Issue Number 1 - April 5, 2002


How to Get the U.S. Government Out of the International Drug Trade

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"Look out, heroin is on its way Big Time, because we're going to allow those who we are allied with to get away with it."
- U.S. Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA), November 2001

"Our main mission was to do as much damage as possible to the Soviets. We didn't really have the resources or the time to devote to an investigation of the drug trade. I don't think that we need to apologize for this. Every situation has its fallout."
- Charles Cogan, former director, CIA Afghanistan operations, speaking in 1995

Asian heroin and Andean cocaine are the inevitable "fallout" of the way the United States conducts foreign policy. Congresswoman Maxine Waters' warning to the State of the Black World conference late last year, in Atlanta, is a prophetic certainty. The heroin and cocaine epidemics that have ravaged Black America since the late Sixties, deforming our communities in ways beyond measure, are the direct result of U.S. government facilitation of the international drug trade.

We believe Cogan. The CIA didn't mean to smooth the way for the export of Afghan heroin, but that's what they did. We don't think that anyone, in any U.S. government agency, ever had a meeting and decided to flood American cities with drugs. But that's what they have succeeded in doing, over and over again, since the early years of the Vietnam War.

And they will continue, unless the U.S. Congress stops them.

As surely as night follows day, George Bush's frenzied interventions around the globe under the cover of a war against "terror" will unleash new deluges of heroin and cocaine onto American streets. It is this terror, the scourge that threatens the very viability of African American society, which must be resisted by every possible means, and without compromise.

We must cut off the money that services and continually reinvents the drug trade, a network of international connections that is the highway of choice for U.S. covert operatives around the world. The CIA and its sister agencies know no other methods than criminality in carrying out their "anti-communist" or "anti-terror" mandates.

We need no apologies from the likes of the CIA's Charles Cogan. Rather, he and his colleagues should be serving life terms in prison for crimes against the American people, for allowing their Afghan and Pakistani underlings to capture 60% of the U.S. heroin market in just two years, between 1979 and 1981. Prior to the CIA's Afghan war against the Soviets, the region's heroin exports to the U.S. were negligible. Cogan calls that "fallout." Any honest judge would describe it as facilitation of drug dealing on a global scale.

We will accept no apologies from the men who, a decade or so earlier, created the logistical system that boosted Southeast Asian heroin production ten-fold. This "fallout" from the Vietnam War turned Thailand into the whorehouse of Asia and fundamentally altered the character and quality of life in urban America. The death toll mounts, still. What penalty is appropriate?

Reagan aide Oliver North remains unapologetic after barely escaping jail in the Eighties, having committed innumerable narco-crimes as head of a criminal army seeking to overthrow the government of Nicaragua. His ascendancy coincided with the Great Crack Epidemic, which only subsided after U.S. military and CIA involvement in Central America was drastically reduced. Instead, hundreds of thousands of other Americans are serving prison drug terms, having been positioned at the wrong end of narcotics deals.

History is clear and undeniable. U.S. intelligence agencies have a perverted, modern form of the Midas Touch: everything they lay hands on turns to drugs, murder and corruption. Maxine Waters is right. Afghan heroin is on the way, "Big Time."

So is Colombian cocaine. For example, North's friends at Eagle Aviation Services, purported specialists in ferrying weapons and narco-products, are among the many U.S. mercenary corporate outfits hired to teach Colombia's police and armed forces the fine points of drug eradication. ("Put it on our plane. Poof! It's gone!")

We must now expect a narcotics onslaught from multiple points around the globe, simultaneously. In the guise of a war on terrorism - which means whatever George Bush wants it to mean - and at breakneck speed, the U.S. is setting up shop in several former Soviet Central Asian republics, as well as the former Soviet Georgia, in the Caucusus. The official excuse is anti-terror, the real reason is oil and natural gas, but the end result will be tons of poppy derivatives bound for the United States: the "fallout."

Indonesia, Yemen and the Philippines are also great places for cultivating drug enterprises to pay off foreign collaborators in the world war on "terror." U.S. intelligence agencies are there, in force, looking for recruits in dark places. We have an idea how they will be compensated.

The same actors that brought us the previous drug epidemics are in charge of these far-flung outposts, employing identical modus operandi, infecting yet more regions of the world with their fatal touch.

