On Wednesday, President Biden announced he will end direct U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan.

With 2,448 American dead and 20,000 wounded in 20 years of combat operations that have cost $2.2 trillion, we have not ended the fighting between the Taliban and other factions or created a stable democracy. It’s time to go.

“We already have service members doing their duty in Afghanistan today whose parents served in the same war,” Biden said. “We have service members who were not yet born when our nation was attacked on 9/11. War in Afghanistan was never meant to be a multi-generational undertaking.”

Biden is right. Now he should end another war.

The War on Drugs has been going on much longer than the war in Afghanistan, even if you count the 20 years of fighting that preceded U.S. involvement.

How much have we spent on suppressing illegal drug use since the repeal of Prohibition? How many lives have been lost or destroyed? When will it end?


Last week I wrote about how counter-productive it is to treat addiction as a crime. But users are not the only casualties in the war on drugs. People who may have never touched an illegal substance are caught in the crossfire between law enforcement and drug dealers, and we all end up paying a price.

A police officer shot and killed Daunte Wright, age 20, during a traffic stop in a Minneapolis suburb last weekend.  The officer, Kim Potter, a 26-year veteran and training officer with the Brooklyn Center Police Department, was arrested and has been charged with manslaughter. Even though no drugs are mentioned in any of the stories about Wright’s death, it’s almost impossible to imagine his killing outside the context of the drug war.

Traffic stops for minor offenses, like Wright’s stop for an expired inspection sticker, are a tool police use to catch drug traffickers. Racial profiling by police has been well documented in deciding who gets stopped. Even though Black people are no more likely to use drugs than anyone else, they are disproportionally arrested for drug offenses.

Police officers know that approaching a vehicle could be dangerous for them if they have actually pulled over an armed gang member. As Johann Hari writes in the 2015 book “Chasing the Scream: The first and last days of the drug war,” drug prohibition has set off an evolutionary process among gangs. There are huge profits to be made and the most ruthless and violent are the ones who get to make them. Even if the reason for the stop is a routine traffic violation, that’s who an officer prepares to face when they walk up to a car at night.

You can hear that hyper vigilance in Potter’s voice on the released police video when Wright showed the slightest resistance to officers’ commands. It could by why she apparently panicked claiming she confused a non-lethal stun gun with a firearm before shooting Wright at close range.

No one is saying that Wright did anything wrong except maybe drive with an expired sticker and fail to appear in court for a misdemeanor charge. But he’s a victim of the enforcement regime created to fight the drug war. He’s an uncounted casualty. There are many others.


About half a million people are incarcerated for drug charges, and 1.5 million are on probation or parole. A felony drug conviction makes you ineligible for student loans, public housing and makes it very difficult to get a job.

More than 20 million Americans have at least one addiction (including alcohol) but less than 10 percent receive treatment.

Overdose deaths in America have tripled since 1990.

As an architect of the drug war, Biden would be the perfect person to end it. And he can use the same logic that he used to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan – it costs too much and it doesn’t work.

It’s time to end this forever war before it takes another generation.

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