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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 6, 1996
                      REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                    AT SWEARING-IN CEREMONY FOR
                      GENERAL BARRY MCCAFFREY

The Roosevelt Room

10:45 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Justice Ginsburg. I want to say a special word of welcome to Mrs. Jill McCaffrey, and to all of General McCaffrey's family who are here. To Attorney General Reno and Secretary Shalala, and our FBI Director Louis Freeh. To Senator Biden and Congressman Zeliff, and to all the distinguished members of the government and the military who are here.

I would like to begin with a simple and heartfelt thank you to General McCaffrey for accepting this call to lead our nation's battle against drugs. Service to our country runs in his family. In fact, we have three generations of McCaffrey service in attendance here today, as you saw standing with me.

The General's father, Bill McCaffrey, who is here with his wife Mary, is a retired Lt. General who saw combat in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. Two of his three children are pursuing careers in the military. His son, who is also here, drove all night from Fort Bragg, which is a testimony to the fact, General, that the physical training is still adequate to the task. (Laughter.) He is an Army Captain stationed at Fort Polk in Louisiana. His daughter, Tara, is an Army National Guard nurse. His other daughter, Amy, is a graduate student at Central Washington College.

The McCaffrey family is a shining example of what is right with America. We are fortunate to have their service and their presence here today.

General McCaffrey has faced down many threats to America's security, from guerrilla warfare in the jungles of Vietnam to the unprecedented ground war in the sands of Desert Storm. Now he faces a more insidious, but no less formidable enemy in illegal drugs.

Drugs are as much a threat to our security as any outside enemy is today. They are a leading cause of crime and violence. They add literally billions of dollars to health care costs every year. There is a new CDC report that says that drugs are the cause of at least half -- one half -- of all the new HIV infections in the United States. And drugs are imperiling our nation's most precious resource, our children.

As I said in the State of the Union, if we ever expect to reduce crime and violence in our country to the low level that would make it the exception rather than the rule, we have to reduce the drug problem. We know it is a difficult battle. We know that overall drug use and crime are down in every segment of our society except one -- our young people. And that makes the battle more difficult and more important.

The glamorization of drugs and violence is a big reason for this. That's why I worked so hard for the V-chip and the television rating system. That's why we need to stop the glorification of drugs in our popular culture. And for those who say we should throw in the towel and just make drugs legal, I say, not on my watch. I don't believe in that. That would be a mistake.

Over the last two decades we have made significant progress in this effort. Just in 1979, more than 22 million Americans used illegal drugs. Five million used cocaine. Today less than 12 million Americans are regular drug users, and the number of cocaine users has dropped 30 percent in the past three years. But the problem is still too great, and I say again, it is perplexing and troubling as it affects our juvenile population. Drug use among people 18 to 34 is down. Casual drug use among people under 18 is up. That may be why the crime rate is down overall in our country, but random violence among people under 18 -- our children and our future -- is still up.

Tomorrow General McCaffrey and I will have the opportunity to address this, along with others in the administration, at our National Conference on Youth and Violence. And this is a good way to kick it off, with his service.

In the last three years we have tried to take many concrete steps to protect our children and their future. We're working to get hard-core drug users off the street, to make sure they can't commit crimes, and to get them into treatment. We're bringing drug prevention to our schools by teaching our children that drugs are wrong, illegal, and dangerous. We've put more police on the street, and that is a major cause of the decline in the crime rate.

Two months ago I signed a directive requiring drug testing of federal arrestees. We are doing all we can to stop drugs at their source, before they get to our borders. Just yesterday our U.S. Customs officials began seizing all imports of the sedative Rohypnol, which has been associated of late with date rape.

But General McCaffrey and all of us know that we have to do more. We have to do much more. There's no one more capable to lead this effort than Barry McCaffrey. He is America's most highly decorated combat veteran. He earned two Distinguished Service Cross Awards for extraordinary valor in Vietnam. He also earned two Silver Stars for heroism and three Purple Hearts. He served two tours in Vietnam, where he was severely wounded by enemy gunfire. He led the now famous left hook maneuver that crushed the Iraqi army in Desert Storm. And for the last two years he's been on the front lines of our efforts to stop drugs at their source in his role as Commander in Chief of the United States Southern Command based in Panama.

