Interviews With Four-Star Gen. Barry McCaffrey At Worldwide Substance Abuse Conference In St. Louis
KSDK – NBC TV NEWS CHANNEL 5, St. Louis
Jennifer Blome: Time now is 6:07. He is a retired Four-Star General who fought in Vietnam and the first Gulf War; he has also served as US Drug Czar. Next we talk to General Barry McCaffrey about the war on terror, drug abuse in the military, and how he says the two could be connected.
Art Holliday: The time is 6:09. My guest is former US Drug Czar, Four-Star General Barry McCaffrey. He is currently a national security and terrorism analyst for NBC News. General McCaffrey is the keynote speaker at the Air Force Worldwide Substance Abuse Conference, which is here in St. Louis later this morning. Good morning General.
General Barry McCaffrey: Good morning.
Holliday: Now regarding illegal drug and alcohol abuse, where is the U.S. military now compared to the 60s and 70s, when you say that substance abuse almost destroyed the US military?
General: Well that’s true, coming out of Vietnam, we had rates of drug abuse that exceeded a third – up to two thirds of our units, it destroyed our discipline, our morale; it was a huge factor. I include alcohol, Art, in that drug abuse problem. By the 80s, it dropped to 26%, today its below 2%. America’s young people come into the Armed forces and the Sergeants say, “In this squadron of the Air Force, don’t use drugs, or we’ll make you get out.”
Holliday: Now, how much pressure is on the US military right now, and how is that going to translate as far as battling drug and alcohol abuse?
General: Well I think there’s huge pressure on the armed forces, the Army and the Marine Corps, and elements of the Air Force and Navy, involved in a global struggle against terrorism, a lot of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. But I don’t think drug abuse is related to pressure. We are seeing an increase, I might add, still extremely low levels of exposure – primarily marijuana and some ecstasy. But having said that, the problem of drug abuse, whether it’s the armed forces, or America’s children, like these wonderful young people behind us, is, are the parents, are the sergeants talking to them and saying, “Look, in our family, we don’t use drugs.”
Holliday: President Bush meets with the president of Afghanistan today. What do you think is likely to be on the agenda?
General: Well, a lot of things. Afghanistan in many ways is a phenomenal success story. I mean we went in there, freed them from the Taliban, ejected the Al Qaeda foreign fighters, a lot of good is happening. The worst aspect of Afghanistan is a giant heroin production plant, producing literally hundreds of tons of opium paste. It’s wrecking Afghanistan, Pakistan. It’s going up into Western Europe. Hopefully, the President will confront Karzai on it: he has got to participate in eradication efforts, and that means primarily aerial spraying.
Holliday: Your take on where we are as far as the war on terrorism. Is it successful? Are we safer right now?
General: I think we are immensely safer than we were prior to 9/11. I mean, we fought two wars against sanctuary for foreign terrorists. We made huge efforts here at home, domestic security to protect our borders, our ports, to create new agencies. We have now a Department of Homeland Security – 180,000 people. So a lot has been done, but a lot more needs to be accomplished. So I think we have five years or so of serious risk until we build the institutions needed to protect our people.
Holiday: General Barry McCaffrey, thank you for joining us this morning.
General: Good to be with you, Art.
KSDK NBC TV NEWS CHANNEL 5, St. Louis
Art Holliday: [in the studio] Former US Drug Czar, General Barry McCaffrey is in St. Louis this morning, addressing the Air Force Worldwide Substance Abuse Conference. General McCaffrey says while progress has been made, alcoholism and illegal drugs in the military remain a concern, and it is an important issue to fight. Here’s why.
General Barry McCaffrey: [speaking at the conference] The reason we need to get involved, the reason you’ve got these hundreds of qualified professionals here is because you are protecting the most powerful air force on the face of the earth. You know this country’s freedom, 290 million of us, depends upon the power, the reach, the professionalism of the United States Air Force.
Art: [back in the studio] McCaffrey is currently teaching at West Point; he is also a terrorism expert for NBC News.
KMOX Radio – Gen. Barry McCaffrey Interview on “Total Information AM”
with Doug McElvein and Debbie Monterrey
Debbie Monterrey: It is 7:53. Going on today, downtown St. Louis, is the Air Force Worldwide Substance Abuse Conference, and the keynote speaker is former US Drug Czar and Four-Star General Barry McCaffrey. He joins us this morning. Thanks for being with us, General.
General McCaffrey: Good morning, Debbie.
Monterrey: We were talking earlier about the incidence of Vietnam vets who were either involved with drug use in Vietnam or became drug addicts or alcoholics upon their return to the United States. And it made us wonder, with the things that current soldiers are seeing, whether it was the Gulf War or currently in Iraq and Afghanistan, are you concerned that we’ll be seeing more of that now?
