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Outgoing Customs Commissioner Blasts U.S. Anti-Drug Efforts

July 28, 1989

NEW YORK (AP) _ Outgoing U.S. Customs Service Commissioner William von Raab harshly criticized the federal government, saying the United States is not serious about fighting illegal drugs, according to a television report.

In an interview Thursday with ABC-News, von Raab, who was not reappointed and forced to resign his position of eight years, said the State Department during the Reagan Administration ignored drug production in other countries.

″I think that certainly is the case with Secretary (George) Schultz who never really had anything to do with the drug issue. It was totally foreign to him,″ he said in the ABC interview.

He said the United States has failed to apply political and economic pressure against drug-producing countries which allow traffickers to roam freely.

″They feel no pressure whatsoever,″ von Raab said. ″They are happily living out their lives as feudal barons in the hills of Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia and no one’s touching them, including the United States. There’s so much cocaine out there that we can’t control it.″

After a U.S. drug agent was killed in 1985 by drug dealers in Mexico, von Raab sealed the border to pressure the Mexican government into finding the killers.

President Reagan and Schultz were furious with his actions, von Raab said.

″The administration went absolutely ballistic,″ he said. ″George Schultz, secretary of state, accused me of being troglodyte. I often felt that it was sort of the Mexican government and the U.S. government against me in the war on drugs.″

He told ABC-News that President Bush and William Bennett, head of the president’s anti-drug program, are committed toward stemming the flow of illegal drugs into the country. But he warned that not much is being done while Bennett prepares his program.

He said that Secretary of State James Baker, however, does not seem to care about fighting illegal drugs.

″There’s a sort of cowardly streak, I think, in our State Department ... It really is scandalous,″ he said in the interview.

He also criticized his boss, Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady, saying that Brady is preoccupied with other issues instead of dealing with the drug problem.

″It’s just out of control,″ von Raab said, ″and in that sense our national policy has been a total and abysmal failure.″

″As long as our war is being fought with phrases, words, empty phrases, empty words, we’re not going to win,″ he said. ″We’ve got to turn the war from a war of words to a war of action.″

State Department spokesman Adam Shub said he had seen the program Thursday night and heard von Raab’s comments on the Reagan and Bush administrations but could not comment.

Shub said Melvin Levitzsky, assistant secretary for narcotics, has been on Capitol Hill two days and is expected to return Friday in briefing Congress on the administration’s anti-drug efforts.

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