Origins of the Heroin Plague

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  • Heroin Plague Time Line

  • 1-25-15 Some background info for "Origins of the Heroin Plague"

  • 2-20-15 Four different pot legalization ballot issues

  • 9-24-15 Pope Francis addresses the US Congress

    'We're all paying:' Heroin spreads misery in US

    Filed on April 6, 2014 by the Associated Press

    ... In Butler County, Ohio, heroin overdose calls are so common that the longtime EMS coordinator likens the situation to 'coming in and eating breakfast -- you just kind of expect it to occur.' A local rehab facility has a six-month wait. One school recently referred an 11-year-old boy who was shooting up intravenously ...

    Heroin is spreading its misery across America. And communities everywhere are indeed paying.

    The death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman spotlighted the reality that heroin is no longer limited to the back alleys of American life. Once mainly a city phenomenon, the drug has spread -- gripping postcard villages in Vermont, middle-class enclaves outside Chicago, the sleek urban core of Portland, Ore., and places in between and beyond ...

    Heroin's escalation is troubling. Last month, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called the 45 percent increase in heroin overdose deaths between 2006 and 2010 an 'urgent and growing public health crisis.'

    In 2007, there were an estimated 373,000 heroin users in the U.S. By 2012, the number was 669,000, with the greatest increases among those 18 to 25. First-time users nearly doubled in a six-year period ending in 2012, from 90,000 to 156,000 ...

    Experts note that many users turned to heroin after a crackdown on prescription drug 'pill mills' made painkillers such as OxyContin harder to find and more costly. Whereas a gram of prescription opiates may go for $1,000 on the street, that same gram of heroin will sell for $100, authorities say ...

    [What about the supply side? Isn't anyone interested in where the heroin is coming from? Are we willing to pay a heroin "TAX"? Pascal said that a lottery is a tax on fools. Are we willing to pay the medical and law enforcement costs of the heroin epidemic while doing nothing about the source of this plague?]

    As prescription drug abuse rose, so, too, did federal and state crackdowns aimed at shutting down pill mills and increasing tracking of prescriptions and pharmacy-hopping pill seekers. Users turned to heroin ...


    Brakes screech. The hospital door flies open. A panicked voice shouts: 'Help my friend!' Medical technicians race outside with a gurney. An unconscious young man is lifted aboard, and the race is on to stop another heroin user from dying.

    It's known as a 'drive-up, drop-off,' and it's happened repeatedly at Ohio's Fort Hamilton Hospital. The staff's quick response and a dose of naloxone, an opiate-reversing drug, bring most patients back. But not all. Some are put on ventilators. A few never revive ...

    At least 17 states and the District of Columbia allow Narcan to be distributed to the public, and bills are pending in some states to increase access to it. Attorney General Holder has called for more first responders to carry it. Last month, Ohio's Republican governor signed into law a measure allowing a user's friends or relatives to administer Narcan, on condition that they call 911 ...

    Ohio's heroin problem at a glance:

    The number of heroin-related overdose deaths went to 426 in 2011, up from 338 the previous year, part of a trend that police and counseling agencies have been warning about for several years. In 2004, 5.8 percent of Ohio drug users named heroin as their drug of choice; that rose to 12.5 percent in 2011.

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    Heroin Plague Time Line


    President Andrew Jackson succeeds in destroying the Second Bank of the United States by withdrawing U.S. funds in 1833.

    Skull and Bones Society formed at Yale.

    William Huntington Russell founded the Order of Skull & Bones in 1832 after he returned from studies in Germany. The Russell family's business - Russell & Co. - was the premier American opium shipper and the third largest in the world. In the 1830s, opium became the world's largest commercial commodity, and was the foundation of great wealth with the smuggling of opium into China. Many of the fortunate sons of Russell & Co. families were sent to Yale and were "tapped" into the Order of Skull & Bones.



    The German drug company Bayer marketed diacetylmorphine as an over-the-counter drug under the trademark name Heroin. It was developed chiefly as a morphine substitute for cough suppressants ...

    Heroin, diacetylmorphine or morphine diacetate, ... was synthesized by adding two acetyl groups to the morphine molecule, which is found naturally in the opium poppy. It is the 3,6-diacetyl ester of morphine ...

