President Bush yesterday vowed to cut illegal drug use in America by 25 percent within five years and equated drug use with aiding terrorists, since many are funded through the drug trade.
“If you’re buying illegal drugs in America, it is likely that money is going to end up in the hands of terrorist organizations,” Mr. Bush said in the East Room, where he was joined by drug policy director John Walters. “Just think about the Taliban in Afghanistan.
“Seventy percent of the world’s opium trade came from Afghanistan, resulting in significant income to the Taliban, significant amount of money to the people that were harboring and feeding and hiding those who attacked and killed thousands of innocent Americans on September the 11th,” Mr. Bush said. “When we fight drugs, we fight the war on terror.”
The president’s budget, which he submitted to Congress earlier this month, asks for $19.2 billion to fight illegal drugs, a 2 percent increase over current spending. He said that will help cut drug use by 10 percent within two years, a first step toward his goal of a 25 percent reduction within five years.
Mr. Bush made clear that he is relying heavily on Mr. Walters to achieve that goal.
“Progress must be measured,” he said. “I’ve told John when he signed on I’m the kind of fellow that likes to say, ‘What are the results?’
“I’d like to know, actually: Are we making a difference?” he said. “Here’s a goal [on] which I’ll be measured first. And then John will definitely be measured, if I’m measured.”
Mr. Walters said one of the tools at his disposal is a new advertising campaign that links drug use with terrorism.
The campaign began with the airing of several stark TV spots during the Super Bowl.
“We tested these ads more extensively than any ads done,” Mr. Walters told reporters later in the day. “The focus group results of the tests showed some of the most powerful results reported by young people, young adults and parents, in telling us these would help them reconsider their attitude toward drug use in a positive direction.”
Mr. Walters said he was somewhat surprised to discover that parents found the anti-terrorism argument “enormously helpful to them in talking to their children about drugs, in addition to all the other reasons they would give their kids for not using drugs.”
The president put particular emphasis on the impact of drugs on families.
“Drug use wreaks havoc on our families,” the president said. “Drug use destroys people’s ambitions and hopes. More than 50 percent of our high school seniors have said that they’ve experimented with illegal drugs at least once prior to graduation.”
The administration’s anti-drug strategy is focused on reducing supplies from foreign countries, undermining domestic demand and providing effective drug treatment to addicts.
Mr. Bush said the last goal can be accomplished with the help of churches and other religious institutions.
“You see, there is a moral reason for this fight,” the president said. “There is a moral reason to achieve this grand national objective, and it’s this: Drugs rob men and women and children of their dignity and their character. Illegal drugs are the enemies of ambition and hope.”