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Press release by Rep. Sonny Callahan (R-Alabama), March 16, 2000
with Congressman Sonny Callahan


Fighting the drug war to win

At times, it has been difficult to make heads or tails out of America's much talked about War on Drugs.
How much progress have we really made over the years? What is the best course of action to take now? And at the end of the day, what can we really hope to see accomplished insofar as our ability to truly curb this awful scourge on society?

Over the past few months, the House Republican leadership, led by Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, has been quietly urging the Clinton-Gore Administration to take the lead on the War on Drugs. A legislative package now moving in Congress represents what we hope and believe is a major step in the right direction.

Fortunately, in recent weeks, President Clinton has indicated that his administration may now be ready to help. That's the good news.

However, the bad news is that opposition to this effort threatens our ability to act quickly on behalf of our national security, as well as on behalf of our children.

Some background

Earlier this year, the president submitted to Congress a $1.28 billion package to aid Colombia.

While $1.28 billion is a lot of money for sure, the question arises, how can we put a price on each American life lost and each family devastated by this drug curse?

Last year, the drug epidemic cost Americans a staggering $110 billion (including, but not limited to, healthcare, treatment, education and law enforcement costs).

Add to that figure the profound danger to American society when one in every two American school kids tries these street poisons by their early teens and it is obvious we have to do more than give lip service if we are ever going to win this war.

But why so much money earmarked for Colombia you might ask.

In 1995, Colombia produced roughly 20-percent of the world's cocaine. In 1998, that number grew to a shocking 53-percent and last year, Colombia was responsible for 60-percent of the world's coca crop.

Worse yet, 90-percent of Colombian cocaine is heading to the United States. We simply cannot afford a prolonged war of words; instead, we must have a real war of action.

Clearly, the situation in Colombia is out of control. Terrorists and narco-traffickers control up to 50-percent of Colombia and this is a clear threat to the democratically elected government of President Andres Pastrana.

Over the past two months I have had the pleasure of meeting with President Pastrana, first in Washington and more recently in Colombia.

President Pastrana seemed genuinely sincere when he told me he has a comprehensive, multi-year strategy in place to address his nation's political, economic, social and security problems.

But the president appeared equally as sincere when he said he could not do this alone.
If there were ever a time for the United States to take the lead, that time is now.

The stakes are high

Critics of this plan, who as of now are mostly in President Clinton's own party in Congress, charge if the U.S. gets involved in this war, it could mean an open-ended commitment.
In fact, Wisconsin Rep. David Obey, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said "this reminds me very much of Vietnam."

But, to date, no one has come up with a better solution.

I, for one, concede if Americans would simply curb their demand for these illegal drugs, then the supply would dry up as well.

But, thus far, our efforts to "just say no" haven't had as much effect on the streets and schoolyards throughout America as we had at one time hoped.

I have assured both President Clinton and Speaker Hastert I will do my part to help persuade my colleagues in the House - Democrats and Republicans alike - that this package deserves a chance to work.

For his part, Speaker Hastert has made this a top priority for this legislative year.

Now, the real burden falls on President Clinton and Vice President Gore to turn the minds of many in their own party and help deliver enough votes on this bill to ensure its victory.
Sadly, if the vote were held today, this aid package would have difficulty passing.

But for the sake of our friends in Colombia, and more importantly, for the sake of our own children here in the United States, let's hope Congress rises to the occasion to fight the good fight on this unfortunate, but very important war.

Until next week, take care and God Bless.


For more information please contact: Jo Bonner at (202) 225-4931. For release week of March 16, 2000.

As of March 16, 2000, this document is also available at

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