    Felix Hoffmann, working at the Aktiengesellschaft Farbenfabriken (today the Bayer pharmaceutical company) in Elberfeld, Germany, was instructed by his supervisor Heinrich Dreser to acetylate morphine with the objective of producing codeine, a constituent of the opium poppy, pharmacologically similar to morphine but less potent and less addictive.

    Instead, the experiment produced an acetylated form of morphine one and a half to two times more potent than morphine itself. The head of Bayer's research department reputedly coined the drug's new name, "heroin," based on the German "heroisch," which means "heroic, strong.' ...

    The cultivation of opium in Afghanistan reached a peak in 1999, when 350 square miles (910 km2) of poppies were sown. The following year [2000, beginning of the ruu-up to 9-11-2001] the Taliban banned poppy cultivation, a move which cut production by 94 percent.

    By 2001 only 30 square miles (78 km2) of land were in use for growing opium poppies. A year later, after American and British troops had removed the Taliban and installed the interim government, the land under cultivation leapt back to 285 square miles ...


    August, 1997

    The history of the drug trade in Central Asia is intimately related to the CIA's covert operations. Prior to the Soviet-Afghan war, opium production in Afghanistan and Pakistan was directed to small regional markets. There was no local production of heroin. (Alfred McCoy, Drug Fallout: the CIA's Forty Year Complicity in the Narcotics Trade. The Progressive, 1 August 1997).

    Researcher Alfred McCoy's study confirms that within two years of the onslaught of the CIA operation in Afghanistan, "the Pakistan-Afghanistan borderlands became the world's top heroin producer, supplying 60 per cent of U.S. demand."

    Afghanistan is a strategic hub in Central Asia, bordering on China's Western frontier and on the former Soviet Union. It constitutes a [potential] land bridge for oil and gas pipeline corridors linking the Caspian sea basin to the Arabian sea.

    It is also strategic for its opium production, which today [1997], according to UN sources, supplies more than 90 % of the World's heroin market, representing multi-billion dollar revenues for business syndicates, financial institutions, intelligence agencies and organized crime. (See Michel Chossudovsky, America's "War on Terrorism, Global Research, 2005, Chapter XVI)

    Protected by the CIA, a new surge in opium production unfolded in the post Cold War era [Russian defeat in Afghanistan and the collapse of the Soviet Union]. Since the October 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan, opium production has increased 33 fold ...

    In the immediate wake of the Cold War, Pakistan's ISI "served as a catalyst for the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the emergence of six new Muslim republics in Central Asia". (International Press Services, 22 August 1995).

    Meanwhile, Islamic missionaries of the Wahabi sect from Saudi Arabia had established themselves in the Muslim republics, as well as within the Russian federation ...

    Backed by Pakistan's military intelligence, which in turn was controlled by the CIA, the Taliban Islamic State largely served US geopolitical interests. No doubt this explains why Washington had closed its eyes on the reign of terror imposed by the Taliban in 1996, including the blatant derogation of women's rights, the closing down of schools for girls, the dismissal of women employees from government offices and the enforcement of "the Sharia laws of punishment". (K. Subrahmanyam, "Pakistan is Pursuing Asian Goals", India Abroad, 3 November 1995.)


    August 9, 1998:

    The Northern Alliance capital of Afghanistan, Mazar-i-Sharif, is conquered by the Taliban. Military support of Pakistan's ISI plays a large role; there is even an intercept of an ISI officer stating, 'My boys and I are riding into Mazar-i-Sharif.' [New York Times, 12/8/2001] This victory gives the Taliban control of 90 percent of Afghanistan, including the entire proposed [Unocal] pipeline route.

    May 2001

    Secretary of State Colin Powell gives $43 million in aid to the Taliban regime, purportedly to assist hungry farmers who are starving since the destruction of their opium crop in January [2001] on orders of the Taliban regime. [Source: The Los Angeles Times, May 22, 2001].

    September 11, 2001

    Al Quaida Terrorists crash hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killing thousands.

    October 7, 2001

    Military operations with aerial bombardment begin in Afghanistan.

    February 14, 2002:

    US Military Bases Line Afghan Pipeline Route

    The Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv notes: If one looks at the map of the big American bases created [in the Afghan War], one is struck by the fact that they are completely identical to the route of the projected [Unocal] oil pipeline to [the western part of] the Indian Ocean [-- the Arabian Sea -- for delivery to the Pakistani port of Karachi. Oil delivered to Karachi does not have to pass through the Strait of Hormuz where oil from the Persian Gulf can be bottled up.]

