Archive for the ‘War on Drugs’ Category

The Devil Has Landed: Ciudad Juarez, The War on Drugs, the Military Industrial Complex, and Mass Murder

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

Last year, of those 2,600-plus murders in [Ciudad] Juárez, there were thirty arrests. Not solutions, just arrests.
—Charles Bowden

See Bowden’s The War Next Door.

The dangerous, mass murder capital of the world, Ciudad Juarez, on the Mexican-USA border, is in the news today after two American consulate workers were tragically gunned down there.

Who are we kidding? This place is a war-zone—how dissimilar from Afghanistan or Iraq, or even Darfur or the Congo? I don’t know, but this may be the worst place—or at least the most dangerous place—in the world to live. The CBC documentary show the Passionate Eye called the Ciudad Juarez “hell on earth” and “the most murderous city on earth”.

I think Ciudad Juarez offers the bystander (bystander way out of the city, thank god) the awful and life-killing mix of the military industrial complex* (90% of Mexican Drug Cartel’s arms come from the US), poverty, the abysmal War on Drugs*, and cutthroat capitalism all in high cancer mode. These potent forces all converge on this Mexican border city—Ciudad Juarez—about ten seconds (and maybe a world away) from El Paso, Texas.

See the Passionate Eyes’ Mexico’s Drug Wars (it mentions the 90% arms from the US).

It’s just atrocious and sad and desperate, and all Hillary Clinton could offer was more billions for military might in the War on Drugs—after admitting the War on Drugs was a failure! Orwell must have coughed up one of his poor tubercular lungs.

According to Charles Bowden:

The official line of the U.S. government, one most recently voiced by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is that drug consumers in the United States are responsible for drug murders in Mexico. Only someone who is drugged could believe this claim. The sole source of the enormous amount of money in the drug business and the accompanying violence is the U.S. prohibition of drug use by its citizens. Since President Richard Nixon proclaimed the War on Drugs 40 years ago, there have been two notable accomplishments: Drugs are cheaper than ever, and they are of much higher quality.

Harper’s Magazine, from Charles Bowden’s very depressing, brutal and fear-inducing article called The Sicario: A Juarez Hitman Speaks, which basically describes the horror of how much endless brutality human beings willingly inflict on other human beings:

I have published two books on the slaughter of the city, reporting there from 1995, when murder in Juárez ran at two to three hundred a year, until 2008, when 1,607 people were killed. And that is only the official tally—no one really keeps track of those who are taken and never heard from again. I am a prisoner of all this killing.

Yet, in all of this, somehow—please, explain to me how!—this group, fDi (Foreign Direct Investment), in a contest with the label somewhere called, Global Direct Investment Solutions, actually voted Ciudad Juarez the fDi City of the Future for 2007/2008.

What possible planet could the people in this business group live on? What criteria must they use? This is the same mentality that leaves externalities out of standard economic statistics and conversations, including figuring out the GNP. Externalities, for the record, are by-products of economic transactions (drug commerce in Juarez, for example)—like, say, pollution or mass executions. Heartbreaking.

fDi Magazine’s website is obviously crap, but supposedly they are “…an English-language bi-monthly news and foreign direct investment publication owned by The Financial Times Business Group and edited in London.”

Well done, boys. So many of these despotic places are actually good for “business”—guaranteed cheap labour, no environmental laws, and a good paramilitary for business-to-worker relations.

For the record, I don’t want to paint Ciudad Juarez with a single brush, of course. After all, I know nothing, barely—okay, nothing—about what it’s really like there, writing from a laptop in my comfortable northern home. Further, the most challenging urban centres and even so-called slums, wherever they are, are profoundly diverse, always with many brave people fighting for social justice, for honest survival, for a chance to raise their kids in a decent way, and with widely varying politics, dreams and integrity. The word ‘slum’ can be used to inspire compassion, and with some truth, but it can also be used, and is used, as a euphemism for ‘not worth anything’; to allow the bulldozing over of areas where people have lived with great integrity but without property title or justice for generations—so building contractors can go in and gentrify, or whatever, expelling masses of people to Nowhereville. This happens in Mumbai, for example.

But the violence in Ciudad Juarez is undeniably extreme. America, the largest consumers of illicit drugs in the world, have to repair their drug policy, before fear runs everything.

