The Week Online with DRCNet
Issue #50, 7/17/98

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Table of Contents

  1. Week Online Hits 50th Issue, DRCNet on the Move
  2. Drug Crazy Update
  3. Drug Czar Gets Facts Wrong Again... Infuriates Dutch on Eve of Visit
  4. Wire Report of the Week
  5. Prohibition Poll on Time Online
  6. Taliban Ban Television
  7. Legislative Update
  8. EDITORIAL:  The General Invades (and Insults and Infuriates) The Netherlands

(visit last week's Week Online)

or visit the WOL archives


1.  Week Online Hits 50th Issue, DRCNet on the Move

This week marks the fiftieth issue of The Week Online.  It has been an interesting and exciting first year, learning as we've gone along even as the drug policy reform movement has grown significantly.  The publication itself has certainly grown up during the past year and we are determined to continue on that course, bringing you original news, special features, and hard-hitting editorials from a reform perspective.  We are also planning to offer more and varied options to those of you who would like to participate more actively; stay tuned for forthcoming announcements.

Two weeks ago, we announced that thanks to generous reader participation in our last membership appeal, we were approaching the 1,000 paying member mark, just as we had passed the 6,000 e-mail subscriber mark.  Thanks to those of you who responded, DRCNet paying membership is now in the four digits!

This issue of The Week Online details how over the last several days, our "drug czar, retired General Barry McCaffrey and his staff have shown little shame in their willingness to dramatically misrepresent the drug policy record in The Netherlands and to hurl uncalled-for invective at drug policy reform advocates in the United States.  Moreover, this issue also shows how the press is developing a healthy skepticism and is no longer letting the General's misinformation go unchallenged.

It also shows, however, that even when backed into a corner, the drug war powers that be do not intend to make a graceful exit.  They will fight tooth and nail to preserve a destructive policy based on ignorance.  And they will fight even on the cruelest fronts, blocking compassionate access of medical marijuana to patients and criminalizing the life-savers who provide sterile syringes to addicts to reduce the spread of epidemic diseases.  They will fight poorly, as in the past week, or they will fight skillfully; and they will use our tax dollars to demonize this movement of reformers every step of the way.

Yet in the end, enough Americans care about truth and reason to hear us out.  And in an open debate, we emerge over time as the victors, because facts, morality and reason are on our side.  The last six weeks have seen an enormous opening of that debate, after several hundred individuals of unimpeachable credentials and reputation joined to condemn the global drug war as "causing more harm than drug abuse itself" (http://www.lindesmith.org/news/background.html).  General McCaffrey tried to label these leading lights a "fringe group," but he failed to convince.

For victory to be achieved in the war over the war on drugs, however, large networks of participating, contributing citizens must be built.  Grassroots political organization as well as potent public relations campaigns are needed to shift the levers of public policy in our direction.  You, as part of DRCNet, are present at a unique juncture in history, where the power of the information superhighway allows movements to organize more rapidly than ever before.

The DRCNet 6,000 needs to turn into tens of thousands and then into hundreds of thousands.  Will you walk with us on these first early steps toward a better world?  Please pledge your support to DRCNet today, by using our encryption-secured member registration form at http://www.drcnet.org/drcreg.html.  If you are already a supporting member, please consider renewing your support to help us take the effort to a higher level.

BUMPER STICKERS AVAILABLE

Thanks to the support and efforts of two of our members, we now have stopthedrugwar.org bumper stickers!  View one at http://www.drcnet.org/bumpersticker.gif.  We will automatically send one or more bumper stickers free of charge to all new or renewing members.  Let us know if you need more than one; please only ask for more if you will really be displaying all of them.  If you are nervous about placing a controversial sticker from this emotional topic on your vehicle, there are plenty of other places to put them -- a notebook, a dorm-room door, a bulletin board, you name it.  Again, use our encryption-secured online registration form at http://www.drcnet.org/drcreg.html to join and get your sticker!  We will also send stickers to anyone who is already a paying member, if you contact us and request one.  And if you are financially unable to join, but would like to display a stopthedrugwar.org sticker to help us recruit new members, send us a note and let us know where you plan to place your sticker.  Please address all bumper sticker-related correspondence to bumpersticker@drcnet.org), and be sure to include your full name and current mailing address.

EYEGIVE UPDATE

Since our appeal a few weeks ago, participation in the eyegive fundraiser has increased dramatically, from 193 to 277 participants, and DRCNet earnings have risen accordingly.  As mentioned before, we received the first checks from eyegive, last month, totaling more than $775, and the next ones promise to be much bigger than that.  If you haven't signed up yet, you can automatically select DRCNet as your recipient non-profit by visiting http://www.eyegive.com/html/ssi.cfm?CID=1060.

