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Empire of DefenseRace and the Cultural Politics of Permanent War$
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Joseph Darda

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226632896

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226633084.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 11 May 2021

Dispatches from the Drug Wars

Dispatches from the Drug Wars

(p.92) Chapter Three Dispatches from the Drug Wars
Empire of Defense

Joseph Darda

University of Chicago Press

This chapter takes literally President Richard Nixon’s 1971 declaration of a war on drugs. The empire of defense emerged from the anticommunist consensus assembled in the wake of World War II. When that consensus came apart in Southeast Asia, it survived by transitioning to an anticrime crusade that necessitated covert wars in Asia and Latin America and against criminalized communities of color in the United States. Nixon’s war on drugs did not end one war and begin another but reorganized the racial regime of defense around the figures of the criminal and the drug trafficker. Nixon mobilized the discourse of war to transfer the regulation of crime and drugs from state and local governments to the federal domain. His administration did so by telling a story in which the nation—embodied by the addicted white soldier—was endangered by a “rising sickness in our land” that originated from both Southeast Asia and American communities of color. But black, Latina/o, and white radical writers told a different story about the antidrug crackdown, uncovering the state’s collaboration with anticommunist drug traffickers and showing how it had not racialized crime but criminalized race—barring Southeast Asians and Americans of color from being law-abiding.

Keywords:   war on drugs, Vietnam War, criminalization, Ishmael Reed, Oscar Zeta Acosta, Alfred McCoy

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