I can't say much about his military career (1964-1996). I think it was just and honorable. He commanded a division in Operation Desert Storm and later the U.S. Southern Command. Wikipedia also says he created "the first Human Rights Council and Human Rights Code of Conduct for U.S. Military Joint Command." Seems damned decent.
But the Barry McCaffrey I know, the Clinton Drug Czar McCaffrey, is either a bald-faced liar or delusional. Until last night, I assumed the former. But when you talk to a man who steadfastly denies the truth with vigor, I wonder.
Exhibit A: The "Unmitigated Disaster"
In 1998, McCaffrey told CNN's "Talkback Live" that the murder rate in Holland was twice that in the US. "The overall crime rate in Holland is probably 40 percent higher than the United States," said McCaffrey. That's drugs." He called Dutch drug policy, "an unmitigated disaster."
The Dutch government's Central Planning Bureau poured scorn on McCaffrey's figures. Official data put the Dutch murder rate at 1.8 per 100,000 people in 1996, up from 1.5 at the start of the decade. The Dutch say the U.S. rate is 9.3 per 100,000.Confronted with reality, McCaffrey denied it.
"The figure (McCaffrey is using) is not right. He is adding in attempted murders," a planning bureau spokesman said.
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."A month later, McCaffrey defended himself:
There was a huge uproar (in Holland) over murder rates and crime stats, and was I right or wrong?... For an American to suggest that their crime rates were higher than the U.S. absolutely blew their mindActually, what blows their mind is that a man of such importance could lie. Though McCaffrey did finally admit that Dutch drug policy may just be a "mitigated disaster."
That whole bit is classic good ammo for the anti-drug-war cause. But it's 11 years ago now. And I don't like to hold grudges. So imagine my surprise last night.
Exhibit B: Conant v. McCaffrey
After being kind enough to tell me good things about my father (before we were on the air), McCaffrey whole-hoggedly denies what happened when he was Drug Czar. "Nonsense!" McCaffrey says. The Cato Institute's Tim Lynch sets him straight.
You can read more of Lynch's excellent take on McCaffrey here:
Whatever one’s view happens to be on drug policy, the historical record is there for any fair-minded person to see — and yet McCaffrey looked right into the camera and denied past actions by himself and other federal agents. And he didn’t say, “I think that’s wrong” or “I don’t remember it that way.” He baldly asserted that my recounting of the facts was “nonsense.” Now I suppose some will say that falsehoods are spoken on TV fairly often--maybe, I’m not sure--but it is distressing that this character held the posts that he did and that he continues to instruct cadets at West Point!The court case, Conant v. McCaffrey was in McCaffrey's name, for crying out loud! [though the decision was renamed Conant v. Walters by the time it became law of the land in 2002.]
Does McCaffrey not remember it? Does he believe it never happened? I'm tempted to believe the general at his word. Which means... well... I'll leave you to decide. Here's what the court ruled in 2000:
On December 30, 1996, less than two months after the Compassionate Use Act [Medicinal Marijuana] took effect, the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy [that's McCaffrey] ... stated “that a practitioner’s action of recommending or prescribing Schedule I controlled substances [that's marijuana] is not consistent with the ‘public interest’ ... and will lead to administrative action by the Drug Enforcement Administration to revoke the practitioner’s registration.”Now over time, the administration backed down a bit from the hard line. But that doesn't mean it never happened. The court ruled unequivocally against the government.
The Administration’s Response stated that the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services would send a letter to national, state, and local practitioner associations and licensing boards, stating unequivocally that the DEA would seek to revoke the registrations of physicians who recommended or prescribed Schedule I controlled substances.