14 October 1982

U.S. President Ronald Reagan proclaims a War on Drugs.

War on drugs

As part of the War on Drugs, the U.S. spends approximately $500 million per year on aid for Colombia, largely used to combat guerrilla groups such as FARC that are involved in the illegal drug trade.[1][2][3][4][5]

The war on drugs is a campaign, led by the U.S. federal government, of drug prohibition, military aid, and military intervention, with the stated aim being to reduce the illegal drug trade in the United States.[6][7][8][9] The initiative includes a set of drug policies that are intended to discourage the production, distribution, and consumption of psychoactive drugs that the participating governments and the UN have made illegal. The term was popularized by the media shortly after a press conference given on June 18, 1971, by President Richard Nixon—the day after publication of a special message from President Nixon to the Congress on —during which he declared drug abuse "public enemy number one". That message to the Congress included text about devoting more federal resources to the "prevention of new addicts, and the rehabilitation of those who are addicted", but that part did not receive the same public attention as the term "war on drugs".[10][11][12] However, two years prior to this, Nixon had formally declared a "war on drugs" that would be directed toward eradication, interdiction, and incarceration.[13] Today, the Drug Policy Alliance, which advocates for an end to the War on Drugs, estimates that the United States spends $51 billion annually on these initiatives.[14]

On May 13, 2009, Gil Kerlikowske—the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP)—signaled that the Obama administration did not plan to significantly alter drug enforcement policy, but also that the administration would not use the term "War on Drugs", because Kerlikowske considers the term to be "counter-productive".[15] ONDCP's view is that "drug addiction is a disease that can be successfully prevented and treated... making drugs more available will make it harder to keep our communities healthy and safe".[16]

In June 2011, the Global Commission on Drug Policy released a critical report on the War on Drugs, declaring: "The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world. Fifty years after the initiation of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and years after President Nixon launched the US government's war on drugs, fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed."[17] The report was criticized by organizations that oppose a general legalization of drugs.[16]


19th century

Morphine was isolated[specify] in 1805. Hypodermic syringes were first constructed in 1851. During the American Civil War, wounded soldiers were treated with morphine. As a result, after the war, there were many addicted veterans.[18]

Until 1912, there had been products sold over-the-counter, such as , and heroin cough syrup for children which was stronger. Doctors prescribed heroin for irritable babies, bronchitis, insomnia, "nervous conditions," hysteria, menstrual cramps, and "vapors." Millions of people became addicted. Laudanum, an opioid, was a common part of the home medicine cabinet.[19][20]

In fiction, Conan Doyle portrayed the hero, Sherlock Holmes, as a cocaine addict. He is rebuked by his physician.[21]

Citizens[specify] did not reach a consensus on dealing with the long-term effects of hard drug usage until towards the end of the 19th century.[citation needed]

20th century

The first U.S. law that restricted the distribution and use of certain drugs was the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914. The first local laws came as early as 1860.[22] In 1919, the United States passed the 18th Amendment, prohibiting the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcohol, with exceptions for religious and medical use. In 1920, the United States passed the National Prohibition Act (Volstead Act), enacted to carry out the provisions in law of the 18th Amendment.

During World War I many soldiers were treated with morphine and became addicts.[18]

The Federal Bureau of Narcotics was established in the United States Department of the Treasury by an act of June 14, 1930 (46 Stat. 585).[23] In 1933, the federal prohibition for alcohol was repealed by passage of the 21st Amendment. In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt publicly supported the adoption of the Uniform State Narcotic Drug Act. The New York Times used the headline "Roosevelt Asks Narcotic War Aid".[24][25]

In 1937, the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was passed. Several scholars have claimed that the goal was to destroy the hemp industry,[26][27][28] largely as an effort of businessmen Andrew Mellon, Randolph Hearst, and the Du Pont family.[26][28] These scholars argue that with the invention of the decorticator, hemp became a very cheap substitute for the paper pulp that was used in the newspaper industry.[26][29] These scholars believe that Hearst felt[dubious ] that this was a threat to his extensive timber holdings. Mellon, United States Secretary of the Treasury and the wealthiest man in America, had invested heavily in the DuPont's new synthetic fiber, nylon, and considered[dubious ] its success to depend on its replacement of the traditional resource, hemp.[26][30][31][32][33][34][35][36] However, there were circumstances that contradict these claims. One reason for doubts about those claims is that the new decorticators did not perform fully satisfactorily in commercial production.[37] Production of fiber from hemp, requiring harvest, transport and processing, was a labor-intensive process. Technological developments decreased the labor required but not sufficiently to eliminate this disadvantage.[38][39]

On October 27, 1970, Congress passed the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, which, among other things, categorized controlled substances based on their medicinal use and potential for addiction.[40] In 1971, two congressmen released a report on the growing heroin epidemic among U.S. servicemen in Vietnam; ten to fifteen percent of the servicemen were addicted to heroin, and President Nixon declared drug abuse to be "public enemy number one".[40][41]

Although Nixon declared "drug abuse" to be public enemy number one in 1971,[42] the policies that his administration implemented as part of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 were a continuation of drug prohibition policies in the U.S., which started in 1914.[40][43]

The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I'm saying? We knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.

— John Ehrlichman, to Dan Baum[44][45][46] for Harper's Magazine[47] in 1994, about President Richard Nixon's war on drugs, declared in 1971.[48]

In 1973, the Drug Enforcement Administration was created to replace the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.[40]

The Nixon Administration also repealed the federal 2–10-year mandatory minimum sentences for possession of marijuana and started federal demand reduction programs and drug-treatment programs. Robert DuPont, the "Drug czar" in the Nixon Administration, stated it would be more accurate to say that Nixon ended, rather than launched, the "war on drugs". DuPont also argued that it was the proponents of drug legalization that popularized the term "war on drugs".[16][unreliable source?]

The presidency of Ronald Reagan saw a expansion in the federal focus of preventing drug abuse and for prosecuting offenders. In the first term of the presidency Ronald Reagan signed the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984, which expanded penalties towards possession of cannabis, established a federal system of mandatory minimum sentences, and established procedures for civil asset forfeiture.[49] From 1980 to 1984 the federal annual budget of the FBI's drug enforcement units went from 8 million to 95 million.[50][51]

In 1982, Vice President George H. W. Bush and his aides began pushing for the involvement of the CIA and U.S. military in drug interdiction efforts.[52]

Mexican troops during a gun battle in Michoacán, 2007. Mexico's drug war claims nearly 50,000 lives each year.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) was originally established by the National Narcotics Leadership Act of 1988,[53][54] which mandated a national anti-drug media campaign for youth, which would later become the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign.[55] The director of ONDCP is commonly known as the Drug czar,[40] and it was first implemented in 1989 under President George H. W. Bush,[56] and raised to cabinet-level status by Bill Clinton in 1993.[57] These activities were subsequently funded by the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act of 1998.[58][59] The Drug-Free Media Campaign Act of 1998 codified the campaign at 21 U.S.C. § 1708.[60]

21st century

The Global Commission on Drug Policy released a report on June 2, 2011, alleging that "The War On Drugs Has Failed." The commissioned was made up of 22 self-appointed members including a number of prominent international politicians and writers. U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin also released the first ever National Prevention Strategy.[61]

On May 21, 2012, the U.S. Government published an updated version of its Drug Policy.[62] The director of ONDCP stated simultaneously that this policy is something different from the "War on Drugs":

  • The U.S. Government sees the policy as a "third way" approach to drug control; an approach that is based on the results of a huge investment in research from some of the world's preeminent scholars on disease of substance abuse.
  • The policy does not see drug legalization as the "silver bullet" solution to drug control.
  • It is not a policy where success is measured by the number of arrests made or prisons built.[63]

At the same meeting was a declaration signed by the representatives of Italy, the Russian Federation, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States in line with this: "Our approach must be a balanced one, combining effective enforcement to restrict the supply of drugs, with efforts to reduce demand and build recovery; supporting people to live a life free of addiction."[64]

In March 2016 the International Narcotics Control Board stated that the International Drug Control treaties do not mandate a "war on drugs."[65]

United States domestic policy

Arrests and incarceration

Graph demonstrating increases in United States incarceration rate

According to Human Rights Watch, the War on Drugs caused soaring arrest rates that disproportionately targeted African Americans due to various factors.[67] John Ehrlichman, an aide to Nixon, said that Nixon used the war on drugs to criminalize and disrupt black and hippie communities and their leaders.[68]

The present state of incarceration in the U.S. as a result of the war on drugs arrived in several stages. By 1971, different stops on drugs had been implemented for more than 50 years (since 1914, 1937 etc.) with only a very small increase of inmates per 100,000 citizens. During the first 9 years after Nixon coined the expression "War on Drugs", statistics showed only a minor increase in the total number of imprisoned.[citation needed]

After 1980, the situation began to change. In the 1980s, while the number of arrests for all crimes had risen by 28%, the number of arrests for drug offenses rose 126%.[69] The result of increased demand was the development of privatization and the for-profit prison industry.[70] The US Department of Justice, reporting on the effects of state initiatives, has stated that, from 1990 through 2000, "the increasing number of drug offenses accounted for 27% of the total growth among black inmates, 7% of the total growth among Hispanic inmates, and 15% of the growth among white inmates." In addition to prison or jail, the United States provides for the deportation of many non-citizens convicted of drug offenses.[71]

In 1994, the New England Journal of Medicine reported that the "War on Drugs" resulted in the incarceration of one million Americans each year.[72] In 2008, the Washington Post reported that of 1.5 million Americans arrested each year for drug offenses, half a million would be incarcerated.[73] In addition, one in five black Americans would spend time behind bars due to drug laws.[73]

Federal and state policies also impose collateral consequences on those convicted of drug offenses, such as denial of public benefits or licenses, that are not applicable to those convicted of other types of crime.[74] In particular, the passage of the 1990 Solomon–Lautenberg amendment led many states to impose mandatory driver's license suspensions (of at least 6 months) for persons committing a drug offense, regardless of whether any motor vehicle was involved.[75][76] Approximately 191,000 licenses were suspended in this manner in 2016, according to a Prison Policy Initiative report.[77]

Sentencing disparities

In 1986, the U.S. Congress passed laws that created a 100 to 1 sentencing disparity for the trafficking or possession of crack when compared to penalties for trafficking of powder cocaine,[78][79][80][81] which had been widely criticized as discriminatory against minorities, mostly blacks, who were more likely to use crack than powder cocaine.[82] This 100:1 ratio had been required under federal law since 1986.[83] Persons convicted in federal court of possession of 5 grams of crack cocaine received a minimum mandatory sentence of 5 years in federal prison. On the other hand, possession of 500 grams of powder cocaine carries the same sentence.[79][80] In 2010, the Fair Sentencing Act cut the sentencing disparity to 18:1.[82]

According to Human Rights Watch, crime statistics show that—in the United States in 1999—compared to non-minorities, African Americans were far more likely to be arrested for drug crimes, and received much stiffer penalties and sentences.[84]

Statistics from 1998 show that there were wide racial disparities in arrests, prosecutions, sentencing and deaths. African-American drug users made up for 35% of drug arrests, 55% of convictions, and 74% of people sent to prison for drug possession crimes.[79] Nationwide African-Americans were sent to state prisons for drug offenses 13 times more often than other races,[85] even though they only supposedly comprised 13% of regular drug users.[79]

D.C. Mayor Marion Barry captured on a surveillance camera smoking crack cocaine during a sting operation by the FBI and D.C. Police.

Anti-drug legislation over time has also displayed an apparent racial bias. University of Minnesota Professor and social justice author Michael Tonry writes, "The War on Drugs foreseeably and unnecessarily blighted the lives of hundreds and thousands of young disadvantaged black Americans and undermined decades of effort to improve the life chances of members of the urban black underclass."[86]

In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson decided that the government needed to make an effort to curtail the social unrest that blanketed the country at the time. He decided to focus his efforts on illegal drug use, an approach which was in line with expert opinion on the subject at the time. In the 1960s, it was believed that at least half of the crime in the U.S. was drug related, and this number grew as high as 90 percent in the next decade.[87] He created the Reorganization Plan of 1968 which merged the Bureau of Narcotics and the Bureau of Drug Abuse to form the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs within the Department of Justice.[88] The belief during this time about drug use was summarized by journalist Max Lerner in his work America as a Civilization (1957):

As a case in point we may take the known fact of the prevalence of reefer and dope addiction in Negro areas. This is essentially explained in terms of poverty, slum living, and broken families, yet it would be easy to show the lack of drug addiction among other ethnic groups where the same conditions apply.[89]

Richard Nixon became president in 1969, and did not back away from the anti-drug precedent set by Johnson. Nixon began orchestrating drug raids nationwide to improve his "watchdog" reputation. Lois B. Defleur, a social historian who studied drug arrests during this period in Chicago, stated that, "police administrators indicated they were making the kind of arrests the public wanted". Additionally, some of Nixon's newly created drug enforcement agencies would resort to illegal practices to make arrests as they tried to meet public demand for arrest numbers. From 1972 to 1973, the Office of Drug Abuse and Law Enforcement performed 6,000 drug arrests in 18 months, the majority of the arrested black.[90]

Total incarceration in the United States by year

The next two presidents, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, responded with programs that were essentially a continuation of their predecessors. Shortly after Ronald Reagan became president in 1981, he delivered a speech on the topic. Reagan announced, "We're taking down the surrender flag that has flown over so many drug efforts; we're running up a battle flag."[91]

Then, driven by the 1986 cocaine overdose of black basketball star Len Bias,[dubious ] Reagan was able to pass the Anti-Drug Abuse Act through Congress. This legislation appropriated an additional $1.7 billion to fund the War on Drugs. More importantly, it established 29 new, mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses. In the entire history of the country up until that point, the legal system had only seen 55 minimum sentences in total.[92] A major stipulation of the new sentencing rules included different mandatory minimums for powder and crack cocaine. At the time of the bill, there was public debate as to the difference in potency and effect of powder cocaine, generally used by whites, and crack cocaine, generally used by blacks, with many believing that "crack" was substantially more powerful and addictive. Crack and powder cocaine are closely related chemicals, crack being a smokeable, freebase form of powdered cocaine hydrochloride which produces a shorter, more intense high while using less of the drug. This method is more cost effective, and therefore more prevalent on the inner-city streets, while powder cocaine remains more popular in white suburbia. The Reagan administration began shoring public opinion against "crack", encouraging DEA official Robert Putnam to play up the harmful effects of the drug. Stories of "crack whores" and "crack babies" became commonplace; by 1986, Time had declared "crack" the issue of the year.[93] Riding the wave of public fervor, Reagan established much harsher sentencing for crack cocaine, handing down stiffer felony penalties for much smaller amounts of the drug.[94]

Reagan protégé and former Vice-President George H. W. Bush was next to occupy the oval office, and the drug policy under his watch held true to his political background. Bush maintained the hard line drawn by his predecessor and former boss, increasing narcotics regulation when the first National Drug Control Strategy was issued by the Office of National Drug Control in 1989.[95]

The next three presidents – Clinton, Bush and Obama – continued this trend, maintaining the War on Drugs as they inherited it upon taking office.[96] During this time of passivity by the federal government, it was the states that initiated controversial legislation in the War on Drugs. Racial bias manifested itself in the states through such controversial policies as the "stop and frisk" police practices in New York city and the "three strikes" felony laws began in California in 1994.[97]

In August 2010, President Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act into law that dramatically reduced the 100-to-1 sentencing disparity between powder and crack cocaine, which disproportionately affected minorities.[98]

Commonly used illegal drugs

U.S. cannabis arrests by year

Commonly used illegal drugs include heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and, marijuana.