Even here at DRCNet HQ, we know how hard it can be to remember day after day to visit the eyegive page and point and click to raise money.  The easiest way to keep up is to set the eyegive home page, http://www.eyegive.com, as the default start-up page in your web browser -- use edit-preferences in Netscape or view-Internet options in Internet Explorer.

For those of you who didn't read the bulletin, here is a brief recap:  Eyegive is a web site through which people can earn money for their favorite non-profit organization, just by clicking on a page of ads that appears when you visit the site.  Clicking up to five times per day earns DRCNet valuable funds, if you have selected us as your recipient non-profit.

Your wrist and finger clicks can add up to earn DRCNet thousands of dollars -- money that can pay for part-time help, advertise for new members, any number of things.  Please check it out, and those of you who have taken part already, keep up the good work!

A NOTE OF THANKS

We'd like to take a moment to publicly thank Nick Merrill and the Manhattan-based Calyx Internet Access Corporation for services they've provided us for more than three years, much of the time for free, and at all times motivated by their desire to help the cause.  Calyx's help came at an important time, and was invaluable in bringing the online reform effort up to a new level.  Calyx still hosts web sites and mailing lists for a number of drug policy reform groups, as well as DRCNet's own drug library search engine.

Some of the services that Calyx provides include: Dedicated Lines, Web Site Hosting, Server Colocation, Internet/ Intranet, LAN/WAN Consulting, Security Consulting & Firewalls, Web Design, Special Hosting Rates for 501(c) Non-Profits, and Secure Shell Accounts.

You can find Calyx online at http://www.calyx.net, or reach Nick Merrill at nick@calyx.net.


2. Drug Crazy Update

There are a litany of reasons to support drug policy reform -- prohibition has devastating consequences in several areas -- crime & violence, spread of infectious diseases, political destabilization in source countries, police corruption, undertreatment of pain, overdoses and poisonings, popularization of dangerous forms of drugs, ready access of drugs to kids.  Mike Gray's book Drug Crazy, published by Random House just a month ago, makes clear to the reader that not only is prohibition a bad idea, but the issue is not a close call in any sense of the word.  The war on drugs is profoundly untenable, and Gray, a member of DRCNet's advisory board, has demonstrated that using all his dramatic skill -- Gray authored the script for the hit movie, The China Syndrome, and worked on Star Trek: The Next Generation, among many other credits.

For the past couple of months, we have asked our readers to call or visit their local bookstores and ask about Drug Crazy.  We have since heard reports of stores ordering more copies and displaying them more prominently.  We have also heard reports of stores not reordering copies quickly enough to meet the possible demand.  Please take a few minutes to call or visit your local bookstores and ask if they have a copies of Drug Crazy.  If they offer to order it for you, tell them you would prefer to buy the book from a store that has the book in stock.

Your efforts will continue to pay off in bringing this important book to the public's attention.  It will also help DRCNet, as we are prominently featured on pages 203-204, introducing an appendix of Internet drug policy resources.  We have already had some sign-ups from people who heard about us from the book.  Visit http://www.drugcrazy.com to read the first chapter, and learn all about it!


3. Drug Czar Gets Facts Wrong Again... Infuriates Dutch on Eve of Visit

U.S. Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey was supposed to be going to Europe this week to observe the ways in which other countries are dealing with their drug problems, but statements leading up to and during the first leg of his trip revealed that the retired General left with pre-determined conclusions and ignorance of some basic, non-expert level facts.

McCaffrey's misstatements, and the conclusions he drew from them, elicited sharp and angry responses from the Dutch just days before McCaffrey was scheduled to arrive in The Netherlands.  The strange and very un-diplomatic string of incidents cast our nation's top drug warrior as well as his Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) in a less-than-favorable light.  This was compounded by several odd statements made by ONDCP spokespersons, at least one of which was later retracted, in an apparent attempt to cover the ex-general's flank.  As you read the following chronology, ask yourselves, if you were leading the fight to preserve prohibition, is this what you would do?

