The Real Lessons From Traffic

The Real Lessons From Traffic
Posted by FoM on February 17, 2001 at 21:23:37 PT
By William J. Bennett
Source: Washington Post
The critically acclaimed film "Traffic" is a poignant movie about drug use and the war on drugs. By almost all accounts, it captures the hopelessness and tragedy of drug addiction, as well as the perils inherent in combating a moral and legal wrong, in a forthright and convincing manner.In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Stephen Gaghan claimed that he wrote the movie script to save the life of his friend Robert Bingham, a heroin addict who died before the film was completed. 
In that interview, Gaghan blamed me for Bingham's death: "The reason he's dead is that he couldn't talk about his problem publicly, because of the stigma, and the stigma comes straight from William Bennett." In response, Herbert D. Kleber -- the director of the division on substance abuse at Columbia University, who served as my deputy director for treatment and prevention when I was "drug czar" -- pointed out that stigma related to drug addiction long predated my tenure in the drug position and that Bingham's drug use was well-known before his death.In a more recent article in the New York Times, Gaghan conceded that much of "Traffic" stemmed from his own real-life addictions. He hit the wall in July 1997 and -- after seeking treatment -- has now been sober for about 3 1/2 years. He pointed again to "the stigma and shame of drug addiction" as "what makes it difficult for people to raise their hand and ask for help." The lesson he put into "Traffic," which he hopes viewers will take out, is that "drugs should be considered a health care issue rather than a criminal issue."I write not to settle a score with Gaghan but to use the tragedies that befell him to illustrate some larger points about drug use and drug addiction. I have spent more than a decade studying, commenting on and fighting America's drug epidemic, and Gaghan's story makes clear many of the lessons I have learned.One key lesson is that prevention is indeed the most important weapon we have in the fight against drug use. We must encourage parents to educate children about the dangers of drug use. As Carroll O'Connor has said in his eloquent advertisement for the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, "Get between your kid and drugs any way you can, if you want to save your kid's life."But prevention involves more than simply teaching that drug use is wrong. It entails making drugs scarcer, more expensive and less pure. When drugs are more readily available, more people try them and more people become addicted. Once users are addicted, we must do what we can to free addicts from the grip of drugs. We should make treatment -- effective treatment -- more available. But effective treatment entails more than just filling slots in centers. To promote truly effective treatment, we must first recognize that treatment doesn't always work and that even the best treatment works only some of the time.Approximately half of all addicts fail to complete the treatment programs that they enter. For those who do complete a good treatment program, there is about a 75 percent chance they will still be drug-free in five years. In other words, of those who enter a sound treatment program, we can expect about 38 percent to be cured.One clear fact about drug treatment is that success in treatment is a function of time in treatment. And time in treatment is often a function of coercion -- being forced into treatment by a loved one, an employer or, as is often the case, the legal system. People who are forced to enter treatment under legal sanctions are more likely to complete treatment programs and thus more likely to get well. If we treat drug use as a purely medical problem, and treatment as something that can be only voluntarily taken up, fewer people will enter treatment -- and those who enter treatment are less likely to get well.Gaghan's own story mirrors those of many people I have encountered over the past decade. He started drinking and using marijuana as a teenager, graduated to cocaine and heroin and ended up with crack and freebase. It was always easy to score the drugs -- until his three primary dealers were arrested in one weekend. "I was left alone, and I just hit that place, that total incomprehensible demoralization," Gaghan told the New York Times. "I just couldn't take another minute of it." In the end, Gaghan sought the aid of a friend who had recently quit drugs, entered treatment and began, as the Times put it, "What he hopes is a whole new life."When the criminal justice system took Gaghan's dealers off the streets, it started him on the road to recovery. Gaghan was fortunate to have his personal catharsis before his addiction destroyed him. Many others -- like Robert Bingham -- are not so lucky.In treating drug addiction, scientific and medical advances are indispensable tools that hold great promise for more effective treatment. But the criminal justice system plays a critical role as well. It can help prevent drug use by people who are fearful of being arrested and by the majority of Americans who have respect for the law. It can also help through coercion: By forcing addicts to seek treatment, as in the case of Stephen Gaghan. The story of "Traffic" and, behind it, the story of Gaghan's life are both powerful and instructive. But we must learn the right lessons from them.The writer is chairman of K12 and co-chairman of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. Source: Washington Post (DC) Author: William J. BennettPublished: Sunday, February 18, 2001; Page B07 Address: 1150 15th Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20071Copyright: 2001 The Washington Post Company Contact: letterstoed washpost.comWebsite: CannabisNews Articles - Traffic
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #13 posted by nl5x on February 21, 2001 at 15:45:37 PT
from my other post