Heroin is an opiate that is highly addictive. If caught selling or possessing heroin, a perpetrator can be charged with a felony and face two–four years in prison and could be fined to a maximum of $20,000.[99]

Crystal meth is composed of methamphetamine hydrochloride. It is marketed as either a white powder or in a solid (rock) form. The possession of crystal meth can result in a punishment varying from a fine to a jail sentence. As with other drug crimes, sentencing length may increase depending on the amount of the drug found in the possession of the defendant.[100]

Cocaine possession is illegal across the U.S., with the cheaper crack cocaine incurring even greater penalties. Having possession is when the accused knowingly has it on their person, or in a backpack or purse. The possession of cocaine with no prior conviction, for the first offense, the person will be sentenced to a maximum of one year in prison or fined $1,000, or both. If the person has a prior conviction, whether it is a narcotic or cocaine, they will be sentenced to two years in prison, a $2,500 fine, or both. With two or more convictions of possession prior to this present offense, they can be sentenced to 90 days in prison along with a $5,000 fine.[101]

Marijuana is the most popular illegal drug worldwide. The punishment for possession of it is less than for the possession of cocaine or heroin. In some U.S. states, the drug is legal. Over 80 million Americans have tried marijuana. The Criminal Defense Lawyer article claims that, depending on the age of person and how much the person has been caught for possession, they will be fined and could plea bargain into going to a treatment program versus going to prison. In each state the convictions differ along with how much marijuana they have on their person.[102]

United States foreign policy and covert military activities

Some scholars have claimed that the phrase "War on Drugs" is propaganda cloaking an extension of earlier military or paramilitary operations.[9] Others have argued that large amounts of "drug war" foreign aid money, training, and equipment actually goes to fighting leftist insurgencies and is often provided to groups who themselves are involved in large-scale narco-trafficking, such as corrupt members of the Colombian military.[8]

War in Vietnam

From 1963 to the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, marijuana usage became common among U.S. soldiers in non-combat situations. Some servicemen also used heroin. Many of the servicemen ended the heroin use after returning to the United States but came home addicted. In 1971, the U.S. military conducted a study of drug use among American servicemen and women. It found that daily usage rates for drugs on a worldwide basis were as low as two percent.[103] However, in the spring of 1971, two congressmen released an alarming report alleging that 15% of the servicemen in Vietnam were addicted to heroin. Marijuana use was also common in Vietnam. Soldiers who used drugs had more disciplinary problems. The frequent drug use had become an issue for the commanders in Vietnam; in 1971 it was estimated that 30,000 servicemen were addicted to drugs, most of them to heroin.[11]

From 1971 on, therefore, returning servicemen were required to take a mandatory heroin test. Servicemen who tested positive upon returning from Vietnam were not allowed to return home until they had passed the test with a negative result. The program also offered a treatment for heroin addicts.[104]

Elliot Borin's article "The U.S. Military Needs its Speed"—published in Wired on February 10, 2003—reports:

But the Defense Department, which distributed millions of amphetamine tablets to troops during World War II, Vietnam and the Gulf War, soldiers on, insisting that they are not only harmless but beneficial.

In a news conference held in connection with Schmidt and Umbach's Article 32 hearing, Dr. Pete Demitry, an Air Force physician and a pilot, claimed that the "Air Force has used (Dexedrine) safely for 60 years" with "no known speed-related mishaps."

The need for speed, Demitry added "is a life-and-death issue for our military."[105]

Operation Intercept

One of the first anti-drug efforts in the realm of foreign policy was President Nixon's Operation Intercept, announced in September 1969, targeted at reducing the amount of cannabis entering the United States from Mexico. The effort began with an intense inspection crackdown that resulted in an almost shutdown of cross-border traffic.[106] Because the burden on border crossings was controversial in border states, the effort only lasted twenty days.[107]

Operation Just Cause

The U.S. military invasion of Panama in 1989

On December 20, 1989, the United States invaded Panama as part of Operation Just Cause, which involved 25,000 American troops. Gen. Manuel Noriega, head of the government of Panama, had been giving military assistance to Contra groups in Nicaragua at the request of the U.S. which, in exchange, tolerated his drug trafficking activities, which they had known about since the 1960s.[108][109] When the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) tried to indict Noriega in 1971, the CIA prevented them from doing so.[108] The CIA, which was then directed by future president George H. W. Bush, provided Noriega with hundreds of thousands of dollars per year as payment for his work in Latin America.[108] When CIA pilot Eugene Hasenfus was shot down over Nicaragua by the Sandinistas, documents aboard the plane revealed many of the CIA's activities in Latin America, and the CIA's connections with Noriega became a public relations "liability" for the U.S. government, which finally allowed the DEA to indict him for drug trafficking, after decades of tolerating his drug operations.[108] Operation Just Cause, whose purpose was to capture Noriega and overthrow his government; Noriega found temporary asylum in the Papal Nuncio, and surrendered to U.S. soldiers on January 3, 1990.[110] He was sentenced by a court in Miami to 45 years in prison.[108]

Plan Colombia

As part of its Plan Colombia program, the United States government currently provides hundreds of millions of dollars per year of military aid, training, and equipment to Colombia,[111] to fight left-wing guerrillas such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP), which has been accused of being involved in drug trafficking.[112]

Private U.S. corporations have signed contracts to carry out anti-drug activities as part of Plan Colombia. DynCorp, the largest private company involved, was among those contracted by the State Department, while others signed contracts with the Defense Department.[113]

Colombian military personnel have received extensive counterinsurgency training from U.S. military and law enforcement agencies, including the School of Americas (SOA). Author Grace Livingstone has stated that more Colombian SOA graduates have been implicated in human rights abuses than currently known SOA graduates from any other country. All of the commanders of the brigades highlighted in a 2001 Human Rights Watch report on Colombia were graduates of the SOA, including the III brigade in Valle del Cauca, where the 2001 Alto Naya Massacre occurred. US-trained officers have been accused of being directly or indirectly involved in many atrocities during the 1990s, including the Massacre of Trujillo and the 1997 Mapiripán Massacre.

In 2000, the Clinton administration initially waived all but one of the human rights conditions attached to Plan Colombia, considering such aid as crucial to national security at the time.[114]

The efforts of U.S. and Colombian governments have been criticized for focusing on fighting leftist guerrillas in southern regions without applying enough pressure on right-wing paramilitaries and continuing drug smuggling operations in the north of the country.[115][116] Human Rights Watch, congressional committees and other entities have documented the existence of connections between members of the Colombian military and the AUC, which the U.S. government has listed as a terrorist group, and that Colombian military personnel have committed human rights abuses which would make them ineligible for U.S. aid under current laws.[citation needed]

In 2010, the Washington Office on Latin America concluded that both Plan Colombia and the Colombian government's security strategy "came at a high cost in lives and resources, only did part of the job, are yielding diminishing returns and have left important institutions weaker."[117]

A 2014 report by the RAND Corporation, which was issued to analyze viable strategies for the Mexican drug war considering successes experienced in Columbia, noted:

Between 1999 and 2002, the United States gave Colombia $2.04 billion in aid, 81 percent of which was for military purposes, placing Colombia just below Israel and Egypt among the largest recipients of U.S. military assistance. Colombia increased its defense spending from 3.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2000 to 4.19 percent in 2005. Overall, the results were extremely positive. Greater spending on infrastructure and social programs helped the Colombian government increase its political legitimacy, while improved security forces were better able to consolidate control over large swaths of the country previously overrun by insurgents and drug cartels.

It also notes that, "Plan Colombia has been widely hailed as a success, and some analysts believe that, by 2010, Colombian security forces had finally gained the upper hand once and for all."[118]

Mexico is scheduled to receive US$1.6 billion in equipment and strategic support from the United States through the Mérida Initiative

Mérida Initiative

The Mérida Initiative is a security cooperation between the United States and the government of Mexico and the countries of Central America. It was approved on June 30, 2008, and its stated aim is combating the threats of drug trafficking and transnational crime. The Mérida Initiative appropriated $1.4 billion in a three-year commitment (2008–2010) to the Mexican government for military and law enforcement training and equipment, as well as technical advice and training to strengthen the national justice systems. The Mérida Initiative targeted many very important government officials, but it failed to address the thousands of Central Americans who had to flee their countries due to the danger they faced everyday because of the war on drugs. There is still not any type of plan that addresses these people. No weapons are included in the plan.[119][120]

Aerial herbicide application

The United States regularly sponsors the spraying of large amounts of herbicides such as glyphosate over the jungles of Central and South America as part of its drug eradication programs. Environmental consequences resulting from aerial fumigation have been criticized as detrimental to some of the world's most fragile ecosystems;[121] the same aerial fumigation practices are further credited with causing health problems in local populations.[122]

U.S. operations in Honduras

In 2012, the U.S. sent DEA agents to Honduras to assist security forces in counternarcotics operations. Honduras has been a major stop for drug traffickers, who use small planes and landing strips hidden throughout the country to transport drugs. The U.S. government made agreements with several Latin American countries to share intelligence and resources to counter the drug trade. DEA agents, working with other U.S. agencies such as the State Department, the CBP, and Joint Task Force-Bravo, assisted Honduras troops in conducting raids on traffickers' sites of operation.[123]

Public support and opposition in the United States and Mexico

An American domestic government propaganda poster circa 2000 concerning cannabis in the United States.

The War on Drugs has been a highly contentious issue since its inception. A poll on October 2, 2008, found that three in four Americans believed that the War On Drugs was failing.[124]

In 2014, a Pew Research Center poll found more than six in ten Americans state that state governments moving away from mandatory prison terms for drug law violations is a good thing, while three out of ten Americans say these policy changes are a bad thing. This a substantial shift from the same poll questions since 2001.[125] In 2014 a Pew Research Center poll found that 67 percent of Americans feel that a movement towards treatment for drugs like cocaine and heroin is better versus the 26 percent who feel that prosecution is the better route.[126]

In 2018, Rasmussen Report poll found that less than 10 percent of Americans think that the War on Drugs is being won and that 75 percent found that Americans believe that America is not winning the War on Drugs.[127]

Mexican citizens, unlike American citizens, support the current measures their government were taking against drug cartels in the War on Drugs. A Pew Research Center poll in 2010 found that 80 percent supported the current use of the army in the War on Drugs to combat drug traffickers with about 55 percent saying that they have been making progress in the war.[128] A year later in 2011 a Pew Research Center poll uncovered that 71 percent of Mexicans find that "illegal drugs are a very big problem in their country". 77 percent of Mexicans also found that drug cartels and the violence associated with them are as well a big challenge for Mexico. The poll also found that the percentages believing that that illegal drugs and violence related to the cartel where Higher in the North with 87 percent for illegal drug use and 94 percent cartel related violence being a problem. This compared to the other locations: South, Mexico City and the greater area of Mexico City, and Central Mexico which are all about 18 percent or lower than the North on Illegal drug use being a problem for the country. These perspective areas are also lower than the North by 19 percent or more on the issue of drug cartel related violence being an issue for the country.[129]

In 2013 a Pew Research Center poll found that 74 percent of Mexican citizens would support the training of their police and military, the poll also found that another 55 percent would support the supplying of weapons and financial aid. Though the poll indicates a support of U.S. aid, 59 percent were against troops on the ground by the U.S. military.[130] Also in 2013 Pew Research Center found in a poll that 56 percent of Mexican citizens believe that the United States and Mexico are both to blame for drug violence in Mexico. In that same poll 20 percent believe that the United States is solely to blame and 17 percent believe that Mexico is solely to blame.[131]

At a meeting in Guatemala in 2012, three former presidents from Guatemala, Mexico and Colombia said that the war on drugs had failed and that they would propose a discussion on alternatives, including decriminalization, at the Summit of the Americas in April of that year.[132] Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina said that the war on drugs was exacting too high a price on the lives of Central Americans and that it was time to "end the taboo on discussing decriminalization".[133] At the summit, the government of Colombia pushed for the most far-reaching change to drugs policy since the war on narcotics was declared by Nixon four decades prior, citing the catastrophic effects it had had in Colombia.[134]

Several critics have compared the wholesale incarceration of the dissenting minority of drug users to the wholesale incarceration of other minorities in history. Psychiatrist Thomas Szasz, for example, wrote in 1997 "Over the past thirty years, we have replaced the medical-political persecution of illegal sex users ('perverts' and 'psychopaths') with the even more ferocious medical-political persecution of illegal drug users."[135]

Socio-economic effects

Creation of a permanent underclass

Circa 1 million people are incarcerated every year in the United States for drug law violations.

