Koch blames racial strife, drugs for ills facing U.S.

October 14, 1992|By David Michael Ettlin | David Michael Ettlin,Staff Writer

Crime, drugs and racial hostility are tearing apart the American social fabric, former New York Mayor Ed Koch told a Johns Hopkins University audience last night, and offered a few ideas for mending it.

The military should be called on for a major role in a now-non-existent war on drugs, Mr. Koch said. And drug criminals belong in prisons -- to be built by the federal government in the deserts and Alaska, he said -- and should not get out until they complete mandatory treatment and a high school education.

Every youth would face mandatory national service, with neither social standing nor deferments to create unfairness, said Mr. Koch, the first speaker in the 1992 Milton S. Eisenhower Symposium series.

The theme of the annual symposium, named for the late Johns Hopkins president, is chosen by undergraduate students who organize the program, hire speakers and raise the money to pay their fees. This year's focus is "America in Decline: Crisis or Illusion?" Other speakers range from rap star Kris Parker/KRS-ONE to historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

Addressing an audience of about 400 people in Shriver Hall, Mr. Koch said racial strife is a chief cause of the tearing of the social fabric, in part because race seems a factor in violent crime. He said he had seen nothing to refute statistics showing that 45 percent of violent crimes are committed by black offenders, far disproportionate to the 12 percent of the population that blacks represent.

With those crimes largely committed by males, he said, just 6 percent of the population is accounting for nearly half of the crimes.

He was unwilling to blame crime on "root causes" like poverty. Rather, he said, the problem is that "very few people go to jail. You have better odds of getting away with a crime than winning at the tracks."

Mr. Koch said he has long advocated using the military to keep drugs from crossing U.S. borders and once was scoffed at when he presented that idea at West Point. "What could be more important than to protect us from the real enemy -- drugs," Mr. Koch said, observing that "there's no war on drugs . . . there is none. They talk about it."

Mr. Koch endorsed strict military control of U.S. air space to keep out drug smugglers, "using the AWACS planes that protect Saudi Arabia" -- even shooting down aircraft that stray from permitted sectors.

Mr. Koch was critical of those who call for "treatment on demand" for drug addicts, saying that "anyone who wants treatment can get it now. Most people don't want to be treated. They enjoy what they are doing."

In attacking those problems, he said society's "disaffiliated" -- the "underclass" -- must be taken out of the environment where they are most at risk, and he saw national service as the way to provide jobs.

The three-term mayor and former congressman said the only vote he now regrets having made in Washington was to end the military draft. But mandatory national service must be done with fairness, he said, so people who are "black or white, rich or poor, on drugs or off drugs," will be included.

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