What I think that gaghan was saying was if he was not stigmatized as a drug criminal and not threatened with jail he would have sought treatment (if he could get in) long before he got so deep into addiction and long before his dealers got busted, but he was scared of being labeled a drug criminal and facing jail if he was to fail a drug test etc..The above argument reminds me of the cops/narcs saying that they will not be able to fight drug's if we take the asset forfeiture money from them and give it all to treatment.More treatment = less drug's = less cops/narks.In other words if we spend the money on treatment we will not need as many cops running around arresting people and violating their rights.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #12 posted by Kevin Hebert on February 20, 2001 at 07:35:39 PT:
Bill Bennett kicking the dead horse
Of all the holdovers GW Bush has put into his administration from past Republican adminstrations, I most assurredly hope that Bill Bennett says in retirement. His tactics are directly responsible for hundreds of thousands of prisoners in this country. His tactics have caused murder, corruption, and, most ironically, a surge in drug availability, a crash in drug prices, and demand as sky-high as ever. It's time for this old horse to be put out to pasture.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #11 posted by kaptinemo on February 18, 2001 at 13:33:34 PT:
Bill Bennetts fascination for edged weaponry
I strongly suggest that you never take Bill Bennett to a militaria exposition and hand him an antique sword; he's liable to try to, as the Arabs used to say, "shorten" you.For all those who truly want to gain an insight into how this creature operates I STRONGLY advise you to read the following article at the link below:Drugs, the Nation and Free Lancing: Decoding the Moral Universe of William Bennett excerpt from the article:Bennett is a two star general in this war. He is distinguished from the other generals through his role as chief of war games. He tests potential strategies of cultural engagement. Thus, the most revealing moments in The De-valuing of America occur when Bennett brags about "free lancing" in public. While still Secretary of Education and before the "war on drugs" had become refined, Bennett first reiterated his usual litany of "heightened inspections of international cargo.., more prisons, higher fines, and, for parolees, longer probationary periods and regular drug tests." 13 Things got hotter when Bennett, without prior authorization, called upon the American military to eradicate drugs in Latin American countries. "It is to be hoped we can do this in collaboration with foreign governments," he said, "but if need be we must consider doing this by ourselves. And we should consider broader use of military force against both the production and shipment of drugs." (this is why young Esequiel Hernandez will never live to see another birthday, because a US Marine Sniper team shot him dead on the border - k)Here is Bennett on his own pronouncement: As I sometimes did, I was free-lancing. I hadn't received White House clearance for my remarks, and I heard through back channels that my remarks caused heartburn among some members of the Domestic Policy Council, and especially at the Pentagon. But I was not troubled...This episode revealed a tactic I frequently used. I believed in what I said. But I would also try to throw out an idea with the intent of sparking a debate, to get the national conversation going in a new direction...Sometimes this approach worked. This time it did." In what terms did it work? Well, the constituencies Reagan, Meese and Bennett sought to mobilize were aroused by this approach. The introduction of the military into the equation allowed the drug war to take on real meaning. Equally pertinent, the proposal flushed out liberal journalists who had reservations about this conflation between the drug war and military action against foreign countries. The political effect was to fix the potent masculine symbols of strength, will and military power on one side of the culture war and traditional feminine signs of weakness, ineptness and lack of will on the other. Bennett's free lancing bound the war against restless minorities at home to that against rebellious populations abroad by drawing the American military into both sides of the equation: it would fight abroad to stop the import of drugs into the ghettoes at home. Reagan loved the symbolic effect engendered, but took no direct action. George Bush, after winning the presidency and selecting Bennett to be drug Czar, eventually enacted it. On another occasion, during an interview with Larry King, Bennett agreed with the sentiments of a caller who called for beheading drug dealers. I could see King's eyes light up. He asked for a clarification.'Behead?' 'Yeah. Morally I don't have any problem with it.' 'You would behead...' King began again. 'Somebody selling drugs to a kid?' I said. "Morally, I don't have any problem with that at all. I mean, ask most Americans if they saw somebody out on the streets selling drugs to their kid what they would feel morally justified in doing.--tear them from limb to limb.' 'What we need to do is find some constitutional and legally permissible way to do what this caller suggests, not literally to behead, but to make the punishment fit the crime...' During the program I called for capital punishment for major drug sellers.      Bill Bennett free lances again. The same dynamic is set in motion. Liberals are stunned and outraged. Public opinion-- among troops in the cultural war--is drawn to Bennett and his moral toughness. Soon, other conservatives join in. A new line is drawn in the mud. Every leader is now newly marked by where they stand on the death penalty for drug dealers.'Yep, this is how it's done. I bet that somewhere in Hell, Niccolo Macchiavelli is smiling at how well his protoge Bennett has done using his methods.  
