We are a product of upbringing, education and experience. We seek the best of these, but the worst can build character and a more informed worldview.
I am an informant. I am ashamed. I wish for reconciliation.
I am one of many stories in the irrational drug war. A war that has robbed our nation of money, life and social stability. It has destroyed lives, families and human potential. I entered the drug war on July 3rd, 1995, at the age of 17. That day, I consumed cheap alcohol and made a very stupid decision. The collision with the tree threw my head into the steering wheel, my knees into the dash, lacerating both. The marks still appear on my forehead as some butchcraft incident. I own the decision, I regret it, but I am always learning from it.
Charges for an OWI were pending. I should have plead guilty, took the punishment and moved on in my life. Instead, I was convinced to ‘cooperate’ in exchange for leniency. I was to be the newest informant in the drug war, all with the promise of a deferred sentence for OWI, aided by a legal drug. To this point, my life rarely crossed with illegal drugs. While Just Say No and This is Your Brain on Drugs propaganda was served up daily in school and during Scooby Doo, I never imagined I would be enticed by law enforcement to join their war as an informant.
I starkly remember the meeting with police and drug officers. The room was cold, my teeth were chattering. I was given the deal, a deferred judgement for information. If I cooperated, the incident would be wiped from my record. If not, I would be faced with maximum penalties of the law. My task was to deliver actionable information to make a drug bust. Their first target was the kindest, gentlest man in Waverly and a suspect of drug use. I was ordered to deliver intelligence to implicate him and any supply chain. A small time bust, but a drug war score nonetheless.
I remember entering his house for the first time with a close friend. The weight of betrayal was unbearable, knowing I was entering this man’s home violating the trust and sanctity we all hold sacred. He was a smart man, steeped in philosophy, literature and music. Sure, incense filled the room and he self-medicated to deal with his painful condition, but drugs were never in the conversation. Yet I was tasked to pull it off. Me. An unsuspecting honor-roll student. A community volunteer. An honorable person. I was sickened because I committed to an immoral task. I quickly learned... I was on the wrong side of the war, a tool to indict people who committed no crime other than to mind their own life, their business.
When I failed to provide ‘actionable’ evidence for a 'bust', my mission expanded to indict anyone in the drug trade, Waverly or Iowa City. Yes, my informant deal followed me. I was one year into the College of Engineering and the drug authorities wanted their information. I was nervous, filled with anxiety. I was forced into a secret life, I built walls, limited friendships and continued an abusive relationship with legal drugs - caffeine and alcohol. By my second year, the pressure ‘to produce’ became unbearable. My grades were slipping and a few more entanglements with alcohol finally brought the lack of cooperation to a head. The judge yanked the deal, I was fined and going to jail.
In retrospect, I couldn’t escape the drug war in jail either. Bremer County jail was full. Temporary prisoners like me had to yield to the long-termers, most with drug convictions, and take up residence on the floor with a mat and sheet. This was the height of mass incarceration. But after the jail task and near-bankrupting fine, my sentence was complete. I was free to be me again, honest, open and honorable. The drug war is unjust, secretive and unethical. It is immoral. And now I’ve learned, it could have killed me. Suspected informants in the Cedar Valley have been murdered. College student-informants get murdered, 60 Minutes discusses. All to wage a misguided, irrational war on drugs.
As an elected official, it is my sworn duty to uphold rights and principles of our Republic, the guarantees of our Constitution and Bill of Rights. The top-down drug war takes away rights and creates illicit enterprises that serve natural laws of supply and demand. The war relies on local police to serve as agents of the federal government. Police win by building their ranks, machinery, and surveillance technology. Criminal enterprises win by profiting from the forced black market. Free, peaceful people lose. In my efforts, I have desperately tried to bring the nebulous Tri-County Drug Task Force into the light. The Task Force is either a master of stone-walling or grossly incompetent, because my questions remain unanswered. Factor in the militarization of our police, civil asset forfeiture, the burgeoning surveillance, we have an unwinnable, un-American, unfair, unsustainable, unjust domestic war on our hands. Too many people have been victimized by the drug war, they are collateral damage. But the world is listening, healing and reformation has begun.
We are in the final throws of this failed policy, even as the attorney general promises to elevate the drug war. It will fail in spectacular fashion because it has become a people’s movement. If reason and sensibility prevails, politicians and policy makers will adopt harm reduction as their principal policy objective… to treat drug addiction and abuse as a mental problem, not a criminal condition. They will recognize the benefits of a liberalized drug policy including economic growth, medical treatment, crime reduction, civil liberty restoration. Our country will heal restoring peace, liberty, justice and prosperity in the process. I am done with this war, ashamed for my part in it. I will make amends.