The US Role in the International War on Drugs

As the former chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee's Task Force on International Narcotics Control (1985-90), I get the impression that the author of the Opinion page article "The US Retreats in the War on Drugs," April 30, has not been following the same drug war that I have.

His query - why should Western Europe and Japan carry the load for the international drug fight when the United States is reducing its international efforts - is misleading and inaccurate.

In the past 10 years, US international narcotics control efforts have increased more than 800 percent from $83.9 million to $763.2 million annually; total US international narcotics-control spending was nearly $3.1 billion.

Based on the United Nations' own figures, from 1971 through 1990 the UN spent $210 million.

By using US funding for UN programs as a benchmark for other countries' contributions, the author is inviting the very response that he fears.

Six years ago, members of my task force and I told European officials that cocaine soon would invade their countries. Since then, I have expressed concern that the open-borders policy of the European Community (EC) would facilitate drug trafficking. They did not believe us. Now, the Europeans are just beginning to reap the whirlwind. Therefore, it is in their own interest to stop drug trafficking.

Rather than making accusations, the author should be working with his counterparts in the EC and Japan to increase their bilateral programs with the drug-producing states. For years I have called for the EC and Japan to provide direct economic aid to and more trade with the Andean nations. Buying Andean products produces jobs and real economic alternatives to drug growing.

The UN's multilateral approach has an important role to play in the war against drugs. But an additional $600,000 from the US for the UN will have no real impact on Andean coca traffickers or Asian opium producers. Rep. Lawrence J. Smith (D), Washington

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