WASHINGTON -- President Reagan said Thursday his administration is 'running up the battle flag' to fight drug abuse with strong, positive action that rejects 'the helpless attitudes' of the past.
He named a 19-member special task force of government agency heads - including the directors of the CIA and the FBI -- to lead the fight and ordered them to report back in two weeks with suggestions on how to launch the campaign.
'We can put drug abuse on the run ... by rejecting the helpless attitude that drug abuse is so rampant that we are helpless to do anything about it,' Reagan said in a brief ceremony in the Rose Garden.
'We're taking down the surrender flag that has flown over so many drug efforts. We are running up a battle flag. We can fight the drug problem and we can win and that is exactly what we're going to do.'
He applauded the current efforts of agencies in 'fighting the long, hard battle against the drug problem,' but added that as with other areas of his administration, he wanted to 'seek new approaches. I want to get away from the fatalistic attitude of the late 70s and assert a positive approach that involves as many elements of this society as possible.'
He appointed Carlton E. Turner, director of the White House drug abuse policy office, to head all domestic and international drug functions. Among the 18 other agency heads named to the unit were CIA Director William Casey, FBI Director William Webster and Coast Guard Commandant James Gracey.
Reagan was flanked at the ceremony by his wife, Nancy, Turner and Vice President George Bush. Mrs. Reagan has been visiting drug rehabilitation centers for the past several months and the president said her comments were invaluable in helping him make his decision.
'Drugs already reach deeply into our social structure, so we must mobilize all our forces to stop the flow of drugs into this country, to let kids know the truth, to erase the false glamour that surrounds drugs,' he said. The president said that drugs, including marijuana, must be branded 'exactly for what they are, dangerous, and particularly to school age youth.'