JULY 9:  On CNN's "Talkback Live," McCaffrey engages in a brief debate over the Dutch policy with "Drug Crazy" author Mike Gray.  McCaffrey says, ominously, it turns out, "We ought to agree to disagree on the facts."  Shortly afterward, he calls the Dutch experience "an unmitigated disaster."  Gray warns that a diplomatic protest could come from the Dutch embassy, which has been alerted that McCaffrey and his office are misrepresenting the facts about Dutch policy and results.  McCaffrey changes the subject, saying the Dutch have received protests from the French and Germans over the results of their drug policy.  Gray counters that the French have a higher addiction rate than the Dutch, and that the U.S. has a higher addiction rate than the Dutch.  Here, again, McCaffrey says: "I probably would again dispute you on the facts."

JULY 10:  McCaffrey tells the Associated Press he's not interested in visiting Dutch "coffeeshops," the hallmark of the nation's tolerant policy toward marijuana and hashish.  "Coffeeshops would be a bad photo op," he explains.  And, "I'm not sure there's much to be learned by watching someone smoking pot."

JULY 11:  From Washington, the Dutch ambassador to the U.S., Joris M. Vos, writes to McCaffrey, that he is "confounded and dismayed" by the czar's depiction of the Dutch policy.  "I must say that I find the timing of your remarks, just six days before your planned visit to the Netherlands with a view to gaining firsthand knowledge about Dutch drug policy and its results, rather astonishing."  A McCaffrey deputy spokesman, Rob Housman, tells the AP in Washington he hopes the incident will not affect McCaffrey's European trip.

JULY 13: In Stockholm, where he is beginning his European trip, McCaffrey comes out swinging.  He says, "The murder rate in Holland is double that in the United States.  The per capita crime rates are much higher than the United States."  He provides statistics to the media.  In 1995, McCaffrey says, the U.S. had 8.22 murders per 100,000 people, while the Netherlands had 17.58 per 100,000 (2.13 times the U.S. rate).  Also, at the Stockholm press conference, McCaffrey's staff hands out copies of the complaint letter to McCaffrey from ambassador Joris Vos.  It will later turn out that the Dutch Embassy in Washington is none too pleased with McCaffrey's release of the letter saying that the communique was meant to be "private and confidential."

JULY 14: A Dutch agency, the Central Bureau of Statistics, publishes crime data contradicting McCaffrey's claims.  The 1995 murder rate, rather than being double that of the U.S., is instead 1.8 per 100,000 in the Netherlands, making the U.S. rate 4.6 times higher than in The Netherlands.  There were 273 murders total in 1995, fewer than most U.S. cities.  However, for the year 1995, the Dutch ATTEMPTED HOMICIDE rate was 17.6 -- likely the number McCaffrey had cited.  (We initially thought McCaffrey had simply misplaced a decimal point.  Note that while most Americans could not tell you the homicide rate here or anywhere else, most readers of newspapers, not just drug and crime policy experts, are well aware that the rate is much higher here than anywhere in western Europe.)

DRCNet, after researching the Dutch homicide rate, contacted the Dutch Embassy to confirm the statistics and to get their reaction to McCaffrey's claims.  The embassy confirms the rate of 1.8 per 100,000 and expresses its concern over what is now becoming an international incident.

DRCNet then contacts ONDCP seeking either a retraction or reiteration of McCaffrey's claim.  Spokesperson David DuRoche tells The Week Online that while he hasn't spoken to McCaffrey on the matter, "The general stands by what he said."

DRCNet issues the following press release to over 100 media outlets:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, JULY 14, 1998
ONTACT: David Borden or Adam J. Smith, (202) 293-8340

American Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey, on the first leg of his 8-day fact-finding mission to Europe, has once again proven that he knows not of what he speaks.  But this time, McCaffrey's blatantly erroneous statement of "fact" might well touch off an inter- national furor.

Speaking to the press in Stockholm, Sweden, McCaffrey trashed Dutch drug policy, saying, "The murder rate in Holland is double that in the United States."  McCaffrey cited the statistics as 8.22 per 100,000 in the U.S. and 17.58 per 100,000 in The Netherlands. "That's drugs," he concluded, adding that he was anxious to visit The Netherlands to find out "Why is it that they're happy about what they're doing?"

Unfortunately, the General had his zeroes misplaced.  The Dutch murder rate is actually 1.758 per 100,000, less than one fourth that of the U.S.  Astonishingly, this morning, David DeRoche, a spokesman for McCaffrey, told the Drug Reform Coordination Network, an Internet-based information center of the drug policy reform movement, that "The General stands by what he said."

David Borden, DRCNet's Executive Director, said, "There is a very disturbing trend of blatant misinformation coming from Barry McCaffrey, which seems to indicate that he is woefully uninformed about key parts of the very policy he is paid to represent and enforce.  It is astonishing that McCaffrey is so ignorant of global drug policy that he would parrot such a wildly erroneous statistic.  Anyone who knows anything at all about global drug policy and its impact would have spotted in an instant that this was blatantly untrue."