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #10 posted by Lehder on February 18, 2001 at 08:59:46 PT
violence and ignorance
Men like Lepke and Lansky were among the first Jews to know the truth about violence, that people pity the victims but yield to the victors.--Rich Cohen, Tough JewsThe whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts. --Bertrand Russell 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #9 posted by J.R. Bob Dobbs on February 18, 2001 at 08:22:42 PT
Bennett plays in Traffic
>>But prevention involves more than simply teaching that drug use is wrong. It entails making drugs scarcer, more expensive and less pure. When drugs are more readily available, more people try them and more people become addicted.  Which is why the Netherlands has fewer potheads than the US, right? And "less pure"? C'mon! Here's hoping your next martini is made with rubbing alcohol.	  Then again, from a broader perspective, Traffic is really making waves. Can anyone else remember a drug czar, acting or former, who felt compelled to make a rebuttal argument to a motion picture? Where is Barry McCaffrey's response to Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas?? Bennett is clearly on the defensive here, too. I wonder if he would have written this if Traffic wasn't up for Best Picture? And if so... what happens when it wins?
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #8 posted by observer on February 18, 2001 at 08:14:43 PT
Bill Bennett's Bottom Line: Jail Cannabis Users
 The Real Lessons ... By William J. Bennett (Washington Post ) The writer is chairman of K12 and co-chairman of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.``poignant movie . . . about drug use . . . Bingham's drug use was well-known . . . I write ... to use the tragedies that befell him to illustrate some larger points about drug use and drug addiction . . . the fight against drug use . . . the dangers of drug use. . . . . . the criminal justice system ... can help prevent drug use by people who are fearful of being arrested ... It can also help through coercion . . . '' A dramatic change occurred in the 1980s. For the first time, all drug users came under attack for their drug use alone, not because they were members of some group hated for another reason. [...]As the perceived threat from communism dwindled, the president pumped up the perceived threat from drug users to justify authoritarian governmental actions that had earlier been justified as a response to the communist threat. Previous experiments with criminal law, using drugs as a cover to attack specific hated groups, had given government officials the necessary experience to widen the swath to all illicit drug users. . . The sudden acceleration of effort was matched only by the effort's effectiveness. Decades of anti-drug propaganda directed against hated groups had created a climate of ignorance and fear, allowing the public to accept the notion that all users of any illicit drug, not just members of particular groups using particular drugs, merited suppression.A national coordinator of anti-drug user rhetoric emerged, an organization called Partnership for a Drug-Free America. Its propaganda helped convince the public that drug users are not ordinary people, that instead they are dangerous enemies who must be eliminated. Partnership rhetoric promoted a climate making brutalization of ordinary people not only acceptable but virtuous. In 1990 almost $1 million a day in free advertizing was being donated to Partnership.144Philip Morris, Anheuser-Busch, RJR Reynolds, American Brands, DuPont, Johnson & Johnson, SmithKline Beecham, Hoffman-LaRoche, the Proctor & Gamble Fund, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, and the Merck Foundation have all been important sources of money for Partnership propaganda.145 Those groups are manufacturers (and affiliated foundations) of tobacco, alcohol, and pharmaceuticals. As one student of Partnership activity notes, "Partnership advertises, in effect, against having chemical competitors to alcohol and tobacco.146 Nor does Partnership propaganda discuss the competition that could provide to expensive medical pharmaceuticals.Partnership's goal is not drug education but drug propaganda. The group states forthrightly that its purpose "is to reduce demand for illegal drugs by using media communication to help bring about public intolerance of illegal drugs, their use and users."147 In describing publicity, drug czar William Bennett's office said, "One laudable example is the Partnership for a drug-Free America's campaign to encourage negative attitudes toward drugs and to label drug users as unpopular losers."148 Deputy drug czar Herbert Kleber declared, "The Partnership has changed the attitude of the whole country towards drugs."149Said an observer in 1933, "I would say that Nazi propaganda is much too transparent to work were it not for the fact that