Ultimately, our own people, neighborhoods and institutions will sicken and die, "fallout" victims in far greater numbers than perished at the World Trade Center.

The Politics of Death

The Great Heroin and Cocaine Epidemics of the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties did not simply burn themselves out. Nor were they smothered by brilliant police work. The momentum of madness slowed only after the U.S. Congress cut off money, first for the Vietnam War in 1975, then for the war against Nicaragua in the following decade.

The fall of the Saigon regime separated the CIA from many of its drug-dealing friends in Southeast Asia, giving the heroin markets of the U.S. a few years of relative stability. Pundits commented on the aging nature of the surviving junky population.

Suddenly, in the early Eighties, crack cocaine screamed into the ghettos like a thousand banshees. Reagan's wars against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua and rebels in neighboring El Salvador had sent the CIA into every criminal den from Miami to the tip of Argentina, scrounging for commie-killing recruits and pilots to fly them and their weapons around Latin America. In the process, Colombia's government was turned into the definition of a narco-regime. That, too, was "fallout" of U.S. foreign policy, for which Americans and Colombians continue to pay.

Victims of the crack wars at home piled up in appalling numbers, "collateral damage" in Reagan's jihad against left wing Latin American peasants.

Heroin was also making a comeback, cheaper and more potent stuff from the fields of Afghanistan. In addition to consuming at least $2 billion in U.S. military goods and services, the Afghan "freedom fighters" and their Pakistani partners were rewarded with a world-class, American drug franchise. Thanks to the U.S. national security establishment, not a single Afghan or Pakistani was ever prosecuted for moving vast quantities of heroin into U.S. cities and towns.

The CIA protects its own, leaving the U.S. population naked to narcotics aggression.

The Boland Amendment, passed by Congress in 1982 in an attempt to halt the war against Nicaragua, did not stop the Reagan administration's love fest with the murderous classes of Latin America. But it can be argued that the measure's simple language slowed down the slaughter in Nicaragua, exposed U.S. Central American policy as a criminal enterprise and, finally, blunted the ferocity of the cocaine explosion on American streets.

The measure prohibited the use of taxpayer money "for the purpose of overthrowing the Government of Nicaragua." The Reaganites insisted that, while the wording of the law applied to the CIA, the National Security Agency was exempted. From the NSA's White House basement offices, Oliver North began assembling the dregs of international society, most of them drawn from the CIA's long list of assassins, terrorists, drug dealers, and assorted right wing lunatics.

In the process of continuing the illegal war, North & Co. entered into a complicated and desperate deal with Iran, then at the top of the White House "terrorist states" list, selling the Ayatollah anti-tank missiles and transferring the proceeds to the new, Contra army. But North's Nicaraguan recruits, who were essentially mercenaries, needed more money. The basement warrior sounded the alarm, and the drug dealers came calling.

North's work was sloppy. Soon, the whole world knew that American planes were delivering guns to the Contras and returning with loads of cocaine. The Reagan Latin American policy was thoroughly discredited and, although the Boland Amendment was finally defeated by a resurgent right wing Congress, the momentum of the murderous war and blatant cocaine smuggling by U.S. operatives, was gone. Relative peace emerged in Central America, and the crack epidemic slowly, fitfully abated.

Bill Clinton's foreign adventures were brief and shallow and, lo and behold, American crime and opiate and coca use declined. Crime statistics are not subject to easy interpretation, but there is no question that street drug markets became less volatile during the Clinton years, which coincided with U.S. withdrawal from Afghan affairs and reduced meddling in Latin America. (In the interim, Mexico became the chief narco-state, but that's another story.)

This respite is about to end.

Pull the Plug

If you thought the CIA was crazy back in the day, prepare for a new level of rogue madness. George Bush thinks he has a blank check to intervene anywhere and everywhere, waving the bloody flag of September 11. His plans for stationing spooks around the planet are so ambitious, his targets so numerous and his deployment so manic, it is doubtful that the secret services have enough manpower to carry out the missions.

This will cause the CIA and its sisters to dig even deeper into the garbage bins of global gangsterdom, all the while demanding that taxpayers front the money for more mercenaries and contract agents. Dope franchises will, once again, become the common currency of payment for services rendered to the U.S. national security apparatus. This is simply the way the CIA works.