    Febuary 18, 2002

    The Financial Times reports that the estimated opium harvest in Afghanistan in the late Spring of 2002 will reach a world record 4500 metric tons.

    April 17, 2002

    Administration insiders admit military tactical errors allowed Osama bin Laden to escape the December 2001 battle at Tora Bora.

    September 19, 2002

    George W. Bush asks Congress for authority to use 'all means that he determines to be appropriate' against Iraq.

    March 19, 2003

    War on Iraq begins.

    ``BAGHDAD: The city, which had never seen heroin ... until March 2003, is now flooded with narcotics including heroin.''

    [For more on how the CIA makes money, see "Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil," by Michael C. Ruppert

    On the web see]

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    Some background info for "Origins of the Heroin Plague"

    "The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade"

    by Alfred W. McCOY

    An Interview with Alfred McCOY

    by David BARSAMIAN

    Conducted at University of Wisconsin-Madison, February 17,1990

    This is interview with Alfred McCOY took place while McCoy was steeped in research for, and writing his second book, The Politics of Heroin; CIA Complicity In The Global Drug Trade.

    Part One

    "The problem with America's failed chance at essentially reducing if not eliminating drugs as a problem was a contradiction between the needs of domestic policy and the national security state."

    Part Two

    "When the Americans moved into Indochina after the French departed in 1955, we picked up the same tribes, the Hmong, the same politics of narcotics, the politics of heroin, that the French had established. By the 1960s we were operating, particularly the CIA, in collusion with the major traffickers exporting from the mountains not only to meet the consumption needs of Southeast Asia itself, but in the first instance America's combat forces fighting in Vietnam and ultimately the world market."

    Part Three

    "Moving on to our [next] instance, one close to home, is the whole Iran-contra operation. All the personnel that are involved in that operation are Laos veterans. Ted Shackley, Thomas Clines, Oliver North, Richard Secord - they all served in Laos during [the] thirteen-year [Vietnam] war. They are all part of that policy of integrating the narcotics trade in the furtherance of covert action."

    Part Four

    Because of their mandate to stop communism or to run a secret army in Laos or to harass the Nicaragua government with the contra operation - because they've had a political covert action mandate - they have found it convenient to ally themselves with the very drug brokers the DEA is trying to put in jail.

    While you're working with the CIA you are untouchable. The CIA backs you up. There are instances of minor traffickers being arrested in the United States for importing drugs and the CIA will actually go to the local police and courts and get them off ...


    An Interview with Alfred McCOY

    by David BARSAMIAN

    Conducted at University of Wisconsin-Madison, February 17,1990

    Alfred W. McCOY is professor of Southeast Asian History at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Educated at Columbia and Yale, he has spent the past twenty years writing about Southeast Asian history and politics.

    This is interview with Alfred McCOY took place while McCoy was steeped in research for, and writing his second book, The Politics of Heroin; CIA Complicity In The Global Drug Trade ...

    Part One

    BARSAMIAN: This is David Barsamian and my guest is Alfred McCOY, author of "The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia" and "Drug Traffic: Narcotics and Organized Crime in Australia". Alfred McCOY is Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

    In your book, The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia, you demarcate very carefully that the United States was poised at the end of World War II, in 1945, to... I don't have your exact words ... to terminate the problem of drug addiction in the United States and it could have done so but for forces that I'd like you to discuss ...

    McCOY: The problem with America's failed chance at essentially reducing if not eliminating drugs as a problem was a contradiction between the needs of domestic policy and the national security state. After World War II the United States became a global power and set up a number of agencies to exercise this global power, most importantly the executive agency known as the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency when it was ultimately formed in 1948.

    The CIA, in order to conduct its campaign against communism, which was seen as an overweening evil that had to be stopped, was willing to ally with anybody and everybody that could provide during what was seen as a critical period, some strength, some support in the global struggle against communism ...

    BARSAMIAN: You trace the involvement of the Mafia - the U.S. Mafia - in the promotion of narcotics trafficking in the United States. How did the politics get involved with the Mafia?

    McCOY: We have to step back a bit ... Since the 1800s western societies - Europe, Australia, America - have had very extensive drug problems. Now, you can really divide the western world's century of mass drug abuse into two convenient periods ...