In August and again in December, 1996, McCaffrey was quoted in the media claiming there is 'not one shred of evidence' that marijuana has medicinal value, when in fact there are literally dozens showing that it does -- ONDCP's chief counsel, Pat Seitz, later claimed on CNN that he had never made such comments.  In April, McCaffrey made numerous statements claiming that studies of Canadian syringe exchanges refuted the value of syringe exchange, only to be rebuffed by Dr. Julie Bruneau and Dr. Martin T. Schechter, the authors of the studies them- selves, who, in an op-ed in the New York Times, (4/9/98) stated that McCaffrey had "misinterpreted" their findings, which called for more, not less needle exchange. Further, on several occasions this spring, including once during a speech at the University of Louisville, McCaffrey has ridi- culed "noted agronomists such as Woody Harrelson" who advocate for the legalization of industrial hemp, despite the fact that over 100 Kentucky farmers are currently suing the federal government for the right to do so.  "It is silly" he said of the issue, calling it a "thinly disguised attempt ... to legalize pot."  But earlier this month, a University of Kentucky study indi- cated that if hemp were legalized for indus- trial use, it would immediately become the second most valuable legal crop in the state, behind only tobacco.   In an interview with NBC Dateline, aired Feb 21, 1997, McCaffrey put forward an Illinois study he claimed sup- ported the D.A.R.E. program, only to later dismiss the very same study as "twaddle" when confronted with its actual findings -- that D.A.R.E. doesn't work for most children and may be counterproductive.

DRCNet Associate Director Adam J. Smith said, "This latest misstatement concerning the Dutch murder rate, in which McCaffrey was off by a factor of ten, is especially troubling in view of the fact that he obviously feels well- versed enough on the Dutch situation to publicly ridicule their brave pragmatism in the face of global Prohibitionist pressures. These types of misstatements show clearly that the government's blind embrace of a failed Prohibitionist Drug War is ideologically, and not factually driven.  The U.S. murder rate is more than four times that of The Netherlands. That's Prohibition."

- END -
Later, Dutch officials tell the Reuters news agency, "The figure (McCaffrey is using) is not right. He is adding in attempted murders."  Foreign Affairs Ministry spokeswoman Birgitta Tazelaar adds, "(McCaffrey's) statements show... that he is not coming totally unbiased.  We hope he is coming here to learn from the Dutch drug policy, and one can only learn if open-minded... We hope his opinions will... come more into line with the facts."

JULY 15:  In a Washington Times story, McCaffrey spokesman James McDonough, responding to a Dutch official who pointed out that the drug czar had used the wrong number, attempted homicide instead of homicide, when comparing crime stats between the U.S. and Netherlands, says, "Let's say she's right.  What you are left with is that they are a much more violent society and more inept [at murder], and that's not much to brag about."

DRCNet searches for U.S. statistics on "attempted homicide."  Apparently, this is not a category that is kept by the FBI or any other federal agency.  What is kept by the FBI is "aggravated assault".  The FBI definition for this offense reads as follows:  "Aggravated assault is an unlawful attack by one person upon another for the purpose of inflicting severe or aggravated bodily injury.  This type of assault is usually accompanied by the use of a weapon or by means likely to produce death or great bodily harm."

The two definitions are not absolutely identical, but in practice cover basically the same set of offenses.  Hence we compare them here.  In 1995, the rate of "attempted murder" in The Netherlands was 17.58 per 100,000 while for the same year, according to the FBI, the U.S. rate for "aggravated assault" was 418.3 per 100,000, more than 20 times higher than in The Netherlands.

DRCNet again contacts ONDCP, whereupon Mr. DuRoche tells The Week Online that "those figures for the Dutch murder rate come directly from Interpol.  I cannot speculate on why the Dutch Government would report one set of numbers to Interpol and another to their public."  Pressed as to whether it would not have been proper, given the Dutch government's vehement protest over the veracity of the numbers, to check into the matter further, especially since McCaffrey publicly proclaimed that Dutch drug policy was responsible for this shocking rate of homicide, DuRoche said that the matter was between Interpol and the Dutch.  Asked whether, if it turned out that the number was erroneous, and it was shown that the U.S. murder rate was in fact 4.6 times higher than that in The Netherlands, his office would retract their contention that Dutch society was "much more violent" than the U.S., DuRoche told The week Online, "well, it's really not relevant to compare the two societies.  The Dutch have universal health care, near 100% literacy, an homogeneous population and effective gun control."  Told that it was McCaffrey, and not the reform movement that had made the comparison, DuRoche responded, "Isn't Mike Gray on your advisory board?  This was all in response to Mike Gray's comments on CNN.  We didn't bring this up."

