12/12/18 JS Rafaeli

JS Rafaeli, Co-Author "DRUG WARS - The terrifying inside story of Britain's drug trade."

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Wednesday, December 12, 2018
JS Rafaeli



DECEMBER 12, 2018


DEAN BECKER: I am Dean Becker, your host. Our goal for this program is to expose the fraud, misdirection, and the liars whose support for drug war empowers our terrorist enemies, enriches barbarous cartels, and gives reason for existence to tens of thousands of violent US gangs who profit by selling contaminated drugs to our children. This is Cultural Baggage.

Indeed, this is Cultural Baggage, I am Dean Becker, your host, the Reverend Most High. I want to read a little bit from a book we're going to speak to one of the co-authors about here in just a moment.

Quote: "The role of the press in creating national hysteria around pop stars and drugs cannot be overestimated. If the American war on drugs was at least in part manufactured to satisfy racial prejudice, then it's British franchise was at least in part manufactured to sell papers."

And with that, I want to bring on our guest. He's co-author of Drug Wars: The Terrifying Inside Story of Britain's Drug Trade. And with that, I want to welcome JS Rafaeli. Hello, sir.

JS RAFAELI: Hi there, Dean, nice to be on. Thank you for having me.

DEAN BECKER: You co-authored this with Mister Neil Woods. I think he was now the former president of LEAP UK, is that correct?

JS RAFAELI: Neil is the current chairman of LEAP UK.

DEAN BECKER: Chairman, okeh.

JS RAFAELI: So, Neil worked for fifteen odd years as an undercover drugs cop.


JS RAFAELI: And through -- and bases his experience and his expertise on those -- that front line service on the war on drugs, and based his ethical decision that that was -- that the war on drugs is a vast and hideous policy error, on his experience.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and I think many of us that worked in law enforcement, I don't know if you know, JS, I was a cop as well back in the '60s, and --

JS RAFAELI: Oh, I didn't. Right, okeh.

DEAN BECKER: We all tend to look back on it and see some errors of our ways, in so doing, but, this book, I want to first off just thank you. You educated me. I feel proud this spring, I went to Portugal and to Switzerland to learn from some of their experts, but I learned some things about the drug war for Great Britain, for the UK, that I just had no idea of how this escalated, how -- that's what much of your book talks about, is that there was a problem, but it's nothing like what we have today. Correct?

JS RAFAELI: Well, it's very kind of you to say, thank you, and, yeah, it was -- it's been, funnily enough, it real -- a lot of what I, what comes out in the book was news to me as well.

I didn't -- I had worked in the drugs field, I've written quite a lot about it for several years, but when we undertook the research for the book, it really opened my eyes to, specifically, just how tiny an issue this was in the UK.

DEAN BECKER: Well, as I --

JS RAFAELI: Sorry, can you hear me?

DEAN BECKER: I can. I'm hoping that you'll stay right in that microphone of your phone. We still --


DEAN BECKER: Our levels are low.

JS RAFAELI: -- speaking as loud as I can.

DEAN BECKER: I hear you, man. Yeah, I was looking at something about, quoting from your book again, here, from the preface. "With so much money in the drugs game, how can corruption not happen? It had got to the point that, with drug investigations, police corruption had just become an accepted part of the game."

And that's the hell of it. isn't it, that we have corruption at every juncture of this drug war, that's what makes it run, correct?

JS RAFAELI: Well, that is one of the major threads of investigation in the book, is how, and I don't think people really -- it's not common knowledge, to the -- the extent to which corruption, the corruption of law enforcement, and the corruption of the systems that are meant to protect us, is financially completely based on the drugs trade.

Of course, there were a few corrupt cops, there was police -- there were bent coppers in England, there were corrupt cops in America, prior to the drug war. But, the scale, is so exponentially different as soon as you bring a black market in drugs into the picture. It changes the very nature of the game, it changes the actual nature of the corruption.

It just swells, to an extent never -- we've never before seen.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I think that is the case, and it continues to swell, it continues to grow. I mean, you're, I think, well aware of the situation here in the US, where we have this influx of fentanyl and carfentanyl, which, you know, I end this program with the phrase because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag, please be careful.

And that's become more pertinent than ever before, am I right?

JS RAFAELI: Well, that's what, I think Richard Cowan, who defined the Iron Law of Prohibition.


JS RAFAELI: That in any -- any time you prohibit a substance, it will get stronger. And that was true in the prohibition of alcohol in the '20s and '30s in America, and it's true of the cannabis market, by now, in the UK, which we trace in the book very clearly, how the strains of cannabis got much stronger under prohibition.

