|WAR ON DRUGS|
May 10, 2001
| RAY SUAREZ: President
Bush announced John Walters as his new drug policy director in a Rose
Garden ceremony this morning.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: John Walters and I believe the only human and compassionate response to drug use is a moral refusal to accept it. The most effective way to reduce the supply of drugs in America is to reduce the demand for drugs in America. (Applause) Therefore, this administration will focus unprecedented attention on the demand side of this problem.
RAY SUAREZ: John Walters is a conservative Republican who has held several posts in the Office of National Drug Control Policy, in the first Bush Administration as chief of staff and deputy director for Drug Czar Bill Bennett and briefly in the Clinton Administration as acting director. This morning, Walters reinforced the President's theme of fighting drugs from the demand side.
JOHN WALTERS: We will help the addicted find effective treatment and remain in recovery. We will shield our communities from the terrible human toll taken by illegal drugs. And we will stop illegal drug use and the drug trade from funding threats to democratic institutions throughout our hemisphere.
RAY SUAREZ: In addition to nominating Walters, the President outlined a multi-faceted program to reduce drug use. President Bush said since children cite parents as the number one reason they don't use drugs, he'll create a parent drug corps, which will provide support to educate and train parents in effective drug prevention. The President said he would increase funding for drug free communities programs and drug-free workplace programs. In order to get drug treatment for the 5 million hard core users in America, President Bush announced $1.6 over the next five years to close the treatment gap and a state-by-state inventory of treatment needs and capacity; to advance understanding of drug abuse and addiction, the President has proposed significantly increasing funding for National Institute on Drug Abuse and National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and to support drug treatment for prisoners, probationers, and parolees, President Bush asked for a comprehensive plan to ensure federal prisons are drug free, expanding drug testing for probationers and parolees, and strengthening the U.S. system of drug courts. After the ceremony, Attorney General John Ashcroft and Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson spoke to reporters. Ashcroft was assigned the task of developing the plan to reduce drug use by prisoners.
JOHN ASHCROFT: This is a comprehensive, balanced approach by the President of the United States. His remarks today did focus more on demand than on interdiction. He did not talk about problems we have with drugs coming across the border. He's understood that there's been a lot of emphasis on that. Today he talked about how we can help people avoid the real problem of being dependent on drugs.
RAY SUAREZ: Thompson was asked by President Bush to report on the treatment programs in different states.
TOMMY THOMPSON: There's never been a commitment like this, and there's never been a unified organization like the President is putting on the field to fight drug abuse, so this President has really taken the lead, and he is absolutely passionate about it.
RAY SUAREZ: Now to assess President Bush's drug policy we're joined
by two former Assistant Secretaries of State for International Narcotics
MATHEA FALCO: Well, Ray, it's striking how the President and his new administration seems to have embraced demand reduction as the predominant priority in our drug policy. I must say that the record that John Walters amassed -- both during his public service and in subsequent speeches -- show him to be a classic, old- fashioned supply sider who puts interdiction and eradication in foreign countries above treatment here at home and who prefers prosecution to prevention. Now, they may all have changed how they look at the problem, and we can hope so. But there's a very simple way wean can measure their sincerity -- and that is follow the money. The increases in budget spending that the President announced today are a very good first step. But they are very small increases in comparison to the kinds of funds that are really needed if we're going to make a dent in hard-core addiction in this country.
RAY SUAREZ: Ambassador Levitsky, your overview of the Bush strategy as announced earlier today?
MELVYN LEVITSKY: Well, I think what the President announced and I'm sure John Walters will follow the President's lead on this is a balanced program to reduce demand in this country. The point of this supply side is to make sure that we are not flooded even more than we are now with cheap, widely available drugs that will make it harder to reduce demand and make it harder to prevent people from taking drugs, make it harder for us to treat people who are addicted to drugs. I think that a billion dollars increase in the treatment side is not a small amount of money, as Mathea Falco has just mentioned. It's more than a good start. It's a, I think, a strong commitment in this administration to really go after this issue. One of the problems that we faced is that from 1979 until 1992, drug abuse in this country went down by more than 50%. It's blipped up a little bit in the last eight years. We have to get back at the source of these problems particularly in teen-aged drug use in which the figures are showing a quite remarkable turn-around from the lows of the early 1990s. We have to get at this. This means work with families, it means working in education and prevention. It means treatment. But it also means going after the supply line. I think it's a disservice to John Walters, whom I know as a very dedicated, hard-working man and a father, to say that he's a supply sider. This simply is not true.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, there has been a renewed emphasis on demand reduction. The President, when he was meeting with President Fox of Mexico, made a big point of saying that. Is John Walters the guy to carry out that strategy, given what some critics find to be a persistent skepticism about the efficacy of treatment and other kinds of measures?
