Walter Cronkite Knew a Failed War When He Saw One
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Walter Cronkite Knew a Failed War When He Saw One
Posted by CN Staff on July 18, 2009 at 16:23:02 PT
By Ethan Nadelmann, AlterNet
Source: AlterNet 
USA -- Everyone knows Walter Cronkite was "the most trusted man in America" and someone whose rare expressions of personal opinion -- such as on the Vietnam War -- could powerfully influence the views of middle America. But fewer are aware of a passion of his that he came to relatively late in life -- ending the nation's disastrous war on drugs.
I first learned of Walter Cronkite's interest in the drug war back in 1995, when a producer for The Cronkite Report -- an occasional series on The Discovery Channel -- called to ask for my help on a documentary that he and Mr. Cronkite were doing on the drug war. The one hour report that resulted provided a devastating critique of the nation's drug policies.Focusing on the lives of three women who had been sentenced to many years in Bedford Hills prison in New York, the program revealed the utter waste of human lives and taxpayer dollars that define the drug war. Neither Mr. Cronkite nor the women involved suggested that they had done nothing wrong. But the extraordinary lengths of the prison terms to which they had been sentenced, for relatively minor participation in the illicit sale of drugs, combined with the impact on their children and families, and the absurd amount of money being spent to punish rather than help and treat -- all this shaped Mr. Cronkite's devastating indictment of the drug war.Walter Cronkite got it -- and he got it early. He knew a failed war when he saw one.I didn't know, however, if that would be his last word on the subject. Fortunately it wasn't. In 1998, he joined other prominent individuals in signing a public letter to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan that stated: "We believe that the global war on drugs is now causing more harm than drug abuse itself."Two women played a pivotal role in Walter Cronkite's involvement thereafter with my organization, the Drug Policy Alliance. The first was Marlene Adler, his longtime assistant, who appreciated Walter's commitment to this issue, and I think shared his views as well. And the second was Dr. Mathilde Krim, a friend and neighbor of the Cronkites in New York, the founder and co-chair of amfAR, the HIV/AIDS research and advocacy organization, and a board member of the Drug Policy Alliance. It was at her home that I first met Walter in person. And it was with Mathilde's and Marlene's assistance that Walter agreed both to join DPA's Honorary Board and also sign the fundraising letter that has helped DPA recruit tens of thousands of new members.He wrote:I remember. I covered the Vietnam War. I remember the lies that were told, the lives that were lost -- and the shock when, twenty years after the war ended, former Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara admitted he knew it was a mistake all along.Today, our nation is fighting two wars: one abroad and one at home. While the war in Iraq is in the headlines, the other war is still being fought on our own streets. Its casualties are the wasted lives of our own citizens.I am speaking of the war on drugs.And I cannot help but wonder how many more lives, and how much more money, will be wasted before another Robert McNamara admits what is plain for all to see: the war on drugs is a failure.While the politicians stutter and stall -- while they chase their losses by claiming we could win this war if only we committed more resources, jailed more people and knocked down more doors -- the Drug Policy Alliance continues to tell the American people the truth -- "the way it is."Few allies have been as important. Walter's involvement with DPA and our drug policy reform movement raised the sorts of eyebrows that most needed raising. It helped legitimize our cause. And he brought home, both with his words and the mere fact of his commitment, the powerful analogy between the failure of the Vietnam War and the failure of America's longest war -- the war on drugs.I know he got a kick out of the reactions to his fundraising letters for DPA, whether it was to be attacked by Bill O'Reilly or quoted favorably (just a few weeks ago) by John McLaughlin on his TV show, The McLaughlin Group.I once asked Walter -- at a dinner at Mathilde's home a few years ago -- whether he had ever tried marijuana. As I recall, he laughed, and said not exactly, except for the "contact high" he might have gotten around CBS's offices back in the 1960s, when smoking was still allowed, and not everything smoked was tobacco. Perhaps he said something too about some youthful experiences during WW 2 -- but I don't remember exactly.But of course the issue for him was never about the drugs, and whether or not people used them. What mattered was intellectual honesty, sensible moral judgment, and the obligation to speak truth to power, no matter how unwelcome or inconvenient that truth might be. That he was almost eighty years old when he first took on this cause is a testament to his vitality and integrity, and an inspiration to me and so many others.Source: AlterNet (US)Author:  Ethan Nadelmann, AlterNetPublished: July 18, 2009Copyright: 2009 Independent Media InstituteContact: letters Website: Justice Archives
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on July 19, 2009 at 05:44:07 PT
Chaffetz Joins GOP's Fight Against Drugs
By Lee Davidson, Deseret News Saturday, July 11, 2009 Rep. Jason Chaffetz worries that Democrats are surrendering the war on drugs. So Thursday, he joined a newly resurrected House Drug Task Force designed to keep the fight alive."Drug abuse and problems affect every community," he said at a Capitol press conference. "If you look at your own family, you can find people who have been touched and hurt by drug abuse. It affects all of us."He is one of eight GOP House members on the newly re-created group. Former GOP House Speaker Dennis Hastert created the original version of the group back in 1998 to focus on solutions to illegal drugs, and he appeared Thursday with the eight members now serving on the new version of it.They chose as their new leader Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., who complained that the Obama administration "seeks to shut down the war on drugs."URL:,5143,705315896,00.html
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on July 18, 2009 at 17:19:38 PT
Walter Cronkite & America's Disastrous Drug War
Walter Cronkite & America's Disastrous Drug War Pt 1 of 6URL:***Walter Cronkite & America's Disastrous Drug War Pt 2 of 6***Walter Cronkite & America's Disastrous Drug War Pt 3 of 6***Walter Cronkite & America's Disastrous Drug War Pt 4 of 6***Walter Cronkite & America's Disastrous Drug War Pt 5 of 6***Walter Cronkite & America's Disastrous Drug War Pt 6 of 6
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Comment #2 posted by ekim on July 18, 2009 at 17:03:54 PT
MI EXPO press release Cronkite by Pete Guither 
Drug WarRant February 23, 2006
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on July 18, 2009 at 16:44:55 PT
Telling The Truth About The War on Drugs
By Walter CronkiteMarch 1, 2006URL:
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