    From about the 1870s, when you get big-time mass consumption of narcotics to the 1920s, drugs were legal. The name "heroin" for example, was a trade name coined by the Bayer company. In 1898 they came up with a new product which seemed to be very good for respiratory ailments. They put it on the market and called it "heroin." That's where the term comes from. It's a trade name coined by one of the world's major pharmaceutical manufacturers ...

    By the time you get to about 1930, drugs were illegal around the globe.

    So, suddenly, who's moving the drugs? Well, it's syndicates. The ... prohibition of alcohol, partial prohibition of alcohol in some countries and full prohibition in this country, combined with the prohibition of narcotics, transferred an enormous sector of the legitimate economy to syndicates. So that's where you got the rise of organized crime.

    In 1932 the United States pulled back from the prohibition on alcohol. It was gradual, it was slow, but the syndicates got out of the alcohol trade. But we've never pulled back from the prohibition of narcotics. It's remained illegal. That prohibition has become permanent. So, during the 1930s. the syndicates began moving into narcotics. They were of secondary importance initially to alcohol, but once alcohol became legal after 1932, narcotics became correspondingly more important ...


    Part Two

    BARSAMIAN: Was the anti-communist ideology so powerful and so strong that the CIA would risk the worldwide opprobrium of being linked with drug trafficking? Why would they take that risk?

    McCOY: It's easy. Look, it's effective ...

    The CIA's involvement in narcotics was originally specific. It was going on in Laos and it didn't get much beyond Laos. The Agency in Laos was, just like the agency globally in the 1940s and 50s, myopic, short-sighted. It was fighting a war. It was trying to stop the Ho Chi Minh trail from operating. In order to do so it had a 30,000 man mercenary army made up largely of Hmong hill tribesmen who lived in the area and were opium growers ...


    Part Three

    You've got, then, a CIA secret war which in an essential way, in a fundamental way is linked with the opium traffic. More than that, it appears that a number of CIA operatives as individuals got involved. They started smuggling, started wheeling, started dealing and started doing a couple of bags here and there. We know, for example, there's a famous case of a CIA global money-moving bank called the Nugan-Hand bank which was established in Australia ...

    This is one case that hasn't been well studied ... You've got Pakistani government officials very heavily involved in narcotics, you've got the Mujahadeen manufacturing heroin; they're exporting it to Europe and the United States. They're using it to support their guerrilla campaign [against thr Russians]. The Pakistanis and the CIA are complicitous ... [Was Osama bin Laden in on it too?]


    Part Four

    BARSAMIAN: And in your view, the enforcement effort has been totally compromised?

    McCOY: Well, yeah ...

    One of the things that will happen ... will be another major expansion of the DEA. Working against that has been the Central Intelligence Agency. Because of their mandate to stop communism or to run a secret army in Laos or to harass the Nicaragua government with the contra operation - because they've had a political covert action mandate- they have found it convenient to ally themselves with the very drug brokers the DEA is trying to put in jail.

    While you're working with the CIA you are untouchable. The CIA backs you up. There are instances of minor traffickers being arrested in the United States for importing drugs and the CIA will actually go to the local police and courts and get them off ...

    BARSAMIAN: In your view, there will be a marked increase and expansion of drug addiction and drug use in the United States, Europe and Australia - Incidentally, earlier you mentioned that the drug flow went into Europe and Australia, but not into Japan, is that correct?

    McCOY: Yes.

    BARSAMIAN: Why not?

    McCOY: The relationship between the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (the conservatives) and the big organized crime syndicates, which are enormous in Japan, is a very tight one and has been historically since the end of World War II. There's been a very close integration with the organized crime operations and the ruling conservative party. The conservatives have been in power now in Japan since 1948. It's one of the longest reigns of any party anywhere in the world.

    There's a kind of entente, an understanding between the syndicates and the government - it's not rigid - but the basic understanding is no drugs.

    That's the basic thing. Don't move drugs. And the Japanese police are ruthlessly efficient. If any of the syndicates, any of the big families - some of them have 10,000 members in them - broke this rule, the police have sufficient mechanisms of control to punish them for it. So in this complex politics of organized crime in Japan, they can do prostitution, they can do all kinds of fraud, they can do many things - but not drugs. So Japan's never opened up.

    DeGaulle had a very similar relationship with the Corsican syndicates during his reign in the 1960s and early 1970s. [Did a Corsican assassin murder JFK?] The understanding was that the Corsican syndicates in Marseilles would manufacture in Marseilles under protection. But they would not sell in France. They would only export to the United States ...