But regardless of whether or not McCaffrey spread false information about Dutch drug policy of his own volition or in response to a statement (made days earlier) by an American on CNN, it is not the first time that U.S. officials had so blatantly misstated facts about The Netherlands that the Dutch were moved to respond diplomatically.  In 1995, a booklet on "legalization" put out by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) merited the following official response, translated by Mario Lap of the International Foundation for Human Rights:

Monday 9 Jan 1995, The Hague

Her Majesty's Minister of Foreign Affairs of The Netherlands drs. Hans van Mierlo has officially announced the following answer in writing to parliamentary questions by the MP Thom De Graaf of the (his own) liberal party.

The Minister will point out to the American Authorities that Dutch Drug policy is falsely represented in a manual of the American Drug Battle Agency, DEA.

The manual mentions that the police in The Netherlands is instructed not to take action against street trade in what ever kind of drugs. That is not true.

In many municipalities in The Netherlands the policing and prosecution of street traders of drugs has a high priority and special cell space is reserved for that purpose.

Furthermore, according to the DEA a research of the entire Rotterdam population of fifteen years and older shows that 3.3 % of this population uses cocaine.

In the research referred to by the DEA, 3.3% of the Rotterdam population from fifteen to nineteen years of age mentioned that they had used cocaine (lifetime prevalence).

It is totally irresponsible to state that all of these people are cocaine users and ridiculous to relate the figures to the total Rotterdam population.

Further data in the manual are not all wrong but stripped of their context and therefore easily misinterpreted.

The mistakes made will be discussed with the American Authorities by The Minister of Foreign Affairs.

- END -
DRCNet contacted the Dutch Embassy, at which time Mr. Morris indicated that, according to several Dutch newspapers, published nearly ten hours earlier, Interpol had acknowledged that they had used the wrong figures in the category of homicide, and that the numbers were therefore "misleading".  Interpol has reportedly stated that that the error would be corrected in its next publication.

Morris further stated that "We really don't want to poison the waters any further on the eve of Mr. McCaffrey's arrival in The Netherlands.  Obviously there is a difference of opinion over drug policy, and over the success of the Dutch system.  The Dutch government is justifiably proud of the progress we have made under our system, and, while we certainly don't put ourselves in the position of advising other nations what to do domestically, we are comfortable that the strategies that we have adopted, evolving as they are, are in the best interests of Dutch society."

Later the same day (7/15) the Associated Press ran a story on the brewing controversy in which Robert Housman, a McCaffrey spokesperson was quoted, saying that the Dutch government was being "pulled into an internal political debate" in the United States by those who support decriminalizing drugs.  "These legalizers put American children at risk," the statement said.  "The Dutch government should be renouncing them, not siding with them... Every nation is free to set their own policies domestically.  However, other nations must respect the sovereignty of others and be keenly aware of the impacts of their policies on the global community."

Three hours later, according to the Associated Press, ONDCP called the news services to retract the statement, saying that the statement "no longer stands" because it didn't reflect McCaffrey's views.  No further information was given.

Later in the day, McCaffrey traveled to Switzerland, where a successful three-year pilot program in opiate maintenance has just been completed amidst glowing reports of its success, and much discussion of its emulation across Europe and even in Canada.  Leading up to the meetings, McCaffrey had made statements which indicated his opposition to such programs, including his belief that maintenance is "like giving alcohol to the alcoholic" and "our own worry would be that in the longer term it will contribute to an inexorable growth in the rate of heroin use and become a dysfunctional aspect of drug prevention in society at large."  When the two sides emerged from their meetings, a Dutch reporter asked McCaffrey about the ongoing controversy.  McCaffrey responded that "It's probably less helpful to continue a debate through the press over the nature of Dutch drug policy than to have a face to face, open evaluation of it."

A wire report from that press conference said that "[A] Swiss health official said... McCaffrey had backed down from some of his comments about addiction in Switzerland after his meetings.  Thomas Zeltner, head of the Swiss federal health bureau, said he told McCaffrey that the maintenance program was limited to below 10 percent of all chronic heroin users and that Swiss officials had produced data to show that the U.S. adviser's conclusions about Swiss addiction rates were wrong."

