil liberties.
This is a lucrative economic model for the burgeoning military-security complex.
However, it is a lose-lose scenario for the rest of us.
I discuss the recent news that MI6, in addition to the CIA, has been paying “ghost money” to the political establishment in Afghanistan, other examples of such meddling, and the probable unintended consequences.
Well, this will be an interesting week. On the invitation of Snarrotin, the Icelandic civil liberties organisation, I’m off to Iceland for a series of talks and interviews on behalf of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (www.leap.cc).
Iceland is an inspirational and interesting country. Following the 2008 credit crash, the Icelanders bucked international trends and actually held some of their ruling élite — the politicians and bankers who had brought about these financial problems — to account. The government fell, some bankers were fired and prosecuted, and the Icelandic people are having a serious rethink about the way their democracy could and should work.
And indeed why should the people pay the price for the decisions made in their name by an unaccountable élite? One could speciously argue that the people had a meaningful choice at the ballot box.… but back in the real, 21st century political world, Iceland was as stitched-up as all other notional Western democracies. The worst allegation that can be thrown at the people was that they were disengaged, uninvolved and sidelined from how their country was really run — as many of us across the West feel to this day.
But apparently no longer in Iceland: since the financial crisis the citizens of this small democracy have re-engaged in the political process, and the future is looking rosy.
New, accountable politicians have been elected to form a new government. Citizens have been involved in drawing up a new constitution, and heated debates are challenging the established shibboleths of the corporatist governing class: revolving around such issues as finance, internet freedoms, free media, terrorism, and how a modern country should be run in the interest of the many. And next week, I hope, a rethink of the country’s obligations to the international “war on drugs”.
While the issue is strenuously ignored by the Western governing élite, it is now widely recognised that the current prohibition strategy has failed outright: drug trafficking and use has increased, the street price of drugs has plummeted and they are endemically available, whole communities have been imprisoned, whole countries have become narco-states and descended into drug war violence, and the only people to profit are the organised crime cartels and terrorist organisations that reap vast profits. Oh, and of course the banks kept afloat with dirty drug money, the militarised drug enforcement agencies, and the politicians who now, hypocritically, want to look “tough on crime” despite allegations that they also dabbled in their youth.….
Well, the time has come for an adult discussion about this failed policy, using facts and not just empty rhetoric.
So, a week discussing all my favourite happy topics: the “war” on drugs, the “war” on terror, and the “war” on the internet. My type of mini-break!
I recently represented LEAP at a panel discussion in London about the failed war on drugs after a screening of the excellent film The House I Live In, along with Steve Rolles of Transform and Niamh Eastwood of Release:
Release, run by the indefatigable Niamh Eastwood, does excellent work providing legal advice about drug issues, and campaigning for fairer and more compassionate drug laws.
The interview appeared in the campaign’s newsletter, “TalkingDrugs”.
Here’s the link, and here’s the text:
Q1 What led you into thinking that current drug policies on illicit drugs were failing?
My journey began when I was working as an intelligence officer for MI5 in the 1990s. One of my roles was investigating terrorist logistics and working closely with UK Customs. I learned then that trying to stop the flow of illicit material into the UK (whether drugs, weapons, or people) is like looking for a needle in the proverbial haystack. Plus there is a huge overlap between the funding of organised crime and terrorist groups.
Over the last decade I have become a writer, commentator and public speaker on a variety of inter-connected issues around intelligence, the war on terror, whistleblowers, policing, and civil liberties. To me, the war on drugs meshes very closely with all these topics. Three years ago I was approached by LEAP to become a speaker, and then in March this year I became a member of the international board and also the Director of LEAP Europe in order to consolidate the organisation’s work here.
Q2 Do you think that there are barriers to police officers being honest about the effectiveness of their actions to combat the trade in illicit drugs and is the greater disquiet amongst those involved in law enforcement about current policies than is popularly perceived ?
Yes, absolutely, and it’s not just amongst the police but also the wider law enforcement community.