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    [Four different pot legalization ballot issues]

    Several groups are pitching plans to legalize marijuana in Ohio.

    By Jackie Borchardt, The Plain Dealer

    February 20, 2015

    COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Several proposals are in the works to legalize marijuana in Ohio ...

    All proposals would amend the Ohio Constitution, the most permanent citizen-initiated lawmaking route available in Ohio. The path to putting an amendment before Ohio voters is months long, beginning with submitting a summary of the proposed amendment and at least 1,000 signatures of registered Ohio voters.

    The state attorney general then determines whether the language is a "fair and truthful" summary of the amendment. If so, the bipartisan Ohio Ballot Board has to decide whether the amendment should appear on the ballot as one or more amendments.

    Once the Ballot Board approves, petitioners can begin collecting the second, much larger batch of signatures. Petitioners must collect more than 305,591 valid signatures -- meeting a certain threshold in 44 of Ohio's 88 counties -- to appear on the ballot. The deadline for the November 2015 ballot is July 1.

    Here's a breakdown of the plans being considered and where each campaign is in the process.

    Ohio Rights Group

    Ohio Cannabis Rights Amendment

    Target ballot: November 2015 or 2016

    The plan:

    Ohio residents age 18 and older could use, possess, acquire and produce marijuana for medical use. Children would qualify with permission of a parent or guardian.

    Declassifies hemp as a drug and allows farmers to grow it like any other crop

    Requires new tests to determine impairment to replace urine or blood tests that may show someone used marijuana recently but was not under the influence at the time

    Status: Approved by the attorney general and Ballot Board, collecting signatures to appear on the ballot.

    More information:


    Ohioans to End Prohibition

    Cannabis Control Amendment

    Target ballot: November 2016

    The plan:

    Legalizes marijuana for personal use for adults age 21 and older and for medical use. Medical marijuana would not be taxed.

    Voters could ban commercial production and distribution in their communities

    Adults would be able to grow cannabis in their homes and farms could grow industrial hemp

    Revenue from taxes and licensing fees would fund Ohio's public pension systems, drug education and addiction treatment

    Status: Drafting amendment language, some details are available on group's website

    More information:



    Medical Marijuana and Personal Use Amendment

    Target ballot: November 2015

    The plan:

    Legalizes marijuana for personal use for adults age 21 and older and for medical use

    Establishes highly regulated industry, with all retail and medical pot grown at 10 sites promised to campaign investors

    Adults over age 21 could obtain a license to have up to four flowering marijuana plants and 8 ounces of dried marijuana

    Taxes marijuana 15 percent when grown and manufactured and 5 percent at retail locations, with most revenue going toward road repairs, police and fire protection and other local public services

    Status: Submitted signatures and initial ballot language to the Ohio attorney general on Feb. 13 [2015]; will resubmit revised language allowing home growing to the attorney general


    Responsible Ohioans for Cannabis

    End Ohio Cannabis Prohibition Act

    Target ballot: November 2016

    The plan:

    Allows adults over age 18 to produce and use marijuana and marijuana products and allows industrial hemp to be grown

    Ohioans could possess up to 99 plants and 99 kilograms of marijuana for personal use

    Would release inmates in prison and jail for marijuana crimes and expunge records for committing marijuana-related crimes legalized by the amendment

    Does not tax marijuana sales but allows sales tax to be applied

    Status: Submitted signatures and initial ballot language to the Ohio attorney general on Feb. 17 [2015]

    More information:

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    Transcript of Pope Francis' address to Congress provided by the Vatican

    Mr. Vice President,

    Mr. Speaker,

    Honorable Members of Congress,

    Dear Friends,

    I am most grateful for your invitation to address this Joint Session of Congress in "the land of the free and the home of the brave." I would like to think that the reason for this is that I too am a son of this great continent, from which we have all received so much and toward which we share a common responsibility.

    Each son or daughter of a given country has a mission, a personal and social responsibility. Your own responsibility as members of Congress is to enable this country, by your legislative activity, to grow as a nation. You are the face of its people, their representatives. You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics.

    A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk. Legislative activity is always based on care for the people. To this you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you.

    Yours is a work which makes me reflect in two ways on the figure of Moses. On the one hand, the patriarch and lawgiver of the people of Israel symbolizes the need of peoples to keep alive their sense of unity by means of just legislation. On the other, the figure of Moses leads us directly to God and thus to the transcendent dignity of the human being. Moses provides us with a good synthesis of your work: you are asked to protect, by means of the law, the image and likeness fashioned by God on every human face.

