Helen Goggins: Richard Nixon and the War on Drugs

Richard Nixon declared a “War on Drugs” in July of 1971 due to the increasing amount of servicemen in Vietnam being discharged due to their drug addictions. James Reston discussed Nixon’s stance on the drug issue describing it as the, “Tragic realities of the troops”. The issue revolved around men getting addicted to narcotics in attempts to be sent home from active duty and the horrors of Vietnam. Nixon’s reasoning for drawing attention to the issue was to rehabilitate the addicts and prosecute the dealers. The article summarized the importance of fighting against the expanding issue of drugs within the military because the soldiers were coming home with an addiction that plagued the american people.


The following year George McGovern argued the stance that Nixon was not doing enough to implement change and end the growing issue of drugs in the United States. McGovern was running against Richard Nixon in the race for the White House and his opposition of the current state of the “War on Drugs” created publicity for him. The article, “Nixon Warns Other Nations Not to Assist Drug Traffickers”, by Richard Reston, was written in September 1972 summarized the two politicians views on what needed to be done to end the spread of narcotics. McGovern stated, “The President’s statement leaves decisive questions unanswered.” McGovern disapproved of Nixon’s work so far and used it as a way to bolster his own political agenda. He made it clear that Nixon was saying what the public wanted to hear but questioned his ability to follow through on his words, “I hope President Nixon will now follow up strong words with real action.” McGovern’s statements caused Nixon to protect his stance on drugs use by american citizens. Nixon goes on to lay out a plan to continue the fight and state, drug traffickers “must be hunted to the end of the earth.” McGovern’s critical words  caused the public to reevaluate the president’s stance on the issue and also allowed Nixon to reaffirm his tough agenda against drugs.

Word Count: 337

Reston, James. “Nixon, Drugs and the War.” New York Times (1923-Current File), Jun 02, 1971. http://login.ezproxy.lib.vt.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.vt.edu/docview/119309143?accountid=14826.

Reston, Richard. “Nixon Warns Other Nations Not to Assist Drug Traffickers: Nixon Issues Warning on U.S. Drugs.” Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File); Sep 19, 1972. Web.


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