Clinton Targets Illegal Drugs In U.N. Talk
He calls demand vs. supply debate 'distracting'
NEW YORK (AllPolitics, June 8) -- President Bill Clinton told a
United Nations' anti-drug summit Monday it is time to move beyond the dispute over whether consumer nations or supplier nations bear a greater responsibility in the fight against illegal drugs.
"Let's be frank," Clinton told the General Assembly. "This debate has not advanced the fight against drugs. Pointing fingers is distracting. It does not dismantle a single cartel, help a single addict, prevent a single child from trying, and perhaps dying, from heroin.
"Besides, the lines between countries that are supply countries, demand countries and transit countries are increasingly blurred," Clinton added. "Drugs are every nation's problem and every nation must act to fight them."
In a statistics-laden, 20-minute talk, Clinton said there has been progress around the world in cutting drug use, in seizing cocaine in transit and in reducing the cultivation of illegal crops. He said drug use in the U.S. is down 49 percent since 1979.
But he said all the nations of the world need to do more.
"For all the achievements of recent years, we must not confuse progress with success," Clinton said. "The specter of drugs still haunts us."
Clinton said the U.S. will spend $17 billion on anti-drug efforts next year and $6 billion of that will focus on reducing demand. "We are determined to build a drug-free America," he said.
Clinton was the opening speaker at the General Assembly's special session focusing on reducing demand among drug users and cracking down on the laundering of drug proceeds by smugglers.
In the United States, the emphasis in the war on drugs has been on interdiction, cutting off the supply, across the border and on the streets.
Last year, $10 billion was spent on domestic law enforcement, building prisons and international interdiction. That's twice the amount spent on prevention and treatment.
Officials admit the results are mixed. Two-thirds of all people arrested test positive for drugs. Some say the desire by politicians of all stripes to appear tough on crime means other weapons in the arsenal against drugs, like prevention programs, are poor cousins, receiving five times less than law enforcement.
After-school programs, which a recent study credits for reducing teen smoking -- believed in some circles to be a precursor to drug use -- are just one example. They were denied a $13 billion budget request this past fall.
"There's been a real reluctance to engage with a problem that affects a lot of American families and a lot of communities," said Barry McCaffrey, the nation's drug control policy director.
Drug treatment programs get even shorter shrift, although studies show people convicted of drug-related crime who go through treatment along with jail time, are many times less likely to return to prison than those without treatment.
"Treatment takes longer; you don't see the results as fast," said John Calhoun of the National Crime Prevention Council. "It's tough to get federal funds for something whose results appear two or three years later."
Even judges and those in law enforcement argue that arresting and locking up people for selling drugs is a losing battle. It's the demand, they say, that must be attacked by treating more addicts.
CNN's Eileen O'Connor contributed to this report.