[Hpn] FW: great piece... featuring pithy quotes from chance

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Sun, 05 Nov 2000 13:44:11 -0700

From: chance martin <streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org>
Date: Fri, 03 Nov 2000 13:09:32 -0700
To: <naesp@aol.com>, <scarlet@prodigy.net>, <MCAGiraffe@aol.com>
Subject: great piece... featuring pithy quotes from chance


MEDIAFile Volume 19 #5

November / December 2000

Public Relations Office
for the Drug War

by Ben Clarke

In 1998, as almost all other public interest requirements for the media were
being phased out, the largest governmentally mandated public service media
campaign in U.S. history was approved by Congress. Promoted as a public
health campaign against drug use by youth, the program is run by former
general Barry McCaffrey's Office of National Drug Control Policy. This
public service program will use its $1 billion appropriation to leverage
more than $2 billion worth of public service announcements over five years
and will be part of an "integrated social marketing" effort that will
deliver campaign messages using "news media, coaches, faith community,
school, parents, sports, TV programming, film, music, and the Internet." The
ONDCP plan also calls for "major entertainment industry outreach efforts to
ensure drug use is depicted accurately on television, film, and in music."
Photo Credits:
Top: © Scott Braley
Bottom: © Mercedes Romero

The overt ONDCP message in its National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign is
that illegal drugs are bad, children are threatened by this menace, and the
solution is for U.S. youth to get involved in positive activities like
soccer and poetry. And while the individual PSAs are innocuous in their
messages, the Campaign was the source of the ONDCP's script payola scheme in
which networks paid off their required matching time by submitting
entertainment scripts with anti-drug messages for public service credits. At
least seven national magazines also received payoffs for favorable editorial
content. (See Prime Time Propaganda, 1/13/00, in

In addition to the ads and the entertainment script doctoring (which still
continues in low-key form) a July 2000 GAO audit shows that just as central
to the drug war media campaign is McCaffrey's public speaking schedule.
Seventeen full time staff--more than the number of staff working on drug
treatment and prevention--organized McCaffrey's appearance at 386 media
events over the course of the last year. And in his appearances, the former
general enunciates military and criminal justice solutions to the public
health problem of drug use. Whether at a Lion's Club in Tuscon or on the
tarmac with the President at an airfield in Colombia, McCaffrey supports the
current mix of national priorities: prisons, military aid to drug-producing
countries, and anti-drug advertising. He is against medical marijuana,
needle exchange, and substantial increases in federal resources for
addiction treatment unless it is coupled with criminal punishment. Overall,
the ONDCP media program is more of a "hearts and minds" campaign to win
domestic support for the drug war than a serious effort to reduce drug

Even after the blowout over the script doctoring, official campaign policy
is that broadcast outlets can satisfy 49 percent of their matching time
requirements by broadcasting ". . .supportive content in television
entertainment or public affairs programming." So far none of the public
affairs programs on which McCaffrey appears has admitted to taking money
from the ONDCP, but by campaign rules it's quite possible that some of
McCaffrey's 386 media appearances last year may have been directly

The proclaimed aim of the ONDCP ad campaign is based on a kind of triage.
Arrested drug offenders are clearly beyond redemption, and current users
outside the prison system are too expensive and difficult to help, so the
ONDCP claims it is working on prevention of drug use. But public health
professionals doubt that the ONDCP prevention approach actually produces
results. When asked about the ONDCP ad campaign's effectiveness in actually
preventing drug abuse, Ellen Komp, program associate at the Lindesmith
Center - Drug Policy Foundation responds, "You mean how clueless are they
this year?"

She cites a recent ad advising inner city San Franciscans to keep their kids
off drugs by taking them to pick apples as all too typical of the program.
She says that even when a particular ad might pick up on sound prevention
principles, such as encouraging parents to talk with their children about
drugs, the government's approach "has us spending more on prisons than
education" while local communities "don't even have enough money for the
people that want treatment."

Chance Martin, a former methamphetamine user and participant in a
harm-reduction support group, says that children in the Tenderloin District
of San Francisco, where he lives, are unlikely to be reached by feel-good
PSAs about parental involvement when "what they see is police interacting
with their adult neighbors by pushing them up against the wall for searches,
choking them to cough up a rock. What those kids are going to internalize
from seeing this is going to do more harm to society than a drug ever did."
When it comes to saving youth, Martin points out that ONDCP opposition to
needle exchange is going to end up killing young users who don't know how to
keep their needles clean of HIV. (For more on "How the Drug War Harms, Not
Helps, Our Kids" see Adam J. Smith and Karynn M. Fish, AlterNet article

Komp believes that the ONDCP ad program is "more an indoctrination campaign"
reflecting a mentality that says "really if we just do a media blitz it will
sway public opinion." Komp questions the rationale of a former general who
has no expertise in public health formulating policy on what is at base a
social problem.