    Today I would like not only to address you, but through you the entire people of the United States. Here, together with their representatives, I would like to take this opportunity to dialogue with the many thousands of men and women who strive each day to do an honest day's work, to bring home their daily bread, to save money and -- one step at a time -- to build a better life for their families. These are men and women who are not concerned simply with paying their taxes, but in their own quiet way sustain the life of society. They generate solidarity by their actions, and they create organizations which offer a helping hand to those most in need.

    I would also like to enter into dialogue with the many elderly persons who are a storehouse of wisdom forged by experience, and who seek in many ways, especially through volunteer work, to share their stories and their insights. I know that many of them are retired, but still active; they keep working to build up this land.

    I also want to dialogue with all those young people who are working to realize their great and noble aspirations, who are not led astray by facile proposals, and who face difficult situations, often as a result of immaturity on the part of many adults. I wish to dialogue with all of you, and I would like to do so through the historical memory of your people.

    My visit takes place at a time when men and women of good will are marking the anniversaries of several great Americans. The complexities of history and the reality of human weakness notwithstanding, these men and women, for all their many differences and limitations, were able by hard work and self-sacrifice -- some at the cost of their lives -- to build a better future.

    They shaped fundamental values which will endure forever in the spirit of the American people. A people with this spirit can live through many crises, tensions and conflicts, while always finding the resources to move forward, and to do so with dignity. These men and women offer us a way of seeing and interpreting reality. In honoring their memory, we are inspired, even amid conflicts, and in the here and now of each day, to draw upon our deepest cultural reserves. I would like to mention four of these Americans: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.

    This year marks the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the guardian of liberty, who labored tirelessly that "this nation, under God, [might] have a new birth of freedom". Building a future of freedom requires love of the common good and cooperation in a spirit of subsidiarity and solidarity.

    All of us are quite aware of, and deeply worried by, the disturbing social and political situation of the world today. Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism.

    This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind. A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms.

    But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners. The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps. We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within. To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place. That is something which you, as a people, reject.

    Our response must instead be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice. We are asked to summon the courage and the intelligence to resolve today's many geopolitical and economic crises. Even in the developed world, the effects of unjust structures and actions are all too apparent. Our efforts must aim at restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments, and thus promoting the well-being of individuals and of peoples. We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good.

    The challenges facing us today call for a renewal of that spirit of cooperation, which has accomplished so much good throughout the history of the United States. The complexity, the gravity and the urgency of these challenges demand that we pool our resources and talents, and resolve to support one another, with respect for our differences and our convictions of conscience.

    In this land, the various religious denominations have greatly contributed to building and strengthening society. It is important that today, as in the past, the voice of faith continue to be heard, for it is a voice of fraternity and love, which tries to bring out the best in each person and in each society. Such cooperation is a powerful resource in the battle to eliminate new global forms of slavery, born of grave injustices which can be overcome only through new policies and new forms of social consensus.

    Here I think of the political history of the United States, where democracy is deeply rooted in the mind of the American people. All political activity must serve and promote the good of the human person and be based on respect for his or her dignity. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" (Declaration of Independence, 4 July 1776).

    If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance. Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good: that of a community which sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life. I do not underestimate the difficulty that this involves, but I encourage you in this effort.

    Here too I think of the march which Martin Luther King led from Selma to Montgomery fifty years ago as part of the campaign to fulfill his "dream" of full civil and political rights for African Americans. That dream continues to inspire us all. I am happy that America continues to be, for many, a land of "dreams". Dreams which lead to action, to participation, to commitment. Dreams which awaken what is deepest and truest in the life of a people.

    In recent centuries, millions of people came to this land to pursue their dream of building a future in freedom. We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners. I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants. Tragically, the rights of those who were here long before us were not always respected.

    For those peoples and their nations, from the heart of American democracy, I wish to reaffirm my highest esteem and appreciation. Those first contacts were often turbulent and violent, but it is difficult to judge the past by the criteria of the present. Nonetheless, when the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past.

    We must resolve now to live as nobly and as justly as possible, as we educate new generations not to turn their back on our "neighbors" and everything around us. Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal subsidiarity, in a constant effort to do our best. I am confident that we can do this.

    Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions. On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is this not what we want for our own children?

