George H. W. Bush Remembered for Ramping Up the War on Drugs

OVERCOMING OPIOIDS PAST EPIDEMICS
In this Sept. 5, 1989 file photo, President George Bush holds up a bag of crack cocaine as he speaks in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. Bush called drugs "the gravest domestic threat facing our nation." Dennis Cook / AP Photo
OVERCOMING OPIOIDS PAST EPIDEMICS
In this Sept. 5, 1989 file photo, President George Bush holds up a bag of crack cocaine as he speaks in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. Bush called drugs "the gravest domestic threat facing our nation." Dennis Cook / AP Photo

George H. W. Bush Remembered for Ramping Up the War on Drugs

Last week, former President George H. W. Bush was laid to rest at his presidential museum at Texas A&M University. As media outlets lauded his integrity and honor, social justice advocates pointed out the harm President Bush caused by expanding America’s “War on Drugs.” The U.S. prison population almost tripled between 1988 and 2008. The Pentagon’s anti-narcotics budget increased by 100,000 percent between Reagan and Bush presidencies. In September of 1989, President Bush gave his first national televised address where he blamed “everyone who uses drugs” for causing “the gravest threat” towards America. He also drew connections between inner-city plight and civil unrest in countries like Colombia. Bush infamously held up a bag of crack cocaine during the address, which his speechwriters arranged to be sold across the street from the White House. Joining us to discuss the racial, social, and geopolitical legacy that George Bush’s role in the War on Drugs had is historian Matthew Pembleton. He’s the author of Containing Addiction: The Federal Bureau of Narcotics and the Origins of America’s Global Drug War.