And it's true on the streets of, you know, the American rust belt now, with the flood of fentanyl and opiates. And this is a pattern that repeats itself over and over and over again, and it's a very simple policy -- a very simply policy switch could save a lot of lives, and it's really tragic how people don't make that switch.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I think about, you know, the -- the escalation of this drug war. It happened over about the same time frame, the '70s and '80s, it got worse in both the US and the UK, as the politicians tried to ratchet up the punishments et cetera.

It's never been as bad in the UK as it is here, with the ten and twenty and forty year sentences, I don't think, for, you know, lesser amounts of drugs, but, it's always revolved around, I got no other word for it, lies. Lies of horror, portended horror, that sort of thing.

I'm, again, here, I'm on, what, page seventeen of your book. "The rumors of rampant cocaine use had been absurdly exaggerated, if not completely invented. The entire furor took on -- turned out to be based on a single Canadian major stationed in Folkestone, who had arranged one sting operation to buy a packet of black market heroin from a West End prostitute."

And I guess what I'm saying is, the instance of problems is not what it's blown up to be. I guess what I'm saying is, is it exaggerates things as you say in your book. There's less need for these laws than one would normally think.

JS RAFAELI: Well, yeah. I -- that's absolutely true. I mean, and nobody should be -- drugs can be dangerous, obviously, you know, in the same way that alcohol can be dangerous, and alcohol should be numbered among the drugs and we regulate it to alleviate that danger.

I think what the, you know, what the prohibition of drugs, what the war on drugs has done, is to, you know, it's like using a guillotine to cure a toothache.

DEAN BECKER: You know, I don't know how much you've been able to learn from our programs, this is like program 7,110 right here that we've done.

JS RAFAELI: Yeah, I listened to a few, yeah. Yeah.

DEAN BECKER: And, the point I guess I'm getting at, maybe you heard me mention, I have tried to entice, to invite, to question, to make contact with, to develop a friendship, a relationship, a means to have a debate about the policy of drug war, what is the benefit, because we're told that it's somehow, you know, going to pan out in some long run, but it just keeps getting worse.

There's nobody willing to defend it, I guess is what I'm trying to get at. Do you have the same situation in the UK, are there -- is there an ongoing debate about the benefit of drug war?

JS RAFAELI: Well, yeah, there's a few key figures in the media who will, and they're sort of, yeah, four or five who go on the kind of media merry-go-round, and are the kind of, you know, rent-a-pundit who comes on and defends the war on drugs, usually by saying it hasn't worked because we haven't done it enough, we haven't hit the dealers and users hard enough.


JS RAFAELI: Now, the very funny thing is that the people in positions of authority, politicians, judges, a lot of police, there's this really funny pattern with -- which happens in the UK, that as soon as they retire, I mean, almost like two days after anybody retires, they'll write an op-ed in one of the major newspapers saying we should end the war on drugs.


JS RAFAELI: So as soon as their career won't be affected by it, as soon as they're sort of safe, they'll tell the truth. And they'll say, listen, I was doing this for a long time, it's a terrible mistake, and we should change the law.

And, you know, there was, I think, the attorney general, former attorney general who recently did it. William Hague, who is a real conservative politician here, I mean, I don't -- I doubt your American listeners will know who he is, but, he was a real sort of high profile Conservative politicians, and nobody would ever dream that he would come out for the end of prohibition, but as soon as he retired, bang, there it was.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and that happens a lot over here, too. Not as often as I would want, but, it certainly does.

Again, quoting from your book, "Cannot our legislators understand that our only hope of stamping out the drug addict is through the doctors? That legislation above the doctors' heads is likely to prove our undoing, and that we can no more stamp out addiction by prohibition than we can stamp out insanity."

I look at it liike this --

JS RAFAELI: Now that's --

DEAN BECKER: Go ahead, JS.

JS RAFAELI: Just to say, that's a very interesting quote you just read, right, because that's, I should say to your listeners, that's not my writing, what you just read. That -- what you just read was a letter written in the early 1920s to the Times.

DEAN BECKER: Oh yes, W. E. Dixon, right?

JS RAFAELI: Yeah. Yes, sorry, the reader in pharmacology at Oxford, yeah.


JS RAFAELI: Actually Cambridge University, and the debate in the UK at the time was about how to handle this issue of specifically heroin, but drugs, illicit drugs in general.