As part of our counter-narcotics team, he displayed decisive leadership in strengthening the efforts in Latin America, including forming one of the most successful international coalitions against drugs that has ever existed in that region. In addition to his heroism on the battlefield, General McCaffrey has distinguished himself as a man of ideas -- a brilliant man of ideas, especially the one that Justice Ginsburg thought so much of that she mentioned a few moments ago.

He has always taken a comprehensive view towards problem solving, and he knows that our efforts in the struggle against drugs will require a combination of treatment, prevention, education, enforcement and interdiction. Teamwork and coalition building are not just words to him, he has done it. Teamwork and coalition building literally saved his life and the lives of his soldiers. There is no doubt that he has the talent, the courage and the vision to take up this fight.

But he cannot do it alone. As I said in the State of the Union, he's going to need a larger force than he has ever commanded before -- indeed, a larger force than he and his colleagues who have come from the Pentagon to join him today have ever commanded before. He's going to need every American doing his or her part if we are going to succeed. It means that we have to begin with parents talking firmly and clearly with their children; with our communities, our houses of worship, our schools, our employers, our national and community groups. The fight against drugs must, in the end, be a citizens campaign because every citizen has a direct stake in the outcome.

General, I want you to have the tools you need. For the last three years I have challenged Congress to do its part. In each of those years Congress has appropriated less than I asked for counter-narcotics efforts in the Department of Defense and other agencies. America must never send its troops into battle without adequate resources to get the job done.

That's why, today, I am directing General McCaffrey to take the first step to make sure that we are adequately armed to fight this battle. As your first act of duty I direct you to prepare a plan to amend the 1996 Fiscal Year budget through reallocating $250 million from the Department of Defense budget so that it can be added to our counter-narcotics efforts. I will submit the plan to Congress this month. I'm also directing you to examine the Fiscal Year '97 budget to determine if a similar reallocation is needed.

We have to get after this. We have to get General McCaffrey off to a good start. I believe that he will get our country off to a good start. Our national security, the well-being of our children are at stake. We can create a safer, more drug-free society. We can do this if we work together.

As I have said many times in different contexts, when we are divided as a country we defeat ourselves, but when America is united we never lose. I believe Barry McCaffrey will help to unite America, and I believe he will help us to win this great and enduring struggle for our character, our soul, and the future of our children.

Thank you again, General McCaffrey, for laying down your four stars to reach for the stars. We appreciate you. Your country is grateful. And I ask you now to come and say what's on your mind. (Applause.)

GENERAL MCCAFFREY: Mr. President, thank you for those enormously moving words. I must tell you bluntly that although, as you know, it was very painful for me to leave the U.S. Army, which I've been part of since age 17, some 36 years ago I took the first oath of office on the plains at West Point -- I am proud to be part of this effort and proud to serve in your administration, dealing with these enormous threats to the American people.

And I also need to tell you that this is probably the best day of my mother's life. (Laughter.) You know, you give up trying to impress your wife after a few years. (Laughter.) They know only too much about you. But mother finally knew I was doing okay when a year ago I was decorated by the French government with a high honor, which is a great source of pride to me, over in the French Embassy here in Washington. And I must admit, though, the Ambassador kissed me on both cheeks during that presentation. (Laughter.) I think we've now gotten a step up from that.

I do thank you, and I will give you every amount of energy and good judgment and cooperation with your officers of government that I can muster.

Justice Ginsburg, thank you. It was a tremendous honor for you -- to have you participate in the ceremony, officiate and administer the oath of office, and it adds a note of legitimacy to underscore that we understand that this struggle has to be carried out with absolute respect for the law and an understanding on our own constitutional liberties that make us the great democracy we are. So I thank you for being here.

