Issue Number 12 - September 19, 2002

A letter to our readers
from Co-Publisher Glen Ford

CIA-Crack website is back
Coca-Cola kills
Smallpox: none of the nurses' business
Victory in St. Louis, Setback in New Orleans

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Dear Reader,

On August 18, 1996, the San Jose Mercury News broke the story that should have been heard around the world. "For the better part of a decade, a San Francisco Bay Area drug ring sold tons of cocaine to the Crips and Bloods street gangs of Los Angeles and funneled millions in drug profits to a Latin American guerrilla army run by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency," wrote investigative reporter Gary Webb. Black America erupted in demands for a thorough investigation.

The CIA, lacking the credibility to absolve itself, found defenders among the cream of the corporate media, most shamefully at the New York Times and Washington Post, who performed their disinformation functions so well that the agency was allowed to slink away, free to continue its narco-dealings. Los Angeles Congresswoman Maxine Waters, point-person in the drive to unmask the 1980s CIA-Nicaraguan contra drug connection, was made to appear all but mentally unbalanced, and Webb was finally left twisting in the wind by his own newspaper.

Now, having written a book on the experience, Webb has resurrected the series' web site, "Dark Alliance: The Story Behind the Crack Explosion." Visitors can read Webb's articles, statements from the Congressional Black Caucus, the CIA's response, and the first chapter of Webb's book, including a Foreward by Rep. Waters.

The online chapter traces the invention of crack cocaine, a substance unknown to man until concocted in the San Francisco area in the mid-Seventies. The pharmacological story is almost as fascinating as the political uses U.S. intelligence has found for the drug.

Coke and Cola

The CIA's Colombian cocaine alliances were cemented during Ronald Reagan's contra war against Nicaragua, and have since blossomed into a $2 billion a year relationship with the narco-regime in Bogota. George W. Bush pretends his "dark alliance" on the side of the rich in Colombia's 40-year civil conflict is part of a worldwide War on Terror. Colombia is, indeed, soaked in terror, which last month claimed the life of union activist Adolfo de Jesus Munera, shot by a death squad on the steps of his mother's house. This murder also has a coke connection: Coca-cola. Munera, a former Coca-Cola worker, had just learned that Colombia's Constitutional Court had agreed to hear his suit against the Atlanta-based corporation, demanding reinstatement. Munera had charged that Coca-Cola had sent death squads after him, causing him to absent himself from work.

Munera's union charges that Coca-Cola regularly contracts out its employee relations problems to death squads allied with the political Right and the military. Last year the United Steel Workers and the International Labor Rights Fund filed suit in federal court in Miami on behalf of the late Mr. Munera's union, alleging that Coca-Cola arranged for the kidnap, torture and murder of six organizers. And in February of this year, Teamsters union president Jimmy P. Hoffa appealed to Coke's corporate leadership to halt the violence against union workers at its Guatemala bottling plants.

According to the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, more than 4,000 union activists have been murdered in Colombia since 1986. Add Atlanta to the points on the actual Axis of Terror.

Fields of death

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, which must tiptoe around the CIA to get near the real narcotics action, is busying itself busting opium and heroin traffickers in the Balkans and across the vast expanses of formerly Soviet Central Asia - everywhere, that is, except Afghanistan, the one place in that part of the world where the U.S. can do whatever it pleases. The Americans choose to leave the war-drug lords' bounteous fields alone, fearing to alienate their allies in the War on Terror. The U.S. press corps in Kabul is largely silent on the subject, fearing loss of photo ops and other access to the military and the spooks.

The story is left to European news agencies. "Poppy cultivation in Afghanistan is close to record levels a year after being nearly wiped out under the hard-line Taliban regime," Reuters reported, citing the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. The BBC reports that "a bumper crop" is blooming in full view of the American protectors of the Taliban's successors.

Approximately 70% of the world's heroin originates in Afghanistan, a country that contributed virtually nothing to the international opiate trade prior to the CIA-backed war against the Soviets. Now, the same actors are back on stage, vouched for and paid by the men from Langley, Virginia.

Opium poppies were BBC reporter Raphael Rowe's primary beat in Afghanistan. "Access to the poppy fields was probably the easiest part of the investigation," Rowe told the folks back home in Britain. "There are literally thousands of them - they're not protected, farmers talk willingly about what they're doing and why they're doing it. In fact, almost everywhere we went in the region we were in, there were poppy fields."

Most of the heroin consumed by British addicts originates in Afghanistan. Asked why the U.S. allows the crop to flourish, the BBC's Rowe offers: "First and foremost, the production of opium poppy does not effect America (like drugs coming from South America) in the same way as it does the UK, so the American authorities are not that interested in the production of opium in Afghanistan. I spent eight days in Badakshan and in all that time I didn't see one soldier, a police officer, or any other law enforcement personnel."

There you have it. Poppies are immune from the American military machine. Yet the U.S. can wipe out Afghan wedding parties on the most dubious pretexts.

The truth is, heroin is increasing on U.S. streets, and there can be no doubt of the source. Back in the late Seventies, Afghan heroin leaped from nowhere to take over the bulk of the U.S. market. (See Make this Amendment, April 5.) The terror in American neighborhoods is again being nurtured by the U.S. military and the CIA - a health and crime crisis in the making, yet disassociated from the official War on Terror, a war that will last until Bush or his successors choose to declare it over.

No broad conversation on inoculation

The Bush crew acts as if it is concerned over biological threats to the general population but, in practice, is more interested in the political uses of fear than in practical programs of protection against bio-warfare. For more than two months, state and local health officials have been waiting for the administration to decide how it plans to protect the public against an attack of smallpox, probably the most dangerous bio-war scenario. The locals can't make a move until the Bush people make up their minds on how many "first-line" health workers will be inoculated against the disease, so that they can go about the task of taking care of the rest of us. The federal government controls all stocks of smallpox vaccine.

The U.S. stopped giving routine smallpox vaccinations 30 years ago. Federal health officials at the Centers for Disease Control are arguing among themselves on the best ways to go about structuring a defense against smallpox attack. Noticeably absent from the discussion are representatives of the health care workers. It is these nurses and emergency personnel who will be relied upon to respond to any general health crisis. Yet, no one in the Bush administration has conferred with organizations representing these caregivers, including their unions.

The Black Commentator asked Henry Nicholas, the venerable President of the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees, if anyone in the Bush administration has contacted him about bio-warfare defense plans. "They're not talking to us," said Nicholas, whose huge union reaches across the breadth of the national health care system, "and they're not talking to Sweeney, either." In fact, AFL-CIO chief John Sweeney has had no contact with the White House since Bush's inauguration.

For political reasons, George Bush has frozen organized labor out of any discussion of "wartime" national health and safety. These self-possessed oligarchs care nothing for the welfare of the general population; they won't even go through the motions of cooperation with health care personnel, if it means sitting down with the chosen representatives of the employees. Political warfare is more important than bio-warfare, against which the Bush-men have already been amply protected.

Betrayal by mail

That's one of the complaints of postal workers, who have already borne the brunt of biological attack - although almost certainly from a domestic, high-tech source.

Immediately after September 11, the White House issued antibiotic anthrax protection to its staff. When the first anthrax letters arrived at the offices of Senators Patrick Leahy and Tom Daschle, Capitol Hill employees got prompt medical attention. Yet postal workers were ordered to stay on the job at a contaminated facility in suburban Washington. Two died from anthrax inhalation and dozens still suffer the effects of exposure.

Postal workers sued their bosses and federal health authorities this summer to find out what the government knew about the anthrax threat - and when they knew it. However, there is no need to imagine a conspiracy. The Bush crowd simply does not care about working people. It is a depraved kind of indifference, exacerbated by greed, reflexive secrecy, and determined dishonesty.

More gumbo, less pay

Two state supreme courts showed their regard for working people, during Labor Day week. Missouri's justices let stand a living wage ordinance approved by the voters of St. Louis, that would require companies with city contracts to pay full-time employees $9.39 per hour - $11.41 if health insurance is not provided. The Missouri Hotel and Motel Association had resisted the referendum, maintaining that cities do not have the right to set wage laws higher than those enacted by the state.

The Louisiana Supreme Court, facing much the same question, sided with low-wage business interests, also represented by the hotel industry. By a vote of six to one, the Bayou State justices found New Orleans' Living Wage law, overwhelmingly approved by the voters in February, to be unconstitutional. Businessmen cheered, claiming that, by defeating the $6.15 wage they were keeping New Orleans "competitive."

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, a Black conservative, also opposed the Living Wage for his majority Black city.

All of which makes one wonder, Why do African Americans have such affection for places and people that don't like them back? According to the Travel Industry Association of America, Louisiana is Black tourists' favorite destination state, with 2.7 million African American visitors last year.

Must be the food.


Glen Ford, Co-Publisher

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