Drugs / Global

Duzan, Maria Jimena. Death Beat: A Colombian Journalist's Life Inside the Cocaine Wars. New York: HarperCollins, 1994. Translated and edited by Peter Eisner. 282 pages.

In 1990, an average of 15 people were murdered every day in Medellin, Colombia. There were more than 100,000 unemployed, and at least 140,000 children had no access to education. Some children became professional assassins, a career-track that was respected by the locals. An official engaged in the war against the cartels, the incorruptible General Miguel Maza Marquez, would say to journalists: "I admire people like you because I am a professional trained to face death and deal with that. But you are not trained; you are willing to face death all the same." Colombia is a country where journalists don't go anywhere without their bodyguards.

Maria Jimena Duzan, 34, saw her house bombed, El Espectador's offices blown up, the murder of her publisher Guillermo Cano, the murder of her sister who made documentary films, and the assassination of numerous reformist politicians and presidential candidates. This account, which was first published in Spanish in 1992, begins with M-19 and continues through the rise and decline of the Medellin cartel. (The Cali cartel, which has become dominant in the last few years, is mentioned only occasionally.) Duzan was exiled from Colombia in 1990. She received a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard, and in 1992 returned to Colombia to continue her reporting.

EIR. Dope, Inc.: The Book That Drove Kissinger Crazy. Washington DC: Executive Intelligence Review, 1992. 697 pages.

The first edition of this book was published in 1978, and updated editions appeared in Spanish and English in 1985 and 1986. This new edition contains four appendices, including a fairly decent report on the Anti- Defamation League (pages 603-651). EIR is the research and intelligence wing of the Lyndon LaRouche organization. Their publications reflect a curious blend of facts and research not available elsewhere, mixed together with an Anglophobia that sometimes borders on the hysterical. This book is dense with the names of elites and their corporate and banking connections, from Hong Kong to New York to London. That alone made it worth inputting, even though I'm not convinced by their conclusions about the world order.

Nor do I think LaRouche is a crank who believes that the Queen of England pushes drugs. In certain areas, EIR research is too substantive for such easy dismissal; something else is going on here. This book claims that a network of British aristocrats and their foreign cronies have been laundering drug money since the days of the Opium Wars. That's probably true. But has EIR uncovered Britain's conspiracy to destroy the world, or have they merely found some loose connections between various high-flying transnational profiteers, who happen to have interesting family histories? -- D.Brandt

Ehrenfeld, Rachel. Narco-terrorism. New York: Basic Books, 1990. 225 pages.

Rachel Ehrenfeld is an Israeli who lives in New York. She has a Ph.D. in criminology, and was a research scholar at New York University's School of Law during the early 1990s. A conservative who frequents the anti- terrorism lecture circuit, Ehrenfeld is interested in the links between leftist and pro-Arab governments (Cuba, Nicaragua, Colombia's M-19, Syria, Lebanon, etc.) and drug trafficking. If you don't mind the occasional unsubstantiated statement, Ehrenfeld does a passable job of presenting this half of the story.

The other half of the story doesn't show up on Ehrenfeld's radar. Apparently it's all Soviet disinformation, or otherwise unworthy of her scholarly efforts. The heroin and hashish trafficking of the Afghan resistance is never mentioned, nor is the contra-cocaine connection, the CIA in southeast Asia, or the CIA's Nugan Hand Bank that laundered drug money. Ehrenfeld probably hasn't heard about DEA agents who complain that the traffickers they arrest are protected by the CIA. And what about Michael Harari, the Mossad agent who served as a close advisor to Manuel Noriega? Or Israeli arms sales to numerous other sleazy governments that wouldn't hesitate to turn a profit on drugs? Ehrenfeld could have improved this book by spending less time with the suits in Washington, and more time doing field research.

Kruger, Henrik. The Great Heroin Coup: Drugs, Intelligence, and International Fascism. Boston: South End Press, 1980. 240 pages. (Originally published in Denmark as "Smukke Serge og Heroinen" in 1976.)

Henrik Kruger spent five years as a correspondent in Bangkok, Santiago, and Washington for the Copenhagen daily "Politiken," and has written or co-authored eight books. His work on what is today called "narcoterrorism" began more than ten years before the term was used in the U.S., and without the anti-Soviet baggage that became obligatory under the sponsorship of Reagan-era think tanks. Unfortunately this book is one of a kind and is invariably ignored by today's mainstream writers.

The Great Heroin Coup raises awkward questions. The first half of the book concerns French intelligence, the OAS, the Corsican Mafia and the CIA, the Ben Barka affair, and the story of Christian David; the second half examines the CIA and Mafia in the Golden Triangle, Cuban exiles in Florida, the Nixon-Vesco connection, and the CIA's infiltration of the DEA in Latin America. The conclusion is not essential to the rich detail and dense footnoting throughout the book, but here it is: Nixon's war against the Turkey-Marseilles heroin allowed Trafficante's marketing "coup" using heroin from Southeast Asia, and for Kruger it appears that there may have been passive collusion in high places.

Lintner, Bertil. Burma in Revolt: Opium and Insurgency Since 1948. Boulder CO: Westview Press, 1994. 515 pages.

The Golden Triangle stretches into Thailand, Laos, and southern China, but it is the Burmese portion that is, according to the U.S. State Department, the "undisputed leader" of world opium production and the source of two-thirds of the heroin on American streets. In 1989, a New York court charged Khun Sa with attempted smuggling, and in 1994 DEA chief Thomas Constantine called him the "most important drug lord on the entire globe." Others disagree, pointing out that Khun Sa has frequently offered to grow substitute crops in exchange for Shan independence. This book shows that particular drug lords are not the problem. Rather, a massive economic and organized-crime infrastructure, combined with corruption, repression, and insurgent nationalism, has been behind the opium trade for decades.

