Bush's Drug War Strategy: Escalate It

Bush's Drug War Strategy: Escalate It
Posted by FoM on May 31, 2001 at 10:05:40 PT
By Daniel Forbes, AlterNet
Source: AlterNet
It can't get worse. That's what many scientists, health advocates and drug war reformers thought while doing battle with hyperactive drug crusader General Barry McCaffrey, the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration in the Clinton administration. McCaffrey took a fierce stance that helped produce skyrocketing arrests for drug possession, steady militarization of the drug battle and short shrift for treatment. The bellicose nature of the Clinton drug effort was sometimes difficult to understand, since the drug warrior image was a tad out of step with the overall tone of the Clinton-Gore administration. 
No matter what Clinton's motivations, collateral damage from his policies was extensive: the seven-month old shot from the skies over Peru; the teenagers caught smoking reefer and denied a college loan; Patrick Dorismond, killed on the streets of New York because he took umbrage at a quota-driven cop gripped by the equation: black man on the streets = drugs; or the nearly half million nonviolent drug offenders locked up for years or decades. There's so much more. The impact was immense. But any hope for relief, for a respite from the toll of the Clinton years, was hopelessly na´ve. Make no mistake, the drug war is about to get worse under Bush, maybe a whole lot worse. But at least some of the underlying rationale is becoming clearer. In fact, as the Bush administration's troika of backward generals -- Ashcroft, Walters and Hutchinson -- take command of the drug war, new revelations are exposing just how corporate-run and profitable the drug war has become. Money Changes Everything: One huge private company in particular is in the drug war up to its neck. According to National Defense (a trade publication for defense contractors), DynCorp, a $1.4 billion a year, 20,000-employee government contractor based in Reston, Virginia, "supports drug war operations at both the front and back ends -- from airborne crop-dusting in Colombia to asset forfeiture experts who work at 385 Justice Department sites in the United States." That's right, South America's favorite mercenaries help the feds seize property here at home. Money, of course, explains much of what moves the drug war. Various levels of government will spend some $38 billion to snuff out drugs this year: on cops and clinicians, lawyers and the Coast Guard, for advocacy and treatment. Endless resources have been invested, and yet the fires burn still brighter. States Kevin Zeese, president of Common Sense for Drug Policy (CSDP), "The US is experiencing record overdose deaths, record mentions of drugs in emergency rooms, rapid spread of HIV/AIDS and a 50 percent increase in adolescent drug use since 1990. This failure is happening at the same time that police are being successful in achieving their goals -- record drug arrests, high levels of drug seizures and drug eradication, and the largest prison population in world history." There you have it: simultaneous victory and defeat. It's a strategy that recalls Vietnam War claims of having to burn the village in order to save it. The Bush Team: The Senate will soon have hearings on the recent nomination as drug czar of John P. Walters, a man with both feet planted firmly in the past. The nation can take small comfort that Walters was reportedly not Bush's first choice for the job. And no wonder, considering his views. Doug McVay, research director of CSDP, said: "He is very much a lock-em-up sort of drug warrior. He supports tough sentencing, questions the value of treatment, dislikes drug courts as too soft, attacks medical marijuana, opposes syringe exchange and strongly supports the use of the military in drug interdiction [in Latin America]." Reformers may hope that Walters is so extreme that he'll be merely a figurehead meant to mollify Bush's right flank. But probably not. The Great Delegator gives his cabinet members a long leash, and Walters' views are echoed by Bush's choice to head the DEA, former congressman Asa Hutchinson, who rose to prominence as one of the House managers of Clinton's impeachment. Moreover, Walters will be sitting there right next to Attorney General John Ashcroft, another true believer. Ashcroft has "objected vociferously to spending money on drug treatment rather than drug interdiction, claiming that treatment 'enables' drug users and that enforcement is a more effective use of funds," notes the Drug Reform Coordination Network. Also, Ashcroft has said: "I want to escalate the war on drugs. I want to renew it. I want to refresh it, relaunch it if you will." Amazing how politicians feel a little alliteration can cloak the truth. Judging by expenditures, arrests or any other measure, our former non-inhaler-in-chief in fact fought the drug war far more rigorously than did Reagan and Bush the First combined. Sure, Bush mouthed some fine words