McCaffrey arrived in The Netherlands early in the morning (7/16) US eastern time.  The following is a report from Harry Bego in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, Director of Legalize! and a co-coordinator of the Global Coalition for Alternatives to the Drug War:

7/15, The Netherlands:  The Dutch media are really jumping on McCaffrey.  There are critical articles in all papers, all news programs on radio and TV follow the visit closely; there's a critical editorial comment even in the right-wing 'Telegraaf'.

Yesterday July 15th, 6:15pm, on TV2, the news show 2 Vandaag ('2 Today') summarized reactions in the Netherlands to McCaffrey's statements so far.

At the end, there was an interview with McCaffrey.  It was by telephone, recorded just before 6:00pm, it looked slightly edited; McCaffrey was still in Switzerland. The interviewer was on screen, against a background of images from McCaffrey's European trip, people smoking joints, etc.

Here's a transcript.  Apparently Dutch feelings are, unfortunately, 'bruised' in the context of an internal US debate; he seems to imply we shouldn't worry about that too much.

2 VANDAAG: Hello Mr. McCaffrey, welcome in our program.  Your comments on Dutch drugs policy were greeted here with indignation and condemnation.  Are you still looking forward to come to the Netherlands?

MCCAFFREY: Of course.  I have enormous interest and respect in the viewpoints of the Dutch policy makers.  I think there's a very important responsibility to carry on a dialog across the Atlantic.

2 VANDAAG: But what is your reaction to that storm of indignation?

MCCAFFREY: Well, I've seen no storm, so I have no reaction, I think I have great confidence that there's something to be learned from not only reading about the Dutch experience but also listening to anecdotal insight on what their experien- ces have been.  I think friends should candidly discuss their viewpoints and how that can come (?) learning.

2 VANDAAG: Well, talking about candidly, you have called Dutch drug policy an unmitigated disaster.  Is that still your opinion?

MCCAFFREY: Well I think that there is an enormous amount of press attention, perhaps others, to what has been a very stiff internal debate in the United States, driven on one side by those of us in both public and private life who have construc- ted this bold and aggressive ten year drug prevention and treatment strategy, and on the other side of the issue are many who we believe are promoting the legalization of drugs, and what... Unfortunately, the Netherlands is frequently used as an icon, by one side of the argument.  So in the process of putting that into better context it is possible to bruise Dutch feelings, which is unfortunate.

2 VANDAAG: But is it, yes or no, an unmitigated disaster?

MCCAFFREY: My own viewpoint has been that our decision should be based on objective criteria, and not on ideology or culture or politics.

2 VANDAAG: But the Dutch government says you've got your statistics wrong.

MCCAFFREY: The data that many people are now looking at is Interpol data, but that should be a discussion between Dutch autho- rities and the Interpol data, with me not acting as an intervening variable.

2 VANDAAG: OK sir, thank you very much for your comments.       Reformers over here have been busy writing articles and giving interviews; I had almost half a page yesterday in the Volkskrant (2nd largest paper after the Telegraaf) titled 'General McCaffrey has already lost his war', illustrated by a depressing picture of a chain gang in an Alabama prison; gist: U.S. drug policy is the real disaster.

Today McCaffrey isn't giving interviews during the day, but there will be a press conference tonight.  I have sent out a press statement containing the New York Times citation of his allegations about a 'slick misinformation campaign', pointing to his own obvious efforts now to mislead the U.S. audience.

Harry Bego

Finally, in a statement that could potentially draw umbrage from U.S. police, McCaffrey told Reuters in The Netherlands:  "I came with a bias that Dutch police were good... I cautioned my Dutch partners that police of this high caliber can allow policy to work adequately even when it may not be good policy."  (Editor's Note:  This can mean either that American prohibition is working 'adequately' or that our police are simply too 'low caliber' to make work a clearly superior policy.  Which one is it?)


4. Wire Report of the Week

A Reuters article this week reported that "the Virginia Crime Commission has set up a federal and state task force to look into the possible link between drug trafficking and organized crime."  (Possible link?  Do they really need a task force to answer such a question?)


5. Prohibition Poll on Time Online

Time Magazine has been conducting an online poll on prohibition since July 9, and it is still linked in and accepting votes.  Last we checked, 59.16% of respondents had voted for legalization of all "recreational" drugs for adults, another 29.95% had voted for legalization of marijuana, and only 10.87% had voted to maintain prohibition of all currently illicit drugs.  These online polls aren't scientific, of course -- they draw those people who are most motivated for them -- but the same is true of elections.  Visit http://cgi.pathfinder.com/time/daily/poll/drug.html to cast your vote, check the latest tally, and read related commentary.