General: Well, you know, your caution’s a good one. Of course we are. And there has been a slight upturn in our drug testing incidences in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Having said that, look, today’s drug abuse rates in the active and guard and reserve are so low it’s beyond belief. They’re basically below two percent. By comparison, when we came out of Vietnam, I would imagine we had as many as two-thirds of our troops occasionally using drugs. By the 80s, it was down below 30 percent. Today, it’s down below two percent, so essentially we have our Armed Forces, 1.6 million men and women, are a drug-free institution, which is, of course, a source of tremendous transform.
Doug McElvein: Now General, does this mean that the random drug testing is the reason why this has improved so much, or is it a combination of that along with teaching the men and women of the military that it’s hazardous to their health to do that sort of thing?
General: Doug, you ought to be the speaker at today’s event. I think, you know, the drug testing is a help. It’s just like a good football team in high school. The coach says, “You can’t use drugs or you’ll fail the team.” So it helps. We test 10 percent of the Armed Forces a month, essentially on drugs. We get a very low positive rate. It helps them stay clean, but the real reason our airmen, our soldiers, sailors, marines, don’t use drugs is ’cause their Sergeants act like parents are supposed to act. They set high standards, they know where the troops are, they treat them with dignity, they’re mentored, they say “Oh, by the way, if you use drugs on our ship and our squadron and our battalion, you’re outta here.” And I think that just has a terrific beneficial impact on young people in America.
Monterrey: Afghan President Karzai is meeting today, I believe, with President Bush at the White House.
Monterrey: And I’m sure one of the things that they’ll be discussing is Afghanistan is number one in the world when it comes to poppy and opium production. And while I’m sure it’s a moneymaker for Afghanistan, how big of a problem is that here?
General: A huge problem. Look, it’s a $2.3 billion opium crop last year in Afghanistan. It’s all over the country. I was there a year ago. I’m going back in August. It’s the major problem we have to take on. If you’re generating that much money, it’s going to destroy attempts to build democracy, to build a central government. We haven’t faced up to it. I hope we do in the coming year. But Karzai’s got to be part of the solution. If he won’t allow aerial spraying of the opium crop, then we can’t achieve our purpose. No amount of alternative economic development will work, unless it’s combined with an absolutely implacable commitment to destroying the drug crops when they’re grown.
McElvein: They’ve had great difficulties, though, in South America, with the coca crops down there, and trying to do things with the governments that are involved in the countries that are, you know, planting coca plants. They don’t seem to be having as much luck there. I wonder..
General: Well, now I’ll tell you, the facts are sort of interesting. Bolivia and Peru, we nearly eliminated coca production. There was a huge explosion of it in the southern part of Colombia, away from the population centers in the south. But the aerial spraying did pay off, combined with alternative economic development. So, I think the history of it’s pretty clear: if you face up to the problem and give the people alternative support, then it’ll work.
Monterrey: If you were Drug Czar today, would steroids come under your purview?
General: Well, we claimed they did when I was in that job. We made a huge push with the International Olympic Committee to get that scallywag Mr. Samaranch out of office. We set up the Worldwide Anti-Doping Agency, a wonderful Canadian Dick Pound’s in charge of it. We set up the US Anti-Doping Agency. And I think the Olympics today is a model that American sports needs to parallel. First offense, two-year suspension. Second offense, lifetime ban. And it’s starting to pay off and make sports what we all want it to be: a competition of athletes, not of pharmacists.
McElvein: General, thanks for the time this morning. We appreciate it. Enjoy your stay while you’re here in St. Louis.
General: Good to be with you.
McElvein: Four-star General Barry McCaffrey, retired, keynoting the US Air Force Worldwide Substance Abuse Conference that starts at 10 o’clock this morning.
KTRS Radio – Morning news clips at 9:04 and 10:04 A.M.
Compiled from Gen. McCaffrey’s KTRS Morning Show appearance
News: A Four-Star General who was the nation’s longest serving Drug Czar says the biggest substance abuse threat in today’s military is alcohol. General Barry McCaffrey talked to the KTRS Morning Show just hours before addressing the Air Force Worldwide Substance Abuse Conference here in St. Louis.
General McCaffrey: I think that’s going to be one of the major findings out of this conference. We’ve got to face up to it, as well as cigarette abuse. You know, cigarettes kill 430,000 people a year in this country. We’ve got to recognize that this is one of the biggest health challenges our society faces.
News: McCaffrey says smoking has virtually disappeared in the officer corps because the military has said, if you smoke, you’re stupid and you’re setting a bad example for your soldiers.
News: Poor Pentagon policies are the primary reason for the prisoner abuse scandals in Iraq, Afghanistan, and at Guantï¿½namo. That’s according to retired Four-Star General Barry McCaffrey, who tells the KTRS Morning Show: Going into Iraq was right, but too much pressure was put on reservists who were called up late and deployed with inadequate training.
General McCaffrey: Rumsfeld sat on that mobilization order until the last minute. So I think they got overwhelmed, and then we had these very doubtful policies, weasel-worded legalisms, manipulation of the environment, stress positions. And it hit a force that was under huge attack.
News: McCaffrey, who is speaking right now at the Air Force Worldwide Substance Abuse Conference downtown, hopes Congress takes a look at those Pentagon policies.