The "fallout" is predictable. But we at The Black Commentator are confident that, this time around, African Americans and progressives will know how to resist the terror that a new wave of drug epidemics threatens to bring to our communities. More than 30 years of experience with U.S. government facilitation of drug dealing should be sufficient to inform our judgment.

A true "homeland defense" policy is one that prevents the government from making deals with the devil. A genuine "anti-terror" agenda is one that stands like a rock, blocking the flow of drugs into our neighborhoods. The drug trade is the real, everyday source of urban terror. Nothing is more of a threat to our national life.

We must take Bush's drug checkbook away. What we propose is elimination of the national security regime's discretionary account. We now know what they do with the money, that they cannot help themselves and, like junkies, cannot be trusted anywhere in the vicinity of poppies and coca plants. We now understand that the human "fallout" of their drug machinations is of no concern to American foreign policy makers. But it is our top priority.

Make the Amendment

It is once again time for the U.S. Congress to exercise its control of the national purse, through mechanisms independent of the executive branch. The State Department's annual evaluation of the drug export practices of the world's nations is a sham and a farce. (See, "And Then There Was One", at the end of this commentary) Successive American administrations have been in league with narco-states, rather than in opposition to them. Serious sanctions are reserved for Iran, Iraq and North Korea, which send virtually no narcotics across our borders, while the trade embargo against Cuba, the most drug-free society in the Western Hemisphere, is more than 40 years old.

The necessary legislation would have the following effect:

The U.S. government would be prohibited from all direct or indirect contracts with or subsidies to the security forces of those nations with the most egregious records of drug exports to the United States. Further, no corporation that contracts with the security forces of the targeted foreign states would be eligible to enter into any contract with the U.S. government.

The targeted nations would be designated by the General Accounting Office of the U.S. Congress, based solely on the illicit drug activity generated within or across those nations' borders, or through the banks of those countries, as measured by reputable national and international agencies.

The Drug Enforcement Administration should be the one exception to this firewall, designed to separate American drug facilitators from foreign drug providers. The DEA are cops, not geopolitical games players. For that very reason, the DEA is most often the loser in bureaucratic and policy disputes with the CIA and the State Department.

With the CIA and its ilk out of the way, it is possible that the DEA might even make a real contribution to curbing international drug trafficking. (More than likely, however, Oliver North types will suddenly turn up in foreign lands, flashing DEA credentials.)

No matter how the General Accounting Office measures drug trafficking activity - by acres under cultivation, quantities trans-shipped across borders, or drug money on deposit in banks - Mexico, Colombia and Panama must certainly top the list. Thailand should be grouped with Burma, the mother of all poppy sources, rivaled only by Afghanistan, since Bangkok is the service center for Rangoon's harvest.

The Legislative Intent

Put simply, the law would be designed to stop the U.S. government from doing what comes naturally: corrupting nations and becoming corrupted by the international drug trade, which is itself largely a creature of historic U.S. policy. The legislation would also halt the Bush administration's wholesale commissioning of private, but clearly CIA-controlled firms, to carry out its wars in the Third World, most notably in Colombia but with new theaters of operation threatening to open daily.

As the Reagan administration's attempts to defy the Boland Amendment in the 1980s should have taught us, the Bush people must be given no wiggle room. Their purpose in life is to bend nations to their will, recruiting the most ruthless criminals as allies along the way. The only way to prevent these men from setting up more drug franchises with impunity to transport their products into our cities is to separate U.S. military and intelligence agencies from the sources of narcotics.

There is no mystery here. Those who call the situation "complicated" are either spreading confusion or confused themselves.

We are also taking a cue from Bush's own logic. He has proclaimed to the world a core position: The U.S. will have no dealings with nations that harbor terrorists.

Our position must be: We will outlaw all substantive contact between U.S. military, security and intelligence agencies and their counterparts in the worst drug exporting nations, and will treat as pariahs all private corporations that do business with the security agencies of those nations.

This is a necessary act of self-defense, against both the foreign drug lords and our own, hopelessly drug-tainted intelligence agencies. It is also an act in defense of the honor of the U.S. military, which has been soiled in every engagement it has undertaken in the drug-soaked environments prepared by the CIA, most dramatically in Vietnam.

In much the same fashion, this proposal is intended as a defense of the people of the drug exporting nations, whose societies have become grotesque under the heels of politicians and militaries that are in league with drug dealers and buttressed by the darkest powers of Washington. This is the raw reality of Colombia, the slightly more hidden truth about Mexico, the debauched state of affairs in Thailand, the unreconstructed mode of business in Panama - all great friends of the United States government, yet ruled by the deadliest enemies of the American people, and their own.