about treatment and said he'd reconsider mandatory minimum sentences, but his three appointments have eviscerated those conciliatory messages. The increases in his drug budget -- by 6 percent, up to $19.2 billion -- also undermine his ostensibly compassionate approach to drug abuse. As in years past, roughly two-thirds of Bush drug budget goes to interdiction and incarceration, and only one-third to treatment and prevention. Arianna Huffington said that Bush has allocated $320 million a year for treatment. Yet, the White House has estimated that 57 percent of Americans who require drug treatment do not receive it. "With around 3 million addicts who are not getting treatment, that works out to roughly $100 a year -- or 29 cents a day -- for each of them," wrote Huffington. Not much, she added, compared to the $1.8 billion earmarked for military adventures in South America. South American Link: It took the deaths of a missionary and her young daughter, blasted from the sky in Peru with the help of US contractors, to reinvigorate, however briefly, debate over the country's increasing military entanglements to the south. Critics charge that the drug war cloaks support corporate interests both at home (those helicopters sure are expensive) and abroad, where they are threatened by decades-old foreign civil wars. It's a policy that hides behind State Department mercenaries doing some of the heavy lifting alongside our apple-cheeked boys in uniform. US law permits 500 military personnel and 300 civilian contract employees to operate in Columbia. (Note: the Vietnam-era term "advisers" is eschewed.) A chorus of opposition to this U.S. intervention is swelling. In February the European Parliament rejected support for Plan Colombia by a vote of 474 to 1. And six governors of Colombian provinces in the heart of the drug cultivation region have called for a different approach, for less poison from the skies. Fear of both war and fumigation has led to huge numbers of refugees in Colombia. And, according to the Associated Press, over the past six years, the Peruvian air force shot down 30 or more planes with the help of the CIA, actions which were allowed because drugs were presumably involved. The Monster Company Called DynCorp: And now back to DynCorp, the $1.4 billion-a-year government contractor. Quoting a Government Accounting Office report, The Miami Herald noted that DynCorp "has been paid at least $270 million since 1991 to provide airplane and helicopter pilots and mechanics for the war on drugs in Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Guatemala." Jason Vest reported in The Nation that DynCorp oversees a fleet of 46 helicopters and 23 airplanes from an Air Force base in Florida. The Nation obtained a copy of DynCorp's contract, which states that along with "fumigation and search-and-rescue," DynCorp's other responsibilities include "flying local troops in to destroy drug labs and coca or poppy fields." A nifty enabler, the guise of fighting drugs allows the U.S. to fly troops around in other countries' civil wars. This February DynCorp employees flew into the midst of a firefight to rescue Colombian police shot down by leftist guerillas. The Asset Forfeiture Black Hole: As to DynCorp's domestic drug-war boodle -- its five-year, $316 million contract helping the Department of Justice (DOJ) seize assets -- there's been little public notice of it outside National Defense magazine. DynCorp told the magazine that most of the 1,000 staffers involved in the program, funded through 2003, hold " 'secret' clearances and have been involved in more than 60,000 seizures in the United States. Among other things, they provide 'criminal-intelligence collection and analysis, forensic support and asset identification and tracking.' " So this band of retired military honchos has 1,000 operatives with some sort of "secret" mojo, spying on the American public at the feds' behest and helping to hoover up vast sums of money in over 60,000 seizures. Assume, let's say, a modest $3 return for every dollar that the DOJ -- which, with 385 different sites, blankets the country with these folks -- invests. That's nearly $1 billion right there for everything from radios to shiny new patrol cars. With their eyes on the prize, cops declare fancy cars "guilty" because someone's son smokes a joint in one. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, "In 80 percent of forfeitures, in fact, charges never are filed." The paper put the total value of assets seized since 1985 by all levels of government at more than $7 billion. It's easy, when safeguards we take for granted in criminal proceedings are reversed: current law presumes that the property is guilty, and owners have to spend time and money proving that "it" wasn't involved in a crime. What About Treatment? Just Lock Them Up: Last November, California voters passed Prop. 36 -- which requires treatment rather than incarceration for users' first two arrests for possession -- by a huge margin of 61 percent to 39 percent. Now the problem is ensuring funding. There's money available for sensing devices that effectively "see" through walls, and pork enough to declare most of the country a High Density Drug Trafficking Area. But there's not nearly enough to treat addiction, even with the move to coerced treatment rather than incarceration. Some desperate junkies actually seek arrest as the only route to getting clean. Funds for treatment rather than prison are limited by a "one strike and you're out" mindset. Never mind that experts recognize addiction as a chronic relapsing disease; like diabetes or high blood pressure, it is a condition to be managed rather than cured. As Alan I. Leshner, head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse stated recently, "The problem with the [treatment] capacity issue is that people don't have great confidence in drug treatment because they think that a single momentary relapse is a failure of treatment, whereas we don't think that if somebody's blood pressure or diabetes relapses." It's far easier, though far more expensive, to lock folks up: 1.6 million Americans are arrested annually on drug charges. With mandatory minimum sentence requirements -- which are opposed by the American Bar Association, the U.S. Sentencing Commission and Human Rights Watch -- based solely on prior convictions and the amount of drugs possessed, judges are robbed of discretion. Many low-level users, who deal to support their habits, get sentences of eight, 10, 15 years and more for being ill. At any one time, nearly 500,000 drug offenders are in prison. Roughly two-thirds of them are black, even though blacks use drugs at the same rate as the population as a whole. And a vast number of these convictions are for marijuana. Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) Foundation, notes, "Taxpayers spend between $7.5 billion and $10 billion annually arresting and prosecuting individuals for marijuana violations." In fact, according to the DOJ, with 700,000 individuals arrested in 1999 -- 88 percent for possession alone --marijuana violations are the fifth most common criminal offense. During the 1990s, a total of five million Americans were arrested for pot. One folly about to kick into gear, courtesy of the Bush administration, is the provision of the Higher Education Act that denies anyone with a drug conviction federal student aid for a minimum of one year. This might have more political salience for the white middle class than other drug war measures. Passed in 1998, the law wasn't strictly enforced by the Clinton administration: last year, some 280,000 applicants left the question blank. Now, students must answer drug conviction questions on loan applications or be denied. According to the New York Times, with about half of the applications in for the coming school year, 33,000 have acknowledged a drug conviction. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) has introduced legislation to rescind this punitive law, but little action is likely prior to next year, when the original bill comes up for renewal. Propaganda Campaigns: Throw money and see if any sticks. In 1998, the White House commissioned a study from the National Research Council on the drug war's effectiveness. And, lo and behold, the effort's chairman stated that there is no way of "knowing whether, and to what extent, it is having the desired result ... Neither the necessary data systems nor the research infrastructure to gauge the usefulness of drug-control enforcement policies currently exists" -- this despite a tenfold increase in expenditures between 1981 and 1999. The effects of the taxpayer-funded, $1 billion anti-drug media campaign are uncertain at best. Referring to ads donated to the private Partnership for a Drug-Free America prior to the government's paid campaign, the feds concluded that "youths who had seen or heard drug/alcohol prevention messages outside of school in the past year were somewhat more likely to report past year marijuana use than those who had not been exposed." Similarly, the National Research Council found that the D.A.R.E. programs that litter the nation's schools (and have encouraged students to inform on their friends and family) have had little positive effect and may actually increase drug use. This month, the Suffolk County, N.Y., police commissioner tried to move his 34 officers from playing teacher back to actually preventing crime on the street, until his boss bowed to political pressure to retain the program. That didn't stop Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson from scrapping D.A.R.E. It was recently disclosed that the federal government provided hundreds of thousands of dollars of financial incentives per episode to TV network consultants on the White House payroll to get anti-drug messages into scripts for various shows. The same financial-credit-for-content paradigm was in place at some of the nation's most prominent nonfiction magazines as well. Most chilling, though, was the motive underlying