From an article about the government’s program of deliberate poisoning during Prohibition:
Frustrated that people continued to consume so much alcohol even after it was banned, federal officials had decided to try a different kind of enforcement. They ordered the poisoning of industrial alcohols manufactured in the United States, products regularly stolen by bootleggers and resold as drinkable spirits. The idea was to scare people into giving up illicit drinking. Instead, by the time Prohibition ended in 1933, the federal poisoning program, by some estimates, had killed at least 10,000 people.
Although mostly forgotten today, the “chemist’s war of Prohibition” remains one of the strangest and most deadly decisions in American law-enforcement history. As one of its most outspoken opponents, Charles Norris, the chief medical examiner of New York City during the 1920s, liked to say, it was “our national experiment in extermination.” [...]
Others, however, accused lawmakers opposed to the poisoning plan of being in cahoots with criminals and argued that bootleggers and their law-breaking alcoholic customers deserved no sympathy. “Must Uncle Sam guarantee safety first for souses?” asked Nebraska’s Omaha Bee.
The article is fascinating in its own right. But it also reminded me of our current policies to block undocumented immigrants, which have the known effect of forcing immigrants to cross in dangerous areas of the border where they are likely to die.
Miriam Raftery writes:
Before construction of the border wall began in 1994 as part of Operation Gatekeeper, one or two people died each month attempting to cross into the U.S. To date, only about 100 miles of the proposed 2,000 border wall have been built.
Since construction began, Morones estimates, the death rate has climbed 15- to 30-fold. Two immigrants each day are now dying, he said—a total of 10,000 nationwide since construction of the wall began, more than three times as many deaths than occurred in the 9-11 terrorist attacks.
“They are forced to cross in harsher areas,” he said of the ill-fated immigrants. “It’s inhumane. The U.S. preaches human rights.”
Some die from violence, shot by Border Patrol agents, vigilantes or thieves. Others are killed in accidents: stumbling in rugged terrain, falling over the wall, or struck by vehicles. Many others perish of dehydration and exposure – conditions made worse by the recent sabotage of water stations set out by Border Angeles and other humanitarian groups.
So who is destroying the water stations? In part, it’s “patriotic” citizen activists. But sometimes, it’s agents of the US government.
Visible on the tape, which will be broadcast for the first time tonight on the PBS show “Need to Know,” are three Border Patrol agents, two men and a woman, walking along a migrant trail and approaching half a dozen one-gallon jugs of water. The female agent stops in front of the containers and begins to kick them, with force, down a ravine. The bottles crash against rocks, bursting open. She’s smiling. One of the agents watching her smiles as well, seeming to take real pleasure in the spectacle. He says something under his breath, and the word “tonk” is clearly audible. “Tonk,” it turns out, is a bit of derogatory slang used by some Border Patrol agents to refer to undocumented immigrants. One agent told me it’s derived from the sound a flashlight makes when you hit someone over the head — tonk. After destroying the entire water supply, the three agents continue along the path. [...]
The event was not an anomaly.
Trying to make drinking booze deadly, or trying to make crossing the border deadly; in either case, what we have is a policy of killing human beings as if they were vermin. What could justify that?
Well, as one person wrote in Free Republic’s comments:
Deaths on the border? Who’s fault is that? It sure isn’t our fault. If these people don’t want to die, stay out of the desert and stop trying to enter the US illegally.
Another commenter, this time from the Washington Post website:
When some one intentionaly breaks the law they take the risk of something going wrong and getting caught or hurt in the proccess. These people that cross the dessert know there are risks involved. The bottom line is they are breaking a law and that was by choice.
The logic seems identical to the logic justifying poisoned alcohol. Those drinkers had a choice, after all. Not our fault if they die from the poison.