This post over at Talkleft generated an interesting debate in the comments section. The post concerns the Harlem no-knock drug raid that resulted in the death of an innocent woman. (I discussed that incident here)
Poster Cliff comments on the post on this blog:
Walter - Yes, good to know that there have been 19 screw-ups. How many were successful though? Like with cat food, you have to know the overall effect.
For example, I HATE DUI roadblocks. The courts have said that they are constitutional (depending on your state and how they're done) but I have to admit that the statistics show that they cut down on DUI related accidents and fatalities admirably.
As for the 'no one is endangered by drugs' argument, well, let's just say that though I basically agree with you, that's simply not how the law is written so it's not an effective argument.
To which I responded:
In the context of the war on drugs, no knock raids are a failure almost every time. I say 'almost' since there is a chance a raid will accidentally net an actual criminal, such as a murderer or burglar. Even when they go as planned they only contribute to the violence and elevated crime rate that drug prohibition brings us. So those nineteen dead were killed needlessly, really worse than needlessly. And that number is only a very imprecise count of one small category of drug war victims.
I already said I agreed with you on the drug laws. But you're simply not supplying any numbers, just a fair amount of emotion and some well crafted words.
Well crafted! You're too kind. Really. But you've mistaken my remarks as an analysis of the efficacy of no-knock raids. I don't care if they are effective in catching drug dealers. I'm discussing morality. And morally, I find it unjustifiable if one person is killed in the pursuit of a useless drug war.
I think it's telling that you use the DUI roadblock programs as an example of useful law enforcement techniques. Even if they do cut down on DUI cases, (and I tend to believe the decrease is because of a better informed public rather than roadblocks) they are still an egregious violation of the plain language of the fourth amendment, muddle-headed court rulings notwithstanding. Citing them as an example of good law enforcement is sort of like saying, 'Mussolini wasn't so hot, but he got the trains to run on time!'
As for drugs being a danger to people, I never said otherwise. Pretty much anything is a danger to someone, and illegal drugs are no exception.