Since 1994 Khun Sa has been squeezed by the Burmese army and the rival Wa faction, and weakened by defections. By now he's almost out of the picture, but this won't have much impact on smuggling. Although the Chinese Triads are still the biggest players, other syndicates have begun cashing in on the Golden Triangle, including the Russian mafia, Nigerian smugglers, North Korean agents, and Japanese thugs. Meanwhile, the Burmese junta has sidetracked foreign criticism of its repressive policies merely by opening up their country to foreign investment.

Marshall, Jonathan. Drug Wars: Corruption, Counterinsurgency and Covert Operations in the Third World. Forestville CA: Cohan & Cohen Publishers, 1991. 90 pages.

This is a short book on an important topic. The 264 end notes, in addition to the fact that this is not Jonathan Marshall's first book on this topic, mean that there is a lot packed into these 90 pages. His main point is that the war against drugs can never succeed, due to the laws of supply and demand. Yet it continues, because the massive infrastructure of drug enforcement, anti-organized crime efforts, money laundering detection, counterinsurgency, and military special forces have become addicted to the battle nonetheless. Caught in the middle are the poor countries. On one side they are destabilized with narcodollars and criminal syndicates, while on the other side the U.S. bankrolls powerful security forces that shift the balance from elected parliaments to military elites. Examples are noted from Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Thailand and Burma.

Since the end of the Cold War, there is a dangerous new tendency for U.S. counterinsurgency elites to substitute "drugs" as the new enemy, now that "communists" are hard to sell at budget time. The CIA supposedly joined the drug war in 1969, but their role is still unconvincing. The worst aspect of this "drugs as the enemy" tendency might be yet to come in America: counterinsurgency not merely as foreign policy, but also as domestic policy.

Messick, Hank. Of Grass and Snow: The Secret Criminal Elite. Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1979. 190 pages.

This book is Messick's attempt to expose the new elements behind the drug trade: blacks and Cubans, South Americans, and the counterculture. He describes the trade in marijuana, cocaine, and heroin, and the efforts of U.S. federal and local authorities to curb the supply. Richard Nixon's war on drugs -- which involved Lucien Conein and 14 ex-CIA agents assigned to him, all operating through the DEA -- is discussed in one chapter. Rumors that this was some sort of assassination squad are still circulating today.

Hank Messick's many books on organized crime are widely respected. In 1965 he was hired by the Miami Herald for a series on Meyer Lansky, and his first book, The Silent Syndicate (1967), reported on crime and gambling in Kentucky and Ohio. Messick makes a distinction between the syndicate and the Mafia. The former is international and multicultural, and often includes the latter as a subset. But beginning with the Joseph Valachi hearings in 1963 and J. Edgar Hoover's "La Cosa Nostra" hype, the Mafia got all the attention while Lansky was left alone. Messick was the first to hint at the reason for this: Hoover had been compromised by Lansky, as Anthony Summers recently confirmed in "Official and Confidential" (1993). This debate is significant today for assassination theorists, because most "Mafia did it" authors still give Lansky a mere footnote or two at best.

Mills, James. The Underground Empire: Where Crime and Governments Embrace. Garden City NY: Doubleday, 1986. 1165 pages.

James Mills spent five years on four continents hobnobbing with DEA agents to come up with this massive book. Even without footnotes or an index, and more flashy dialogue than historical perspective, it's quite impressive. The overworked DEA agents are Mills' heroes, working long hours with minimal resources in their war against the "Underground Empire" of internationally- organized heroin and cocaine producers and distributors. DEA has a low opinion of the CIA -- which either mucks up the DEA's priorities through incompetent meddling, or perhaps has their own agenda. So the war continues against the "sovereign, proud, expansionist" Empire, which "has become today as ruthlessly acquisitive and exploitative as any nineteenth-century imperial kingdom, as far-reaching as the British Empire, as determinedly cohesive as the states of the American republic. Aggressive and violent by nature, the Underground Empire maintains its own armies, diplomats, intelli- gence services, banks, merchant fleets, and airlines. It seeks to extend its dominance by any means, from clandestine subversion to open warfare."

Okay, so we invest the muscle needed to stop all this, and no doubt the world's trains will soon run on time also. But why not legalize drugs, and tax them at a rate that reflects their social costs? No comment on this, because Mills is content with his story of good guys vs. bad guys.

Stich, Rodney. Drugging America: A Trojan Horse. Diablo Western Press (P.O. Box 5, Alamo CA 94507, Tel: 800-247-7389), 1999. 519 pages.

A former FAA inspector turned whistleblower, Rodney Stich publishes name-intensive tomes that detail instances of corruption within the U.S. federal government. His shotgun-like prose blasts away at the CIA, DIA, DEA, FBI, INS, Customs, Secret Service, prosecutors, and judges who go along. In this book he adds international drug traffickers and corrupt Mexican officials to his list. Many of his sources are former adventurers, opportunists, CIA spooks, gunrunning pilots, agents, informers, assorted hucksters, and con artists. Some once saw themselves as commie-kicking patriots, but now they feel more like victims. Others ran afoul of someone higher up, and are now behind bars. Rodney Stich is their court of last resort -- he is willing to listen, and willing to spend time and effort confirming their stories and petitioning officials on their behalf.

Stich sees the U.S. as massively corrupt, and the war on drugs as the most corrupt and wasteful enterprise of all. In addition to his own sources, he is also beginning to dig out anti-establishment research from the 1960s and 1970s. (Unlike most of his cowboy sources, Stich now feels that the U.S. had no business in Vietnam to begin with.) Our "Entertainment Tonight" monoculture has no room for Rodney Stich's energetic moral outrage; he'll always have to publish his own books. That's why he's welcome in NameBase.

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