it very often does work."150 A Partnership ad declared [ ... ]Errors and distortions in Partnership propaganda have been widely noted by drug policy experts, but the public knows little of these deceptions. A Partnership ad stated that marijuana users showed the same brain wave pattern as someone in a coma. That statement was incorrect. When challenged, a Partnership spokesperson acknowledged, "We kind of got left standing bare naked on the ice with that one."154 [ ...]Partnership refuses to run ads correcting or retracting factual inaccuracies, so the general public remains unaware of the distortions.162 Aside from errors and distortions, Partnership's campaign ignores truths long known to serious researchers, such as roles that poverty, joblessness, lack of love, and lack of hope play in drug abuse. If a persuasion campaign relies upon emotion and inaccurate data, questions must arise about the campaign's message.Describing the Partnership's campaign as "some of the best advertising I've seen," a Partnership spokesperson declared, "The ads really stick in your mind and get straight to the point."163A distinguished student of Nazi ways noted, "Propaganda is not a substitute for violence, but it is one of its aspects. The two have the identical purpose of making men amenable to control from above."164 Partnership's orchestrated campaign of fear propaganda was important in that respect because many persons find fear unbearable, and transform fear into the more comfortable emotion of anger. Promoting fear promotes hatred. And hatred promotes brutality.Richard L Miller, Drug Warriors and their Prey, 1996, pgs.27-28 Remember Bill Bennett's big bottom line, his plug for more jailing and punishment of adults who use cannabis responsibly:the criminal justice system ... can help prevent drug use by people who are fearful of being arrested ... It can also help through coercion . . . '' Don't be fooled by his bait and switch claims of "help" for "addicts": drug warriors desperately need to preserve government's newly discovered "right" to jail adults who use cannabis peacefully. Knock away all the rhetoric and that's what you'll find. 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #7 posted by zenarch on February 18, 2001 at 07:26:44 PT
I'm making sure . . . . 
. . . That my son and daughter know the whole story behind William Bennett. That they know all about his hipocracy and his murderous cultural revolution and ('Book of (NAZI) Virtues'
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #6 posted by observer on February 18, 2001 at 06:57:16 PT
Bill 'Nicotine Patch' Bennett, Moral Micromanager
 drug use is wrong. . . According to who or what? The Bible? the Bible never says that "drug use is wrong". Why should be believe this moral micromanager? If "drug use is wrong", fror example, why does not the Bible (which many oh-so-righteous drug warriors claim to believe) ever condemns "drug use"? It never does.  Hitler too, spoke of the morality and the great character of the Nazi, Hitler spoke also of the moral failings of his scapegoat, "The Jew." As Bennett villifies ordinary Americans who assert their traditional right and use cannabis, he follows a well-established model of demonization.If "drug use is wrong", then I'm sure that the Bill Bennett and assorted Carrie Nations would care to do God a service, and condemn the Biblical patriach Jacob (also called "Israel") for his drug use. Somehow God overlooked condemning Jacob, but I'm sure Bill Bennett, having attained greater wisdom and morality than God, can teach God a few things here. Genesis 30: [14] And Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest, and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them unto his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, Give me, I pray thee, of thy son's mandrakes. [15] And she said unto her, Is it a small matter that thou hast taken my husband? and wouldest thou take away my son's mandrakes also? And Rachel said, Therefore he shall lie with thee to night for thy son's mandrakes. [16] And Jacob came out of the field in the evening, and Leah went out to meet him, and said, Thou must come in unto me; for surely I have hired thee with my son's mandrakes. And he lay with her that night. The Bible condemns murder, rape, stealing, whoredom. The Bible "accidently forgets" to mention that using plants (for enjoyment, even, see Gen. 30:14-16) is a sin or is wrong.Cigarette puffing Bill Bennett's moral micromanagement and lofty pronouncements of "right" and "wrong" carry all the moral authority of a Hitler or an Idi Amin. This paunchy slob wouldn't know "right and wrong" if it bit him on his fat and hypocritical rear end.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #5 posted by MikeEEEEE on February 18, 2001 at 06:30:32 PT
Author plays a strange twist