Penalties for drug crimes among American youth almost always involve permanent or semi-permanent removal from opportunities for education, strip them of voting rights, and later involve creation of criminal records which make employment more difficult.[136] Thus, some authors maintain that the War on Drugs has resulted in the creation of a permanent underclass of people who have few educational or job opportunities, often as a result of being punished for drug offenses which in turn have resulted from attempts to earn a living in spite of having no education or job opportunities.[136]

Costs to taxpayers

According to a 2008 study published by Harvard economist Jeffrey A. Miron, the annual savings on enforcement and incarceration costs from the legalization of drugs would amount to roughly $41.3 billion, with $25.7 billion being saved among the states and over $15.6 billion accrued for the federal government. Miron further estimated at least $46.7 billion in tax revenue based on rates comparable to those on tobacco and alcohol ($8.7 billion from marijuana, $32.6 billion from cocaine and heroin, remainder from other drugs).[137]

Low taxation in Central American countries has been credited with weakening the region's response in dealing with drug traffickers. Many cartels, especially Los Zetas have taken advantage of the limited resources of these nations. 2010 tax revenue in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, composed just 13.53% of GDP. As a comparison, in Chile and the U.S., taxes were 18.6% and 26.9% of GDP respectively. However, direct taxes on income are very hard to enforce and in some cases tax evasion is seen as a national pastime.[138]

Impact on growers

The status of coca and coca growers has become an intense political issue in several countries, including Colombia and particularly Bolivia, where the president, Evo Morales, a former coca growers' union leader, has promised to legalise the traditional cultivation and use of coca.[139] Indeed, legalization efforts have yielded some successes under the Morales administration when combined with aggressive and targeted eradication efforts. The country saw a 12–13% decline in coca cultivation[139] in 2011 under Morales, who has used coca growers' federations to ensure compliance with the law rather than providing a primary role for security forces.[139]

The coca eradication policy has been criticised for its negative impact on the livelihood of coca growers in South America. In many areas of South America the coca leaf has traditionally been chewed and used in tea and for religious, medicinal and nutritional purposes by locals.[140] For this reason many insist that the illegality of traditional coca cultivation is unjust. In many areas the U.S. government and military has forced the eradication of coca without providing for any meaningful alternative crop for farmers, and has additionally destroyed many of their food or market crops, leaving them starving and destitute.[140]

Allegations of U.S. government assistance in drug trafficking

The CIA, DEA, State Department, and several other U.S. government agencies have been alleged to have relations with various groups which are involved in drug trafficking.

CIA and Contra cocaine trafficking

Senator John Kerry's 1988 U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations report on Contra drug links concludes that members of the U.S. State Department "who provided support for the Contras are involved in drug trafficking... and elements of the Contras themselves knowingly receive financial and material assistance from drug traffickers."[141] The report further states that "the Contra drug links include... payments to drug traffickers by the U.S. State Department of funds authorized by the Congress for humanitarian assistance to the Contras, in some cases after the traffickers had been indicted by federal law enforcement agencies on drug charges, in others while traffickers were under active investigation by these same agencies."

In 1996, journalist Gary Webb published reports in the San Jose Mercury News, and later in his book Dark Alliance, detailing how Contras, had been involved in distributing crack cocaine into Los Angeles whilst receiving money from the CIA.[citation needed] Contras used money from drug trafficking to buy weapons.[citation needed]

Webb's premise regarding the U.S. Government connection was initially attacked at the time by the media. It is now widely accepted that Webb's main assertion of government "knowledge of drug operations, and collaboration with and protection of known drug traffickers" was correct.[142][failed verification] In 1998, CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz published a two-volume report[143] that while seemingly refuting Webb's claims of knowledge and collaboration in its conclusions did not deny them in its body.[citation needed] Hitz went on to admit CIA improprieties in the affair in testimony to a House congressional committee. There has been a reversal amongst mainstream media of its position on Webb's work, with acknowledgement made of his contribution to exposing a scandal it had ignored.

Heroin trafficking operations involving the CIA, U.S. Navy and Sicilian Mafia

According to Rodney Campbell, an editorial assistant to Nelson Rockefeller, during World War II, the United States Navy, concerned that strikes and labor disputes in U.S. eastern shipping ports would disrupt wartime logistics, released the mobster Lucky Luciano from prison, and collaborated with him to help the mafia take control of those ports. Labor union members were terrorized and murdered by mafia members as a means of preventing labor unrest and ensuring smooth shipping of supplies to Europe.[144]

According to Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, in order to prevent Communist party members from being elected in Italy following World War II, the CIA worked closely with the Sicilian Mafia, protecting them and assisting in their worldwide heroin smuggling operations. The mafia was in conflict with leftist groups and was involved in assassinating, torturing, and beating leftist political organizers.[145]

Efficacy of the United States war on drugs

USS Rentz (FFG-46) attempts to put out a fire set by drug smugglers trying to escape and destroy evidence.
External video
A Conversation with President Obama and David Simon (The Wire creator), discussing The Wire and the War on Drugs, The White House[146]

In 1986, the US Defense Department funded a two-year study by the RAND Corporation, which found that the use of the armed forces to interdict drugs coming into the United States would have little or no effect on cocaine traffic and might, in fact, raise the profits of cocaine cartels and manufacturers. The 175-page study, "Sealing the Borders: The Effects of Increased Military Participation in Drug Interdiction", was prepared by seven researchers, mathematicians and economists at the National Defense Research Institute, a branch of the RAND, and was released in 1988. The study noted that seven prior studies in the past nine years, including one by the Center for Naval Research and the Office of Technology Assessment, had come to similar conclusions. Interdiction efforts, using current armed forces resources, would have almost no effect on cocaine importation into the United States, the report concluded.[147]

During the early-to-mid-1990s, the Clinton administration ordered and funded a major cocaine policy study, again by RAND. The Rand Drug Policy Research Center study concluded that $3 billion should be switched from federal and local law enforcement to treatment. The report said that treatment is the cheapest way to cut drug use, stating that drug treatment is twenty-three times more effective than the supply-side "war on drugs".[148]

The National Research Council Committee on Data and Research for Policy on Illegal Drugs published its findings in 2001 on the efficacy of the drug war. The NRC Committee found that existing studies on efforts to address drug usage and smuggling, from U.S. military operations to eradicate coca fields in Colombia, to domestic drug treatment centers, have all been inconclusive, if the programs have been evaluated at all: "The existing drug-use monitoring systems are strikingly inadequate to support the full range of policy decisions that the nation must make.... It is unconscionable for this country to continue to carry out a public policy of this magnitude and cost without any way of knowing whether and to what extent it is having the desired effect."[149] The study, though not ignored by the press, was ignored by top-level policymakers, leading Committee Chair Charles Manski to conclude, as one observer notes, that "the drug war has no interest in its own results".[150]

In mid-1995, the US government tried to reduce the supply of methamphetamine precursors to disrupt the market of this drug. According to a 2009 study, this effort was successful, but its effects were largely temporary.[151]

During alcohol prohibition, the period from 1920 to 1933, alcohol use initially fell but began to increase as early as 1922. It has been extrapolated that even if prohibition had not been repealed in 1933, alcohol consumption would have quickly surpassed pre-prohibition levels.[152] One argument against the War on Drugs is that it uses similar measures as Prohibition and is no more effective.

In the six years from 2000 to 2006, the U.S. spent $4.7 billion on Plan Colombia, an effort to eradicate coca production in Colombia. The main result of this effort was to shift coca production into more remote areas and force other forms of adaptation. The overall acreage cultivated for coca in Colombia at the end of the six years was found to be the same, after the U.S. Drug Czar's office announced a change in measuring methodology in 2005 and included new areas in its surveys.[153] Cultivation in the neighboring countries of Peru and Bolivia increased, some would describe this effect like squeezing a balloon.[154]

Richard Davenport-Hines, in his book The Pursuit of Oblivion,[155] criticized the efficacy of the War on Drugs by pointing out that

10–15% of illicit heroin and 30% of illicit cocaine is intercepted. Drug traffickers have gross profit margins of up to 300%. At least 75% of illicit drug shipments would have to be intercepted before the traffickers' profits were hurt.

Alberto Fujimori, president of Peru from 1990 to 2000, described U.S. foreign drug policy as "failed" on grounds that

for 10 years, there has been a considerable sum invested by the Peruvian government and another sum on the part of the American government, and this has not led to a reduction in the supply of coca leaf offered for sale. Rather, in the 10 years from 1980 to 1990, it grew 10-fold.[156]

At least 500 economists, including Nobel Laureates Milton Friedman,[157] George Akerlof and Vernon L. Smith, have noted that reducing the supply of marijuana without reducing the demand causes the price, and hence the profits of marijuana sellers, to go up, according to the laws of supply and demand.[158] The increased profits encourage the producers to produce more drugs despite the risks, providing a theoretical explanation for why attacks on drug supply have failed to have any lasting effect. The aforementioned economists published an open letter to President George W. Bush stating "We urge...the country to commence an open and honest debate about marijuana prohibition... At a minimum, this debate will force advocates of current policy to show that prohibition has benefits sufficient to justify the cost to taxpayers, foregone tax revenues and numerous ancillary consequences that result from marijuana prohibition."

US yearly overdose deaths, and the drugs involved. There were 70,200 drug overdose deaths overall in 2017 in the USA.

The declaration from the World Forum Against Drugs, 2008 state that a balanced policy of drug abuse prevention, education, treatment, law enforcement, research, and supply reduction provides the most effective platform to reduce drug abuse and its associated harms and call on governments to consider demand reduction as one of their first priorities in the fight against drug abuse.[159]

Despite over $7 billion spent annually towards arresting[160] and prosecuting nearly 800,000 people across the country for marijuana offenses in 2005[citation needed] (FBI Uniform Crime Reports), the federally funded Monitoring the Future Survey reports about 85% of high school seniors find marijuana "easy to obtain". That figure has remained virtually unchanged since 1975, never dropping below 82.7% in three decades of national surveys.[161] The Drug Enforcement Administration states that the number of users of marijuana in the U.S. declined between 2000 and 2005 even with many states passing new medical marijuana laws making access easier,[162] though usage rates remain higher than they were in the 1990s according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.[163]

ONDCP stated in April 2011 that there has been a 46 percent drop in cocaine use among young adults over the past five years, and a 65 percent drop in the rate of people testing positive for cocaine in the workplace since 2006.[164] At the same time, a 2007 study found that up to 35% of college undergraduates used stimulants not prescribed to them.[165]

A 2013 study found that prices of heroin, cocaine and cannabis had decreased from 1990 to 2007, but the purity of these drugs had increased during the same time.[166]


According to data collected by the Federal Bureau of Prisons 45.3% of all criminal charges were drug related and 25.5% of sentences for all charges last 5–10 years. Furthermore, non-whites make up 41.4% of the federal prison system's population and over half are under the age of 40.[168] The Bureau of Justice Statistics contends that over 80% of all drug related charges are for possession rather than the sale or manufacture of drugs.[169] In 2015 The U.S. government spent over to $25 billion on supply reduction, while allocating only $11 billion for demand reduction. Supply reduction includes: interdiction, eradication, and law enforcement; demand reduction includes: education, prevention, and treatment. The War on Drugs is often called a policy failure.[170][171][172][173][174]


The legality of the War on Drugs has been challenged on four main grounds in the U.S.

  1. It is argued that drug prohibition, as presently implemented, violates the substantive due process doctrine in that its benefits do not justify the encroachments on rights that are supposed to be guaranteed by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. On July 27, 2011, U.S. District Judge Mary S. Scriven ruled that Florida's legislation purporting to eliminate intent as an element of the crime of drug possession was unconstitutional. Commentators explained the ruling in terms of due process.
  2. Freedom of religious conscience legally allows some (for example, members of the Native American Church) to use peyote with definite spiritual or religious motives. The sacramental use of dimethyltryptamine in the form of ayahuasca is also allowed for members of União do Vegetal. The Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment implies no requirement for someone to be affiliated to an official church – therefore leaving some ambiguity.
  3. It has been argued that the Commerce Clause means that the power to regulate drug use should be state law not federal law. However, Supreme Court rulings go against this argument because production and consumption in one locality will change the price in another locality because it affects the overall supply and demand for the product and interstate price in a globalized, market economy.
  4. The inequity of prosecuting the war on certain drugs but not alcohol or tobacco has also been called into question.


Several authors believe that the United States' federal and state governments have chosen wrong methods for combatting the distribution of illicit substances. Aggressive, heavy-handed enforcement funnels individuals through courts and prisons; instead of treating the cause of the addiction, the focus of government efforts has been on punishment. By making drugs illegal rather than regulating them, the War on Drugs creates a highly profitable black market. Jefferson Fish has edited scholarly collections of articles offering a wide variety of public health based and rights based alternative drug policies.[175][176][177]

In the year 2000, the United States drug-control budget reached 18.4 billion dollars,[178] nearly half of which was spent financing law enforcement while only one sixth was spent on treatment. In the year 2003, 53 percent of the requested drug control budget was for enforcement, 29 percent for treatment, and 18 percent for prevention.[179] The state of New York, in particular, designated 17 percent of its budget towards substance-abuse-related spending. Of that, a mere one percent was put towards prevention, treatment, and research.

In a survey taken by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), it was found that substance abusers that remain in treatment longer are less likely to resume their former drug habits. Of the people that were studied, 66 percent were cocaine users. After experiencing long-term in-patient treatment, only 22 percent returned to the use of cocaine. Treatment had reduced the number of cocaine abusers by two-thirds.[178] By spending the majority of its money on law enforcement, the federal government had underestimated the true value of drug-treatment facilities and their benefit towards reducing the number of addicts in the U.S.

In 2004 the federal government issued the National Drug Control Strategy. It supported programs designed to expand treatment options, enhance treatment delivery, and improve treatment outcomes. For example, the Strategy provided SAMHSA with a $100.6 million grant to put towards their Access to Recovery (ATR) initiative. ATR is a program that provides vouchers to addicts to provide them with the means to acquire clinical treatment or recovery support. The project's goals are to expand capacity, support client choice, and increase the array of faith-based and community based providers for clinical treatment and recovery support services.[180] The ATR program will also provide a more flexible array of services based on the individual's treatment needs.

