Military Wiki
Barry Richard McCaffrey
McCaffrey in February 1994
4th Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy

In office
February 29, 1996 – January 4, 2001
President Bill Clinton
Preceded by Lee P. Brown
Succeeded by John P. Walters
Personal details
Born November 17, 1942(1942-11-17) (age 79)
Taunton, Massachusetts, U.S.[1]
Military service
Allegiance United States
Service/branch U.S. Army
Years of service 1964–1996
Rank US-O10 insignia.svg General
Commands 24th Infantry Division
U.S. Southern Command

Barry Richard McCaffrey (born November 17, 1942) is a retired United States Army general, news commentator, and business consultant.

He served as adjunct professor at the U.S. Military Academy and also Bradley Professor of International Security Studies there, from 2001 to 2008. He is a military analyst for NBC and MSNBC as well as president of his own consulting firm, BR McCaffrey Associates.[2]

West Point Association of Graduates of the United States Military Academy presented its 2010 Distinguished Graduate Award to Gen. McCaffrey.[3][4]


McCaffrey graduated from Phillips Academy, Andover in 1960 and U.S. Military Academy (Class of 1964) and earned an Master in Civil Government from American University in 1970. He also attended the National Security and Executive Education programs at Harvard University.[5] His postgraduate military education included United States Army War College, Command and General Staff College, and Defense Language Institute's program in Vietnamese,[6] and Armor School Advanced Course.[7]

Military career[]

Following his graduation from West Point in 1964, McCaffrey was commissioned into the infantry.[8]

His combat tours included action in the Dominican Republic with the 82nd Airborne Division in 1965, advisory duty with the Army of the Republic of Vietnam from 1966 to 1967, and company command with the 1st Cavalry Division from 1968 to 1969.[8] During the course of his service in the Vietnam War he was twice awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Purple Heart three times and the Silver Star twice.[6]

During Operation Desert Storm, McCaffrey commanded the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized). Under his command, the division conducted the "left hook" attack 370 km into Iraq. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.[6] In Operation Desert Storm, he was known for his speed and boldness. Joe Galloway, co-author of We Were Soldiers Once...And Young, rode with and reported on the division and later said in an interview[9] that he witnessed "some great military commanders at work," leaders like General Barry McCaffrey, General Norman Schwarzkopf, and General Hal Moore, the hero of the Battle of Ia Drang in Vietnam.[10]

General McCaffrey's peacetime assignments included tours as an instructor at the U.S. Military Academy from 1972 to 1975, Assistant Commandant at the U.S. Army Infantry School; Deputy U.S. Representative to NATO; Assistant Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS); Director of Strategic Plans and Policy, JCS.[8]

General McCaffrey's last command in the Army was United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), the unified command responsible for U.S. military activities in Central and South America. He commanded SOUTHCOM, whose headquarters were then in the Republic of Panama, from 1994 to 1996. Besides managing military personnel, as part of his duties in Panama, McCaffrey supported humanitarian operations for over 10,000 Cuban refugees in 1996. It was also during his last military position that he created the first Human Rights Council and Human Rights Code of Conduct for U.S. Military Joint Command.

McCaffrey was the youngest and most highly decorated four-star general in the Army at the time of his retirement from the military in 1996.[11]

ONDCP Director[]

Barry McCaffrey was Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) under President Bill Clinton from 1996 to 2001. He was confirmed unanimously by the U.S. Senate on February 29, 1996.[12] As director of ONDCP, McCaffrey sat in the Cabinet.[13]

McCaffrey came to this position with experience interdicting drug smugglers from South America, as head of the Southern Command.[14] He disliked the metaphor of a "war" on drugs, preferring to call it a malignancy for which he advocated treatment; at the same time, he also headed an initiative that began in 1999 to eliminate coca farming in Colombia.[14] During McCaffrey's tenure, a controversy arose over the ONDCP's policy of paying television producers to include anti-drug messages embedded into major television proigrams. The WB network's senior vice president for broadcast standards Rick Mater acknowledged, "The White House did view scripts. They did sign off on them – they read scripts, yes."[13] Running the campaign for the ONDCP was Alan Levitt, who estimated that between 1998 and 2000 the networks received nearly $25 million in benefits.[13] One example was with Warner Brothers' show, Smart Guy. The original script portrayed two young people using drugs at a party. Originally depicted as cool and popular, after input from the drug office, "We showed that they were losers and put them [hidden away to indulge in shamed secrecy] in a utility room. That was not in the original script."[13] Other shows including ER, Beverly Hills, 90210, Chicago Hope, The Drew Carey Show and 7th Heaven also put anti-drug messages into their stories.[13]

Details about the program were published by Salon on January 13, 2000.[13] McCaffrey defended the program, saying that “We plead guilty to using every lawful means to save America’s children”, and President Clinton defended McCaffrey.[15] Clinton said on January 14, 2000: "[I]t’s my understanding that there’s nothing mandatory about this, that there was no attempt to regulate content, or tell people what they had to put into it – of course, I wouldn’t support that."[16] McCaffrey opposed efforts in Congress to extend the national anti-drug media campaign to include messages against underage drinking.[14]

Conduct during the Gulf War[]

According to an article written by Seymour Hersh published in 2000 The New Yorker, General McCaffrey committed war crimes during the Gulf War in 1991, by having troops under his command kill retreating Iraq soldiers after a ceasefire had been declared, and to fail to properly investigate reports of killings of unarmed persons and an alleged massacre of hundreds of Iraqi POWs. Hersh's article "quotes senior officers decrying the lack of discipline and proportionality in the McCaffrey-ordered attack." One colonel told Hersh that it "made no sense for a defeated army to invite their own death. ... It came across as shooting fish in a barrel. Everyone was incredulous."[17]

These charges had been made by Army personnel after the war and an Army investigation had cleared McCaffrey of any wrongdoing. Hersh dismissed the findings of the investigation, writing that "few soldiers report crimes, because they don't want to jeopardize their Army careers." Hersh describes his interview with Private First Class Charles Sheehan-Miles, who later published a novel about his experience in the Gulf: "When I asked Sheehan-Miles why he fired, he replied, 'At that point, we were shooting everything. Guys in the company told me later that some were civilians. It wasn't like they came at us with a gun. It was that they were there – 'in the wrong place at the wrong time.' Although Sheehan-Miles is unsure whether he and his fellow-tankers were ever actually fired upon during the war, he is sure that there was no significant enemy fire: 'We took some incoming once, but it was friendly fire,' he said. 'The folks we fought never had a chance.' He came away from Iraq convinced that he and his fellow-soldiers were, as another tanker put it, part of 'the biggest firing squad in history.'"[17]

McCaffrey's and Powell's rebuttals to allegations of misconduct[]

McCaffrey denied the charges that on three occasions, General McCaffrey or his men of the 24th infantry division either fired on enemy soldiers who had surrendered in an "unprovoked attack", or "went too far" in responding to a non-existent threat. He attacked what he called Hersh's "revisionist history" of the Gulf War. BBC reported that "General McCaffrey said an army investigation had previously cleared him of any blame and he accused the New Yorker of maligning young soldiers.... White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said President Bill Clinton felt the charges were unsubstantiated."[18] According to Georgie Anne Geyer of the Chicago Tribune from May 2000, Hersh's accusations were disputed by a number of military personnel, who later claimed to have been misquoted by the journalist. She argues that this may have been Hersh's misguided attempt to break another My Lai story, and that he "could not possibly like a man such as McCaffrey, who is so temperamentally and philosophically different from him…” Finally, she suggests that Hersh may also have been motivated to attack the general for McCaffrey's role as the drug czar.[19]

Lt. Gen. Steven Arnold, interviewed by Hersh for the controversial article, was one of the officers who later claimed to have been misquoted. He wrote the editor of The New Yorker saying "I know that my brief comments in the article were not depicted in an entirely accurate manner and were taken out of context…. When the Iraqi forces fired on elements of the 24th Infantry Division, they were clearly committing a hostile act. I regret having granted an interview with Mr. Hersh. The tone and thrust of the article places me in a position of not trusting or respecting General Barry McCaffrey, and nothing could be further from the truth."[20]

Similar criticism came from Gen. Colin Powell, former Secretary of State and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Iraq War, who described the Hersh article as "attempted character assassination on General McCaffrey," in an interview with Sam Donaldson for the TV show This Week, in May 2000.

Comments on the War on Terror and the Iraq War[]

McCaffrey has harshly criticized American treatment of detainees during the War on Terror. According to McCaffrey: "We should never, as a policy, maltreat people under our control, detainees. We tortured people unmercifully. We probably murdered dozens of them during the course of that, both the armed forces and the C.I.A."[21][22] He "supports an investigation of the government lawyers who knowingly advocated illegal torture, and he specifically cited Bush's White House counsel and attorney general in the same discussion, emphasizing that 'we better find out how we went so wrong.'"[23]

In June 2005, he surveyed Iraq on behalf of U.S. Central Command and wrote an optimistic report afterwards.[24] In it, he says the U.S. senior military leadership team is superb and predicts the insurgency will reach its peak from January-to-September 2006, allowing for U.S. force withdrawals in the late summer of 2006. A year later, however, after visiting Iraq again, his assessment was grim: "Iraq is abject misery... I think it's a terribly dangerous place for diplomats and journalists and contractors and Iraqi mothers. Trying to go about daily life in that city is a real nightmare for these poor people." He called Abu Ghraib "the biggest mistake that happened so far."[25] In an official memorandum,[26] McCaffrey nevertheless expressed optimism about the operation's longer-term future:

"The situation is perilous, uncertain, and extreme – but far from hopeless. The U.S. Armed Forces are a rock. This is the most competent and brilliantly led military in a tactical and operational sense that we have ever fielded... There is no reason why the U.S. cannot achieve our objectives in Iraq. Our aim must be to create a viable federal state under the rule of law which does not: enslave its own people, threaten its neighbors, or produce weapons of mass destruction. This is a ten year task. We should be able to draw down most of our combat forces in 3–5 years. We have few alternatives to the current US strategy which is painfully but gradually succeeding. This is now a race against time. Do we have the political will, do we have the military power, will we spend the resources required to achieve our aims?"

His assessment noted several negative areas as well as very positive areas in the struggle for democracy in the country.

McCaffrey returned a third time in March, 2007, and followed the visit with a third memorandum.[27] The grimness of the 2006 assessment was repeated, additionally asserting a concern about the effect of the continuing war on the readiness of the small-sized U.S. military. He tempered his optimism about the future saying: "There are encouraging signs that the peace and participation message does resonate with many of the more moderate Sunni and Shia warring factions."

Controversial military analysis[]

In April 2008, the New York Times published a front-page report by David Barstow confirming that military analysts hired by ABC, CBS and NBC to present observations about the conduct of the war in Iraq had undisclosed ties to the Pentagon and/or military contractors.[28] McCaffrey was "at the heart of the scandal" detailed by Barstow.[29] In late Nov 2008, the New York Times published another front-page article by Barstow, this time specifically profiling General McCaffrey. It detailed his free movement between roles as a paid advocate for defense companies, media analyst and a retired officer.[28] An earlier report[30] with some of the same information had appeared in The Nation in April, 2003 but was not widely picked up. McCaffrey and his consulting firm BR McCaffrey Associates, LLC responded to the Times piece, stating that he is "absolutely committed to objective, non-partisan public commentary". The response highlighted his military record, as well as his history of criticizing the execution of the Iraq War and specifically Rumsfeld.[31] Journalist Glenn Greenwald later wrote that there had been "extensive collaboration between NBC and McCaffrey to formulate a coordinated response to David Barstow's story."[32]


