Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Potheads and War Criminals – Same Hypocrisy

Croatian government has recently adopted new drug policy that would, among other things, include comprehensive drug testing of various categories of citizens. The tests would be administered in high school and publicly-funded college/university dormitories, with set of financial and administrative sanctions for all those who turn positive.

Feral Tribune in its daily on-line editorial, written by Ivica Đikić (Ivica Djikic) slammed this new policy as an attack on human and civil rights. They even compared it with Bush's War on Terrorism which is in Feralspeak equal to being Nazi.

There is nothing particularly wrong with anyone questioning or criticising this new policy. Croatian governments – past and present – had very little to write home about when it came to dealing with drug use, phenomenon that exploded in 1990s, especially among young people. Many people, author of this text included, are sceptical about this policy yielding significant results.

However, instead of attacking this measure directly – by making at least the elementary cost-benefit analysis or suggesting alternative solutions – Ivica Đikić uses arguments that could be described as the worst case of demagoguery. Đikić reminds the audience that two Presidents of modern Croatia had a long record of issuing pardons and thus setting free the most notorious drug dealers. "In modern Croatia a kid who smokes a joint is about to be persecuted, while the druglords go free", suggests Đikić.

This argument reminds me of the similar argument used, among other things, against Feral Tribune on somewhat different occasion. During the dark war years, Feral was one of the first Croatian media to do the unthinkable - report about Croatian war crimes and other human rights violations against minorities, mainly Serbs. Feral was not the first one to report about those crimes but also the first one to demand that the perpetrators of those crimes be brought to justice. Croatian right-wingers reacted (and still react) to those calls by claiming that Croatian war crimes are nothing more than a reaction to Serb war crimes which, in most cases, remained unpunished. And furthermore, they claim that Croatian war crimes pale in comparison with the atrocities committed by Serbs. "Why should those who perhaps committed few mistakes in the noble mission of defending their motherland be punished while those who committed aggression and genocide went free?"

Feral applies the same principle to various sets of drug offenders. Since major drug suppliers in Croatia aren't likely to answer for their crimes (due to corruption and ineffectiveness of police and judiciary), why should "poor kids" be targeted? This is Feral's main argument against any kind of repressive policy towards drug users and by using it, Feral indirectly give ammunition to all those who defended war crimes.

While kids who occasionally smoke couple of joints definitely don't belong to the same category with animals who torch 90-year old grannies, they nevertheless have something in common – they break the law. Whether the crime of young potheads is harmless or victimless is beside the point. What matters is the fact that society that tolerates illegal behaviour, even if it is most harmless, only invites illegal behaviour in more virulent form. To paraphrase one of the world's greatest civil libertarians, "first they would tolerate pot, then they would tolerate petty vandalism and in the end they would tolerate mass genocide".


Post a Comment

<< Home