And, at the time, Britain had a system which was internationally known as "The British System." And it was a great source of national pride in that era, that heroin, drugs in general but specifically heroin was not handled by law enforcement.

It was an issue for doctors, so drug addicts [sic], if you were addicted to heroin, you could go to your doctor and say I'm an addict, and he would supply you heroin. Not methadone, not a replacement opioid, but actual heroin, which was a hundred percent clean. We knew exactly what was in it, and you got free needles with it.

And this was how Britain handled the growing issue of heroin in the early twentieth century. What they -- what the British doctors like, the Dixon, who you just read, were worried about is, they were looking at the United States and what was going on there, with, you know, that was the year of alcohol prohibition, and immediately following the Harrison Act, which had banned illicit drugs in the United States.

And they could see that addiction was rocketing in America. There was hundreds of thousands of heroin addicts because of the growth of the black market. In Britain, because of the British system, there was no black market in heroin, but zero, because, why would a gangster sell heroin when his client base can go get it free from the doctors? Not free, but very cheap from their doctors.


JS RAFAELI: There's no profit incentive. And everyone in Britain, all the sort of, the doctors, the medical community, the medical establishment, were warning the politicians, look, if you go down the American road of prohibition, you will inherit the American problems, which did not exist in Britain.

What -- I mean, there are these statistics in the book, which are absolutely mad. So, in 1959, there were 62 known heroin addicts in the UK. Sixty-two. By 1964, this had risen to 342. Right? And that was a huge scandal. There were 342 addicts in the whole United Kingdom.

I mean, now, after a few decades of prohibition, we have 350,000.


JS RAFAELI: But, so, but to think, to think that there was a time in living memory when the number of heroin addicts in the UK could, you know, fit into a small pub.


JS RAFAELI: It's ludicrous. It's like, it's almost unimaginable. And that was part of the really interesting learning process of doing the book, for me, was I didn't know all -- I didn't know any of this stuff. It was complete -- completely blew my mind. And I started reading about it, and I got into it, and I really, I did very indepth research about it, and, yeah.

So, I'm on a kind of a mission now, to educate the people of Britain, because nobody in Britain even knows this stuff. So I want the British people to know that they were actually quite forward thinking. They had a really, the right idea, and they let it go.

DEAN BECKER: This W. E. Dixon --

JS RAFAELI: And we lost it.

DEAN BECKER: W. E. Dixon, he had a good vision there, didn't he? Well, --

JS RAFAELI: W. E. Dixon, and all the people around him, like Humphrey Rolleston, all the people who set up and sustained, you know, the British system.

DEAN BECKER: Well, these ever increasing numbers that you point out here, JS, have to do with the unintended consequences, another iron law, if you will, that if I'm a drug user in an era of prohibition, that stuff costs a heck of a lot, and one of the main ways for me to get my supply without, you know, using rent money, is to sell some drugs to you, and maybe your brother and your cousin, maybe to encourage you to try it, maybe to encourage you just the once to try some heroin or something, and maybe you'll need some more heroin, and you'll be buying it from me and I can get some cost savings, and I can better supply my own needs. Is that a fair assumption much of your book, what you're pointing out?

JS RAFAELI: The -- what you just described is the exact epidemiology of how heroin addiction spreads. That's exactly it. And that's been well researched by very clever people around the world, and rings absolutely true to what we discovered researching the book.

And so as soon as you take out that incentive, if you are a drug user, let's take your example. You're a drug user, and you have a choice, you can either buy from a gangster and sell to me, and get me hooked, that's option A, to supply your habit, or you can just go to your doctor and say, listen, doc, I'm a heroin addict, I need help to regulate my life, to regulate my supply.

If you take option B, the doctor option, the medical option, you will have no profit incentive. You will not need to sell to me in order to finance your own -- your own habit.


JS RAFAELI: So, that, the British system cut out exactly the spread of that -- that epidemiology, because heroin addiction spreads exactly like an epidemic of illness. And if you take out the vectors of infection, which are -- is your dealer, who just described, you basically take out the spread of the market.

And that's why in the 60s, Britain had a few hundred heroin addicts and America had several hundred thousand.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I tell you what, once again, we're speaking with JS Rafaeli, he's co-author of Drug Wars: The Terrifying Inside Story Of Britain's Drug Trade.

Normally in the middle of the program, sir, we do a little thing called Name That Drug By Its Side Effects. We'll be back in one minute. Please hang with us, there, and we'll be right back with JS.

