George Bush Sr. on Drugs

President of the U.S., 1989-1993; Former Republican Rep. (TX)


At end of Cold War, re-declared War on Drugs

The end of the Cold War brought some changes, but more in pretexts and tactics in principle. The "war on drugs" was redeclared by Bush with a huge government-media propaganda campaign just in time to provide a pretext for the invasion of Panama to kidnap a thug who was convicted in Florida for crimes mostly committed when he was in CIA payroll--incidentally killing unknown numbers of poor people in the bombarded slums, thousands according to Panamanian human rights investigators, but there was no US inquiry: "We don't do body counts," as explained by General Tommy Franks, the conqueror of Iraq. The "war on drugs" also had an important domestic component. Much like the "war on crime," it served to frighten the population into obedience. The alleged threat was later transmuted from Drugsto narcoterrorism, exploiting opportunities offered by 9/11. By the end of the millennium, total US military and police assistance in the hemisphere already exceeded economic and social aid.
Source: Hopes and Prospects, by Noam Chomsky, p. 56-57 , Jun 1, 2010

1986: Oversaw National Narcotics Border Interdiction System

Drug abuse was the top issue according to the polls. The drug issue led to the 1st use of the phrase "Trade Not Aid." Encouraging 3rd-world farmers to grow legitimate crops--instead of marijuana or cocaine--became part of the free trade agenda of the administration, and later was the spark for the North American Free Trade Agreement, to which Dad was very committed later during his presidential years.

Dad oversaw the South Florida Task Force, which President Reagan then asked Dad to expand nationally into the National Narcotics Border Interdiction System. It brought together many agencies--Defense, CIA, Customs, to name a few--and later became the model for one of Dad's first initiatives as president, the creation of the office of the "drug czar." My father's experience from his CIA years came in very handy.

Source: My Father, My President, by Doro Koch Bush, p.207 , Oct 6, 2006

1990: Make fighting the drug problem a top priority

On February 14, before departing for the 1st-ever drug summit in Cartagena, Colombia, in a very real sense, the next day Dad would stand at ground zero with respect to the drug war--not a very safe neighborhood for any president, American or Colombian. Here in the US, when you mention "the war against drugs," for the most part you are referring to policies--a political agenda. In Colombia, however, this war involves armed guerrillas fighting, killing, and dying on orders from the drug lords and cocaine kingpins.

Dad had promised to make fighting the drug problem one of his top priorities, and President Virgilio Barco in Colombia had defied the drug lords and become a courageous ally.

Source: My Father, My President, by Doro Koch Bush, p.310-311 , Oct 6, 2006

1989: Convicted Panamanian dictator in drug trafficking

In the beginning of his presidency, Bush seemed unsure of himself on the world stage. "I don't want to make any early term mistakes like Kennedy and the Bay of Pigs," he said. Yet Bush was as fixated on eliminating Manuel Noriega of Panama as Kennedy had been on eliminating Cuba's Fidel Castro.

Once he was president, Bush took up the cudgels against the drug-dealing dictator. In Nov. 1989 the administration authorized a $3 million plan to topple Noriega by recruiting members of the Panamanian armed forces to stage a coup. But before the coup could be pulled off, the plan became public. The next month Panama declared war on the US. The US launched Operation Just Cause and invaded Panama on Dec. 20, 1989; 23 Americans and 500 Panamanians lost their lives before Noriega surrendered on Jan. 3, 1990.

Noriega was brought to trial in Miami for 8 counts of drug trafficking, racketeering, and money laundering. He was convicted and sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Source: The Family, by Kitty Kelley, p.486-487 , Sep 14, 2004

Did not drink much, but not a teetotaler

In the West Texas oilfield in 1948, the Ivy League war hero and star athlete worked like a common day laborer and rubbed shoulders with men who did not know where Connecticut was. He sold oil field equipment, learned the business from the ground up. And sometimes overdid his enjoyments. One Christmas Eve, his firm celebrated with an open bar, and George, who did not drink much, probably did not want to be a standout teetotaler.

Barbara knew he was home when a pickup truck roared through the front yard, threw out a bundle, and drove off. The bundle was her drunken husband. The man hears about it to this day.

Source: The Faith of George W. Bush, by Stephen Mansfield, p. 31-32 , Apr 12, 2004

1990: Declaration of Cartagena to fight war on drugs

1990 would begin with America's President forging a different kind of international coalition--this one with Presidents Virgilio Barco of Columbia, Alan Garcia of Peru, and Jaime Paz Zamora of Bolivia. On February 15, amid great concerns over security, President Bush traveled to Columbia to attend the drug summit and sign the Declaration of Cartagena--which provided a framework to help the 4 countries better coordinate the war against drugs.
Source: Heartbeat, by Jim McGrath, p. 77 , Mar 2, 2002

I don't believe legalizing narcotics is the answer

Q: Americans are increasingly alarmed about drug-related crimes in cities and suburbs. What about legalization?

BUSH: No. I don't think that's the right answer. I don't believe legalizing narcotics is the answer. I just don't believe that's the answer. I do believe that there's some fairly good news out there. The use of cocaine, for example, by teenagers is dramatically down. But we've got to keep fighting on this war against drugs. We're doing a little better in interdiction. So we're still in the fight. But I must tell you, I think legalization of narcotics or something of that nature, in the face of the medical evidence, would be totally counterproductive. And I oppose it, and I'm going to stand up and continue to oppose it

PEROT: Any time you think you want to legalize drugs, go to a neonatal unit. Just look at those crack babies, and if anybody can even think about legalizing drugs, they've lost me.

Source: The First Clinton-Bush-Perot Presidential Debate , Oct 11, 1992

Noriega in prison helps Panama and hurts drug lords

It's a good day. Fed drops the [interest] rates one quarter, and Noriega goes to prison for 120 years..It's big, big news and sends a strong message to indicted drug dealers.

Panama is doing much better. They are growing at 9%; Democracy is there; American lives were protected; and one of the results was that this drug warlord was brought to trial and is going to pay a price.

Source: Letter from George Bush in All The Best, p.555 , Apr 8, 1992

Take my word for it: This scourge will stop

I yearn for a greater tolerance, an easy-goingness about each otherís attitudes and way of life. There are few clear areas in which we as a society must rise up united and express our intolerance. The most obvious now is drugs. And when that first cocaine was smuggled in on a ship, it may as well have been a deadly bacteria, so much has it hurt the body, the soul of our country. And there is much to be done and to be said, but take my word for it: This scourge will stop.
Source: Inaugural Address , Jan 20, 1989

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Other past presidents on Drugs: George Bush Sr. on other issues:
Former Presidents:
Barack Obama(D,2009-2017)
George W. Bush(R,2001-2009)
Bill Clinton(D,1993-2001)
George Bush Sr.(R,1989-1993)
Ronald Reagan(R,1981-1989)
Jimmy Carter(D,1977-1981)
Gerald Ford(R,1974-1977)
Richard Nixon(R,1969-1974)
Lyndon Johnson(D,1963-1969)
John F. Kennedy(D,1961-1963)
Dwight Eisenhower(R,1953-1961)
Harry S Truman(D,1945-1953)

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V.P.Joseph Biden
V.P.Dick Cheney
V.P.Al Gore
V.P.Dan Quayle
Sen.Bob Dole

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Page last updated: Feb 22, 2022