While we all know and most of came away from the movie traffic realizing the drug war is a total failure the author keeps writing about addiction then ends the piece with this crap:"But the criminal justice system plays a critical role as well."If anything, the movie traffic showed the criminal justice system was wasting their time, time after time fighting a losing battle.I wonder, maybe Bennett is looking for the drug czar position again.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #4 posted by Ethan Russo, MD on February 18, 2001 at 05:42:10 PT:
Incapable of Telling the Truth
All three of the following statements are incorrect:"But prevention involves more than simply teaching that drug use is wrong. It entails making drugs scarcer, more expensive and less pure. When drugs are more readily available, more people try them and more people become addicted."1)Like it or not, drug use is common enough across cultures, and throughout history, to be considered normal behavior, particularly when it involves youthful experimentation. Drugs are not inherently bad, but abuse of drugs may certainly be bad. Addiction and counterproductive drug use are what we should be treating (not "fighting"). False characterizations such as this are harmful and polarizing.2) When cannabis is scarce, or more expensive, it clearly leads to greater alcoholism and use of cocaine and heroin, especially in inner city populations. This has been demonstrated in numerous studies, particularly in Europe. Arguing as Bennett does is without foundation, and demonstrates a lack of regard for the victims that is immoral, contrary to his pontifical claims. This is particularly true of his urge to make drugs less pure. Sure, to him and his coven, it seems moral to sicken the dopers with paraquat, or kill the ravers with fake Ecstasy, or turn the addicts into frozen parkinsonian cases with adulterated synthetic opiates. When the issue of drugs is medicalized, the concept of harm reduction holds sway. People will experiment with drugs in spite of any attempts at prohibition. Society's interest should be to limit the possible harm from their use, not aggravate it by threatening the lives and health of those who choose to try drugs.3) Once again, data from Europe and USA localities (e.g., California since Proposition 215) demonstrate that more ready access to cannabis does not increase its use by young people, nor that of "hard drugs." Bennett may claim to have studied drugs for a decade, but he has failed to learn much of anything that qualifies him to be an authority on the issues. His pronouncements are tired and old, deserving of mass derogation. It is time for new approaches, and a change in focus to medical models.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #3 posted by Mr. 2toes on February 18, 2001 at 00:03:31 PT
Most of the 'well-intention'd sheople' dont realize exactly what the majority of "drug prevention" places are, the way the maority of them are set up is, 'you do ANY drug = you go to jail' this is the only thing they prevent, usage while IN the program, almost like jail or probation.And, old bill seems to be dancing around the main issue, if pot is illegal, you will probably go to jail for using it.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #2 posted by Harvey Pendrake on February 17, 2001 at 23:10:41 PT
Shut up, Bennett
Old warriors never die, but what do old drug warriors do? I guess they don't die either, but they certainly fade away.Bill says, "People who are forced to enter treatment under legal sanctions are more likely to complete treatment programs and thus more likely to get well."I pretty sure Pol Pot said that too. Perhaps we should start a coercion-based treatment program for the obese, and Bill Bennett can be the first lucky inmate. Oops, did I say inmate? I meant to say "patient". I'm sure after the proper length of time we could ween Mr. Bennett from donuts and red meat and return him to society with the "majority of Americans who have respect for the law".
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by Robbie on February 17, 2001 at 21:52:29 PT
The thoughtful musings of a war criminal
One key lesson is that prevention is indeed the most important weapon we have in the fight against drug useLie No. 1 in many thousands of liesThe story of "Traffic" and, behind it, the story of Gaghan's life are both powerful and instructive. But we must learn the right lessons from them.The right lesson to learn, Mr. Bennett, is that you have lost your mind.I know people are gonna slam the hell out of this, but, I implore you...take pity on this feeble-minded propagandist. He's suffering from addiction. That's right. He's thoroughly and completely addicted to the bullsh*t that flows from his lips. The sad thing is, the public will buy into this shrift and they will eat it up. The war continues.
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment

Name: Optional Password: 
Comment: [Please refrain from using profanity in your message]
Link URL: 
Link Title: