NewsBriefs BUTTONS

"Drug Czar" McCaffrey, Attacking Dutch Drug Policy, Misrepresents Murder Rate on European Tour


July-August 1998

At a press conference in Sweden on July 15, Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the director of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, attacked Dutch drug policy, misrepresenting the murder rate. McCaffrey was on an eight-day "fact finding" tour of European cities, looking at how Europeans address drug abuse problems ("Dutch Erupt At Speech by American Envoy," San Francisco Chronicle, July 15, 1998; Paul Bedard, "McCaffrey takes his charge to officials in Netherlands," Washington Times, July 15, 1998, p. A4; Melissa Eddy, "US Chief of Drug Effort Tries to Ease Dutch Anger," Boston Globe, July 15, 1998; "U.S. official finds foot in his mouth," Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, July 15, 1998; Steve Chapman, "In the Drug War, Fantasy Beats Facts," Chicago Tribune, July 23, 1998).

Two days before he was to visit the Netherlands, McCaffrey incorrectly stated that the Dutch murder rate was 17.58 per 100,000, compared to 8.22 murders per 100,000 in the United States. "The overall crime rate in Holland is probably 40 percent higher than the United States," McCaffrey said. "That's [due to] drugs." However, according to the Netherlands' Central Planning Bureau, the Dutch murder rate is 1.8 per 100,000 people, less than one-quarter of the U.S. murder rate.

McCaffrey's mistaken figure was based on the number of attempted murders, according to Dutch Embassy press counselor Madelien dePlanque. Instead of apologizing for the error, McCaffrey's deputy, Jim McDonough, responded, "Let's say she's right. What you are left with is that they are a much more violent society and more inept [at murder], and that's not much to brag about." However, the corresponding figure in the U.S. is twenty times greater than the Dutch rate.

While visiting the Netherlands, McCaffrey praised his hosts and said the he had gained valuable insights during his visit. "I came here to listen and see what I can borrow," the general said. "Most important for me is to discover how to use methadone as a tool to deal with heroin addiction. The Dutch have 20 years of experience doing that, and we want to watch that carefully." Dutch treatment programs "have a much higher rate of contact with addicts" than the U.S. has, McCaffrey added. "I am envious of their ability to deliver drug treatment and health care to heroin addicts," he said. "Our program is inadequate in coverage" (Marlise Simons, "U.S. Drug Chief Sees How Dutch Manage Liberal Drug Program," New York Times, July 17, 1998, p. A5; Associated Press, "Drug czar takes new tack on Dutch policy," Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, July 17, 1998, p. 4A; Michael Grunwald, "Drug Chief Mitigates Slap at Dutch After Tour," Washington Post, July 21, 1998).

Prior to his European tour, McCaffrey said on CNN'S TalkBack Live that Dutch drug policy was "an unmitigated disaster," which prompted a rebuke from Dutch officials. "I must say that I find the timing of your remarks, six days before your planned visit to the Netherlands with a view to gaining first-hand knowledge about Dutch drugs policy and its results, rather astonishing," said Dutch Ambassador Joris M. Vos in a letter to the director (Steven Komarow, "Dutch take offense to drug czar's allegation," USA Today, July 13, 1998, p. 7A).

McCaffrey said the he disapproves of Dutch heroin maintenance programs, and similar programs underway in Germany and Switzerland. While visiting Switzerland, he said such programs could help drug-related crime in the short term, but that "in the longer term, it will contribute to an inexorable growth in the rate of heroin abuse." McCaffrey praised a Swiss program to register drug abusers (Associated Press, "U.S. Drug Czar Review Swiss Programs," Las Vegas Sun, July 15, 1998).

Office of National Drug Control Policy - 750 17th Street, NW, 8th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20006, Tel: (202) 395-6618.

Dutch Ambassador Joris M. Vos - 4200 Linnean Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20008, Tel: (202) 244-5300, Fax: (202) 363-1032.