MELVYN LEVITSKY: Well, it depends what you mean in terms of treatment. I know John very much believes that these programs should be held accountable; they should have results. Treatment is not just revolving door treatment where people go in, get treatment, and then come back again. So we want to try to find the most effective ways to deal with people who are addicted to drugs or are very heavy users of drugs. One of the most important things I think that the President did was to really put emphasis on the prison system. Study after study has shown that coerced, mandatory treatment, long-term treatment of people has the most... the best chance of being effective. And, of course, we have a captive audience of people in prisons. We have too many people in prisons, but to get them off drugs, we're going to have to have good programs of treatment in our prisons. The President is going to put money into that. And I was very encouraged to hear that.
RAY SUAREZ: Ms. Falco, how out about that? In many of his published article, in some of his testimony on Capitol Hill, Mr. Walters has said, oh, yes, by all means treatment but treatment where we control the ground, we control the terms.
MATHEA FALCO: Well, Ray, prison is the most, lea effective way to reduce drug abuse problems. And the experience of the past 20 years has demonstrated that over and over again. We now know that treatment works. It can work in the community far more effectively and cheaply than it can in prisons. And more important, we haven't talked about the treatment gap out there in our communities. Only one in three addicts can now get treatment, and that treatment gap has not changed in the last eight years, ten years. That's the gap that has to be closed. So that when President Bush announces this increased spending, we're really only talking out about a 10% increase in the treatment budget for each year because this increase will be spread out over a period of five years. Contrast, for example, how much we're putting into our foreign drug wars, for example, into Colombia, where the Administration is considering investing another billion dollars on top of the $1.3 billion that we already have there for U.S. military assistance, high-tech helicopters, the international war, which Mel Levitsky thinks has made a difference in supplies has not. Over the last two decades we've invested $35 billion in trying to reduce the supplies of drugs coming into this country and yet heroin and cocaine are more available at cheaper prices now than ever before. This war overseas does not work. It also can have very tragic consequences for the countries themselves, for the region, and as we saw very recently in the shoot-down of the missionary plane in Peru. I mean, these are all consequences of an ever- deepening drug war where our focus is on eradication and military assistance.
RAY SUAREZ: Ambassador Levitsky what's the right balance between all these approaches?
MELVYN LEVITSKY: Well, in the first place that's a skewed picture of the way the drug war is being fought. Keep in mind that it's only the federal government that works on the... can work on the supply side particularly overseas. So naturally you're going to have a higher percentage of the budget spent on the supply side in overseas countries because only the federal government does it. A lot of the effort that goes on in the United States in prevention and in treatment goes on at local and state levels. The second thing I would say about this is that it is critically important to our country to - that we help governments like Colombia who are trying to seize control. Half of Colombia is outside the control of its own government. And the effort to provide assistance to the Colombian Government, to help it cope with a combination of vicious guerillas and vicious drug traffickers and terrorists to me seems to be something that is in our national interest. Now you can argue over how much we should put in and we'll have to see how effective this is, but I think that in terms of national interest, this is an important, smart thing to do. After all, we have forced drug growth out of Peru and out Bolivia. A lot of it has gone to Colombia. But if you're a military strategist and you saw that you now have a concentration of the poison that we're dealing with in Colombia, it would certainly say to you, well, here is an opportunity. It's a problem but it's also an opportunity for us to work with the Colombian Government to go after this trade. And I think -- the other part of this I think that's important is that, sure, drugs are cheap and they're widely available. Well how much more widely available or how much cheaper would they be if we gave up e supply side effort? I think it's important to do it and I think that our government is going to continue to do it but I think again in this war, the main effort has to be on the home front, and I was very encouraged to hear both the President and John Walters acknowledge that and say that we have to do a better job at home. That is an absolute truth.
RAY SUAREZ: Mathea Falco, how do you respond?
MATHEA FALCO: Well just to take your point about the success in Peru and Bolivia and reducing cocoa production, in fact, production is coming back up again in those countries. And as many law enforcement leaders have noted in recent years, there's a kind of balloon effect. You have an impact in one place and it comes up in another. In fact, in Northwest Washington, DC, we can grow enough opium poppy to supply the entire heroin market in the United States for an entire year. So that just gives you an idea of how little area is actually needed to do this. So it's my view-- and I think increasingly the evidence demonstrates-- that we are not going in any way to make a dent on the supply side through these foreign wars. Now, turning back here at home, two million people are now behind bars. This is an extraordinarily high number of incarcerated prisoners. Why is this, the great boom in prisoners? It's because of drug abuse. Many of them are there for violation of drug laws and many others are there essentially because they have serious drug problems. Now, if we had adequate treatment in the community, we wouldn't have to be looking to prisons as the sort of institution of final resort to treat people. Prisons have become the kind of catch-all in this country for people who can't get help anywhere else. And it's a tragic situation, which we need to address immediately. If you're going to close the treatment gap in America, you have to make funding for treatment, prevention, education, a top priority. Under the Bush budget, as under the Clinton budget, law enforcement and incarceration, foreign drug wars, get two- thirds of the almost $20 billion we spend annually. Even with the increase announced today, those percentages won't change because certainly I'm sure at there will be even larger increases I the law enforcement side, in the interdiction side.
RAY SUAREZ: Mathea Falco, we're going to have to break it off there. Ambassador Levitsky, thank you both for being with us.