Magazine article Insight on the News

Clinton Administration Fails in War on Drugs

Magazine article Insight on the News

Clinton Administration Fails in War on Drugs

Article excerpt

If you believe Attorney General Janet Reno, Oct. 13 will go down in history. That was the day she announced that "Operation Millennium," an international, multiagency counternarcotics operation, netted 13 tons of cocaine and two of the world's biggest drug kingpins, Alejandro Bernal Madrigal and Fabio Ochoa. But Reno's press conference generated little more than a one-day story in the media. Why? Press cynicism? Or is it because her claims of success in the long-running drug war ring hollow when they bounce off the walls of the White House?

In truth, the "Millennium" story is a good chapter in a generally sad saga. The Drug Enforcement Administration, or DEA, FBI, Coast Guard and various U.S. military units worked well together, demonstrating to skeptics that cooperation among U.S. agencies is improving. Even Mexican authorities collaborated with U.S., Colombian and Ecuadorean officials in the apprehensions and seizures.

But the most dramatic aspect of the operation dealt with another Colombian export -- and it's not coffee. For the first time since 1991, Bogota has agreed to extradite major drug traffickers to the United States to stand trial. When Madrigal and Ochoa stand in the dock in a U.S. courtroom, it will be thanks to the personal relationships established by a handful of DEA agents with one man -- the commander of the Colombian National Police, General Rosso Jose Serrano.

For more than six years, Serrano and his Colombian National Police have waged a lonely war against the narcoterrorists who control nearly 50 percent of Colombian territory. This decade, his poorly armed and inadequately equipped 100,000-man force suffered nearly 5,000 killed and more than 20,000 wounded. And for more than six years the Clinton administration has talked about giving him support. Unfortunately, most of the support he's received has been just that -- talk. Desperately needed helicopters, funded by Congress in 1996, still have not arrived. Essential communications equipment and training, authorized three years ago by Congress, still has not been provided. Why?

Someone in Congress ought to get answers to these questions, because despite the bravery of Serrano and his police, despite the good press generated by Operation Millennium, the trends here in the United States are not good.

The most recent survey by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America shows that more than half of America's high-school students admit to using marijuana in the last 30 days -- up from one-third in 1992. …

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