the whole media campaign: to generate propaganda that would discourage voter support for medical marijuana issues. The strategy was engendered at a meeting attended by numerous federal, state and private officials convened by McCaffrey nine days after medical marijuana initiatives passed in Arizona and California in 1996. Medical Marijuana: Still, voters around the country are taking matters into their own compassionate hands. Voters passed five drug policy reform measures last November, including medical marijuana and forfeiture reform measures. Yet public support for medical marijuana, as reflected in voter initiatives, had no effect on the recent Supreme Court ruling against the manufacture and distribution of medical marijuana. Though the court did not address individual use, it threw the matter back to a Congress reluctant to be confronted by patients in wheelchairs at any hearing on the matter. NORML's St. Pierre told Alternet, "99 percent of patients will suffer no ill effects from the Supreme Court ruling," since federal prosecutors won't be going after patients. That assumes that individual patients are able to maintain -- and afford -- their black-market supply of medicine. Otherwise, even if they aren't arrested, they still have to endure all the pain they could have used marijuana to alleviate. Although defendants will not be allowed to raise a medical necessity defense, Kevin Zeese says, "A single juror has the power to thwart the federal government's effort to undermine access to medical marijuana and prevent it from reversing the vote of the people by brute force." Of course, if a defendant forces the government into the expense of a trial, plea-bargaining goes out the window. It's a high-stakes gamble. The feds also have orchestrated a fine Catch-22, calling for more research on pot's medicinal use, but then refusing to approve medical studies. Only one is currently underway. In stark contrast, Canada authorized the use and cultivation of medical marijuana last April. The Leviathan: So that's the news coming from the drug front. Not a pretty picture is it? Students being harassed and losing financial support for smoking a joint ... Medical marijuana jettisoned by a know-nothing Supreme Court, the same crew that elected George Bush ... Treatment a distant dream for many desperate addicts ... Tens of thousands of people thrown into jail for harmless possession of pot. Essentially, after spending scores of billions of dollars, locking up millions and shredding the Constitution (the Fourth Amendment hangs by a thread), drugs are more plentiful and cheaper than ever before. The drug war fails on every level. Yet it keeps getting ratcheted up, with tons more money thrown at interdiction. Just a little more effort and the tide will turn, the warriors say. Didn't we hear that rationale with the war in Viet Nam? And the newest piece of the picture is perhaps the most disturbing. It's the funding of private armies of ex-military warriors and drug cops -- exemplified by DynCorp -- to create a massive infrastructure of vested interests and military firepower. Along with the already bloated U.S. prison-industrial complex, such an enterprise creates a hungry, growing monster that can swallow hundreds of thousands of victims and lap up billions in asset forfeiture. This is the emerging picture of the corporatization of the drug war. Fighting it successfully may well require the passion, smarts and commitment of a new anti-war movement. Source: AlterNet (CA)Author: Daniel Forbes, AlterNetPublished: May 28, 2001Copyright: 2001 Independent Media InstituteContact: info alternet.orgWebsite: Sense For Drug Policy Articles - Daniel Forbes
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Comment #16 posted by Mike Landers on August 16, 2001 at 12:55:07 PT:
Former CTT member, we are trying to make contact with all CTT members have you been to 
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Comment #15 posted by dddd on June 01, 2001 at 15:42:07 PT
Kap & Cuz
Man guys are some heavy cats.I missed the draft bybeing about a week too late.I know what you mean Kap about the Pentagon papers feeling,,buttimes are different now.The most bizarre thing of all,will be when all this is effectivly obscured,muffled,and countered with diversions by the bought and paid forcollusive gov/media,,,,,no one will really notice or care.I rememberwhen they snuck plan Colombia by in the first place,,the coveragewas quite minimal..........I think they've pretty much tamed enough ofthe media,to get away with alot more......Let's not forget one of themain unseen objectives of plan Colombia,is Texas Tea,,,,Black Gold.We have seen how tenacious these oily bastards can be.These Texas assholes have given California a stout reaming,,and no one even seemsto ask about dubyas saying,"price caps wont help...."....etc...It's all like a bad dream.dddd
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Comment #14 posted by Cuzn Buzz on June 01, 2001 at 13:46:11 PT
Pop Tha Smoke!