  1. Tucker, Spencer C. (2010). The Encyclopedia of Middle East Wars, Volume 1. ABC-CLIO. p. 778. ISBN 9781851099481. 
  2. "Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, USA (Ret.) MSNBC and Nightly News Military analyst". January 17, 2008. 
  3. "2010 DISTINGUISHED GRADUATE AWARD GEN (R) BARRY MCCAFFREY '64". West Point Association of Graduates of the United States Military Academy. 2010. 
  4. Bartelt, Eric. “West Point Honors Five Distinguished Graduates”, The Official Homepage of the United States Army, News Archives (May 14, 2010).
  5. "Home Speakers Profile Barry McCaffrey". World Affairs Council of Northen California. Retrieved October 18, 2013. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "Full Biography of General Barry R. McCaffrey, USA (Ret.)". McCaffrey Associates. February 15, 2011. 
  7. Spencer C. Tucker, ed. The Encyclopedia of Middle East Wars: The United States in the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, and Iraq Conflicts: The United States in the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, and Iraq Conflicts. ABL-CLIO. Retrieved October 18, 2013. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 "General Barry R. McCaffrey". Strategic Studies Institute, US Army. Retrieved May 17, 2013. 
  9. "Steven Pressfield Interviews Joe Galloway". Retrieved October 18, 2013. 
  10. "We Were Soldiers". Retrieved October 18, 2013. 
  11. "Gen. Barry McCaffrey, USA (Ret.) Distinguished Leader, International Affairs Expert and National Security Analyst, NBC News". NBC News. Retrieved October 18, 2013. 
  12. Fuller, Jim. "Global Cooperation Vital in Addressing Drug Concerns: An Interview with General Barry R. McCaffrey, Director, Office of National Drug Policy", Narcotics: A Global Challenge, p. 1 (Electronic Journals of the U.S. Information Agency, DIANE Publishing, July 1996).
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 Forbes, Daniel (January 13, 2000). "Prime Time Propaganda". Salon.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Fisher, Gary. Rethinking Our War on Drugs: Candid Talk about Controversial Issues (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2006).
  15. Szasz, Thomas. Pharmacracy: Medicine and Politics in America, p. 136 (Syracuse University Press, 2003).
  16. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton, 2000-2001, January 1 to June 26, 2000, p. 62 (Government Printing Office, 2001).
  17. 17.0 17.1 Forbes, Daniel (May 15, 2000). "Gulf War crimes?". Salon. 
  18. "General hits at Gulf 'insults'". BBC News. May 16, 2000. 
  19. Geyer, Georgie Anne (May 19, 2000). "Seymour Hersh's Gulf War misconceptions". Chicago Tribune.  (subscription required)
  20. McCaffrey, Barry R. (May 22, 2000). "The New Yorker's Revisionist History". The Wall Street Journal.  (subscription required)
  21. Greenwald, Glenn (June 30, 2009). "The suppressed fact: Deaths by U.S. torture". Salon.
  22. Horton, Scott (May 7, 2009). "The Bush Era Torture-Homicides". Harper's.
  23. Melber, Ari (May 18, 2009). "Why the New Torture Defense Is a Good Offense". The Nation.
  24. McCaffrey, Barry R. (June 27, 2005). "Trip Report – Kuwait and Iraq". U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Archived from the original on July 24, 2005. 
  25. The Situation Room (transcript). CNN. May 30, 2006.
  26. McCaffrey, Barry R. (May 4, 2006). "The Bottom Line – Observations from Iraqi Freedom". Chaos Manor Special Reports. 
  27. McCaffrey, Barry R. (March 26, 2007). "Visit Iraq and Kuwait, 9-16 March 2007". Iraq's Inconvenient Truth. Archived from the original on April 13, 2008. 
  28. 28.0 28.1 Barstow, David (November 29, 2008). "One Man's Military-Industrial-Media Complex". The New York Times. 
  29. Greenwald, Glenn (April 21, 2009). "The Pulitzer-winning investigation that dare not be uttered on TV". Salon.
  30. Benaim, Daniel; Motaparthy, Priyanka; Kumar, Vishesh (April 21, 2003). "TV's Conflicted Experts". The Nation. 
  31. "Barstow Article in New York Times Sun. Nov. 30 Not Supported by Facts of Gen. McCaffrey's Focus on Improving National Security". PR Newswire. November 30, 2011. 
  32. Greenwald, Glenn (December 1, 2008). "The ongoing disgrace of NBC News and Brian Williams". Salon.

Further reading[]

External links[]

Military offices
Preceded by
GEN George A. Joulwan
United States Southern Command
Succeeded by
GEN Wesley K. Clark
Political offices
Preceded by
Lee P. Brown
Director of the National Drug Control Policy
Succeeded by
John P. Walters

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