First, if you haven’t already taken action to help us save marijuana legalization from the Trump administration, in the wake of Jeff Sessions revoking a federal policy that protected both legalization and medical marijuana, please read my post and action alert from Monday, and then write and call Congress. If you want more info on what’s happened, check out Phil’s weekend report on the national pushback against the Sessions move too.
Yesterday I promised a second alert this week, about how Donald Trump is promoting savage human rights abuses in other countries’ drug wars. The biggest case is that of the Philippines, but unfortunately it is no longer the only one, and Trump’s words have contributed. Sadly Trump has continued his amoral conduct on this matter as recently as last week.
In the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte became president of the Philippines in June 2016, having promised to slaughter hundreds of thousands of drugs users and sellers. An estimated 16,000 people have since been murdered by police and government-supported vigilante groups under the guise of drug enforcement.
Trump, who in July drew condemnation from US law enforcement leaders for urging police to bash suspects’ heads on car door frames when arresting them, has also voiced approval for Duterte’s killing campaign, though without calling it that. First, in December 2016 Trump and Duterte spoke on the phone, after which Duterte claimed that Trump praised his drug policies.
While Duterte could have made that up, the Trump team never rebutted the claim. And when the two spoke again in April, a statement on the White House web site said they discussed “fighting very hard to rid its country of drugs,” and a leaked transcript of the call quotes Trump congratulating Duterte for doing an “‘unbelievable job’ in the war on drugs.” Neither Trump nor his staff have qualified these statements to exclude the killings from that praise. And the president has never backed up his own State Department’s careful statements on the matter.
Last weekend, Trump claimed during his Camp David speech that countries with “very harsh drug policies” have “much less difficulty.” Of course Trump made that up – not surprising for a person who tells an average of 5.5 lies per day, or more recently nine lies per day. There are countries like Iran, which is one of the world’s leading executioners for drug offenses, but continues to have an extensive and growing narcotics problem. And there are countries like Portugal, which has decriminalized the use of all drugs, with impressive and positive results.
When the person telling a lie like that is the President of the United States, it has an impact on what leaders in other countries think they can get away with. Trump has thereby contributed to a larger “Duterte effect” in the region. The drug war killings have spread to Indonesia, where President Widodo is using them as a populist campaign tactic in a tough election campaign. In November a member of Malaysia’s parliament called for Duterte-style killings in that country. And last week Turkey’s Interior Minister said police should break drug dealers’ legs. In the context of Trump’s past comments on the Philippines drug war, clearly such people are going to interpret his most recent remark as greenlighting the abuses they are calling for too, and it reduces the pressure on the Duterte administration.
It is necessary for Congress to rebuke President Trump by making a statement on this issue. If you haven’t already supported our efforts to pass S. 1055, the Philippines Human Rights Accountability and Counternarcotics Act, please take action on it now. There is a chance that language from the bill or similar to it could make it into Congress’s foreign operations appropriations, and that could happen as soon as the 22nd of this month.
Along with taking action to pass the bill, I hope you’ll read about our extensive continuing efforts to stop the Philippines drug war killings and reform UN drug policy, and our other programs. I also hope you’ll consider signing up for a recurring or one-time donation to support our work - our donation form accepts credit card, PayPal, and now checking account payments by ACH.
Thank you for reading this far, and for joining us in opposing these depradations of the Trump administration.
David Borden, Executive Director
P.O. Box 9853, Washington, DC 20016