It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Agitation, paranoia, hallucinations, face chomping, lip eating, heart devouring, brain slurping, ecstasy, suicidality, zombieism. Time's up! The answer, according to law enforcement, from some crazy ass chemist somewhere: Mephedrone, otherwise known as bath salts.

The following message is brought to you by the US Ministry of Homeland Security.

[music] Fear, fear fear fear,
Fear fear fear fear
Fear fear fear
Fear fear fear,
Fear fear fear.

Fear, fear fear fear
Fear fear fear fear
Fear fear fear fear fear,
Fear fear fear fear

Never forget fear.

And hatred. Or lies. Or deception. Big brother says the war of terror will last forever. Merry Christmas.

All right, folks, this is Cultural Baggage. I am Dean Becker, the Reverend Most High. We're speaking with Mister JS Rafaeli, co-author of Drug Wars: The Inside Story Of Britain's Drug Trade.

JS, I don't know, man, the war of terror, I use this phrase, the war of terror is the war on drugs with afterburners. Is that playing out the same in the UK, do you guys have this great fear of, I don't know, advancing hordes of ISIS warriors?

JS RAFAELI: That's -- yeah, that's a complex and multipronged question you just asked. Yeah, I mean, obviously, Britain -- yeah. There are several answers to that question. The quick answer is yes, obviously, Britain is in the throes of a kind of xenophobic spasm right now.


JS RAFAELI: As is the United States, you know, with Brexit and the sort of haphazard madness, political madness that that has inspired. So yes, there is this like fear of outsiders.

Specifically with the war on terror you mentioned, there has always been a crossover in Britain between the illicit trade in drugs and terrorism, starting, I mean, not start, but going back to the 70s and 80s, with the IRA, who were mixed up in drug money and funded their operations through, let's say shady underworld contacts.

And there was always a crossover between the Troubles in Northern Ireland and the drug trade, and that continues to this day. And then there are people who are involved in LEAP UK, like ex-SAS [Special Air Service] guys, who were in Afghanistan, walking through, trudging through the poppy fields, knowing that the bullets that the Taliban were shooting at them were financed by heroin addicts on the streets of England.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, it's a real conundrum, isn't it? Yeah, last I heard, opium juice was being sold for six cents a gram, there in Afghanistan, and, you know, we get the carfentanyl, and you guys I guess are getting the Afghan heroin there, I think that makes it to Canada a lot as well. But, --

JS RAFAELI: Yeah, I mean, ninety percent, I think, of the world's supply of heroin comes out of Afghanistan, I think the United States is actually mainly supplied by South American --


JS RAFAELI: -- heroin, but then, obviously, that whole, the whole heroin and opioid market in America is absolutely skewed by the way the medical system works, but also by this surge in fentanyl, which thus far, I mean, Britain has been largely spared that, the fentanyl horror.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and thank goodness.


DEAN BECKER: Yeah. We had 72,000 deaths last year, you know, that's all drugs, mostly opiate for sure, and a large part --

JS RAFAELI: Staggering. Just, it's a staggering number, it's just mind boggling. It's more than American casualties in the Vietnam War every year. It's a staggering number, and anybody who isn't just bowled over by that, just isn't paying attention.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and JS, I look at it like this, that over the years of the drug war, and it's hard to estimate, because nobody knows for sure, but, roughly half a trillion dollars, that's a T, trillion dollars, flows into the pockets of these terrorists, into the hands of these barbarous cartels in Mexico and Guatemala, Honduras, and to the street corner vendors and the gangs here in the United States.

Half a trillion dollars. How are people going to walk away from that? How are criminals going to say, oh, never mind, I'll just leave that money for someone else. It is an impossible task to stop the black market as long as it's illegal. I mean, it's just crazy.

JS RAFAELI: Absolutely, and one has to think about what they then -- what do they use that capital that they receive from the drug trade to do? They reinvest it in other criminal enterprises.

DEAN BECKER: Human smuggling.

JS RAFAELI: Yeah, people trafficking, arms, all sorts of smuggling, and, I mean, most significantly to us, for even myself, because Neil comes from a police background.


JS RAFAELI: Like yourself. So, to us, one of the -- another main thread that we traced in the book is how, because we care about policing. Right?


JS RAFAELI: We come from a fundamentally pro-police perspective, like, we take the idea of law, of what law enforcement is meant to be very seriously, which again relates to British history, because it was Robert Peel, the British Prime Minister, who set up the first professionalized police force. And he set up these very clear principles --

DEAN BECKER: That's where Bobbies came from, right?