Man, I remember when we'd call in for extraction and have a toke while waitin for the slick to come and get us, we never put out our hooters when we popped the smoke on our LZ, the egg beater drivers would have been disapointed if we'd come back empty handed...always had a little of the VN black to thank em for the ride home.Never thought I'd miss it. 
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Comment #13 posted by Cuzn Buzz on June 01, 2001 at 13:32:04 PT
All this nostalgia makes me want to didibop up to D.C. and put a bayonet to the rear of those "political leaders".I think I liked Victor Charles better. 
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Comment #12 posted by kaptinemo on June 01, 2001 at 13:24:49 PT
Not to mention
all who are presently dying for lack of medicine, the campesinos hit with Roundup and can expect starvation within 6 months, every person languishing in jail for cannabis possession, Captain Jennifer Odom and her crew, and God alone knows how many others, soldiers and civilians, who have died in this latest 'dirty little war' whose names we don't know. And probably never will.
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Comment #11 posted by kaptinemo on June 01, 2001 at 13:19:09 PT:
It's Forbes you should be thanking.The more I think about it, the more this work of his reminds me of the beginning leak of the Pentagon Papers. That started out real quiet, but wound up literally blowing the lid off a dirty little scheme to hide the truth from the American public...and allow some real slimey corporate types to continue rolling in the bucks. When the Pentagon Papers were published (back when the New York Times had a set of cojones instead of the empty, flaccid sack of skin that it has, today) were published, it rocked the government on its' heels, the public backlash was so strong. I suspect that this has been only a prelude to a much bigger salvo. If the Bush Too Administration is true to present course, we'll soon hear Ari Fleischer growling at reporters not ask the kind of questions that Forbe's work necessitates. Another long hot summer coming, children. But break out the rain gear, just in case; I sense the Feds, true to their nature, will, after Forbes' article, attempt to urinate in your face and dare to call it rain. At the expense of all those whose names are inscribed on that Black Wall on the Mall.
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Comment #10 posted by kaptinemo on June 01, 2001 at 13:02:35 PT:
I was a 54 Echo, man
Chemical Corps. You have to have a good nose  :)But no one should need any special olfactory equipment to detect rotten apples and eggs. Or BS, for that matter.
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Comment #9 posted by Rambler on June 01, 2001 at 12:58:27 PT
High Plains Drifter
Cuzn Buzzs comment #1 reminded me of a show/infomercial I stumbled across last nite on some obscure public access channel.It was a full on NRA commercial with Chuck Heston,and it struck me how similar,and/or paralell the basics of their thing is with ours.
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Comment #8 posted by Cuzn Buzz on June 01, 2001 at 12:10:31 PT
Kaptinemo CT
Kaptinemo I must say that I admire your ability to do forward recon for our side in this drug war.When I was enjoying my all expense paid vacation to southeast Asia I was a member of what was called a CTT, or combat tracker team.You have a nose for sniffing out the bad guys that would have made any of our dogs proud!THANK YOU!
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Comment #7 posted by kaptinemo on June 01, 2001 at 05:35:25 PT:
He's done it again
Mr. Forbes has once again brushed past the smoke and mirrors, pulled back the curtain, and shown us who the Wizard really is. Anyone with half a brain has long suspected that the Puppet Masters of the DrugWar couldn't possibly be the usual fronts represented by such as Joyce or Frances. You have to have much more on the ball than just bile and narrow-mindedness to run the DrugWar. Nope, the anti mouthpieces are just the shock troops; thrown blindly into battle while the generals direct them...from a safe distance. And make money off of their labors, smiling at how economical it all is. Nothing like having what Lenin called 'useful idiots' working for you for no pay, True Believers in their Holy Cause...while you sit back and rake in the bucks from the DrugWar contracts that their drum-beating hysteria has afforded you.And as Mr. Forbes has pointed out, those contracts are very lucrative, indeed. Think about it: did you honestly think that the entire DrugWar budget went to ineffective, inefficient paper-pushing civil servants? Or that they would entrust the money to rank amateurs like Joyce and Frances?Uh-uh, this is going to the Good Ol' Boys network. Double dipping, retired Generals and Admirals and Field Grade officers. All who cynically know, just as they did in VietNam, that the war is inherently unwinnable. But they also know that the only way they'll get rich is to ride this gravy train to the end. And screw anyone who gets killed by being run over by the wheels. Like 17 year old Esequiel Hernandez. Like 11 year old Alberto Sepulveda. Like 7 month old Charity Bowers (getting yoiunger all the time eren't they?) Ya gotta expect 'collateral damage' inna war, right?So long as it's not their kids, that is.I wonder what Circle in Hell these guys will reside in when their ticket gets punched for the last time?
