By Ray Stern
Do illegal drugs fund a government plot to keep black and brown people down?
Whatever the answer, it's a conspiracy theory that makes for a somewhat interesting documentary now airing on Showtime called American Drug War: the last White hope, a movie to which ex-DEA agent and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio happily lent his time.
It's no wonder, because documentarian Kevin Booth gives the publicity whore the ample face-time he craves. As the film crew's led into the Tent City jail, Arpaio points at the fence and says, "Don't touch that. It's electric. You'll die. We don't screw around here. This isn't Texas."
He seems to be joking...
Booth shows long scenes of the sheriff hamming it up in front of inmates, asking them whether they'd rather be in state prison, which he calls a "country club."
In other words, the same old tired BS from our self-described "toughest sheriff (yada, yada)."
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Booth takes his cameras into another jail, and also out with a chain gang, conducting an interview with an admitted meth addict. Later, Arpaio disses a question about semi-legal drugs in Amsterdam, saying when he went there, junkies were "just lying on the corner -- you have to jump over them if you want to go somewhere."
The movie doesn't present its main thesis very convincingly, but it does a pretty good job of presenting a slew of troubling facts from various sources. For instance, it recaps the Mike Wallace interview of Robert Bonner, former head of the DEA, in which Bonner claims the CIA at one point helped smuggle a ton of cocaine into America.
If you're trying to draw some connection between Arpaio and busting big cocaine smugglers working for the CIA, or otherwise, don't bother. When Joe worked for the DEA, some of his colleagues took to calling him "Nickel Bag," because of the minuscule drug busts he tended to make.
It's probably not worth buying the DVD promoted on Booth's Web site, www.americandrugwar.com. But if you catch it for free and have two hours to kill, it's worth at least one of those hours. You can watch the YouTube trailer here.