WAR ON DRUGS/WAR ON CITIZENS

To everyone’s peril (other than drug trafficking cartels, smaller drug sellers and multinational weapons producers and their secondary black market sellers—and a few other fallout businesses including massive government spending), the War on Drugs just keeps bringing this violence closer to home, as we saw last summer with the drug-related shooting sprees in Vancouver. And these drug lords are now literally making the Forbes Top 100 richest or most powerful people—some grand title.

Here’s an important interview with Charles Bowden, today, on Democracy Now. An excerpt:

DEMOCRACY NOW: And can you paint a picture of Ciudad Juárez? How has it changed over the years?

CHARLES BOWDEN: Well, you know, what’s changed is—this is simple. Twenty-seven percent of the houses in the city are abandoned. That’s 116,000 units. This is in a city where people live in cardboard boxes sometimes. Ten thousand businesses have given up and closed in the last year. Thirty to sixty thousand people from Juárez, mainly the rich, have moved across the river to El Paso for safety, including the mayor of Juárez, who likes to bunk in El Paso. And the publisher of the newspaper there lives in El Paso. Somewhere between 100,000 and 400,000 people simply left the city. A lot of the problem is economic, not simply violence. At least 100,000 jobs in the border factories have vanished during this recession because of the competition from Asia. There’s 500 to 900 gangs there, estimates vary.

So what you have is you have—and then you lay on top of it 10,000 federal troops and federal police agents all marauding. You have a city where no one goes out at night; where small businesses all pay extortion; where 20,000 cars were officially stolen last year; where 2,600-plus people were officially murdered last year; where nobody keeps track of the people who have been kidnapped and never come back; where nobody counts the people buried in secret burying grounds, and they, in an unseemly way, claw out of the earth from time to time. You’ve got a disaster. And you have a million people, too poor to leave, imprisoned in it. And they’re going to be the people that the Mexican army and the Mexican police will make sure the President never meets today when he descends on Juárez for his sort of official visit. That’s the city.

Stand up for community, understand, as best you can, the profit motives for multiple parties with the War on Drugs and believe in love, and more love, and more love. Keep going!

Pete

*But don’t you think, most importantly, the War on Drugs (and how money is made) combined with the Military Industrial Complex (and how money is made) are the biggest gas-on-the-fire problems? Maybe? Of course poverty too. But the selling of two potentially horrid and soul-destroying (or at least body-destroying) creations—drugs and arms—for exorbitant and addicting profits are a problem to quality of life.

Indeed, with the Military Industrial Complex, the ghosts of former US President Dwight Eisenhower’s speech may have risen, all over the world (Eisenhower gave the famous 1961 leaving-office speech on the huge danger of the Military Industrial Complex). Those ghosts are working (fully armed) more and more close to home (and I don’t mean to downplay the effect of small arms all over the US already).

And Eisenhower, knowing the danger of the MIC, made some grand undemocratic policies of his own, particular in 53/54 at the start of his presidency. He backed the overthrow of two democratic-like governments (both for business interests). The first action was for the oil in Iran (yes, democratic Iran) and the overthrow of secular Dr. Mossadegh who was nationalizing that oil; the second was on behalf of or at least supported by the notorious United Fruit Company in Guatemala, and the overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz.

WHO’S ON DRUGS REALLY?: Legal Drugs, Legal Killing, Illegal Drugs, the War on Drugs and Big Pharma

Friday, December 18th, 2009

The following couple of paragraphs and the mention of Big Pharma (the Pharmaceutical Industry) are from my Open Letter to Richard Dawkins a few days ago—he hasn’t written back! And then below them, I quote from an interview with Dr Barbara Starfield.

I’m not sure what you think, but it seems to me that if scientists observing the same scientific data can end up in such a war of words, insults and polarized results [ie with man-made climate change], one can conclude a couple of possibilities, or a combination thereof:

One, that a scientist’s perspective on scientific data is actually alarmingly subjective—despite being considered science. Thus, one could ask, under certain conditions, of what use is it—particularly with human existence under pressure?

Or, two, if the scientific data on, say, climate change, is as undeniable as scientists say (on whichever side), then a percentage of scientists obviously can be so easily bought as to leave scientific ‘fact’ in peril—as we’ve seen perhaps with countless conscious or unconscious scientific stooges for, say, Big Pharma, or the Military Industrial Complex.

Dr Starfield published in 2000 in the Journal of the American Medical Association a study/article called: “Is US health really the best in the world?”

In it Starfield states there are in the US, yearly, 225,000 medically-caused deaths—deaths caused by the health care system—with 106,000 of those deaths coming from FDA-approved medicines that I think she said were used “not counter to regulations.”