The 2004 Strategy additionally declared a significant 32 million dollar raise in the Drug Courts Program, which provides drug offenders with alternatives to incarceration. As a substitute for imprisonment, drug courts identify substance-abusing offenders and place them under strict court monitoring and community supervision, as well as provide them with long-term treatment services.[181] According to a report issued by the National Drug Court Institute, drug courts have a wide array of benefits, with only 16.4 percent of the nation's drug court graduates rearrested and charged with a felony within one year of completing the program (versus the 44.1% of released prisoners who end up back in prison within 1-year). Additionally, enrolling an addict in a drug court program costs much less than incarcerating one in prison.[182] According to the Bureau of Prisons, the fee to cover the average cost of incarceration for Federal inmates in 2006 was $24,440.[183] The annual cost of receiving treatment in a drug court program ranges from $900 to $3,500. Drug courts in New York State alone saved $2.54 million in incarceration costs.[182]

Describing the failure of the War on Drugs, New York Times columnist Eduardo Porter noted:

Jeffrey Miron, an economist at Harvard who studies drug policy closely, has suggested that legalizing all illicit drugs would produce net benefits to the United States of some $65 billion a year, mostly by cutting public spending on enforcement as well as through reduced crime and corruption. A study by analysts at the RAND Corporation, a California research organization, suggested that if marijuana were legalized in California and the drug spilled from there to other states, Mexican drug cartels would lose about a fifth of their annual income of some $6.5 billion from illegal exports to the United States.[184]

Many believe that the War on Drugs has been costly and ineffective largely because inadequate emphasis is placed on treatment of addiction. The United States leads the world in both recreational drug usage and incarceration rates. 70% of men arrested in metropolitan areas test positive for an illicit substance,[185] and 54% of all men incarcerated will be repeat offenders.[186]

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Further reading

  • Hari, Johann (2015). Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs. London, New York: Bloomsbury. ISBN 978-1-620-408902.
  • Blanchard, Michael; Gabriel J. Chin (1998). "Identifying the Enemy in the War on Drugs: A Critique of the Developing Rule Permitting Visual Identification of Indescript White Powders in Narcotics Prosecutions". American University Law Review (47): 557. SSRN 1128945.
  • Daniel Burton-Rose, The Celling of America: An Inside Look at the U.S. Prison Industry. Common Courage Press, 1998.
  • Stephanie R. Bush-Baskette, "The War on Drugs as a War on Black Women," in Meda Chesney-Lind and Lisa Pasko (eds.), Girls, Women, and Crime: Selected Readings. SAGE, 2004.
  • Chin, Gabriel (2002). "Race, the War on Drugs and the Collateral Consequences of Criminal Conviction". Gender, Race & Justice (6): 253. SSRN 390109.
  • Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press. New York: Verso, 1998.
  • Mitchell Earlywine, Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.
  • Kathleen J. Frydl, The Drug Wars in America, 1940–1973. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013.
  • Kenneth B. Nunn (2002). "Race, Crime and the Pool of Surplus Criminality: Or Why the War on Drugs Was a War on Blacks". Gender, Race & Justice (6): 381.
  • Tony Payan, "A War that Can't Be Won." Tucson, AZ: The University of Arizona Press, 2013.
  • Preston Peet, Under the Influence: The Disinformation Guide to Drugs. The Disinformation Company, 2004.
  • Thomas C. Rowe, Federal Narcotics Laws and the War on Drugs: Money Down a Rat Hole. Binghamton, NY: Haworn Press, 2006.
  • Eric Schneider, "The Drug War Revisited," Berfrois, November 2, 2011.
  • Peter Dale Scott and Jonathan Marshall, Cocaine Politics: Drugs, Armies, and the CIA in Central America. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1911.
  • Dominic Streatfeild, Cocaine: An Unauthorized Biography. Macmillan, 2003.
  • Douglas Valentine, The Strength of the Wolf: The Secret History of America's War on Drugs. New York: Verso, 2004.

Government and NGO reports

External links


8 October 1982

Poland bans Solidarity and all other trade unions.

Solidarity (Polish trade union)

Solidarity (Polish trade union) (logo).png
Full nameIndependent Self-governing Trade Union "Solidarity"
Native nameNiezależny Samorządny Związek Zawodowy "Solidarność"
Founded17 September 1980; 39 years ago (1980-09-17)[1]
MembersAlmost 10 million at the end of the first year; over 400,000 in 2011[2] (680,000 in 2010)[3]
AffiliationITUC, ETUC, TUAC
Key peopleAnna Walentynowicz, Lech Wałęsa
Office locationGdańsk, Poland
WebsiteSolidarnosc.org.pl (in English)

Solidarity (Polish: Solidarność, pronounced [sɔlʲiˈdarnɔɕtɕ] (About this soundlisten); full name: Independent Self-governing Labour Union "Solidarity"Niezależny Samorządny Związek Zawodowy "Solidarność" [ɲezaˈlɛʐnɨ samɔˈʐɔndnɨ ˈzvjɔ̃zɛk zavɔˈdɔvɨ sɔlʲiˈdarnɔɕtɕ]) is a Polish labour union that was founded on 17 September 1980 at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk under the leadership of Lech Wałęsa.[1] It was the first trade union in a Warsaw Pact country that was not controlled by a communist party. Its membership peaked at 10 million members at its September 1981 Congress,[2][3] which constituted one third of the total working-age population of Poland.[4]

In the 1980s, Solidarity was a broad anti-bureaucratic social movement, using the methods of civil resistance to advance the causes of workers' rights and social change.[5] The government attempted to destroy the union by imposing martial law in Poland, which lasted from December 1981 to July 1983 and was followed by several years of political repression from 8 October 1982, but in the end it was forced to negotiate with Solidarity. In the union's clandestine years, Pope John Paul II and the United States provided significant financial support, estimated to be as much as US$50 million.[6]

The round table talks between the government and the Solidarity-led opposition led to semi-free elections in 1989. By the end of August, a Solidarity-led coalition government was formed. In December 1990, Wałęsa was elected President of Poland. Since then, Solidarity has become a more traditional liberal trade union. Its membership had dropped to 680,000 by 2010[3] and 400,000 by 2011.[2]


In the 1970s Poland's government raised food prices while wages were stagnant. This and other stresses led to protests in 1976 and a subsequent government crackdown on dissent. The KOR, the ROPCIO and other groups began to form underground networks to monitor and oppose the government's behavior. Labour unions formed an important part of this network.[7] In 1979, the Polish economy shrank for the first time since World War II, by 2 percent. Foreign debt reached around $18 billion by 1980.[8]

Anna Walentynowicz was fired from the Gdańsk Shipyard on 7 August 1980, five months before she was due to retire, for participation in the illegal trade union. This management decision enraged the workers of the shipyard, who staged a strike action on 14 August defending Anna Walentynowicz and demanding her return. She and Alina Pienkowska transformed a strike over bread and butter issues into a solidarity strike in sympathy with strikes on other establishments.

Solidarity emerged on 31 August 1980 at the Gdańsk Shipyard when the communist government of Poland signed the agreement allowing for its existence. On 17 September 1980, over twenty Inter-factory Founding Committees of free trade unions merged at the congress into one national organization NSZZ Solidarity.[4] It officially registered on 10 November 1980.[9]

Lech Wałęsa and others formed a broad anti-Soviet social movement ranging from people associated with the Catholic Church[10] to members of the anti-Soviet left. Solidarity advocated non-violence in its members' activities.[11][12][self-published source] In September 1981, Solidarity's first national congress elected Wałęsa as a president[9] and adopted a republican program, the "Self-governing Republic".[13] The government attempted to destroy the union with the martial law of 1981 and several years of repression, but in the end it had to start negotiating with the union.

Roundtable Talks between the government and Solidarity-led opposition led to semi-free elections in 1989. By the end of August a Solidarity-led coalition government was formed, and in December Tadeusz Mazowiecki was elected Prime Minister. Since 1989, Solidarity has become a more traditional trade union, and had relatively little impact on the political scene of Poland in the early 1990s. A political arm founded in 1996 as Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) won the parliamentary election in 1997, but lost the following 2001 election. Currently, as a political party Solidarity has little influence on modern Polish politics.

CIA covert support

In the year leading up to martial law, Reagan Administration policies supported the Solidarity movement, waging a public relations campaign to deter what the Carter administration had seen as "an imminent move by large Soviet military forces into Poland."[14] Michael Reisman from Yale Law School named operations in Poland as one of the covert regime change actions of the CIA during the Cold War.[15] Colonel Ryszard Kukliński, a senior officer on the Polish General Staff was secretly sending reports to CIA officer David Forden.[16] The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) transferred around $2 million yearly in cash to Solidarity, for a total of $10 million over five years. There were no direct links between the CIA and Solidarnosc, and all money was channeled through third parties.[17] CIA officers were barred from meeting Solidarity leaders, and the CIA's contacts with Solidarnosc activists were weaker than those of the AFL-CIO, which raised $300,000 from its members, which were used to provide material and cash directly to Solidarity, with no control of Solidarity's use of it. The U.S. Congress authorized the National Endowment for Democracy to promote democracy, and the NED allocated $10 million to Solidarity.[18]

When the Polish government launched martial law in December 1981, however, Solidarity was not alerted. Potential explanations for this vary; some believe that the CIA was caught off guard, while others suggest that American policy-makers viewed an internal crackdown as preferable to an "inevitable Soviet intervention."[19] CIA support for Solidarity included money, equipment and training, which was coordinated by Special Operations.[20] Henry Hyde, U.S. House intelligence committee member, stated that the USA provided "supplies and technical assistance in terms of clandestine newspapers, broadcasting, propaganda, money, organizational help and advice".[21] Initial funds for covert actions by CIA were $2 million, but soon after authorization were increased and by 1985 CIA successfully infiltrated Poland.[22]

Catholic social teaching

30-years of Solidarity mural in Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski (priest Jerzy Popiełuszko in foreground)

In Sollicitudo rei socialis, a major document of Catholic Social Teaching, Pope John Paul II identifies the concept of solidarity with the poor and marginalized as a constitutive element of the Gospel and human participation in the common good. The Roman Catholic Church, under the leadership of Pope John Paul II, was a very powerful supporter of the union and was greatly responsible for its success. Wałęsa, who himself publicly displayed Catholic piety, confirmed the Pope's influence, saying: "The Holy Father, through his meetings, demonstrated how numerous we were. He told us not to be afraid."[23]

In addition, the priest Jerzy Popiełuszko, who regularly gave sermons to the striking workers, was eventually killed by the Communist regime for his association with Solidarity. Polish workers themselves were closely associated with the Church, which can be seen in the photographs taken during strikes in the 1980s. On the walls of several factories, portraits of the Virgin Mary or John Paul II were visible.

In 2017, Solidarity backed a proposal to instate blue laws that would prohibit Sunday shopping, a move supported by Polish bishops.[24] A 2018 new Polish law banning almost all trade on Sundays has taken effect, with large supermarkets and most other retailers closed for the first time since liberal shopping laws were introduced in the 1990s. The Law and Justice party passed the legislation with the support of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.[25][26][27][28]

Secular philosophical underpinnings

Although Leszek Kołakowski's works were officially banned in Poland, and he lived outside the country from the late 1960s, the philosopher's ideas nonetheless exerted an influence on the Solidarity movement. Underground copies of his books and essays shaped the opinions of the Polish intellectual opposition. His 1971 essay Theses on Hope and Hopelessness, which suggested that self-organized social groups could gradually expand the spheres of civil society in a totalitarian state, helped inspire the dissident movements of the 1970s that led to the creation of Solidarity and provided a philosophical underpinning for the movement.

Kołakowski later described Solidarity as "perhaps [the] closest to the working class revolution" that Karl Marx had predicted in the mid-1800s. Ironically, however, Solidarity featured many elements contrary to socialism as conceived by Marx: "[workers organized] against the exploiters, that is to say, the state. And this solitary example of a working class revolution (if even this may be counted) was directed against a socialist state, and carried out under the sign of the cross, with the blessing of the Pope."[29]

Influence abroad

The logo of Solidarność painted on an overturned Soviet era T-55 in Prague in 1990
Students in Scotland collect signatures for a petition in support of Solidarity in 1981
Solidarity, ETUC Demonstration—Budapest 2011

The survival of Solidarity was an unprecedented event not only in Poland, a satellite state of the USSR ruled (in practice) by a one-party Communist regime, but the whole of the Eastern bloc. It meant a break in the hard-line stance of the communist Polish United Workers' Party, which had bloodily ended a 1970 protest with machine gun fire (killing over thirty and injuring over 1,000), and the broader Soviet communist regime in the Eastern Bloc, which had quelled both the 1956 Hungarian Uprising and the 1968 Prague Spring with Soviet-led invasions.

Solidarity's influence led to the intensification and spread of anti-communist ideals and movements throughout the countries of the Eastern Bloc, weakening their communist governments. As a result of the Round Table Agreement between the Polish government and the Solidarity-led opposition, elections were held in Poland on 4 June 1989, in which the opposition were allowed to field candidates against the Communist Party—the first free elections in any Soviet bloc country. A new upper chamber (the Senate) was created in the Polish parliament and all of its 100 seats were contestable in the election, as well as one third of the seats in the more important lower chamber (the Sejm). Solidarity won 99 of the 100 Senate seats and all 161 contestable seats in the Sejm—a victory that also triggered a chain reaction across the Soviet Union's satellite states, leading to almost entirely peaceful anti-communist revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe[10] known as the Revolutions of 1989 (Jesień Ludów or Wiosna Obywatelów), which ended in the overthrow of each Moscow-imposed regime, and ultimately to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.

Given the union's support from many western governments, relations with trade unions in capitalist countries could be complicated. For example, during the UK miners' strike of 1984–85, Wałęsa said that "The miners should fight, but with common sense—not with destruction" and said of Margaret Thatcher "With such a wise and brave woman, Britain will find a solution to the strike." However, David Jastrzębski, the president of Upper Silesia Solidarity, voiced his support of the striking miners: "Neither the British government's mounted police charges nor its truncheon blows, any more than the Polish junta's tanks or rifle fire, can break our common will to struggle for a better future for the working class."[30] This was despite the fact that Arthur Scargill, president of the British National Union of Mineworkers had been highly critical of Solidarity, condemning it as an "anti-socialist organization which desires the overthrow of a socialist state".[31]

In late 2008, several democratic opposition groups in the Russian Federation formed a Solidarity movement.[32]

In the United States, the American Solidarity Party (formerly the Christian Democratic Party USA), a Christian democratic political party, attributes its namesake to Solidarity.[33]

In a 2011 essay "The Jacobin Spirit" in the American magazine Jacobin, philosopher Slavoj Zizek called Solidarnosc' one of the "free spaces at a distance from state power" that used "defensive violence" to protect itself from state control. The notion of "defensive violence" runs in the vein of ideas postulated by Alain Badiou.[34]


The union was officially founded on 17 September 1980,[1] the union's supreme powers were vested in a legislative body, the Convention of Delegates (Zjazd Delegatów). The executive branch was the National Coordinating Commission (Krajowa Komisja Porozumiewawcza), later renamed the National Commission (Komisja Krajowa). The Union had a regional structure, comprising 38 regions (region) and two districts (okręg). At its highest, the Union had over 10 million members, which became the largest union membership in the world. During the communist era the 38 regional delegates were arrested and jailed when martial law came into effect on 13 December 1981 under General Wojciech Jaruzelski. After a one-year prison term the high-ranking members of the union were offered one way trips to any country accepting them (including Canada, the United States, and nations in the Middle East).

Solidarity was organized as an industrial union, or more specifically according to the One Big Union principle, along the lines of the Industrial Workers of the World and the Spanish Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (workers in every trade were organized by region, rather than by craft).[35]

In 2010, Solidarity had more than 400,000 members.[2] National Commission of Independent Self-Governing Trade Union is located in Gdańsk and is composed of Delegates from Regional General Congresses.

Regional structure

Solidarity is divided into 37 regions, and the territorial structure to a large degree reflects the shape of Polish voivodeships, established in 1975 and annulled in 1998 (see: Administrative division of People's Republic of Poland). The regions are:

Network of key factories

The network of Solidarity branches of the key factories of Poland was created on 14 April 1981 in Gdańsk. It was made of representatives of seventeen factories; each stood for the most important factory of every voivodeship of the pre-1975 Poland (see: Administrative division of People's Republic of Poland). However, there were two exceptions. There was no representative of the Koszalin Voivodeship, and the Katowice Voivodeship was represented by two factories:

Voivodeship Represented by
Gdańsk Vladimir Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk
Szczecin Szczecin Shipyard
Poznań H. Cegielski - Poznań S.A.
Bydgoszcz Rail Vehicles Repair Shop
Zielona Góra Rolling Stock and Steel Works Zastal in Zielona Góra
Katowice Wujek Coal Mine in Katowice
The Spare Parts Factory Zgoda in Świętochłowice
Koszalin No representative
Kraków Vladimir Lenin Steelworks in Nowa Huta
Wrocław Rail Carriage Factory Pafawag in Wrocław
Rzeszów Factory of Communication Equipment WSK in Rzeszów
Białystok Cotton Works Fasty in Białystok
Kielce Ball Bearings Factory Iskra in Kielce
Olsztyn Tire Company Stomil in Olsztyn
Lublin Factory of Communication Equipment PZL in Świdnik
Łódź Julian Marchlewski Cotton Works in Łódź
Warsaw Ursus Factory in Warsaw
Opole Malapanew Steelworks in Ozimek


See also


  1. ^ a b c Guardian newspaper report Retrieved 22 June 2009
  2. ^ a b c d (in Polish) 30 lat po Sierpniu'80: "Solidarność zakładnikiem własnej historii" Archived 29 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on 7 June 2011
  3. ^ a b c (in Polish) Duda za Śniadka? by Maciej Sandecki and Marek Wąs, Gazeta Wyborcza of 24 August 2010
  4. ^ a b (in Polish) „Solidarność" a systemowe przekształcenia Europy Środkowo-Wschodniej Archived 7 August 2013 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on 7 June 2011
  5. ^ Aleksander Smolar, '"Self-limiting Revolution": Poland 1970–89', in Adam Roberts and Timothy Garton Ash (eds.), Civil Resistance and Power Politics: The Experience of Non-violent Action from Gandhi to the Present, Oxford University Press, 2009, ISBN 978-0-19-955201-6, pp. 127–43.
  6. ^ Tony Judt (2005). Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945. The Penguin Press. p. 589.
  7. ^ KOR: a history of the Workers’ Defense Committee in Poland, 1976–1981. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1985. ISBN 0-520-05243-9.
  8. ^ From Solidarity to Martial Law: The Polish Crisis of 1980-1981 : A Documentary History by Andrzej Paczkowski, Malcolm Byrne. Central European University Press, Budapest 2007. p. xxix
  9. ^ a b (in Polish) Solidarność, wielopłaszczyznowy ruch na rzecz demokratyzacji i głębokich reform ustrojowych PRL Retrieved on 7 June 2011
  10. ^ a b Steger, Manfred B (January 2004). Judging Nonviolence: The Dispute Between Realists and Idealists (ebook). Routledge (UK). p. 114. ISBN 0-415-93397-8. Retrieved 9 July 2006.
  11. ^ Paul Wehr; Guy Burgess; Heidi Burgess, eds. (February 1993). Justice Without Violence (ebook). Lynne Rienner Publishers. p. 28. ISBN 1-55587-491-6. Retrieved 6 July 2006.
  12. ^ Cavanaugh-O'Keefe, John (January 2001). Emmanuel, Solidarity: God's Act, Our Response (ebook). Xlibris Corporation. p. 68. ISBN 0-7388-3864-0. Retrieved 6 July 2006.[dead link]
  13. ^ Piotr Gliński, The Self-governing Republic in the Third Republic, "Polish Sociological Review", 2006, no.1
  14. ^ MacEachin, Douglas J. (2000). US Intelligence and the Polish Crisis: 1980–1981. cia.gov. Center for the Study of Intelligence. ISBN 9781929667062. Retrieved 10 June 2019.
  15. ^ Arsanjani, Mahnoush H.; Cogan, Jacob, eds. (2010). Looking to the Future: Essays on International Law in Honor of W. Michael Reisman. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. p. 102. ISBN 9789004173613. Retrieved 13 June 2019 – via Google Books.
  16. ^ Davies, Richard T. (2004). "The CIA and the Polish Crisis of 1980–1981". Journal of Cold War Studies. 6 (3): 120–123.
  17. ^ Gregory F. Domber (2008). Supporting the Revolution: America, Democracy, and the End of the Cold War in Poland, 1981—1989. ProQuest. p. 199., revised as Domber 2014, p. 110 [1].
  18. ^ Domber, Gregory F. (28 August 2014), What Putin Misunderstands about American Power, University of California Press Blog, University of North Carolina Press
  19. ^ MacEachin, Douglas J. "US Intelligence and the Polish Crisis 1980–1981." CIA. June 28, 2008.
  20. ^ Cover Story: The Holy Alliance By Carl Bernstein Sunday, June 24, 2001
  21. ^ Branding Democracy: U.S. Regime Change in Post-Soviet Eastern Europe Gerald Sussman, page 128
  22. ^ Executive Secrets: Covert Action and the Presidency William J. Daugherty. page 201-203
  23. ^ Repa, Jan (12 August 2005). "Analysis: Solidarity's legacy". BBC News. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
  24. ^ "Polish bishops for total ban on Sunday shopping". BBC. 23 August 2017. Retrieved 29 August 2017.
  25. ^ https://www.usnews.com/news/business/articles/2018-03-11/most-stores-shut-in-poland-as-sunday-trade-ban-takes-effect
  26. ^ "Stores shut across Poland as Sunday shopping ban takes effect".
  27. ^ "Sunday trading ban comes into effect in Poland". 11 March 2018.
  28. ^ "Stores closed as Poland phases out Sunday shopping".
  29. ^ Leszek Kołakowski. What Is Left of Socialism. First Things, October 2002
  30. ^ "Workers unite, east and west!". Workers' Liberty. Alliance for Workers' Liberty. 8 October 2009. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
  31. ^ McKinlay, John (8 September 1983). "Scargill angers unions with Solidarity attack". The Glasgow Herald. Retrieved 1 September 2014.
  32. ^ Kasparov starts new Russian opposition movement. The Associated Press. 13 December 2008.[dead link]
  33. ^ Gehrz, Chris (16 August 2016). "Could the U.S. Finally Get a Significant Christian Democratic Party?". Patheos. Retrieved 16 August 2016. The nominees of the American Solidarity Party (ASP), which takes its name from the Polish movement of the late Cold War and calls itself "the only active Christian Democratic party in the United States."
  34. ^ "The Jacobin Spirit".
  35. ^ (in Polish) Solidarność NSZZ in WIEM Encyklopedia. Last accessed on 10 October 2006

Further reading

  • Domber, Gregory G. (2016). Empowering Revolution: America, Poland, and the End of the Cold War. Dodd Mead. ISBN 978-1469629810.
  • Eringer, Robert (1982). Strike for Freedom: The Story of Lech Wałęsa and Polish Solidarity. The University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0-396-08065-0.
  • Goddeeris, Idesbald (2002). The Polish Revolution: Solidarity. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-09568-6.
  • Garton Ash, Timothy (2012). Solidarity with Solidarity: Western European Trade Unions and the Polish Crisis, 1980–1982. Lexington Books. ISBN 978-0739150719.
  • Kaminski, Marek M. (2004). Games Prisoners Play. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-11721-7.
  • Kenney, Patrick (2003). A Carnival of Revolution : Central Europe 1989. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-11627-X.
  • Kenney, Patrick (2006). The Burdens of Freedom. Zed Books Ltd. ISBN 1-84277-662-2.
  • Kubik, Jan (1994). The Power of Symbols Against the Symbols of Power: The rise of Solidarity and the fall of state socialism in Poland. The Pennsylvania State University. ISBN 0-271-01084-3.
  • Ledger, Robert. "From Solidarity to 'Shock Therapy'. British Foreign Policy Towards Poland Under the Thatcher Government, 1980–1990." Contemporary British History 30#1 (2016): 99-118.
  • Matynia, Elzbieta (2009). Performative Democracy. Paradigm. ISBN 1594516561.
  • Osa, Maryjane (2003). Solidarity and Contention: Networks of Polish Opposition. University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0-8166-3874-8.
  • Ost, David (2005). The Defeat of Solidarity: Anger and Politics in Postcommunist Europe (ebook). Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-4318-0.
  • Penn, Shana (2005). Solidarity's Secret : The Women Who Defeated Communism in Poland. University of Michigan Press. ISBN 0-472-11385-2.
  • Perdue, William D. (1995). Paradox of Change: The Rise and Fall of Solidarity in the New Poland. Praeger/Greenwood. ISBN 0-275-95295-9.
  • Pope John Paul II, Sollicitudo rei socialis, on Vatican website
  • Staniszkis, Jadwiga (1984). Poland's Self-Limiting Revolution. Princeton University Press.
  • Smolar, Aleksander, '"Self-limiting Revolution": Poland 1970–89', in Adam Roberts and Timothy Garton Ash (eds.), Civil Resistance and Power Politics: The Experience of Non-violent Action from Gandhi to the Present, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-19-955201-6.[2].
  • Szporer, Michael (2014). Solidarity: The Great Workers Strike of 1980. Lexington Books. ISBN 978-0739192801.
  • Weigel, George (1992). The Final Revolution: The Resistance Church and the Collapse of Communism. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-516664-7.

External links

14 September 1982

President-elect of Lebanon Bachir Gemayel is assassinated.

Bachir Gemayel

Bachir Gemayel
بشير الجميّل
Bachir While Giving A Speech.jpg
President-elect of Lebanon
In role
23 August 1982 – 14 September 1982
Preceded byElias Sarkis
Succeeded byAmine Gemayel
Leader of Lebanese Forces
In office
Succeeded byFadi Frem
Personal details
Born(1947-11-10)10 November 1947
Achrafieh, Beirut, Lebanon
Died14 September 1982(1982-09-14) (aged 34)
Achrafieh, Beirut, Lebanon
Political partyKataeb Party
Lebanese Forces
Solange Tutunji
(m. 1977; his death 1982)
RelationsAmine Gemayel (brother)
ChildrenMaya Gemayel (1978–1980)
Youmna Gemayel
Nadim Gemayel
ParentsPierre Gemayel
Genevieve Gemayel
EducationSaint Joseph University
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This article is part of a series on the
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Bachir Gemayel (Arabic: بشير الجميّلBashīr al-Jimayyel, also romanized al-Jumayyil and El Gemaiel, Arabic pronunciation: [baˈʃiːr ʤɪ'ma.jjɪl]; 10 November 1947 – 14 September 1982), also Bashir Gemayel, was a senior member of the right-wing Christian Kataeb Party, also known as the Phalange Party, and the son of its founder Pierre Gemayel.

He became the supreme commander of the Lebanese Forces, uniting major Christian militias by force during the early years of the Lebanese Civil War under the campaign of "Uniting the Christian Rifle" and later founded the Lebanese Forces political party. Gemayel's Forces became the most powerful militia in Lebanon and is widely remembered for it's resistance and battles against the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Syrian Army, most notably the Hundred Days' War and the Battle of Zahleh.

He was democratically-elected president on 23 August 1982 by the majority of Christian and Muslim MPs while the country was torn by civil war and occupied by both Israel, Syria and Palestinian factions. Gemayel started enacting policies to disarm Christian militias, ordered the Lebanese Army to enter West Beirut for the first time since the start of the war and forced Yasser Arafat and the PLO to leave Lebanon. On 14 September, before he could take office, he was assassinated, along with 26 others, when a bomb exploded in Beirut Phalange headquarters. While some have accused Habib Tanious Shartouni,[1] the US Federal Bureau of Investigation blamed the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP).[2]

Gemayel remains the youngest elected president and one of the most charismatic and controversial figures in Lebanese history.

