Americas Drug War General Brings Battle to Britain

Americas Drug War General Brings Battle to Britain
Posted by FoM on October 24, 1999 at 12:05:10 PT
By Matthew Campbell, Washington 
Source: The Sunday Times
Colombia's drug lords may think twice before messing with General Barry McCaffrey, America's "drug tsar". He is one of the few government officials who can claim to have captured bunkers in the Vietnam war by charging forward and shooting enemy soldiers with his pistol. 
The adversary today is different - yet McCaffrey has displayed the same fearless tenacity in the bureaucratic trenches since he exchanged his medal-encrusted military uniform for a suit in 1996 to lead President Bill Clinton's war on drugs. McCaffrey, 56, who visits Britain this week to discuss international co-operation in combating drugs, can claim some success, not least in boosting his department's budget to the size of Luxembourg's gross domestic product. Yet although illegal drug use by teenagers fell by 13% in 1998 and the number of drug users has fallen by 50% since 1979, he is not about to declare victory. Drug abuse, says McCaffrey, kills 52,000 people in America each year, roughly the number of casualties suffered in Vietnam. Despite his efforts, cocaine still floods into the country and prisons overflow with offenders. "It's still a huge problem," he said last week. "There's 4.1m Americans chronically addicted to illegal drugs. That's a small percentage of the population - but a lot of people." A wiry, energetic figure, trailed everywhere by bodyguards after he received death threats from drug barons, McCaffrey dreams of halving the use and availability of narcotics in America by 2007. Like the military planner of old, he pulls out charts and maps to plot his moves and can reel off statistics as fast as his office computer. He has assembled a formidable arsenal to pursue his campaign. Since he took over, the Office of National Drug Control Policy near the White House has expanded from one to four floors. The staff has grown from two dozen to more than 100, many of them former military officers. They refer to McCaffrey, the former head of Southern Command in Panama, as "the General" and have to restrain themselves from saluting whenever he passes. "He's the real thing," said an assistant. "A genuine American hero." Even Clinton may be somewhat in awe of him - for while the president famously avoided duty in Vietnam, McCaffrey won medals there and was wounded three times. One citation describes how he charged forward under "intense hostile fire" to kill "two adversaries with his pistol". He later helped win the Gulf war by leading the 24th Infantry Division manoeuvre that cornered Saddam Hussein's army in the Euphrates Valley. A picture of one of his tanks hangs in his office. On the bureaucratic battlefield, where government agencies compete for funds, McCaffrey's clout with the commander-in-chief has paid dividends. "Each year, I've appealed directly to the president," he said. "We've gone up from $13.5 billion to $17.8 billion." Even so, while praising Clinton as "a good dad" who is "opposed to drug use in our society", McCaffrey must have winced when the president joked on a rock music network that the next time he smoked marijuana he would inhale. "That," says McCaffrey, "was a terrible mistake." Under McCaffrey's civilian predecessor, the drug effort had faltered badly. "Nobody in their right mind would want this job," he said. Yet life in the military had made him acutely aware of the dangers of drugs. "When I graduated in 1964 there were hardly any drugs in America, and none in the armed forces," he said. "By 1968 we were undergoing a drug revolution that almost wrecked us. We were almost on our knees." Since he stepped in, McCaffrey has become a favourite punchbag of liberals. He was denounced by one Democrat congressman last year as a "skunk" for persuading Clinton not to allocate federal money to needle-exchange programmes for heroin addicts. Supporters of the system claim that clean needles could save 30 people a day from contracting HIV - but McCaffrey declared that such programmes would send the "wrong message". Unbending also in the debate about drug legalisation - he opposes even the medical use of marijuana advocated by some American states - McCaffrey nevertheless surprised critics with his willingness to emphasise the need for education about drugs. Between trips to Colombia to witness the burning of coca leaves, and to Capitol Hill to brief congressmen about his campaign, McCaffrey has reached out to the advertising gurus of Madison Avenue. The result, on which Keith Hellawell, the British anti-drugs co-ordinator, will be briefed tomorrow, is a bold departure from the "Just say no" slogan made popular by Nancy Reagan. In a $1 billion media campaign targeting children, anti-drug advertisements are for the first time being placed in prime-time slots. One of them features a young woman smashing an egg with a frying pan, saying: "This is your brain on heroin." Broadcasters are encouraged to match paid commercials with free ones of their own. Bill Cosby, the black comedian, has been enlisted to speak out against the lure of drugs. Even Spiderman has been drafted in, with a series of cartoons in which the oval-eyed hero reveals the perils of drug use. Some critics see McCaffrey's campaign as an expensive shot in the dark. He is optimistic: "There's no question. Wait two or three years from now. It's gonna work." If not, there will be no shortage of other jobs for him. In a country that worships its war heroes, he could easily run for office. But on this point McCaffrey defers to his wife: "She is adamantly opposed." So there will be little peace just yet for the drug lords. October 24 1999Copyright 1999 Times Newspapers Ltd. Related Article:General McCaffrey's History of Misinformation - 10/15/99
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Comment #1 posted by kaptinemo on October 24, 1999 at 16:01:05 PT
The drug lords...are laughing their a----- off
The Sunday Times is beginning to sound like one of McCaffrey's bought-and-paid-for media mouthpieces, the kind he has tried to seduce with our tax dollars to franchise his propaganda machine. Some things need to be put into perspective here.The War on (Some) Drugs was initiated in the US, not in 1968, but 1914. Quite a long time for a war to go on and not have anything to show for it.The number of "Biggest ________ (fill in the blank with drug du jour)bust in country's history!" continues to climb, into amounts that require the K amd M suffixes because the numbers are so staggeringly large. And the heavy junk keeps rolling on in.The purity and quantity of illicit drugs now available have reached a point where the only thing that upholds high prices are their sheer illegality; just as with oil, there is a bona fide 'glut' of illicit wares out there. This despite MISTER McCaffrey's boast of having an increased budget and staff. Doesn't seem to have done much at all, has it?Nope, I don't believe for one second that the drug lords are scurrying for cover, fearful of MISTER McCaffrey at all.On the contrary... if history is any indicator, they'll just be sitting back and laughing as they always have, at the sheer stupidity of bureaucrats who think they can stop such a lucrative business without removing the one thing that keeps it all going: the profit motive provided by prohibition. 
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