To put that in a bigger perspective, consider these stats (from an article called “Actual Causes of Death in the United States, 2000″, also in the Journal of the American Medical Association, March 10, 2004).

Tobacco: 435,000 deaths; Poor Diet and Physical Inactivity 365,000 deaths; Alcohol 85,000 deaths.

Illicit drug deaths (both directly and indirectly caused) was 17,000.

And deaths by marijuana are actually zero.

Zero.

Although quite a few people were late for work, some got seriously paranoid, and one choked on a Cheezie (but, evidently, recovered). And I’m sure people have died being stoned and driving, undoubtedly. So zero isn’t quite accurate, to be sure. And chronic marijuana use, in my opinion, would undoubtedly cause some problems. Inhaling smoke into the lungs etc…

But what we do know is that there are thousands of people with chronic and terminal illnesses who undoubtedly used marijuana as pain relief and to decrease nausea, where nothing else would work. And I am not condoning casual marijuana use. I couldn’t care less—but I’m not condoning it. It’s just that its criminalization is such a perverse, dismal, giant, tragic joke!

Anyway, aren’t the legal prescription drug stats something to weep about? Heck, supposedly 7,000 people a year actually die from taking anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS).

Here’s an excerpt of the email interview, questions from Jon Rappaport, answers from Barbara Starfield:

Since the FDA approves every medical drug given to the American people, and certifies it as safe and effective, how can that agency remain calm about the fact that these medicines are causing 106,000 deaths per year?

Even though there will always be adverse events that cannot be anticipated, the fact is that more and more unsafe drugs are being approved for use. Many people attribute that to the fact that the pharmaceutical industry is (for the past ten years or so) required to pay the FDA for reviews—which puts the FDA into a untenable position of working for the industry it is regulating. There is a large literature on this.

Aren’t your 2000 findings a severe indictment of the FDA and its standard practices?

They are an indictment of the US health care industry: insurance companies, specialty and disease-oriented medical academia, the pharmaceutical and device manufacturing industries, all of which contribute heavily to re-election campaigns of members of Congress. The problem is that we do not have a government that is free of influence of vested interests. Alas, [it] is a general problem of our society—which clearly unbalances democracy.

Can you offer an opinion about how the FDA can be so mortally wrong about so many drugs?

Yes, it cannot divest itself from vested interests. (Again, [there is] a large literature about this, mostly unrecognized by the people because the industry-supported media give it no attention.

Are you aware of any systematic efforts, since your 2000 JAMA study was published, to remedy the main categories of medically caused deaths in the US?

No systematic efforts; however, there have been a lot of studies. Most of them indicate higher rates [of death] than I calculated.

What was your personal reaction when you reached the conclusion that the US medical system was the third leading cause of death in the US?

I had previously done studies on international comparisons and knew that there were serious deficits in the US health care system, most notably in lack of universal coverage and a very poor primary care infrastructure. So I wasn’t surprised.

Has anyone from the FDA, since 2000, contacted you about the statistical findings in your JAMA paper?

NO. Please remember that the problem is not only that some drugs are dangerous but that many drugs are overused or inappropriately used. The US public does not seem to recognize that inappropriate care is dangerous—more does not mean better. The problem is NOT mainly with the FDA but with population expectations. [imagine how often eating more unprocessed food (and less processed food) and doing more exercise—walking even!—would so easily help meet and surpass "population expectations", and be self-empowering. We seem to have largely forgotten—in our all access culture—that we are simply machines, in a sense, complex energy systems in a bigger system that follows cycles and linear time simultaneously, and requires self-listening and constant maintenance.]

… Some drugs are downright dangerous; they may be prescribed according to regulations but they are dangerous.

Concerning the national health plan before Congress—if the bill is passed, and it is business as usual after that, and medical care continues to be delivered in the same fashion, isn’t it logical to assume that the 225,000 deaths per year will rise?

Probably—but the balance is not clear. Certainly, those who are not insured now and will get help with financing will probably be marginally better off overall.

Do the 106,000 deaths from medical drugs only involve drugs prescribed to patients in hospitals, or does this statistic also cover people prescribed drugs who are not in-patients in hospitals?

I tried to include everything in my estimates. Since the commentary was written, many more dangerous drugs have been added to the marketplace.

106,000 people die as a result of CORRECTLY prescribed medicines. I believe that was your point in your 2000 study. Overuse of a drug or inappropriate use of a drug would not fall under the category of “correctly prescribed.” Therefore, people who die after “overuse” or “inappropriate use” would be IN ADDITION TO the 106,000 and would fall into another or other categories.