A South Africa Analogy

Consider U.S. drug policy in this light: Had the United States proposed establishing official liaisons and training missions with the security agencies of pre-Mandela South Africa, Black America would have become apoplectic. We would immediately have understood that allowing U.S. personnel to cozy up with the soldiers and policemen of apartheid would inevitably result in new and deeper alliances that could only reinforce the power and prestige of the white regime. Our common sense would have told us that such contacts could only serve to drench collaborating U.S. agencies with the racist stench. None of us would have bought the argument that Americans could act as liberalizing influences on the South African Defense Forces and police, much less the regime's intelligence services.

Rather, in defiance of the government of the United States, we demanded the utter isolation of Pretoria until the regime either collapsed or restructured itself. Finally, the rich whites and multi-national corporations that ruled South Africa capitulated.

South Africa is an industrial giant, yet it caved in. Colombia, Panama and Thailand are not. Afghanistan is a U.S. protectorate. Mexico is more vulnerable to U.S. pressure than any nation in the world. Yet drug export and trans-shipment from these lands to the U.S. continues, undiminished, despite the huge American presence on their soil.

No, it is as a result of the American presence that these nations have become the bordellos of the planet, the primary sources of devastation of American cities. For example, under the post-invasion regime backed by the U.S., Panamanian banks quickly surpassed General Manuel Noriega's record of drug money laundering. This, while the country was under all but total control of U.S. military and intelligence agencies! More "fallout."

We do not need trade embargos against these countries to change the behavior of their governments. They do not need U.S. agents, spies, soldiers or mercenaries to locate and arrest their own drug lords, few of whom live in jungles.

The only way to alter the behavior of dope-facilitating U.S. agencies is to keep them away from their counterparts in the offending countries. The two depend upon each other to maintain the international narcotics connections that have been so carefully constructed since the beginning of the Cold War, and perfected during and after the Vietnam War.

We must separate these Siamese twins. At least one of them, the foreign sibling, might very well die.

What we are proposing could lead to civil wars in the countries that are potential targets of the legislation, all of them U.S. clients. So be it. (Colombia, of course, has been wracked by civil war for almost 40 years.)

The drug villains are the guys who are currently in control of these nations, backed by the American foreign policy apparatus. It is in the interests of the American people that these regimes be overthrown. (Does that sound familiar, Bush?) It is also in the interests of the citizens of those nations. We would lift a great burden from them by forcing the withdrawal of U.S. military and intelligence support from their corrupt rulers.

In the end, rather than face isolation from the military and intelligence networks of the world's only superpower, prudent people of influence in these countries will solve the drug export problem themselves, probably by killing their erstwhile friends. We welcome such outcomes.

U.S. corporations operating in these countries will also play a role, as they did in South Africa. American executives feel naked without their own nation's spooks and uniforms running around, and will lend their considerable clout to those indigenous forces willing to move against the drug lords.

We have no problem with Bush using his smart bombs to destroy drug refineries in foreign countries. That is a legitimate matter of self-defense, but it only happens in the movies. In the real world, friends of regimes backed by Washington profit from those refineries. For almost two generations, impunity has been their reward. The torch is reserved for the fields of poor peasants, and then just for show.

Our proposal would flip the script. The consequences of maintaining a narco-economy might prove fatal.

The CIA seldom assassinates its drug-dealing friends because they are useful, but the locals would. At any rate, it is their problem to solve. They will have an easier time of it without our CIA protecting the kingpins, making the criminals richer by insuring a smooth ride along the global drug highways.

We are most concerned about the permanent civil strife that drugs have brought to the United States: the one million men and women of color behind bars, largely because of drugs; the neighborhoods and entire cities rendered economically unviable by successive drug plagues; the drug-fueled AIDS crisis; the narco-based police state tactics that have been routine in African American communities since long before the World Trade Center was destroyed; the Black-on-Black crime that has disfigured basic human relations among our people. The list goes on, endlessly.

This is the terror that stalks Black America. This is the battle that demands our uncompromising commitment. We will get nowhere unless we force a change in U.S. foreign policy. That can only come from the U.S. Congress.