Early life

Bachir Gemayel as a child

Bachir was born in the Achrafieh neighborhood of Beirut on 10 November 1947, the youngest of six children. The Gemayel family originated from Bikfaya village in the Matn District of Lebanon and is one of the most influential Christian families in the country. His father was Pierre Gemayel, who founded the Phalange party in 1936 as a youth movement. Bachir Gemayel attended the Jesuit Collège Notre Dame de Jamhour and the Institution Moderne du Liban (IML)- Fanar. He completed his university education at St. Joseph University (Université Saint-Joseph - USJ) in Beirut. After teaching for three years at the Lebanese Modern Institute, he graduated in 1971 with a bachelor's degree in law and another in political sciences in 1973. In 1971, Gemayel studied at The Center for American and International Law near Dallas, Texas in the United States. Qualifying in 1972, he joined the bar association and opened an office in Hamra Street, West Beirut.[3]

Gemayel family

Bashir's father Pierre Gemayel studied pharmacology in Europe and founded the Phalange Party in 1936 (also known as Kataeb) upon his return to Lebanon, modelling the party after the Spanish and Italian Fascist parties he had observed there. It swelled to 40,000 members. Although he became a Lebanese minister, and was targeted in at least two assassination attempts, Pierre Gemayel never rose to the prominence of his sons but remained a powerful figure until his death in 1984.

A month after Bashir's death, his brother Amine Gemayel was elected president in 1982, remaining in office until the end of his constitutional second term in 1988.

Many of Bashir's other family members would go on to be elected into the Lebanese parliament: His widow Solange Gemayel (in 2005), his son Nadim Gemayel (in 2009 and 2018), his nephews Sami Gemayel (in 2009 and 2018) and Pierre Amine Gemayel (in 2000 and 2005) who also served as the Minister of Industry in 2005 until his assassination on 21 November 2006.

Early activities in the Kataeb Party

Bachir became a member of the Kataeb Party's youth section when he was 12 years old.[4] Bachir realized the dangers that surrounded Lebanon in 1958, so he spent a lot of time with the organized political wing of the Kataeb Party.[4] He attended the meetings organized by the Kataeb Student Section, and he was the president of the Kataeb Circle in St. Joseph University between 1965 and 1971.[4]

In the late 1960s, he underwent paramilitary training in Bikfaya, and he was appointed squad leader of a militia unit of the Kataeb Regulatory Forces - KRF (the Party's military wing formed in 1961). Then in the early 1970s, he formed the "Bikfaya Squad" within the RKF, where he became acquainted with the basics of military combat.[4] In 1968, he participated in a student colloquium organized by the newspaper Orient, following events which occurred across Lebanese universities between the Muslim and leftist Pan-Arabist students supporting the Palestinians in Lebanon on one side, and Lebanese Christian nationalist (Phoenicist) students (whom Bachir represented) on the other.[citation needed]

After the 1968-69 clashes between the Lebanese Army and the PLO, Bachir gathered a group of Christian students, and started training them in the Kataeb-run training camp, located near Bsharri in the Keserwan District mountains. This was the start of what would later become the Lebanese Forces. At this stage, he was a junior militia commander under the orders of William Hawi, the founder and head of the KRF.[4]

Bachir with his Father Pierre.
Bachir with Kataeb Regulatory Forces militiamen.

In 1970, Bachir was briefly kidnapped by Palestinian militants in Lebanon and taken to the Tel al-Zaatar refugee camp. He was released 8 hours later.[citation needed]

Bachir became a member of the "BG Squad" formed by William Hawi. He was a revolutionary in the party. He became close with Jean Nader, the leader of Achrafieh at that time, and became the vice president of that Lebanese Capital district, a position that he held from 1971 until 1975.[4]

Bachir became the head of the "BG Squad" after its members found him as a leader more close to their views. This group was formed of 12 specially trained members such as Fouad Abou Nader, Fadi Frem, Elie Hobeika and others. They were fierce fighters, and they were known for their violent performance in the field. This group was out of the direct control of the party.[4] He had his own views and principles, and he wanted to run for the Vice Presidency of the party, but his men said to him that they wanted him as the leader of the "Lebanese Forces" and not the VP of a party. In addition, many members of the party did not want him as the VP because he was the son of Pierre Gemayel, the founder and president of the party. The elections were cancelled and did not take place until after his assassination.[4]

Bachir submitted his resignation from the party in 1976, but it was rejected. This was because the Kataeb Party was forced to approve the entrance of the Syrian Army to Lebanon to put an end to the war, but Bachir refused to accept this, being strongly against the Syrian intervention because he believed that Syria wanted to annex Lebanon. He came to this conclusion because the Syrian officials repeatedly stated that Lebanon is part of Syria and that the Syrian Army doesn't need anyone's permission to enter Lebanon. Moreover, at that time, the Syrian educational system was teaching that Lebanon was a Syrian district.[4]

Military command

Conflict with the PLO

In 1975, Gemayel was accused by the LNM of being responsible for the Black Saturday massacre of Palestinians and Lebanese Muslims. According to Phalange member Karim Pakradouni, Bachir admitted to him that while being in an emotional state for the killing of four Phalangists earlier that day, he ordered his militiamen into the streets. Bachir added that when the situation developed into something he did not agree with and civilians were being killed, he tried to stop the killings but failed to.[5] However, according to Michel Samaha, another Phalange member, Bachir was outside Beirut, arriving after the killing of civilians had started. Michel Samaha added that Bachir was one of the many senior members of the Phalange Party who tried to stop this massacre.[5]

Bachir in the street

Christian East Beirut was ringed by heavily fortified Palestinian camps from which kidnappings and sniping against Lebanese civilians became a daily routine. Christian East Beirut became besieged by the PLO camps, with severe shortages of food and fuel. This unbearable situation led the Kataeb Forces and their allied Christian militias to besiege the Palestinian camps embedded in Christian East Beirut one at a time and bring them down. On January 18, 1976, Bachir led the invasion of the heavily fortified Karantina camp that was located near the strategic Beirut Harbor: About 1,000 PLO fighters and civilians were killed.[6] The Palestinian PLO and as-Saiqa forces retaliated by attacking the isolated defenseless Christian town of Damour about 20 miles south of Beirut on the coast, during the Damour massacre in which 1,000 Christian civilians were killed and 5,000 were sent fleeing north by boat, since all roads were blocked off.[7] The Maronites retaliated with the invasion of the Tel al-Zaatar camp that same year (The camp was placed under siege for 52 days by the Tigers militia led by Dany Chamoun). Bachir played an important role in the last stages of the battle: he sent a group of his forces that moved through the sewers and they blew up the ammunition storage in the camp. This incident was considered to be the lethal blow that led the fall of the camp.[8] The Christian militias also fought against the PLO and LNM militias at the Battle of the Hotels in central Beirut. Bachir led the battle for the Holiday Inn that had an important strategic location. The battle was a success for Bachir's troops, and they were able to move the PLO out of the hotel. After ensuring the safety of the rear lines and their effectiveness (necessary for the safety of Christian East Beirut), Bachir and his troops decided to abandon the hotel.[9]

Bachir attending mass at a training camp

In 1976, with the death of William Hawi, killed by a sniper during the battle of Tall Al-Zaatar, Bachir became head of the Kataeb Regulatory Forces militia. Later that year, he became a leading member of the Lebanese Front, a coalition of several Christian parties, and commander of their military wing, the Lebanese Forces. A military coalition of several Christian militias which not only opposed the PLO but also the Syrian Army presence, who had entered Lebanon at first to assist in defeating Palestinian militants, before turning into occupiers.[10]

Bachir giving a speech at "Don Bosco" training camp

Bachir led his troops in the infamous “Hundred Days War” in Lebanon in 1978, in which the Lebanese Forces successfully resisted the Syrian shelling and attacking of Eastern Beirut for about three months before an Arab-brokered agreement forced the Syrians to end the siege. Syrians took high buildings such as Burj Rizk Achrafieh and Burj El Murr using snipers and heavy weapons against civilians. The soldiers stayed for 90 days. Another major clash took place near the Sodeco area in Achrafieh where the Lebanese Forces fought ferociously and led the Syrian army out of the Rizk Building.[11] This War led to the withdrawal of the Syrian troops from East Beirut and the free Christian Areas. At this time, Israel was the primary backer of the Lebanese Front's militia.

In 1981 at Zahlé in the Beqaa, the largest Christian town in the East, confronted one of the biggest battles – both military and political – between the Lebanese Forces and the Syrian occupying forces. The Lebanese Forces were able to confront them and reverse the result of the battle of 1981 with the help of 92 Lebanese Forces soldiers (L.F Special Forces: Al Maghawir) sent from Beirut as well as the towns inhabitants. Regardless of the very bad weather and heavy bombing, convoys were sent in the snow to Zahle. The battle of Zahle gave the Lebanese Cause a new perspective in the International Communities, and by some was regarded as military and diplomatic victory. It strengthened Bashir Gemayel's position because of his leadership and important role in this battle. The battle started on 2 April 1981, and finished with a cease fire and Lebanese Internal Security Forces gendarmes were sent to Zahle. The 92 Lebanese Forces' commandos returned to Beirut on 1 July 1981.[12] (See: Battle of Zahleh for more details)

Tensions within the Lebanese Front

Bachir with Camille Chamoun

Despite its increasing success in its battles against the PLO and the Syrian troops two factors led to the eventual demise of the Lebanese Front.

Following the killing of many Phalangist members, in addition to a senior Phalangist by members of the Marada Brigade militia, which was led by a fellow member of the Lebanese Front, Tony Frangieh, Bachir called for a meeting to decide on what to do about this situation. At first, the decision was to capture Tony Frangieh, and force him to surrender the members of the Marada militia who killed the Phalangists. However, there was concern about the consequences of this move. So, the decision was changed after many talks between the Phalangists present at the meeting. It was decided that the goal of the operation would be to capture the members of the Marada militia who killed the Phalangists and it would be done on Tuesday to be sure that Tony Frangieh would have finished his weekend vacation and left Ehden. On 13 June 1978, Bachir sent a squadron of his men led by Samir Geagea and Elie Hobeika to Ehden, but what Bachir did not know is that Tony Frangieh never left Ehden since his car did not work. As soon as the squadron arrived, bullets were flying all over their heads, so they retaliated and this led to the killing of Tony Frangieh and his family, in addition to tens of members of the Marada militia. The incident is known as the Ehden massacre. Bachir was very angry about what happened, but he stood by his men. [13]

In 1980, in order to stop the clashes happening inside the Christian areas, between the Kataeb Militia and the Tigers Militia, and in order to eliminate the possibility of an Intra-Christian war, Bachir sent his troops to the town of Safra, where Dany Chamoun and members of his Tigers Militia were vacationing. The Tigers under the control of Elias el Hannache were exterminated in what was later named Safra massacre. Dany's life was spared and he sought refuge in West Beirut, but Camille Chamoun's support of the attack was interpreted as him believing that his son's militia was getting too out of control.[citation needed]

Israeli invasion of Lebanon and Bachir's election

Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982.[14] Defense Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, met with Bachir months earlier, telling him that the Israeli Defense Force were planning an invasion to uproot the PLO threat to Israel and to move them out of Lebanon.[15] While Bachir did not control Israel's actions in Lebanon, the support Israel gave the Lebanese Forces, militarily and politically, angered many Lebanese leftists.

Bachir met with Hani Al Hassan (representative of the PLO) and told him that Israel would enter and wipe them out. Bachir told him to leave Lebanon peacefully before it was too late. Hani left and no reply was given to Bachir.[16]

Celebrations in Sassine Square after Bachir's election
Bachir with Philip Habib, who played an important role in Bachir's election

Israel invaded and the PLO were expelled from Lebanon in August 1982. During the invasion, the Israelis wanted the Lebanese Forces to assist the Israeli Army militarily by fighting the PLO and allied groups in West Beirut; however, Bachir refused that because he said that his forces would not assist an invading army. By now, Bachir had announced his candidacy for president. He was backed by the United States, who sent peacekeeping troops to oversee the withdrawal of the PLO from Lebanon. Bachir had requested that they stay longer to keep Lebanon stable until he could reunite it, but his request was denied. The Mossad also contributed to his presidency.[14] On 23 August 1982, being the only one to declare his bid, Bachir was elected president, as he prevailed over the National Movement.[17][18][19]

On 1 September 1982, two weeks before his assassination and only one week after his election, Bachir met the Israeli Prime minister Menachem Begin in Nahariya. During the meeting, Begin demanded that Bachir sign a peace treaty with Israel as soon as he took office in return of Israel's earlier support of Lebanese Forces and he also told Bachir that the IDF would stay in South Lebanon if the Peace Treaty wasn't signed. Bachir was furious at Begin and told him that the Lebanese Forces didn't fight for seven years and that they didn't sacrifice thousands of soldiers to free Lebanon from the Syrian Army and the PLO so that Israel can take their place. Bachir also added that he will not sign the Peace Treaty without national consensus on the matter.

Begin was reportedly angry at Bachir for his public denial of Israel's support. Bachir refused signing a peace treaty arguing that time is needed to reach consensus with Lebanese Muslims and the Arab nations. This angered the Israelis because they knew that it is almost impossible for the Lebanese Muslims to agree on a Peace Treaty. They realized that Bachir was starting to distance himself from them.[20]

On 12 September 1982, in an attempt to fix the relations between Begin and Bachir, Ariel Sharon had a secret meeting with Bachir in Bikfaya. During the meeting, Bachir told Sharon that the Lebanese Army would soon enter into the Palestinian Camps to disarm any remaining fighters. They also agreed that the Lebanese Army would attack the Syrian Army's positions in Lebanon assisted by the Israeli Army. In addition, Sharon tried to convince Bachir about signing a Peace Treaty, but Bachir did not change his position on this matter.

Bachir had planned to use the IDF to push the Syrian Army out of Lebanon and then use his relations with the Americans to pressure the Israelis into withdrawing from Lebanese territory.[21]

Time as President-elect

25 August : Deployment of International Separation Forces (mainly American, French, and Italian)

30 August  : Yasser Arafat leaves Beirut to Athens

1 September : Meeting between Presidents Bachir and Elias Sarkis with American Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger

2 September : Opening the path of Sodeco that was previously considered as a separation line between East and West Beirut

4 September : The Lebanese Army enters West Beirut for the first time since 1973

9 September : The Lebanese Army enters the Palestinian Camp Bourj el-Barajneh and that was restricted since 1969 by the Cairo Agreement

10 September : The International Separation Forces leaves Lebanon after completing its task

11 September : Beirut's economic market resumes its activities; Bachir meets with former Lebanese Prime Minister Saeb Salam.