‘Appropriate’ means that it is not counter to regulations. That does not mean that the drugs do not have adverse effects.

The full interview is here.

Intellectually arm yourself. Hope this helps.

Lots of love,

Pete

REFORM VIA STRANGE CIRCUMSTANCES: From Anti-Immigration/Racism to Canada’s First Drug Law

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

“…it’s misleading to say the Left has usually been in favour of a strong State and the Right a weak State [what a joke, anyway]. The question is, really, what did they want the State to do? To smash poverty, or smash heads? To break up monopolies or break unions? To end poverty or exterminate native people? Much of the Left and the Right have called for State intervention; the real question is, for what purposes?
—Mark Leier

Why do reforms happen? Well, the reasons are infinite, of course, depending on time, place and circumstance, and who knows what else (follow the money). But I was just reading about how labour movements in Western Canada, around the turn of the century, and in a noble fight for dignity (safety, fair pay etc) were so against immigration from Europe (Italians, Slavs) and even more so China, Japan and India.

The policies were for some, I am sure, pragmatism gone awry—cheap labour killed whatever power a union could get—for others, thick racism.

I thought you might find this interesting, from the year 1900:

1900 – [Mega industrialist] James Dunsmuir is elected Premier of [British Columbia], after running on a platform that focused on Asian exclusion. He took this to a level that none of his competitors could match [or afford], by promising voters that he would replace all of the Asian workers at his Nanaimo mines with Europeans.

It gets even uglier seven years later:

1907 – 7 September – A rally organized by the racist Asiatic Exclusion League and the trade unions of Vancouver was held at city hall in Vancouver to protest increasing Asian immigration to Canada.

Many white workers perceived these immigrants as threats to their jobs in the resource industries, because existing white chauvinism was exacerbated by the employment of Asian immigrants at far lower wages.

The rally, which attracted 8000 people, quickly became violent, and an attack was launched on Vancouver’s Chinatown. Thousands of dollars of damage was done to buildings as marchers smashed windows and shouted racist slogans.

The Chinese community in Vancouver declared a three-day general strike in protest, and armed themselves with rocks, sticks and guns in preparation for a return attack. A second riot did occur, a few days later, when the local papers published accounts of Asians buying up guns. The police intervened in the second riot, but not before residents of Chinatown, perched on the roofs of their buildings, rained a hail of rocks and bottles down on the invading mob.

Despite the willingness of the attacked minorities to defend themselves when it came to physical danger, they were entirely without weapons in the legislatures, courts and popular press in Canada.

The full piece is here.

This, for me, is big pause for contemplation as to what is truly behind anti-immigration laws, and the opposite, in different countries. Racism? Labour protection? Labour crushing?

Anyway, just after reading the above, I read the following excerpt from a doctoral thesis by Catherine Carstairs called ‘Hop Heads’ and ‘Hypes’: Drug Use, Regulation and Resistance in Canada, 1920-1961 (my italics):

Canada’s first drug law was the indirect result of anti-Asian riots on the West Coast in 1907.’ [see above]

The government sent Deputy Minister of Labour, William Lyon Mackenzie King [who would later become Prime Minister of Canada], to investigate the riots and the claims for compensation.

One of the claims was by several opium manufacturers who up until that time had been operating openly and legally on the West Coast. When he was in British Columbia, members of a Chinese anti-opium league called upon King and asked for the government’s help in their efforts to discourage and prevent the manufacture and sale of opium.

King subsequently tabled a report that warned that opium smoking was not confined to the Chinese in British Columbia and that it was spreading to white women and girls. He quoted a newspaper clipping that told the story of a pretty young girl who had been found in a Chinese opium den.

His report reviewed the progress of the anti-opium movement in China [despite the British and the Opium Wars, their demanding free trade of the product!], the United States, England and Japan, leaving the impression that Canada was far behind in this international moral reform movement!

Some things really never do change.

A few weeks later the Minister of Labour introduced legislation prohibiting the manufacture, sale and importation of opium for other than medicinal purposes. The legislation passed without debate.

Three years later the government prohibited the use of opium and other drugs.

In 1911, the sale or possession of morphine, opium or cocaine became an offense carrying a maximum penalty of one year’s imprisonment and a $500 fine. There was no minimum penalty. Smoking opium was a separate offense and carried a maximum penalty of $50 and one month imprisonment. Again, there was no minimum penalty.

