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World Focus: US flees the drugs battlefield|
Posted on Monday, October 21 @ 16:44:21 UTC
By Duncan Campbell, Oct. 22 2002, www.smh.com.au|
The Pentagon is scaling back its role in the "war on drugs" in what amounts to a tacit admission of failure in countering the narcotics trade. Senior military officials claim they must cut back drugs operations to concentrate on the "war on terrorism".
Politicians are likely to oppose the move. The Pentagon has outlayed about $US1 billion ($1.8 billion) on drug-related operations for this financial year, out of a total federal counter-narcotics outlay of $19 billion.
The Pentagon has a bigger anti-drug budget than the Coast Guard, Customs Service or the Immigration and Naturalisation Service, and accounts for a significant share of federal money spent to fight drugs abroad.
The armed forces were required to take on the anti-drug role in 1988, but domestic opponents of the move say such work should be carried out by customs and the law enforcement agencies. The Pentagon says it can no longer afford its previous level of commitment.
The Pentagon's counter-drugs chief, Andre Hollis, said all elements of the military's anti-drug activities were being examined to see what could be dropped.
"The top priorities now are to defend the homeland and to win the war on terrorism," he said.
He also wants to reduce the burden on special forces, which play a leading anti-narcotics role.
The decision reflects the views of the Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, who opposed the anti-drugs role of the military well before the September 11 attacks.
In January last year Mr Rumsfeld told a Senate confirmation hearing that he believed that drugs were "overwhelmingly a demand problem", suggesting that the battle should be fought at home.
The United States has spent $US75 billion fighting drugs in the past five years, but has made little headway.
The price and availability of cocaine has remained relatively stable for the past decade.
A survey this year indicated that in the first year of the Bush Administration drugs use had increased among young people, though cigarette smoking had declined.
One of the problems the Pentagon faces in scaling down its operations is that President George Bush has been linking the war on drugs to the fight against terrorism.
A current advertising campaign suggests that any young person using drugs could be helping terrorists by contributing to their funds.
Mr Bush's niece, Noelle Bush, 25, was last week jailed for 10 days in Florida for violating terms of a court-ordered drug rehabilitation program after treatment centre workers allegedly found a piece of cocaine in her shoe.
The Guardian, Los Angeles Times
Note: (In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)
|Average Score: 5|