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Comment #6 posted by Asa Hutchinson on May 31, 2001 at 15:09:51 PT
I'm watching you, Dan Forbes.
That's it Forbes -- you're going on my list.
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Comment #5 posted by Sudaca on May 31, 2001 at 13:26:12 PT
that sums it up pretty good. this is a major mess and hopefully the exposition gets echoed in other papers. I find it astounding that the Spanish speaking world is almost completely oblivious to the happenings in this country.
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Comment #4 posted by Ethan Russo, MD on May 31, 2001 at 12:29:59 PT:
Dan the Man
Dan Forbes is writing some of the most probing and hard-hitting commentary on the War on Drugs available today. We see an important phenomenon here: the "mainstream media" for the first time are looking to an E-zine,, for fresh fodder.Dan is sufficiently effective that I fear for his safety. We talked about this last month, and he is philosophical about it. An investigative reporter must be willing to face risks, or it is a guarantee that they will produce nothing of import. God bless him, his sisters and brothers in arms, and the work they are doing. They will play a large role in turning public opinion against this insane war.
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Comment #3 posted by Pontifex on May 31, 2001 at 11:05:16 PT:
Drug War like World War One
This is an excellent article. Thank god for the Web, which has enabled journalists to back their articles with an avalanche of facts.But I think this author errs when he indicts the Supreme Court, or even the Bush administration, for not thwarting the War on Drugs. The fact is, this war is too massive for one person or one entity to stop. It must run its course.Take World War One by comparison. It started easily enough; Europe's rulers willingly signed and upheld the treaties that led to total war. But after Pandora's box had been opened, nobody could shut it. Not the Kaiser. Not the Americans. The war had to run its course; only when Germany's navy mutinied and its workers starved in the streets did the war machine collapse.So, I fear, it will be with the War on Drugs. There are too many people with a finger in the pie; too many people who couldn't possibly admit defeat after decades of atrocities. There are too many potential war criminals in high places. The War on Drugs has become a way of life for millions and their families.Bush, desparate for political support, could hardly afford to alienate the U.S. Goldfish Fanciers, much less the gigantic constituency of Drug War beneficiaries.The Supreme Court properly stated that they had no authority to carve a medical exception to a law passed by Congress explicitly stating that no medical exception is possible.We can only hope that things get as bad as possible as soon as possible, so that the other civilized nations of the world will continue to recoil in horror and the bloodstained DEA war machine will grind to a halt.Until then, I'm afraid, the efforts of brave patriots like Gary Johnson and Ron Paul amount to little more than a hill of beans.
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Comment #2 posted by ras james rsifwh on May 31, 2001 at 10:54:53 PT
EXODUS from Drug Lord War
The alcohol-tobacco drug lords are still fighting the heroin-cocaine drug lords...for they know not the hour.Give all praise and thanks to Jah Rastafar-I who liveth and reignith in I and I. Yes! For now and I-ternity, Marijuana has manifested as the "Sacred Tree of Life" marking the End of Tibulations. Book of Revelation 22:1&2
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Comment #1 posted by Cuzn Buzz on May 31, 2001 at 10:42:16 PT
Hang Em High
We don't need hearings, we need hangings.The voice of the people is ignored here in gulag ameriKa.These politicos *MUST* be trying to see what it will take before the people put down the ballots and pick up the rifles.Remember the old saying; "only free people have guns".Next time some gun control advocate contacts you, and spit in his or her eye.They are working to disarm us so that we will have no capability to restore our freedom.From the dog catcher up our political "leaders" are the most corrupt filth our country has to offer.Keep America free, hang a politician!(gun control advocates make nice counterwieghts).
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