13 September : Beirut's seaport resumes its activities

During these 21 days, fighters from the Lebanese Forces were prohibited from wearing their army clothes and also from carrying their weapons in the streets. The Lebanese Army was the only armed force in the streets.


On 14 September 1982, Bachir was addressing fellow Phalangists at their headquarters in Achrafieh for the last time as their leader and for the last time as commander of the Lebanese Forces. At 4:10 PM, a bomb was detonated at the headquarters, killing Bachir and 26 other Phalange politicians. The first testimonies stated that Bachir Gemayel had left the premises on foot or in an ambulance (bearing the number 90). A report from a hospital came to say he had just arrived. Then the commander of military intelligence Jonny Abdu reported that Bachir Gemayel had been taken to an hospital in Haifa by helicopter. However, the rescue and research teams on the field were unable to find him or his body.[22]

His body was finally identified by a Mossad agent in a church nearby the site of the explosion where the dead corpses were collected. The corpse's face was unrecognizable because of the explosion, but the body was identified thanks to the white-gold wedding ring he was wearing and 2 letters he was carrying and addressed to Bachir Gemayel. The body was therefore found 5 hours and a half after the explosion. It was concluded that it had been one of the first bodies to be dragged there after the explosion.[22] Whereas rumors spread that Bachir had gotten out alive, it was confirmed the next morning by the Lebanese Prime Minister Shafik Wazzan that Bachir was indeed assassinated.[23]

Habib Shartouni, a member of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party and also a Maronite Christian, was later arrested for the assassination. His sister was living in the apartment above the room Bachir was in. He had visited her the previous day and planted the bomb in her apartment. The next day, he called her and told her to get out of the building. Once she was out, he detonated the bomb from a few miles away from the building. When he came back to check on his sister, he was immediately arrested. He later confessed to it, saying he had done this because “Bachir had sold the country to Israel.” A reporter was heard telling him "You didn't kill a man, you killed a country." He was imprisoned for 8 years, until Syrian troops took over Lebanon at the end of the war and freed him on 13 October 1990. Amine Gemayel did not condemn Habib Shartouni because of immense Syrian pressure.[24] Many point fingers at the Syrian government and then-Syrian President Hafez al-Assad for having knowledge of the assassination attempt and for backing Shartouni.[25]


Condemnations poured in from around the world, including from the United Nations Security Council in Resolution 520 as well as from American President Ronald Reagan. Reagan had been one of Bachir's most staunch supporters, saying "this promising young leader had brought the light of hope to Lebanon."[26]

Bachir Gemayel's older brother Amine Gemayel was then elected as president, serving from 1982[27] to 1988. Rather different in temperament, Amine Gemayel was widely regarded as more moderate than his brother.

Many of Bachir's followers were dissatisfied with Amine. Eventually, the Lebanese Forces became independent from the Phalange and its own political party.

Sabra and Shatila Massacre

The Sabra and Shatila massacre was the killing of between 762 and 3,500 civilians, mostly Palestinians and Lebanese Shiites, by a militia close to the Kataeb Party, also called Phalange, a predominantly Christian Lebanese right-wing party in the Sabra neighborhood and the adjacent Shatila refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon.

The massacre was presented as retaliation for the assassination of newly elected Lebanese president Bachir Gemayel, the leader of the Lebanese Kataeb Party.


Throughout the postwar period, the cult of Bashir Gemayel was the most visible commemorative phenomenon in parts of Beirut especially Ashrafieh. The leader of LF, is revered with a wealth of different signs, ranging from spray-painted profiles and posters in the public space of the entry hall of Beirut's old Jesuit university, University Saint-Joseph.

Personal life

Bachir Gemayel's widow, Solange Gemayel, works to keep his legacy alive through the Bachir Gemayel Foundation, a political and informational organization.

Bachir's eldest daughter, Maya, was murdered on 23 February 1980 at 18 months of age by a car bomb intended for her father.[28][29] He had two surviving children: His second daughter, Youmna, was born later in the year and received her degree in political science in Paris. She is now working towards her Masters in Management at ESA (École supérieure des affaires) in Beirut. Gemayel's son, Nadim, who was born a few months before Bachir was killed, was a law student and political activist, and was elected as a member of the Lebanese Parliament in 2009.

Political views

On relationship with the United States

The relations between Lebanon and the United States had a high priority rating on Gemayel's agenda, and occupied a sizeable portion of his time and efforts. Bachir Gemayel believed that the U.S. and Lebanon are natural allies since they enjoy a common cultural affinity, similar ideological beliefs, free economic systems and strong commitment to human rights and dignity. He believed in the U.S. leadership of the Free World and he was confident that Washington would strengthen its ties to Lebanon. The Lebanese people, he declared, do not wish that their American friends fight their battle and suffer casualties. However, they look to the U.S. for economic and military aid so that they themselves may free their country.

When Alexander Haig, the United States Secretary of State, subsequently declared that the fact of restoring peace and security to Lebanon would achieve the same result for all the countries of the region, Bashir wholeheartedly agreed with him and supported the new policy of the United States saying: “Mr. Alexander Haig is quite right in proclaiming this new attitude loud and clear. In fact, that its exactly what we have been saying for the past seven years!”

Bashir did not minimize the role of the Lebanese communities in America. He considered that his fellow-Lebanese living in the United States had an important role to play, and distinguished two stages in this context: the first stage, in which the Lebanese overseas communities would not play any role at all, i.e. the passive stage; and a positive stage in which they would promote the cause of their father land and lobby for a modification in U.S. foreign policy dealing with Lebanon. He said: “Two years ago, we were not present in the American Forum. The Palestinians have their lobby, so do the Jews, the Kurds and the Copts. As for us, whenever a representative of this country goes to the States, it is usually to collect donations to fix the belfry of such or such a Church, or to obtain a grant for some school or other in a village. But when our presence there became larger, people began to sit up and take interest in the Lebanese Cause.”

Bashir's approach was not limited to this alone: he called for an efficient reorganization of the overseas Lebanese collectivities in the United States because, according to his views, they represented a non-negligible source of political and financial power. He suggested: “There is a vital necessity to reorganize the groups of Lebanese emigrants in a practical and modern manner, in order to create our own lobby, to promote the cause of our country in America. We cannot ignore the fact that the United States constitute the world’s center of gravity and that their influence in the Middle-East conflict is preponderant.” He stressed the importance of maintaining the best relations with the United States, particularly in Lebanon itself through the medium of U.S. Ambassador Philip Habib and the United States’ Embassy in Beirut. No effort must be neglected to enlist the active political support of the greatest nation in the world for the Lebanese cause. Bashir was confident that such good relations existed already: “We entertain excellent relations with Philip Habib, with the United States’ Embassy in Beirut, and with the State Department in Washington through our offices abroad. We enjoy close relations with all the centers of power and gravity throughout the world.”

With regard to Ambassador Philip Habib’s mission in Lebanon, Bashir expressed the wish to see these efforts continue: “I hope that Ambassador Habib’s mission here will be pursued until we clear up all our problems with his help. In our present predicament we Lebanese are in dire need of friendship from abroad, to assist up in overcoming our difficulties and help us stand on our feet again.”

On relationship with European countries

The relations between Lebanon and the European countries deteriorated because Gemayel saw the latter trying to solve the Middle-East problem at the expense of Lebanon. In addition to this factor, many European countries had adopted the obsequious policy of fawning on the Arab States in order to secure their oil supplies.

Bashir referred to both these factors in one of his speeches :

“Europe and many other states are not able to digest the Christian presence in this corner of the world, because it is a stumbling-block to most of their ambitions in this area. The Americans and the West have not yet assimilated the fact that we, the Christians of the Orient, represent their last line of defense against a return to the dark ages, against terror and blind fundamentalism, against those who seek to annihilate all the values of civilization and of their culture. Today, they want to ‘sell us down the river’ for a barrel of oil!”

On relationship with Arab countries

Gemayel firmly believed that Lebanon has a great role to play in emancipation of the Arab world but that Lebanon must be respected and trusted as an equal and be free of foreign intervention (including Arab intervention) and that Arab governments must understand that Lebanon is a sovereign state and has right to reject any policy contrary to its national interests.

He warned the Arab world not to exploit the friendship and cooperation of the Lebanese people by attempting to settle Middle East conflicts at Lebanon's expense. He acknowledged, however, that during his visit to Ta'if, he was advised by his Saudi hosts that they understand Lebanon's problems and position on the PLO and Syria. Saudi leaders publicly lauded him for his leadership and vision.

Gemayel insisted in his talks that the PLO and Syrian armed presence in Lebanon is not negotiable or open for compromise since it undermines Lebanon's sovereignty which cannot be divided among non-Lebanese armies.

He also praised the efforts deployed by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in helping Lebanon, and he called for stronger relations with these two countries. "The Lebanese people," he declared, "will reserve a special friendship for the Saudis and their Arab friends."

On Israel

Bashir defined his attitude towards Israel clearly: "This is our answer with regard to our relations or our dealings with Israel: We are nobody's agents or lackeys, we are Lebanese. As for the Israeli arms present in the country, this can be explained by the fact that some villages might have felt themselves threatened, and were cornered into getting supplies from anywhere that might be convenient including Israel. When a person feels threatened by danger, he will accept help from the devil. A very critical situation would develop if we were forced to turn towards Israel for help."

As for his attachment to the South of Lebanon, Bashir expressed this by appealing to all "to work for the preservation of the Lebanese identity in the South. This can best be done by a State initiative to provide them this neglected region with the basic social services, education, and development, all of which are sorely lacking, and to ask the State to restore its full sovereignty over the South, in all its forms."

Concerning the Syrian-Palestinian-Israeli conflict on the battlefields of Lebanon, it was obvious that the three belligerents were fighting to impose the solution that would best serve their interests, exploiting the Lebanese situation in the process. Whereas what Bashir was concerned with, first and foremost, was to find solutions that would enable the Lebanese to recover their land and save the people from their present tribulations. In this connection he said: "It is now a matter of competition, a race between Syrian moves, Palestinian moves and Israeli action, and the one who wins the race will be able to solve the Lebanese problem radically. As for us, we have taken a decision: we want to recover our territorial integrity, our national sovereignty and the freedom of our people."


Al-Ashbal: its first camp was organized under the patronage of Bashir in Jbeil scout camping grounds (1975).

Popular Committees: launched by Bashir in 1976, their aim is the people's participation in the organization of daily life.

Hamat Airport: created by Bashir in 1976 for special tourist trips and for the export of agricultural products...

Radio Free Lebanon : founded by Bashir in 1978 to explain to the world the reality of the Lebanese cause.

Radio 102 : out of Bashir's desire for a commercial station in order to alleviate the burden of the war (1979).

Delta Computer : founded in 1979 as a specialized information body related to all components of social organization.

Help Lebanon : founded to take care of children and alleviate the consequences of the war.

Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC) : launched in 1980 as a national, educational, cultural and non-commercial television.

Gamma Group : an institution including specialists to plan the building of a modern state in all of its sectors (1982).

The Lebanese Cultural Association : created in 1982 to deal with intellectual, literature and artistic affairs as well as Lebanese civilization.

Achrafieh Merchants Committee : created in 1982 to revive the economy and trade and organize the market.

Achrafieh Festival Committee : created in 1982 to organize fairs and exhibitions and to encourage artistic activities.[30]

See also



  1. ^ Reuters (10 March 1982). "Phalangists identify bomber of Gemayel as Lebanese leftist". The New York Times.
  2. ^ Neil A. Lewis (18 May 1988). "U.S. Links Men in Bomb Case To Lebanon Terrorist Group". The New York Times.
  3. ^ "Bashir Gemayel (1947-1982)". Bachir Gemayel. Archived from the original on 28 October 2014. Retrieved 4 July 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Hayek, Georges (2010). History in a Man – Bachir Gemayel. p. 68.
  5. ^ a b [1] Archived 22 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Harris (p. 162) notes "the massacre of 1,500 Palestinians, Shi'is, and others in Karantina and Maslakh, and the revenge killings of hundreds of Christians in Damur"
  7. ^ "Historical Fact: The Massacre and Destruction of Damour". Lebanese Forces. Archived from the original on 9 June 2012. Retrieved 4 July 2012.
  8. ^ "The Battle of Tel el Zaatar 1976". Liberty 05. Retrieved 4 July 2012.
  9. ^ "Lebanon: Beirut's Agony Under the Guns of March". Time. 5 April 1976.
  10. ^ Interviews with Elie Karameh, Edmond Rizk, Louis Karam, Naji Boutrous and Salim Reaidi conducted in March 1995
  11. ^ Video on YouTube[dead link]
  12. ^ "Historical Fact: The Battle of Zahle - 1981". Lebanese Forces. Archived from the original on 26 June 2012. Retrieved 4 July 2012.
  13. ^ [2] Archived 29 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ a b Bsisu, N. (2012). "Israeli Domestic Politics and the War in Lebanon" (PDF). Lights: The MESSA Journal. 29. Retrieved 23 March 2013.
  15. ^ "Israel and Lebanon - Allies - Part 2". YouTube. 20 August 2007. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
  16. ^ قصة الموارنة في الحرب - جوزيف أبو خليل
  17. ^ Hayek, Georges (2010). Bachir Gemayel - History in a Man. self-published. p. 278.
  18. ^ Hudson, Michael C. (1997). "Trying Again: Power-Sharing in Post-Civil War Lebanon" (PDF). International Negotiation. 2: 103–122. doi:10.1163/15718069720847889. Retrieved 4 July 2012.[permanent dead link]
  19. ^ Avon, Dominique; Khatchadourian, Anaïs-Trissa; Todd, Jane Marie (10 September 2012). Hezbollah: A History of the "Party of God". Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674067523.
  20. ^ Cobra - From Israel to Damascus
  21. ^ Khalife, Nabil (2008). Lebanon in Kissinger's Plan. Byblos Center for Research. p. 271.
  22. ^ a b Zeev Schiff; Ehud Ya'ari (3 June 1985). Simon and Schuster (ed.). Israel's Lebanon War.
  23. ^ From Beirut to Jerusalem by Thomas Friedman
  24. ^ "Bachir Gemayel Community Site - Who is Habib El-Shartouni ?". Bachirgemayel.org. Archived from the original on 25 February 2012. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
  25. ^ "Wars of Lebanon - People". Wars.meskawi.nl. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
  26. ^ Statement on the Assassination of President-elect Bashir Gemayel of Lebanon
  27. ^ Avon, Dominique; Khatchadourian, Anaïs-Trissa; Todd, Jane Marie (10 September 2012). Hezbollah: A History of the "Party of God". Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674067523.
  28. ^ "Beirut Bomb Kills 8; Christian Militia Chief Believed to Be Target; Fought Palestinians and Leftists". The New York Times. 24 February 1980. p. 10.
  29. ^ "Syrian chronicles 1973-1990". Tayyar. Archived from the original on 19 December 2011. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
  30. ^ [3] Archived 21 September 2010 at the Wayback Machine

Further reading

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Elias Sarkis
President-elect of Lebanon
(assassinated before being sworn in)

Succeeded by
Amine Gemayel

2 April 1982

Argentina invades the Falkland Islands.

