Pubdate: Tue, 19 Dec 2000
Source: Deseret News (UT)
Copyright: 2000 Deseret News Publishing Corp.
Author: Associated Press
Bookmark: (McCaffrey, Barry)


WASHINGTON -- Barry McCaffrey says his experience at West Point did nothing 
to prepare him for the misery and human destruction that he's seen in his 
five years as the nation's anti-drug chief.

"I never knew anybody who used cocaine or marijuana," he said. That goes 
for his high school and college days, too.

With his drug policy under fire from Republicans, President Clinton 
recruited McCaffrey as his drug-war point man 10 months before the 1996 
election. At the time, McCaffrey was the youngest four-star general, and he 
retired from the Army to take the job.

"I've seen more misery in this job, more human destruction, than I did in 
combat," said McCaffrey, who saw fighting in the Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars.

"There are 5 million chronically addicted Americans," he said. "Each year, 
probably on the order of 52,000 die from some cause related to drug abuse."

After McCaffrey's appointment, Congress promptly increased the drug-control 
budget. The result, McCaffrey says, was a 21 percent drop in narcotics use 
by 12- to 17-year-olds.

"None of this would have happened without a 55 percent increase in 
drug-prevention education funding," he said.

Statistics showing forward movement in the drug war -- some predating his 
arrival -- roll off McCaffrey's tongue.

"Casual cocaine use down by 70 percent in a decade," he said. "Overall drug 
use down by 50 percent, drug-related murders down by 50 percent."

The federal government reported earlier this month that teenage drug use 
held steady in 2000, the fourth straight year it has either fallen or 
stayed the same.

Smoking dropped significantly, but use of the club drug ecstasy among 
eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders climbed for the second year in a row.

The report also found the number of high school seniors using heroin hit 
its highest point since the survey began in 1975, and more 10th-graders are 
using steroids.

In an interview last week, the 58-year-old McCaffrey emphasized that the 
drug war must be waged across a broad front -- at home, through education 
and treatment, and abroad through eradication and interdiction programs.

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of McCaffrey's tenure has been his 
support for a significant increase in U.S. help for the counterdrug effort 
in Colombia, the world's No. 1 producer and distributor of cocaine. The 
bulk of the $1.3 billion package is earmarked for the Colombian military.

Doubts about the program seem to be on the rise. To some, the Colombian 
military is too prone to human rights abuses to qualify for U.S. help. 
Others say the assistance could get the United States involved in 
Colombia's war with leftist insurgents.

And some skeptics worry that European donors and Colombia's South American 
neighbors have not been supportive enough.

McCaffrey has an answer: Just wait. When the Colombians receive U.S. spray 
aircraft next year, the equation will change, he says, particularly for the 
leftist FARC guerrillas who now make hundreds of millions off the narcotics 
trade each year.

These aircraft "are going to descend on areas and knock out 10,000 hectares 
at a whack," McCaffrey said. "It takes you 18 months of hard work with 
chain saws and sweat, living like an animal, to get a coca crop into 

"Once you're persuaded that the government is going to intervene on month 
15 and wreck your investment, you got to go to some other course of action."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager