San Francisco Chronicle
Dutch Erupt At Speech by American Envoy
U.S. drug czar wrongly cited higher crime rate in Holland
Chronicle News Services
The Netherlands reacted angrily yesterday to critical remarks by U.S. drug czar General Barry McCaffrey in which he blasted liberal Dutch narcotics policies and incorrectly claimed that the Netherlands has much higher rates of murder and other crime than the United States.
The murder rate in Holland is double that in the United States. The per capita crime rates are much higher than the United States," McCaffrey said at a press briefing yesterday in Stockholm. He is due to travel to the Netherlands tomorrow, but he may receive a cool reception after his wildly inaccurate remarks.
He said the United States had 8.22 murders per 100,000 people in 1995 compared with 17.58 in the Netherlands and that overall per capita crime rates in the United States were 5,278 per 100,000 compared with 7,928 in the Netherlands.
"The overall crime rate in Holland is probably 40 percent higher than the United States," said McCaffrey. That's drugs."
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.
"The figure (McCaffrey is using) is not right. He is adding in attempted murders," a planning bureau spokesman said.
The Netherlands, a front-runner in drug tolerance, recently started giving free heroin to hard-core addicts through a health ministry project.
Dutch law permits possession of up to five grams of light drugs for personal consumption. Sale and consumption of hard drugs are not legally permitted, but authorities have developed a pragmatic approach, putting the emphasis on stopping drug-trafficking and helping addicts, who are treated as medical cases and not as criminals.
A spokesman for McCaffrey, Robert Housman, said the drug czar would warn Dutch authorities not to "put American children ... at risk" by allowing its liberal drugs policies to be promoted abroad.
But three hours later, Housman telephoned news agencies to say the statement "no longer stands" because it did not reflect McCaffrey's views.
HERE'S THE BACKGROUND:
JULY 9: On CNN's "Talkback Live," McCaffrey engages in a brief debate overthe Dutch policy with "Drug Crazy" author Mike Gray. McCaffrey says, ominously, it turns out, "We ought to agree to disagree on the facts." Shortly afterward, he calls the Dutch experience, "an unmitigated disaster."
JULY 9: Gray warns that a diplomatic protest could come from the Dutch embassy, which has been alerted that McCaffrey and his office are misrepresenting the facts about Dutch policy and results. McCaffrey changes the subject, saying the Dutch have received protests from the French and Germans over the results of their drug policy. Here, again, McCaffrey says: "I probably would again dispute you on the facts."
JULY 10: McCaffrey tells AP he's not interested in visiting Dutch "coffeeshops," the hallmark of the nation's tolerant policy toward marijuana and hashish. "Coffeeshops would be a bad photo op," he explains. And, "I'm not sure there's much to be learned by watching someone smoking pot."
JULY 11: From Washington, the Dutch ambassador to the U.S., Joris M. Vos, writes to McCaffrey, that he is "confounded and dismayed" by the czar's depiction of the Dutch policy. "I must say that I find the timing of your remarks, just six days before your planned visit to the Netherlands with a view to gaining firsthand knowledge about Dutch drug policy and its results, rather astonishing." A McCaffrey deputy spokesman, Rob Housman, tells the AP in Washington that he hopes the incident would not affect McCaffrey's European trip.
JULY 13: In Stockholm, where he is beginning his European trip, McCaffrey comes out swinging. He says, "The murder rate in Holland is double that in the United States. The per capita crime rates are much higher than the United States." He provides statistics to the media. In 1995, McCaffrey says, the U.S. had 8.22 murders per 100,000 people, while the Netherlands had 17.58 per 100,000 (2.13 times the U.S. rate). He also says that the "overall per capita crime rates" are 5,278 per 100,000 in the U.S., and 7,928 per 100,000 in the Netherlands (1.5 times the U.S. rate). Also, at the Stockhold press conference, McCaffrey's staff hands out copies of the complaint letter to McCaffrey from ambassador Joris Vos.
JULY 14: A Dutch agency, the Central Bureau of Statistics, publishes crime data contradicting McCaffrey's claims. The 1995 murder rate, rather than being double that of the U.S., is instead 1.8 per 100,000 in the Netherlands (making the U.S. rate 4.6 times higher). [There were 273 murders total in 1995, fewer than most U.S. cities.] However, for the year 1995, the Dutch ATTEMPTED HOMICIDE rate was 17.6 -- likely the number McCaffrey had cited.
JULY 14: Dutch officials tell the Reuters news agency, "The figure (McCaffrey is using) is not right. He is adding in attempted murders." Foreign Affairs Ministry spokeswoman Birgitta Tazelaar adds: "(McCaffrey's) statements show ... that he is not coming totally unbiased. We hope he is coming here to learn from the Dutch drug policy, and one can only learn if open-minded.... We hope his opinions will ... come more into line with the facts."