Racist unions, who by definition defend the little guy? The Democrats voting down the Civil Rights Act in 1965? The ‘fiscally responsible’ Reagan Republicans turning the USA from the richest creditor nation to the world’s biggest debtor nation? and so on, and on and on. The bail out in countries that claim to be free market (and have never been).

Funny how we humans yearn for words to make sense of things, when slowly, so many words have ceased to have real meaning—other than to obfuscate. Is that the right word? I don’t know—other than to confuse us.

Anyway, history I found tonight, that I thought you might find provocative.

Lots of love to you,

Pete

Portugal and the War on Drugs: Compare it to Mexico

Friday, May 1st, 2009

I’m not exactly sure why the War on Drugs so intrigues me, but I think it partially has to do with the disaster of extreme addiction being somehow related to all of us, in some subtle way. Further, our fear and sometimes hatred of harm reduction for others (and ultimately ourselves) reminds me so much of our human limitations on compassion and self-exploration.

Incidentally, this harm reduction limitation reveals itself everywhere, including our relationship to the health care system and our tolerance of and even support for feeding children food that encourages sickness, among countless other places.

Anyway, a provocative article here in Time magazine on Portugal’s approach to drugs and addiction. These statistics from Portugal, of course, are neither definitive nor the answer to a varied and profoundly difficult complex, but they are instructive, to say the least.

With a compassionate eye, at the bottom of the article, check out the photos on the hell being paid in Mexico and across the border—for citizens, plain ol’ folks, no different than you or I—for the abject failure known as the War on Drugs.

The War on Drugs policies appear to foster an increase in five crucial, social disasters: 1) a climate of excessive incarceration, 2) astronomical wealth for illegal activities, 3) property crime via the users, 4) the temptation of pay-offs to police and government through threat and bribe, and 5) violence that ensues from all four. Further, it does so little, if anything, for limiting drug use, as US statistics of drug use seem to show.

So ask yourself who benefits?

The above also tend to further marginalize disenfranchised groups, as is seen with indigenous peoples in Canada, and blacks in the States.

And finally, the underbelly of the War On Drugs has helped fund covert and even less-than-covert wars.

Here’s to intelligent, pragmatic and compassionate harm reduction (which expands to harm reduction for society) for anyone in psychic or physical pain,

Pete

The ADDICTION of the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT: Insite and the Seeking of Insight on the War On Drugs

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

If it wasn’t for Insite or Onsite, I guarantee I’d be dead for sure. There’s no question about that. I didn’t see any future in my life. Now things are working out for me…We’re all human beings just trying to find our little spot in the world. And some people have got dealt cards that aren’t the greatest. Today I’ve got a choice, and before I didn’t see the choice. For me, the choice is never to use again, no matter what.
—Guy, 39, recovering addict. Started doing heroin at 16. He’s also had long term jail sentences for armed robbery.

As the Federal Government—still in direct line with American and Bush policies on the failed-miserably War on Drugs—goes to court to fight the judges’ ruling (I believe that Insite can continue to operate), this article from the Courier.

As I read how some of these people live utterly miserable lives on the streets or in bed-bug infested hotels, and desperately stick needles full of tainted heroin into veins in the head or neck (also, see the first chapters of Gabor Mate’s In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, if you dare), I can’t believe anybody thinks these actions are done by choice, in any sane sense of the word.

The Courier article is here.

Imagine for a moment if medications/painkillers for all life-style induced diseases were made illegal—like Type II diabetes (80-90% lifestyle induced according to the WHO), smoking or fat-eating induced heart disease, or alcohol induced organ disease, to name only some obvious medical and medical system disasters? Big Pharma would go broke.

Severe drug addiction often has root causes that the rest of us would flinch and cringe even hearing about, let alone having to experience. It seems to me that harm reduction is a compassionate and pragmatic objective.

In 1875, US Constitutional expert Lysander Spooner wrote:

Vices are those acts by which a man harms himself or his property.

Crimes are those acts by which one man harms the person or property of another.

Vices are simply the errors which a man makes in his search after his own happiness. Unlike crimes, they imply no malice toward others, and no interference with their persons or property.

In vices, the very essence of crime—that is, the design to injure the person or property of another—is wanting.

Unless, of course, we criminalize the vice. Then the side-effects of a person’s vice begin to reach all of us in much larger amounts.

More love and compassion to you and yours, whether warm in bed, dreaming peacefully, or brutalized by the mere experience of being alive—and all else in between,

Pete xox

WAR ON DRUGS in CANADA: This is the best they can come up with?