LEAP supporters, approaching 100,000 in over 90 countries around the world, include judges, lawyers, prison governors, customs and intelligence officers, and former drug czars. Within all these professions there is a tacit understanding that you toe the conventional line. In my experience, most people go into this type of work hoping not only to have an interesting job, but also to do some good and make a difference. Many then see the social fall-out, or that friends, family or community are affected by the drug wars, and many serving officials do question what it is all about and what it is really achieving.
However, they are there to do a job, which is upholding and applying the law. The cultural pressure within such groups can make it extremely difficult on many levels for them to speak out.
Any change to the international and national drug laws will have to come from the politicians within the UN and nationally. LEAP increasingly contributes to the political debate and is building a groundswell of support internationally. Most people today will know someone who has at least tried a currently illegal drug. They also instinctively know this is mere social experimentation, relaxation or, at worst, a health problem. And penalisation, imprisonment and a criminal record exacerbates rather than helps the situation.
Q3 Does the policing of drug possession impact the effectiveness of policing generally and what benefits do you think could stem from ceasing to use law enforcement to attempt to discourage drug use?
There are multiple strands to this issue: the diversion of police resources, the additional crime caused by prohibition that is not dealt with successfully, the diversion of resources from harm reduction programmes, the criminalisation of what are essentially health issues, and the disrepute that results for law enforcement.
The policing of drug possession takes away vast resources from investigating other crimes such as burglary, rape and murder. Yet it is largely pointless – those with a drug dependency need health interventions, and there will always be replacements for any low-level dealers who are arrested and imprisoned. If you arrest and convict a rapist, he will not be on the streets committing more rapes; but if you catch a drug dealer, you just create a job vacancy for which many will compete in ever more violent ways for a slice of an incredibly lucrative market.
The UK anti-prohibition advocacy group, Transform, estimates that even if just cannabis were legalised in the UK, an additional $1.6 billion would flow into the British economy every year. While tax raised on a controlled and regulated cannabis trade is predicted to provide the bulk of this ($1.2 billion), $170 million would be saved from law enforcement, $155 million from the justice system, and $135 million from the prison system.
In the current economic situation, can the UK afford not to consider alternatives to the current drug war?
Also, as we have seen since the decriminalistion laws in Portugal since 2001 and Switzerland since 1994, the “peace dividend” by ending the war on drugs would not only see a drop in property crimes (about 50% of which are committed to fund drug dependencies), it could also be used to finance and extend harm reduction programmes. As we have seen in the case of tobacco across the West, we do not need to ban a substance to reduce its use; education and treatment are far more effective.
Finally, illegal drugs are available to anyone who wants to buy them on the streets of the UK. The increasing militarisation of the police to fight the war on drugs, the breakdown of civil liberties for the same reason (mirroring the war on terror), and the widespread flagrant flouting of the drug laws by large numbers of the population, thereby “making an ass of the law”, has led to a breakdown of trust and respect between the police and the policed. One of LEAP’s aims is to rebuild this trust, this social contract.
Q4 The impact on the safety of law enforcement personnel of the ‘war on drugs’ should be an issue for other membership organisations representing the sector, will you be reaching out to them to encourage campaigning on the issue?
Safety is certainly an issue, although we have been more fortunate in Europe than our colleagues in the USA, where the more prevalent gun culture leads to many more law enforcement deaths. That said, gang violence is on the rise across Europe where organised crime gangs fight increasingly violent turf battles.
Mexico has been one of the worst hit countries in the world. Since the ramping up of the war on drugs almost six years ago, over 62,000 men women and children have been tortured and murdered in that country, and many of them had no involvement whatsoever in the drugs trade. In fact, LEAP USA has just successfully participated in the Mexican Caravan for Peace, a group of activists and families highlighting the tragedy, that toured across the USA for a month to raise awareness and finished with a rally in Washington last week.
The increasing violence of the drugs trade and the militarisation of the response should be of concern to all law enforcers, membership organisations and allied groups working in the drugs sector. We need to think urgently about how to avoid a similar spiral of violence in Europe. LEAP is happy to reach out to such organisations to develop a more humane solution.
Q5 How would you like to see LEAP in Europe develop and will you be looking to lobby European policy makers in Brussels?