I'd really be remiss if I didn't note the leadership role that Congress has played. The President has already announced that this war has been going on a long time. There's been a lot of creative energy. And certainly, Senator Biden, sir, you and your colleagues on the committee -- Senator Hatch, in particular -- played an enormous role in putting together not only the office which I now am charged with running, but also understanding the dilemma and providing the leadership required. And I thank you for being here in particular.

Congressman Zeliff and Congressman Rangel just came by to make a special visit to the White House, which I very much appreciate. The two of you have played an enormously important role, and I look forward to your wisdom and your cooperation in this effort. The President told me there would be no time out for a year from this effort. This is a bipartisan issue and I look forward to working in cooperation with you.

Secretary and Attorney General Reno, I thank you for being here. And some of the senior officials of law enforcement of our government -- Judge Freeh, thank you for your presence; and, in particular, Director Constantine -- Administrator Constantine. A tremendous police officer, a man of great integrity and good judgement, and I appreciate your presence here today. Under Secretary of the Army Joe Reeder, a friend, I thank you for participating today also.

Let me also, if I may note, that this is going to be not my struggle, but our struggle. The President has told me to work in cooperation with the senior office of government, and I particularly appreciate Secretary Shalala being here. And from State, Timothy Worth, I thank you, sir. You've been a great friend and mentor and you've been a great architect of this international coalition that we've worked on. Your presence means a lot to us.

I don't see Under Secretary Walt Slocombe, a good friend, who has been such an important part of the defense effort. And, certainly, Admiral Bob Kramek, the absolutely brilliant Commandant of the Coast Guard who has been the interdiction coordinator and has done a lot of the work in building our current Andean Ridge and Caribbean strategies. I thank you, Bob, for being here today.

Let me also thank some of the White House team that put all this together. Leon Panetta, sir, you have pulled together all the assets we needed to get me launched, and I thank you for your support. Mack McLarty, you've been such a tremendous influence in the Latin American region in general. I thank you for your friendship. Dick Clark, Rahm Emanuel, Tracy Thorton, Elaine Kamarck, Jack Quinn, Kitty Higgins -- all of you who have come together to assemble the tools we think we needed to do our job.

There are three very important distinguished guests here today. Vic Oboyskie, Bob Scully and Jim Pasco represent the thousands of police officers and officials across the nation. This whole effort in the drug menace clearly includes absolute support and respect for the law and the police officials who are charged with enforcing it. And so I appreciate your presence today and look forward to working with you.

Two final names, if you'll allow me to mention them -- John van Alstyne, Major General of the United States Army and our Joint Staff; my Chief of Staff during the Gulf War, personal friend, remarkable human being Colonel Mick Zais -- I thank you both for being here also.

And then, finally, Janet Crist -- and I won't go through the whole team of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, but Janet's come over from the State Department, Mr. President, to act as chief of staff and help get us and me organized.

I think I don't need to really talk at any length. Let me just underscore -- I told the President that the one thing I was sure I could bring to the table in this whole effort was optimism. I think one of the challenges that we all face as Americans or as those of us who are privileged to be officers of government, one of the challenges is to understand that we can deal with this problem.

Now, I say that not as an expert on the drug issues, but as a member of the Armed Forces that watched us go through a decade of agony in the '70s, when we were overwhelmed by problems of alcohol abuse and illegal drugs and the effect it had on our health, our discipline, our spirit -- our spirit, our physical conditioning. It was a nightmare -- the violence it engendered. And it took us a better part of seven years to come to grips with that.

The analogy to American society is imperfect. The tools we have in the Armed Forces, in many cases, are clearly inappropriate for our free society. But the beautiful young men and women that we serve with in uniform are the sons and daughters that come from around this country. So I just go into saying that there's a chance here, it seems to me, to maintain the momentum that many of you here as guests have already established. And I really look forward to being your partner and your servant in this effort.

Mr. President, thank you very much for this great honor. (Applause.)

END 11:02 A.M. EST