Surprising Bedfellows

We believe that the proposed legislation would find allies in unexpected stretches of the political spectrum. Ours is the moral high ground. Everyone claims to oppose the drug trade. By now, most honest people on Capitol Hill realize that U.S. intelligence agencies view narcotics as just another set of assets to be distributed among allies. Truly patriotic generals do not want to arm and train narco-regimes, or expose their troops to the enticements of criminals.

That's why good soldiers hate the CIA. So do good cops.

The task at hand is no more difficult than the struggle to pass and enforce the Boland Amendment twenty years ago. Indeed, the stakes are far more obvious and immediate to the average American of any ethnicity. The Boland amendment was designed to stop the CIA and U.S. military from killing more Nicaraguans. What we are calling for is a halt to CIA and military complicity in the killing of thousands more Americans.

With maddening but pointless regularity, the Bush people issue alerts of impending attacks against domestic U.S. targets. We are indeed a society at risk, having made many enemies in the world. Our number one adversary remains the international drug trade, whose tentacles reach into every city, town and back road of the nation. It murders us in our homes, or on the way to the corner store. It lays waste to our cities and our dreams.

Bush thinks he can fool or scare us into accepting an even larger role for the CIA and its criminal cohorts, in a brave new world in which there are no rules other than executive decision. In this hysterical scenario, anyone that claims to know where a bin Laden is hiding becomes our ally, deserving of reward, protection and impunity. All domestic "fallout" is acceptable.

Narco-governments, dope money bankers, criminal air forces, corporate mercenaries, all are welcome to join Bush's mad crusade, their participation guaranteed by the paymasters of the U.S. intelligence community.

In this kind of war, We, the People of the United States, can only lose - "Big Time." As Congresswoman Waters said in Atlanta, it's all happening "right in front of our eyes."

Craft the legislation, lawmakers. We will then see who stands where.

We at The Black Commentator are aware that some will consider our proposal to be well meant, but ill conceived; that now is not the time to challenge the Bush national security structure. Quite frankly, we do not respect that position.

We have only one answer to those who are willing to allow U.S. intelligence agencies one more chance to destroy yet another generation, or who counsel that we hold our noses and close ranks with narco-regimes during this time of crisis: Shut up. You have lost the moral right to ever mention the subject of drugs again.

If we can't take the CIA and the American military out of drugs, we can't get drugs out of America.

The Black Commentator applauds the legislative efforts of U.S. Representatives John Conyers (D-MI), Janice Schakowsky (D-IL) and others to curtail the use of corporate mercenaries in Colombia. In our next issue, we will examine the frightening and disastrous spread of mercenary armies.


The Incredible Shrinking List of Drug Trafficking Nations

The futility of current congressional oversight of U.S. international drug policy is apparent in the Bush Administration's cavalier disdain for even listing the world's most serious trafficking nations. Congress mandated sanctions, including loss of U.S. aid, against offenders that fail to rein in their illegal drug exports and trans-shipments. Last year, 23 nations faced potential penalties:

Afghanistan, Burma, the Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Thailand, Venezuela, Vietnam.

The list might as well have been written in disappearing ink. Doubtless in the spirit of international good feeling and pleasant diplomacy, Bush's people erased 20 countries from the roster, certifying that the regimes had made "progress" in the quest for a drug free planet. That left Afghanistan, Burma and Haiti.

Sanctions against Afghanistan were waived, on the grounds that they might impede humanitarian aid (!), and Haiti was removed from the list due to its extreme poverty. (Or, possibly to compensate for the years that the U.S. has withheld promised assistance to the Haitian government, peeved at its refusal to grovel before Washington.)

That leaves Burma, which has no diplomatic and very little trade relations with the U.S. and cannot, therefore, be effectively sanctioned.

Thus, the Bush administration makes not even a pretense of having an international drug trafficking policy, while demonstrating that it holds the U.S. Congress in utter contempt.

Sources that contributed to this commentary.

The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia, McCoy, 1972

Cocaine Politics: Drugs, armies and the CIA in Central America, Scott and Marshall, University of California Press, 1991

Drugs, Impunity and the CIA, Center for International Policy's Intelligence Reform Project, Dirksen Senate Office Building, November 26, 1996

Like It Is, WABC-TV, New York, February, 2002

BBC online, February 25, 2002

Highly recommended reading: Taliban, Ahmed Rashid, Yale University Press, 2000

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