There are already LEAP speakers across most European countries. We in LEAP see the organisation’s primary goal as educational. We shall be working to build up speaking engagements for a wide variety of groups and audiences, including the political sector, as well as strengthening our media exposure. We recognise the valuable work Release and other NGOs and advocacy groups are already doing across Europe, and hope that you will see that we offer a unique voice and pool of expertise that can be used to strengthen your work.
It is wonderful that so many organisations and indeed governments around the world (particularly in Europe and Latin America) are now focusing on exploring alternatives such as decriminalistion and harm reduction programmes. Based on our professional experience, LEAP argues that we need, at very least, to consider the next logical step in the chain: controlled regulation of the drug market as we currently do with alcohol and tobacco.
Decriminalisation may help to reduce the harm for the drug users, but leaves the drug trade in the hands of increasingly violent global organised crime networks. Only by removing the profit motive from this illicit trade can we end the involvement of the criminal element and all the attendant violence, and work to make the world safer for all.
Published in The Huffington Post UK, 27 July 2012
OK, I was really so not planning on ever writing anything, whatsoever, at any point while I continue to breathe, about the London Olympics. First of all I have absolutely zero interest in the circus that is modern competitive sport (panem et circenses), and secondly what more could I possibly add to the scandals around the security? All the information is out there if people choose to join the dots.
But synchronicity plays its part. Firstly, this morning I read this excellent article by former UK ambassador-turned-whistleblower, Craig Murray, about how the UK is now under martial law in the run-up to the Olympics. Shortly afterwards I did an interview with the women’s glossy magazine, Grazia, about the security set-up around the games. I know, I know, sometimes the heavens align in a once-in-a-century configuration.…..
So on the back of this fortuitous alignment and while my angry-o-meter is still spiked at the “dangerous” level, I wanted to set some thoughts down.
Craig is correct — because of the Olympic Games, London has gone into full martial law lock-down. Never before in peace-time has the capital city of the formerly Great Britain seen such a military “defensive” presence: missile launchers on local tower blocks primed to blow straying commercial airliners out of the skies over London, regardless of “collateral damage”; anti-aircraft bunkers dug in on Greenwich common; and naval destroyers moored on the Thames.
Plus, absent the promised G4S publicly-funded work-experience slaves — sorry, security staff - the military has been drafted in. Soldiers just home from patrolling the streets in Afghanistan in daily fear of their lives have had all leave cancelled. Instead of the much-needed R & R, they shall be patrolling the Olympic crowds. Does anyone else see a potential problem here?
And all this follows a decade of erosion of basic freedoms and civil liberties — all stripped away in the name of protecting the UK from the ever-growing but nebulous terrorist threat.
But I would take it a step further than Craig Murray — this is not just martial law, this is fascist martial law.
(And being conscious of any potential copyright thought-crimes, I hereby give all due credit to a very famous UK TV advert campaign which appears to use the same cadence.)
Why do I say this is one step beyond?
The Italian World War II dictator, Benito Mussolini, is famously credited with defining fascism thus: “the merger of the corporate and the state”.
And this is precisely what we are seeing on the streets of London. Not only are Londoners subjected to an overwhelming military and police presence, the corporate commissars are also stalking the streets.
When Seb Coe and Tony Blair triumphantly announced that London had won the Olympics on 6th July 2005, one of their mantras was how London and the UK would benefit from the presence of the games. They painted a rosy picture of local businesses booming on the back of the influx of tourists.
But the cold reality of today’s Olympics is greyer. Commuters are being advised to work from home rather than use the overloaded transport networks; the civil service is effectively shutting down; and Zil lanes for the “great and the good” of the Olympics universe are choking already congested London streets.
Even worse, businesses across the UK, but particularly the local ones in the economically deprived environs of the Olympic Park in East London, are categorically NOT allowed to benefit from the games. Under the terms of the contracts drawn up by the corporate mega-sponsors, London small businesses are not allowed to capitalize in any conceivable, possible, miniscule way on the presence of the games in their own city.