JS RAFAELI: -- were meant to be based. Sorry? Yes, Bobbies, yes.

DEAN BECKER: That's where Bobbies came from.

JS RAFAELI: Exactly. That's why we call them Bobbies in London, yeah. Exactly that. Yeah, exactly. So he set up these principles, on which all modern policing is meant to be based, and what the key principle is that the community are the police, and the police are the community, and that all policing must be done by consent, by the consent of those being policed.

And that's a system that works very well, and one of the things we trace in the book, and it's really heartbreaking for us, is how as soon as you introduced the war on drugs, as soon as you introduce the prohibition of this -- of these substances, it forms a break, a fissure, between the police and the community.

And, the community stops trusting the police, and the police get very corrupt, very quickly. And it's -- it happens quickly and it happens really fast. And it's shocking.

DEAN BECKER: Well, let me throw in this thought, and, to support what you're saying, it's about ten years ago, I was in El Paso, it's the only time I've been at a seminar where there was, you know, working cops, the DEA was there. They had about two dozen of their officers taking part, and learning, and training.

And at the time, I think he was deputy director, Anthony Placido. He said that, you know, at the time, I think he said 370 billion dollars a year is what they think, you know, and that's, you know, it's probably gone up since then, inflation, but, 370 billion dollars, and the best they could determine, about fifty percent of that money was used to -- fifty percent of that money was used to corrupt judges, and, you know, border guards and cops on the beat, prosecutors.

It's such an ugly thing, this drug war. Your response there, JS.

JS RAFAELI: Yeah, I mean, god, again, it makes the UK problems seem a bit small, you know, I mean, America does everything on this huge scale, so, yeah, I mean, if they're using half of 370 billion dollars every year to corrupt law enforcement, that -- what I was getting at before, I think it's, what we have to bear in mind, that doesn't just affect the police who do drugs work. It lessens the police's capability to solve all other crimes.

And it lessens their effectiveness in solving all other crimes, and a classic example of this is the American police, in general, used to have a murder clearance rate of above ninety percent, up until the 1960s. That had been consistent, they would solve 90 percent of murders.

Nixon starts the war on drugs in '71, and within three or four years, the murder clearance rate of American police had dropped to I think 66 percent. And it has never risen above that since, in four decades.


JS RAFAELI: So, a third of American murderers are getting away with it, and with -- it's hard to say conclusively, but there is an obvious relationship there on the timeline between the introduction of prohibition drugs policing and the police not being able to solve murders.

And to us, that's a tragedy, and it's a betrayal of the police, I think is what we want -- what we want to get at, is that the worst thing that ever happened to law enforcement was they were asked to deal with this situation which it's inappropriate for them to deal with. The police aren't made to solve this problem.

The medical community is, there's other avenues by which policy makers could solve this, and so the metaphor that I use a lot is, you know, when you DIY in your house? You know, you're trying to fix something in your house?


JS RAFAELI: If you have a problem in your house, and you use an inappropriate tool to that problem, you will not only not fix the problem, but you might damage the tool itself.


JS RAFAELI: And that's what's happened to the police. They were asked to do an inappropriate -- a thing for which their skills were not appropriate, and in so doing, they have been damaged.

And it's a betrayal of law enforcement, it's a betrayal of the police. If you care about the police, you should support an end to the war on drugs.

DEAN BECKER: It's a betrayal to the whole community. I talk about it, JS, that if we were to legalize drugs today, that here in the US, there are probably tens of millions of people who would then be more comfortable to report a separate crime, to speak to law enforcement, to dare to be a part of that community.

Because we have divided, in many ways, you know, dopers versus drinkers and pillheads and whatever, but the point I'm getting at is, through this policy of prohibition, we have put a huge divide between law enforcement and much of the community.

JS RAFAELI: I -- it can't, it really can't be said enough, and in both the United States and the UK, but originating in the United States for sure, it's mixed up with the massive racial issues in law enforcement and policing.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I'll tell you what, JS --

JS RAFAELI: Drug laws and --

DEAN BECKER: I just looked at the clock, we've got to cut it short, I didn't get halfway through this book, we're going to have to hit it again. Folks, we've been speaking with Mister JS Rafaeli, he's with -- he partnered in writing Drug Wars: A Terrifying Inside Story Of Britain's Drug Trade.

JS, I thank you, once again folks I remind you because of prohibition you do not know what's in that bag. I urge you to please be careful.