The Falkland Islands were first settled by the French – in 1764 Louis Antoine de Bougainville established a settlement there. The British turned up some time later, but left in 1774. They did leave a note saying not to touch them, however, because they belonged to King George.

By the time the British did return in 1833, Argentina had claimed the islands, and had stationed a garrison there to back this up. But they were booted out, and the islands have been in British hands ever since.

Well, apart from 74 days in 1982.

In the 1980s, Argentina was having a few political and economic problems. The 1976 coup had left a military junta in charge. But by the early ’80s, it was becoming increasingly unpopular, with a collapsing economy, rampant inflation, and government death squads ‘disappearing’ thousands of political opponents.

To divert the public’s attention from all the unpleasantness, General Leopoldo Galtieri decided to whip up a bit of nationalistic fervour by reclaiming the ‘Malvinas’ for the motherland.

And so, on 2 April 1982, 3,000 Argentinian troops landed, quickly put an end to the resistance of the 80 or so Royal Marines, and raised the Argentinian flag over Government House.

But if Argentina thought Britain would just give up their remote windswept possession 8,000 miles away, they were wrong. Mrs Thatcher, her own popularity waning, decided to fight back.

A naval task force was dispatched within days. Vulcan bombers flew raids from Ascension Island, 4,000 miles away, in an attempt to put the Port Stanley airport out of action. Harrier jump jets played a starring role. Foreign correspondents made their names.

The bitter war lasted just ten weeks. By 14 June, it was all over. Britain had retaken the islands. Over 900 people were dead.

2 April 1982

Argentina invades the Falkland Islands.


Argentine amphibious forces rapidly overcame the small garrison of British marines at the town of Stanley on East Falkland and the next day seized the dependent territories of South Georgia and the South Sandwich group. The 1,800 Falkland Islanders, mostly English-speaking sheep farmers, awaited a British response.

The Falkland Islands, located about 300 miles off the southern tip of Argentina, had long been claimed by the British. British navigator John Davis may have sighted the islands in 1592, and in 1690 British Navy Captain John Strong made the first recorded landing on the islands. He named them after Viscount Falkland, who was the First Lord of the Admiralty at the time. In 1764, French navigator Louis-Antoine de Bougainville founded the islands’ first human settlement, on East Falkland, which was taken over by the Spanish in 1767. In 1765, the British settled West Falkland but left in 1774 for economic reasons. Spain abandoned its settlement in 1811.

In 1816 Argentina declared its independence from Spain and in 1820 proclaimed its sovereignty over the Falklands. The Argentines built a fort on East Falkland, but in 1832 it was destroyed by the USS Lexington in retaliation for the seizure of U.S. seal ships in the area. In 1833, a British force expelled the remaining Argentine officials and began a military occupation. In 1841, a British lieutenant governor was appointed, and by the 1880s a British community of some 1,800 people on the islands was self-supporting. In 1892, the wind-blown Falkland Islands were collectively granted colonial status.

For the next 90 years, life on the Falklands remained much unchanged, despite persistent diplomatic efforts by Argentina to regain control of the islands. In 1981, the Falkland Islanders voted in a referendum to remain British, and it seemed unlikely that the Falklands would ever revert to Argentine rule. Meanwhile, in Argentina, the military junta led by Lieutenant General Leopoldo Galtieri was suffering criticism for its oppressive rule and economic management, and planned the Falklands invasion as a means of promoting patriotic feeling and propping up its regime.

In March 1982, Argentine salvage workers occupied South Georgia Island, and a full-scale invasion of the Falklands began on April 2. Under orders from their commanders, the Argentine troops inflicted no British casualties, despite suffering losses to their own units. Nevertheless, Britain was outraged, and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher assembled a naval task force of 30 warships to retake the islands. As Britain is 8,000 miles from the Falklands, it took several weeks for the British warships to arrive. On April 25, South Georgia Island was retaken, and after several intensive naval battles fought around the Falklands, British troops landed on East Falkland on May 21. After several weeks of fighting, the large Argentine garrison at Stanley surrendered on June 14, effectively ending the conflict.

Britain lost five ships and 256 lives in the fight to regain the Falklands, and Argentina lost its only cruiser and 750 lives. Humiliated in the Falklands War, the Argentine military was swept from power in 1983, and civilian rule was restored. In Britain, Margaret Thatcher’s popularity soared after the conflict, and her Conservative Party won a landslide victory in 1983 parliamentary elections.

8 January 1982

AT&T agrees to divest itself of twenty-two subdivisions.

The breakup of the Bell System was mandated on January 8, 1982, by an agreed consent decree providing that AT&T Corporation would, as had been initially proposed by AT&T, relinquish control of the Bell Operating Companies that had provided local telephone service in the United States and Canada up until that point. This effectively took the monopoly that was the Bell System and split it into entirely separate companies that would continue to provide telephone service. AT&T would continue to be a provider of long distance service, while the now independent Regional Bell Operating Companies would provide local service, and would no longer be directly supplied with equipment from AT&T subsidiary Western Electric.

This divestiture was initiated by the filing in 1974 by the United States Department of Justice of an antitrust lawsuit against AT&T. AT&T was, at the time, the sole provider of telephone service throughout most of the United States. Furthermore, most telephonic equipment in the United States was produced by its subsidiary, Western Electric. This vertical integration led AT&T to have almost total control over communication technology in the country, which led to the antitrust case, United States v. AT&T. The plaintiff in the court complaint asked the court to order AT&T to divest ownership of Western Electric.

Feeling that it was about to lose the suit, AT&T proposed an alternative — the breakup of the biggest corporation in American history. It proposed that it retain control of Western Electric, Yellow Pages, the Bell trademark, Bell Labs, and AT&T Long Distance. It also proposed that it be freed from a 1956 anti-trust consent decree, then administered by Judge Vincent Pasquale Biunno in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, that barred it from participating in the general sale of computers. In return, it proposed to give up ownership of the local operating companies. This last concession, it argued, would achieve the Government’s goal of creating competition in supplying telephone equipment and supplies to the operative companies. The settlement was finalized on January 8, 1982, with some changes ordered by the decree court: the regional holding companies got the Bell trademark, Yellow Pages, and about half of Bell Labs.

Effective January 1, 1984, the Bell System’s many member-companies were variously merged into seven independent “Regional Holding Companies”, also known as Regional Bell Operating Companies, or “Baby Bells”. This divestiture reduced the book value of AT&T by approximately 70%.

20 October 1982

During the UEFA Cup match between FC Spartak Moscow and HFC Haarlem, 66 people are crushed to death in the Luzhniki disaster.

Luzhniki Stadium

On 20 October 1982, the weather in Moscow was snowy and extraordinarily cold for the middle of October, ?10 °C.There were 82,000 match tickets available, but because of the freezing weather conditions only 16,500 tickets were sold. According to some reports the total number of tickets sold was 16,643.

The Grand Arena of Central Lenin Stadium (also called Olympic Stadium) did not have a roof over the seating at the time it was installed in the 1997 improvements. In preparation for the match, the stadium management decided to open only two of the four stands for fans: the East Stand and the West Stand, to have enough time to clean snow from the stands before the game Each stand had seating for 23,000 spectators. Most of the fans about 12,000 went to the East Stand, which was closer to the Metro station. There were approximately 100 Dutch supporters; the vast majority of fans in attendance were fans of Spartak Moscow.

The match started at 7:00 pm. In the 16th minute Spartak took the lead through an Edgar Gess strike. The rest of the game was largely uneventful. Minutes before the end of the game, several hundred fans began to leave the stadium in an attempt to get to the Metro station ahead of the crowds.

There were two covered stairways in Luzhniki under each stand, leading down to the exits. All of the exits at both stands were open. However, most of the fans from the East Stand rushed to Stairway 1, closer to the Metro station.

14 October 1982

USA President Ronald Reagan announces a War on Drugs.


On this day in 1982, President Ronald Reagan declared illicit drugs to be a threat to U.S. national security.

Richard M. Nixon, the president who popularized the term “war on drugs,” first used the words in 1971. However, the policies that his administration implemented as part of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 dated to Woodrow Wilson’s presidency and the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914. This was followed by the creation of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics in 1930.

Speaking at the Justice Department, Reagan likened his administration’s determination to discourage the flow and use of banned substances to the obstinacy of the French army at the Battle of Verdun in World War I — with a literal spin on the “war on drugs.” The president quoted a French soldier who said, “There are no impossible situations. There are only people who think they’re impossible.”

Spreading the anti-drug message, first lady Nancy Reagan toured elementary schools, warning students about the danger of illicit drugs. When a fourth grader at Longfellow Elementary School in Oakland, Calif., asked her what to do if approached by someone offering drugs, the first lady responded: “Just say no.”

In 1988, Reagan created the Office of National Drug Control Policy to coordinate drug-related legislative, security, diplomatic, research and health policy throughout the government. Successive agency directors were dubbed “drug czars” by the media. In 1993, President Bill Clinton raised the post to Cabinet-level status.

On May 13, 2009, R. Gil Kerlikowske, the current director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, signaled that though the Obama administration did not plan to significantly alter drug enforcement policies, it would not use the term “war on drugs,” saying it was “counterproductive.”

8 October 1982

The musical ‘Cats’ opens on Broadway and runs for nearly 18 years before it closes on September 10 2000.


Randy Rum Tum Tugger will have given his pelvis a last few thrusts at a tourist, the giant boot will have flopped into the alleyway one last time, Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer will have executed their last calisthenic tumbles, Macavity won’t have been there for a final caper, Old Deuteronomy will have chatted with his last youngster, and Grizabella will have warbled her last “Memory.” The invited guests will file out off to a celebratory party most of them. There’ll be speeches, glasses raised, fireworks across the water, and then there’ll be silence.

What else can there be after a Broadway show runs nearly 18 years, more than three years longer than the nearest competitor? What’s left after 7,485 performances, seven Tonys, and the distinction of having been seen by more than 10 million people? Even critics who hate the show, even pundits who’ve watched the production’s original style and vision become dated in comparison to two decades’ worth of new musical frontiers, even producers who’ve prayed for flashy mega-musicals to ease their stranglehold on big theatres so a new stream of productions can have a place to play, even audiences who come out of the Winter Garden Theatre thinking, “so that was it?” all are no doubt feeling a little sad today, a little in awe, a little crestfallen that a chapter of Broadway lore has been sealed and tucked away:

Cats is closing. It really is closing. And Broadway will never be the same. In mid-February, the producers of Cats told the world the musical would close June 25, after 7,397 performances at the Winter Garden Theatre. An outpouring of media coverage, fan sentiment and heightened ticket sales ensued. Since the announcement, in fact, grosses have regularly leapt past the $500,000 per week mark, with the week ending Aug. 27 a case in point. Cats was therefore given an extra eleven weeks to live, with the Sept. 9 evening show the last available to the general public, and the Sept. 10, 6 PM, invitation-only show the last ever.

21 June 1982

John Hinckley is found not guilty for the attempted assassination of the USA President Ronald Reagan.

 photo John_Hinckley_Jr._Mugshot_zps1fntq7sn.png

John W. Hinckley, Jr., who on March 30, 1981, shot President Ronald Reagan and three others outside a Washington, D.C., hotel, was found not guilty of attempted murder by reason of insanity. In the trial, Hinckley’s defense attorneys argued that their client was ill with narcissistic personality disorder, citing medical evidence, and had a pathological obsession with the 1976 film Taxi Driver, in which the main character attempts to assassinate a fictional senator. His lawyers claimed that Hinckley had watched the movie more than a dozen times, was obsessed with the lead actress, Jodie Foster, and had attempted to reenact the events of the film in his own life. The movie, not Hinckley, they successfully argued, was the actual planning force behind the events that occurred on March 30, 1981.

On that day, in front of the Washington Hilton, Hinckley had fired six shots at the president, hitting Reagan and three of his attendants, including Press Secretary James Brady, who was shot in the head and suffered permanent brain damage. The president was shot in the left lung and the .22-caliber bullet just missed his heart. In the aftermath, Hinckley was overpowered and pinned against a wall, and President Reagan, apparently unaware that he’d been shot, was shoved into his limousine by a Secret Service agent and rushed to the hospital. The president fared well, and after 12 days in the hospital he returned to the White House.

John Hinckley was booked on federal charges of attempting to assassinate the president. He had previously been arrested in Tennessee on weapons charges. The June 1982 verdict of “not guilty by reason of insanity” aroused widespread public criticism, and many were shocked that a would-be presidential assassin could avoid being held accountable for his crime. However, because of his obvious threat to society, he was placed in St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, a mental institution. In the late 1990s, Hinckley’s attorney began arguing that Hinkley’s mental illness was in remission and thus he had a right to return to a normal life. Beginning in August 1999, he was allowed supervised day trips off the hospital grounds and later was allowed to visit his parents once a week unsupervised. The Secret Service voluntarily monitors him during these outings. If his mental illness remains in remission, he may one day be released.