6. Taliban Ban Television

Last December we reported that the head of the United Nations Drug Control Program, Pino Arlacchi, a former prosecutor, proposed providing major funding for opium eradication to the Taliban, a brutal, extremist group that controls of much of Afghanistan.  The proposal has drawn widespread criticism from human rights groups, who see it as helping to establish the Taliban's control of the country once and for all.  Among the Taliban's policies are a ban on education and health care for women.  Women who don't cover their bodies from head to toe are often dragged into the street and beaten.  Arlacchi's proposal has received the support of the Clinton administration.

Coverage of the controversy is not likely to make it into Afghanistan itself, however, at least not foreign coverage.  Time reported on July 9 that the Taliban have now outlawed possession of television sets.  Good allies in the drug war!


7. Legislative Update

The following articles are reprinted from the Drug Policy Foundation's Network News, a monthly publication for DPF's advocacy network.  To sign up to receive Network News, contact DPF at (202) 537-5005, e-mail dpf@dpf.org or visit DPF's web site at http://www.dpf.org.

MONEY LAUNDERING BILL EXPANDS CIVIL ASSET FORFEITURE

H.R. 3745, the "Money Laundering Act of 1998," was unveiled by Rep. Bill McCollum (R-FL) as one of the bills to expand the war on drugs; its main focus is broadening the government's forfeiture powers.  H.R. 3745 raises constitutional concerns including possible Fourth Amendment, due process and privacy rights violations.  Additionally, H.R. 3745 intrudes on the role of the federal courts by significantly changing the rules of evidence and civil procedure, and conflicts with current efforts to curb U.S. Treasury and Justice Department forfeiture excesses.  Some of the most troubling aspects of H.R. 3745 are the civil (non-criminal) asset forfeiture provisions.  H.R. 3745 would:

  • allow the federal government to go on "fishing expeditions" by subpoenaing bank records before filing a complaint or starting a forfeiture procedure;
  • make it nearly impossible for a person to assert an "innocent owner" defense;
  • expand wiretapping authority for suspected violations of IRS form-filing requirements;
  • unduly expand the number of new acts that can be predicates for triggering the money laundering statute, allowing federal agencies to seize entire businesses and bank account for any and all manner of alleged regulatory and state law violations; and
  • expand the Department of Justice mandate by making DOJ into a de-facto world police force -- enforcing alleged violations of foreign nations' laws, even when foreign governments don't want to prosecute.
DPF supports meaningful asset forfeiture reform that uniformly limits the scope of the government's forfeiture powers by eliminating some of the most egregious civil forfeiture practices.  DPF supports Rep. Henry Hyde's (R-IL) Manager's Amendment to H.R. 1965, the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act, and has written Rep. Hyde urging him to oppose H.R. 3745 and to move H.R. 1965 to a vote during this sessions of Congress.

REP.RANGEL SEEKS ELIMINATION OF SENTENCING DISPARITY

The criminal justice approach to dealing with the problems presented by drug use has created unacceptable social and legal side effects.  Due to discriminatory enforcement practices and unjust mandatory minimum sentencing laws, a disproportionate number of young African-Americans are in prison for low-level drug offenses.  While it only take five grams of crack cocaine to trigger a five-year mandatory minimum, it takes 500 grams of powder cocaine to receive the same sentence.

Rep. Charles Ranger (D-NY) has introduced H.R. 2031, the "Crack-Cocaine Equitable Sentencing Act of 1997," to eliminate the sentencing disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine offenses.  One of DPF's short-term priorities is to raise public awareness of the injustices of mandatory sentencing and its failure to have an impact on crime.  DPF's first priority in this area is the elimination of the disparity in sentencing between crack cocaine and powder cocaine.

Rep. Rangel has requested that supporters of this legislation write to their members of Congress to express their support and request that their representative become a co-sponsor of this bill.

(You can call your Representative (or find out who your rep is) via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224- 3121.  You can write to your rep at: U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC 20515.  Further information on asset forfeiture is available from Forfeiture Endangers American Rights, http://www.fear.org.  Further information on mandatory minimums is available from Families Against Mandatory Minimums, http://www.famm.org.)