    We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal. We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Let us remember the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" (Mt 7:12).

    This Rule points us in a clear direction. Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us. The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.

    This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty. I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes. Recently my brother bishops here in the United States renewed their call for the abolition of the death penalty. Not only do I support them, but I also offer encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.

    In these times when social concerns are so important, I cannot fail to mention the Servant of God Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Worker Movement. Her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints.

    How much progress has been made in this area in so many parts of the world! How much has been done in these first years of the third millennium to raise people out of extreme poverty! I know that you share my conviction that much more still needs to be done, and that in times of crisis and economic hardship a spirit of global solidarity must not be lost.

    At the same time I would encourage you to keep in mind all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty. They too need to be given hope. The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes. I know that many Americans today, as in the past, are working to deal with this problem.

    It goes without saying that part of this great effort is the creation and distribution of wealth. The right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy which seeks to be modern, inclusive and sustainable. "Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world. It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good" (Laudato Si', 129).

    This common good also includes the earth, a central theme of the encyclical which I recently wrote in order to "enter into dialogue with all people about our common home" (ibid., 3). "We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all" (ibid., 14).

    In Laudato Si', I call for a courageous and responsible effort to "redirect our steps" (ibid., 61), and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity. I am convinced that we can make a difference and I have no doubt that the United States -- and this Congress -- have an important role to play.

    Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a "culture of care" (ibid., 231) and "an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature" (ibid., 139). "We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology" (ibid., 112); "to devise intelligent ways of developing and limiting our power" (ibid., 78); and to put technology "at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral" (ibid., 112). In this regard, I am confident that America's outstanding academic and research institutions can make a vital contribution in the years ahead.

    A century ago, at the beginning of the Great War, which Pope Benedict XV termed a "pointless slaughter", another notable American was born: the Cistercian monk Thomas Merton. He remains a source of spiritual inspiration and a guide for many people. In his autobiography he wrote: "I came into the world. Free by nature, in the image of God, I was nevertheless the prisoner of my own violence and my own selfishness, in the image of the world into which I was born. That world was the picture of Hell, full of men like myself, loving God, and yet hating him; born to love him, living instead in fear of hopeless self-contradictory hungers".

    Merton was above all a man of prayer, a thinker who challenged the certitudes of his time and opened new horizons for souls and for the Church. He was also a man of dialogue, a promoter of peace between peoples and religions.

    From this perspective of dialogue, I would like to recognize the efforts made in recent months to help overcome historic differences linked to painful episodes of the past. It is my duty to build bridges and to help all men and women, in any way possible, to do the same. When countries which have been at odds resume the path of dialogue -- a dialogue which may have been interrupted for the most legitimate of reasons -- new opportunities open up for all.

    This has required, and requires, courage and daring, which is not the same as irresponsibility. A good political leader is one who, with the interests of all in mind, seizes the moment in a spirit of openness and pragmatism. A good political leader always opts to initiate processes rather than possessing spaces (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 222-223).

    Being at the service of dialogue and peace also means being truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world. Here we have to ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.

    Three sons and a daughter of this land, four individuals and four dreams: Lincoln, liberty; Martin Luther King, liberty in plurality and non-exclusion; Dorothy Day, social justice and the rights of persons; and Thomas Merton, the capacity for dialogue and openness to God. Four representatives of the American people.

    I will end my visit to your country in Philadelphia, where I will take part in the World Meeting of Families. It is my wish that throughout my visit the family should be a recurrent theme. How essential the family has been to the building of this country! And how worthy it remains of our support and encouragement!

    Yet I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life.

    In particular, I would like to call attention to those family members who are the most vulnerable, the young. For many of them, a future filled with countless possibilities beckons, yet so many others seem disoriented and aimless, trapped in a hopeless maze of violence, abuse and despair. Their problems are our problems. We cannot avoid them. We need to face them together, to talk about them and to seek effective solutions rather than getting bogged down in discussions.

    At the risk of oversimplifying, we might say that we live in a culture which pressures young people not to start a family, because they lack possibilities for the future. Yet this same culture presents others with so many options that they too are dissuaded from starting a family.

    A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to "dream" of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.

    In these remarks I have sought to present some of the richness of your cultural heritage, of the spirit of the American people. It is my desire that this spirit continue to develop and grow, so that as many young people as possible can inherit and dwell in a land which has inspired so many people to dream.

    God bless America!

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