In actuality, even the $1 billion over five years allocated for paid
advertising by the ONDCP is a small percentage of the total federal
expenditure on the "national drug control strategy," $19.2 billion for the
current fiscal year alone. Most of the money goes to the justice and defense

Drug treatment on demand, rehabilitation programs for nonviolent drug
offenders, harm-reduction efforts to get addicted persons into healthier
living situations, and real jobs with living wages and meaningful work for
youth who otherwise go into the illegal economy of drugs are real steps that
a rational public health­oriented national drug policy would support. They
are also steps that would undermine national security-based interdiction and
eradication efforts in other countries.

Generals and Colonels

It's frequently reported in the press that prior to his appointment as drug
czar, McCaffrey was commander-in-chief of the U.S. Armed Forces Southern
Command. But what's rarely reported is that McCaffrey brought 30 "detailees"
from the Department of Defense with him when he took over the ONDCP in 1996.

In a June 2000 interview with The Retired Officer Association Magazine,
however, McCaffrey emphasizes that he's not the only military man involved
in creating the drug-control strategy "[T]he staff directors of the four
major subcomponents of the [ONDCP] are all full colonels. My deputy chief of
staff was a full colonel. The intelligence officer and some planners are
military." While he stresses that his military staff are in the minority, he
says even this small number of "military officers gave a very different
tempo and discipline [to] what was essentially a dispirited, undermanned,
confused group of civilians." In answer to the question "Will that military
element be perpetuated [in the next administaration]?" McCaffrey says, "It
darn sure better be."

McCaffrey and the ONDCP are also legally empowered to designate any part of
the United States as a "high-intensity drug trafficking area." Once so
designated (and there are 31 so far) U.S. military units are authourized to
participate in domestic law enforcement on every front except actual

It's apparent that the Office's real expertise lies not in how to deal with
domestic drug use but in mobilizing domestic opinion to support the
political/military objectives of the war on drugs. For example, the Drug
Control Policy Office has served as the architect of and main spokesperson
for the U.S. military aid package for Colombia, even though the military in
Colombia has a track record of participating in drug trafficking.

Media Message 

While mainstream media will frequently question the effectiveness of the
drug war--after all the ONDCP's own statistics show that after four years
and more than $65 billion in total funds expended, neither import
quantities, number of users, nor user recovery rates have significantly
improved--such coverage rarely examines the real political/military
objectives of a program that clearly can't accomplish its stated aims, and
such reporting is often used as justification for ever increasing funding.

A Los Angeles Times article, "Funding for Colombia's Drug War in Doubt"
(October 11, 2000), is better than most reports in that it clearly spells
out that the Colombian intervention provides no real prospect of stopping
the flow of cocaine into the United States. But it follows the line of a
"senior Clinton administration official who requested anonymity" that more
money is the answer. In this case the article echoes administration claims
that responsibility somehow belongs with European nations for failing to
fund social programs inside Colombia.

The story mentions that Europeans are reluctant because the overall plan
"relies too heavily on military means and on cooperation with Colombian
security forces with questionable human rights records." However, it fails
to note that almost immediately after the legislation was passed, President
Clinton waived a requirement that none of the aid would be released until
the Colombian military had been certified as making progress overcoming
human rights abuses. (Ironically, one of the other conditions waived by
Clinton is a requirement that the government of Colombia implement a
strategy to eliminate Colombia's total coca and opium poppy production by
2005. The waiver states that "the Administration does not believe that this
criterion can be met.")

Thirty-six non-governmental organizations inside Colombia (including
mainstream groups like the Red Cross) turned down the humanitarian aid
offered in the U.S. aid package because they didn't want to be seen as
legitimizing a program that would lead to even more human rights violations
and massacres. The Los Angeles Times story picks up the administration spin
that the groups are turning down the aid because of fear that "they will be
targeted by rebels and drug traffickers if they are associated with [U.S.