8. EDITORIAL:  The General Invades (and Insults and Infuriates) The Netherlands

On January 11, Barry McCaffrey, retired four-star general and current director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (the Drug Czar), embarked on a scheduled eight-day visit to Europe to see how drug policy was being handled back on the Continent.  The tour included scheduled stops in "zero-tolerance" Sweden, harm-reductionist Switzerland, and the pragmatic Netherlands.  In the midst of an invigorated domestic debate over the Drug War in the U.S., pulling such a trip off smoothly was certainly going to be tricky.  But while diplomacy was clearly called for, McCaffrey, the old soldier, had his guns blazing even before he boarded the plane.  Predictably, he shot himself in both feet.

The fiasco started days before his departure, when McCaffrey told a CNN audience that Dutch drug policy is "an unmitigated disaster."  Needless to say, this did not go over too well with his soon-to-be hosts in The Netherlands.  In response, the Dutch Embassy in Washington sent McCaffrey a private letter calling his remarks, and their timing, "curious" and "astonishing".  McCaffrey's statement made one thing clear, however: he was not going to Europe to learn anything.  Instead, it was obvious that he felt he already knew all that he needed to know about drug policy, and about the Dutch experience.  Over the next several days he proceeded to show everyone, except perhaps himself, how wrong he was.

On the first day of his trip, during his stop in Sweden to praise their policies (which include police pulling kids out of nightspots on mere suspicion and forcibly drug-testing them), McCaffrey handed reporters a "fact booklet."  Contained in that booklet, and reiterated by the man himself, was the claim that the "Dutch murder rate is double that of the U.S."  In defense of the since-beleaguered Czar, the numbers themselves (17.58 homicides per 100,000 Dutch citizens, and 8.22 per 100,000 U.S. citizens) came from the international agency Interpol.  But even casual observers of drug and crime policies knew immediately that something was way, way off.  "That's drugs" McCaffrey crowed triumphantly, and questioned "why in the world they (the Dutch) think this is a success."

In fact, Interpol did have its numbers wrong.  As they admitted later, they had included attempted murder with murder.  The real murder rate in the Netherlands is 1.8 per hundred thousand, less than one-fourth the U.S. rate and among the lowest in the European Union.  The Dutch government quickly challenged the claim, and McCaffrey and his office were called upon to retract the statement.  But, warriors to the core, ONDCP would concede nothing.  "Let's say (that's) right," retorted an ONDCP spokesperson when confronted with the numerical mix-up.  "What you are left with is that they are a much more violent society and more inept [at murder], and that's not much to brag about."  As curious as that statement is on its face, it is even more erroneous.  According to the FBI, the corresponding U.S. rate (for aggravated assault -- the U.S. doesn't keep a statistic for attempted murder) is over 20 times higher than in The Netherlands, at over 400 per hundred thousand.

Still later, another ONDCP spokesperson released a statement chiding The Netherlands for being pulled into a domestic policy argument in the U.S.  The statement said that The Netherlands should "repudiate" the U.S. "legalizers" and further warned that nations ought to be aware of the impact of their policies and actions on the global community.  That statement was retracted just hours later.  One can only assume that even McCaffrey and the drug warriors could not attempt to pawn off such hypocrisy with a straight face.  America, after all, exports its drug policy by twisting arms to insure that other nations, particularly source and trans-shipment countries, surrender enormous amounts of their own sovereignty in service to the U.S. war.

But if there is a level of self-awareness among the drug war's leadership, it is minimal at best.  And the events of this past week illustrate well the crux of the problem.

Barry McCaffrey has spent his entire career as an officer in the United States Army.  During the latter part of that career he was among the highest-ranking individuals in the armed forces.  He is not used to being questioned, much less being called upon to admit he was wrong.  And so, on one issue after another, be it the state of medical research on medical marijuana, the efficacy of needle exchange, the economic viability of industrial hemp, or the murder rate in The Netherlands, Barry McCaffrey, even when proven wrong publicly and emphatically, simply cannot admit defeat.

And this is the problem with our entire drug policy, really.  Prohibition, for eighty years ineffectual and counter-productive, does not, cannot work.  But no one, not the ex-general, not the bureaucrats whose careers depend upon it, not our representatives who play to the fears of the electorate and not our President who famously didn't inhale, no one will admit that the emperor has no clothes.

It is disturbing, to say the least, that a public servant such as McCaffrey, the man we are paying to lead us out of the morass of youth drug abuse and drug-related violence, is so consistently and spectacularly wrong on the facts.  Even more disturbing is that he is so self-certain that he feels comfortable making determinations before he has even seen the evidence.  But most disturbing of all perhaps, is that he refuses to admit error in the face of insurmountable evidence.  Because that indicates that he will never learn.

Adam J. Smith
Associate Director

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