And these terms and conditions are enshrined in the Olympics Act 2006; any infraction of the rules carries a criminal penalty. For more than a week, corporate police enforcers have been patrolling London looking for infractions of the Olympic trademark. And this goes way beyond “Olympics R US” or some such. As Nick Cohen wrote in an excellent recent article in The Spectator magazine:
“In the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act of 2006, the government granted the organisers remarkable concessions. Most glaringly, its Act is bespoke legislation that breaks the principle of equality before the law. Britain has not offered all businesses and organisations more powers to punish rivals who seek to trade on their reputation. It has given privileges to the Olympics alone. The government has told the courts they may wish to take particular account of anyone using two or more words from what it calls ‘List A’ — ‘Games’; ‘Two Thousand and Twelve’; ‘2012’; ‘twenty twelve’. The judges must also come down hard on a business or charity that takes a word from List A and conjoins it with one or more words from ‘List B’ — ‘Gold’; ‘Silver’; ‘Bronze’; ‘London’; ‘medals’; ‘sponsors’; ‘summer’. Common nouns are now private property.”
I heard recently that a well-established local café in Stratford, East London, that has for years been known as the Olympic Café, has been ordered to paint over its sign for the duration of the games. If I owned the café, I would be tempted to sue the Olympic Committee for breach of trademark.
It seems to me that this real-world trademark protectionism is an extension of the ongoing copyright wars in cyberspace — a blatant attempt to use state level power and legislation to protect the interests of the wealthy international mega-corps few. We saw early attempts at this during the South African Football World Cup in 2010, and the Vancouver Winter Olympics the same year.
But the London Olympics take it to the next level: there is a long list of what you are not allowed to take into the stadia. Spectators will be subjected to airport-style security theatre. This will ensure that no liquids of more than 100ml can be carried, although empty bottles will be allowed if people want to fill them up with tap water on site. This, of course, means that more spectators will be buying their sponsor-approved liquids in situ and at no-doubt over-inflated prices, to the benefit of one of the key Olympic sponsors.
The London games seem to be the first time that the global corporate community is demonstrating its full spectrum dominance — where the legal, police, and military resources of the state are put at the disposal of the giant, bloated, money-sucking leech that is the International Olympic Committee.
Every city that has hosted the Olympics over the last four decades has been financially bled white; many are still paying back the initial investment in the infrastructure, even if it is now decaying and useless. Greece, anybody?
But do the IOC or its regional pimps care? Hell, no. Like all good parasites, once the original host has been drained dry, the Games move on to a new food source every four years.
What really, deeply puzzles me is why the hell are the people of London not out there protesting against this corporatist putsch? Perhaps they fear being shot?
How can it be a crime to take a full bottle of water into a stadium when you want to watch a sport? How can it be a crime to tweet a picture? How can it be criminal to celebrate the occasion in your local pub with Olympic flags draped around your bar, drinking a beer and eating a burger marketed cheesily as “fit for champions” or some such?
The original ideals behind the reconstitution of the modern Olympics in 1896 were a highly romanticised and distorted vision of the values of the ancient games. But even that naïve ideal has been lost in the crapulous corporatism that is the modern event.
We have even gone way beyond the Roman view of bread and circuses placating the masses. Now we are into the hardcore realpolitik of international corporations and national governments using the games as a perfect pretext to tighten the “security” screws even more.
And so the UK is proud to present full-blown Corporate Fascism Version 2.0.
Last month, in my new role as Director of LEAP Europe, I was invited to do a talk at the SSDP conference in London. It was great to meet the key SSDP organisers, and also share a platform with Jason Reed, the co-ordinator of LEAP UK.
The student activists of SSDP are demanding that our political classes instigate a mature, fact-based discussion about the “war on drugs”.
Sorry to rehash all the well-known articles about why this “war” is such a failure on every conceivable front, but just let me reiterate three key points: prohibition will always fail (as this classic “Yes Minister” scene depicts), and the regulation and taxation of recreational drugs (in the same way as alcohol and tobacco) would be good for society and for the economy; it would decapitate organised crime and, in some cases, the funding of terrorism; and it would make the use and possible abuse of recreational drugs a health issue rather than a criminal matter.
The students get this — why can’t our politicians?
Jason and I had a warm welcome from the SSDP. They can see the value of law enforcement professionals — police, judges, lawyers, and customs and intelligence officers — using their experience to contribute to the debate. I look forward to LEAP working more closely with the SSDP.
And do drop me an email if you would like to help LEAP in Europe.