Independent human rights groups generally see the aid as a thinly disguised
finance mechanism for a counterinsurgency war. Even the right-wing Heritage
Foundation, in its March 1999 policy paper Tread Cautiously in Colombia's
Civil War, is explicit in understanding that the production of cocaine will
simply be relocated. They advocate more open support of a counterinsurgency
war against the "Marxist rebels" and the elimination of the irritating human
rights anti-drug certification process. (For an in-depth look at the
counterinsurgency war and drug war relationship, see the "Mexico
Connection," MediaFile, January/February 1999.)

According to the budgetary documents released by the Clinton administration,
the main thrust of the U.S. aid targets the peasants in the south of
Colombia who grow coca plants. Southern Colombia is largely controlled by
leftist guerillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The
U.S. military aid is supposed to enable the Colombian military and police to
successfully conduct anti-drug actions in areas controlled by the rebels.

Paramilitary drug traffickers in the north, trained and supported by the
Colombian government, are not targeted by the plan, and in fact will likely
benefit from the $1.6 billion of U.S. aid. A February 2000 Human Rights
Watch report, The Ties That Bind: Colombia and Military-Paramilitary Links,
observes that in some regions, the distinction between drug traffickers,
paramilitaries, and the Colombian Army is virtually nonexistent.

In a Frontline interview aired on PBS October 9, McCaffrey acknowledged that
the paramilitary coordinating group, United Self-Defense Groups of Colombia
(AUC), is heavily involved in the drug trade, but the interviewer failed to
ask McCaffrey why the U.S. package didn't target the north.

Occasionally the Colombian military role in the drug trade makes its way
into the mainstream media. Robert White, former ambassador to El Salvador
and now president of the Center for International Policy, said in a
Washington Post op-ed (Sept. 12, 1999) that the Colombian air force itself
is involved in drug trafficking. But most of his and the CIP's analysis must
be read online (www.ciponline.org/colombia/).

Similarly, former political reporter for the Boston Phoenix, Al Giordano,
published several articles on the subject. But Giordano has left the Phoenix
and now writes for his own web journal, Narco News Bulletin
(www.narconews.com). An interview he conduncted with exiled Colombian
journalist Alfredo Molano paints U.S. motives in even a darker light. Molano
suggests that Plan Colombia is actually designed to drive coca production
into the hands of the paramilitaries on the one hand and to spread coca
cultivation and the drug war to other Latin American countries on the other.
He sees the U.S. government desiring such an outcome because it will provide
the United States with plausible cover for a bigger military presence
throughout South America.

Noam Chomsky in "The Colombia Plan" (Z magazine, June 2000) develops an
extensive analysis of how and why U.S. economic and military interests
support a drug war that has very little to do with stopping drugs. And while
it might be too much to expect mainstream journalism to investigate the
political and military strategy that might lie behind the U.S. aid, there's
not much excuse for ignoring the civilian death toll that increasing U.S.
military aid is sure to bring. Acording to a previously unreleased FBI
report, provided to the press by the Washington, D.C.­based Center for
Public Integrity on September 22, a device used to massacre at least 19
civilians in Santo Domingo, Colombia in 1998 was a U.S.-designed
"fragmentation bomb."

The Center's investigative journalists say the evidence shows that it was
not a car bomb planted by the guerrillas as the Colombian military
maintained. They conclude that the ANM41 bomb was most likely dropped by
Colombian military flying U.S. aircraft while engaged in counterinsurgency
warfare against leftist guerillas three miles away from the town. Again one
has to search online for such news (www.public-i.org/). Even U.S.
casualties--five Air Force troops were killed when their plane went down in
Colombia, the U.S. denied they were shot down by guerillas--barely make a
ripple in the mainstream press.

The four-hour Frontline documentary did a credible job of exposing the
futility of interdiction efforts and highlighting the fact that nearly one
million people--almost one half the U.S. prison population--are jailed on
drug-related charges, and Salon.com has exposed several of McCaffrey's
overreaching attempts to influence programming. But most media outlets seem
to be happy taking ONDCP ad money, trading in scripts for credit, and
playing along as international coverage of Colombia is reduced to a photo
opportunity of President Clinton shaking hands with a drug-sniffing dog
while U.S. military hardware is used for massacres just kilometers down the

McCaffrey recently announced that he will retire when the next
administration is sworn in. Perhaps between his impending retirement and
voter initiatives such as Proposition 36, which will require drug treatment
instead of prison time in California, there is some hope that, despite the
media barrage, the public is waking up to the fact that the "drug war" is a
failed policy.

Ben Clarke is editor of MediaFile.