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

I know it’s a profoundly difficult situation for countless emotional, practical, economic and life-threatening reasons to leaders etc, I am sure, but the following approach to the so-called War on Drugs, whether somewhat necessary or not, is still symbolic of our collective myopic thinking. From the Vancouver Sun:

Tens of thousands of workers at B.C. airports and ports are among 100,000 people nationwide who may be affected by a security crackdown announced by the Conservative government.

The initiative comes through a new deal signed this week by the federal Transport Department and the RCMP to weed out organized-crime [re: drugs] operatives from restricted areas, Canwest News Service has learned.

And then this:

Government [re: state] officials were not immediately able to explain how the new Transport Canada-RCMP agreement would improve individual privacy risks, nor could they provide cost estimates of running the detailed background checks.

Of course. And then this:

The RCMP released a report last year that warned there were more than 60 employees with links to organized crime at the country’s eight largest airports, and many organized gangs were found to be using the airports for some of their activities.

No kidding.

The full article is here. My views need not be repeated. And I don’t even expect change, but I would love true and honest, non-fear based conversation in the highest echelons of power and corruption. And you can be sure, excessive drug use within a culture—including alcohol and cigarettes—is a terrible yet instructive expression of a society’s health as a whole (or lack of whole).

Gabor Mate writes, with pages explaining this on either side, before it’s sloughed off as bleeding-heart etc:

The drug addict is today’s scapegoat. Viewed honestly, much of our culture is geared towards enticing us away from ourselves, into externally directed activity, into diverting the mind from ennui and distress. The hardcore addict surrenders her pretence about that. The rest of us can, with varying success, maintain our charade, but to do so, we banish her to the margins of society.

And could it be, with this denial, our social policies fail accordingly, ongoingly, and expensively? Granted, there is no cure for all ennui, all dislocation. But should we not seek, with inelligence and compassion, it’s overall improvement?

Just imagine the military force, security, incarceration and all out war that it will take in a so-called capitalist society to shut down one of the most extreme profit-margin commodities known on the planet—oil, gambling, pornography and other blatant addictions notwithstanding? And, just as we see in Mexico today, a ridiculous portion of the society will end up scarred, killed, interrogated and violated by state edicts, by the process—common citizens, you and I, our children.

Who are we kidding? What’s the deeper purpose? Or deeper ignorance?

I will quote, once again, Kash Heed, former Chief Constable of West Vancouver, who lays out the extraordinary market potential of opium. In short, as a profit-making venture in a profit-oriented world—in a world in so many places of inconceivable inequity—the lure of narco-trafficking profits are overwhelming.:

“The price paid to a Pakistani farmer for opium is approximately $90 a kilo. The wholesale price in Pakistan is almost $3000. The North American wholesale price is $80,000. On the street at 40% purity, the retail price is $290,000 (World Drug Report, 1997)…

Hear that. Ninety dollars a kilo to $290,000 on the street at 40% purity. Heed goes on to say:

“…People making vast profits from the drug market distance themselves from the activities on the street. They do not commit the crimes themselves, they manage criminal enterprises…Cutting off the supply at times is hopeless. The drug business is simply too profitable.”

Even Milton Friedman, in Newsweek Magazine in 1972:

“Why not simply end the drug traffic? That is where experience under Prohibition is most relevant. We cannot end the drug traffic…

So long as large sums of money are involved—and they are bound to be if drugs are illegal—it is literally hopeless to expect to end the traffic or even to reduce seriously its scope. In drugs, as in other areas, persuasion and example are likely to be far more effective than the use of force to shape others in our image…”

It’s so intoxicating, if you’ll excuse the pun, vast numbers of policemen in NYC in the early 70s were paid off—and paid more—for being involved or turning a blind eye.

Do we believe this doesn’t happen today? Us against them? And non-addicts against drug-addicts? Excuse me while I have my eighth cup of coffee etc. And just wait till after work and the fun starts, so I can really forget my day, our collective predicament…

Big money is difficult to turn down, virtually impossible, I would guess, under certain circumstances of stress, envy, poverty and/or greed.

From Friedman again:

“I readily grant that the ethical issue is difficult and that men of goodwill may well disagree [i do too]. Fortunately, we need not resolve the ethical issue to agree on policy. Prohibition is an attempted cure that makes matters worse—for both the addict and the rest of us. Hence, even if you regard present policy toward drugs as ethically justified, considerations of expediency make that policy most unwise…

When I’m quoting economist Milton Friedman, I must be desperate. We are all addicts in one way or another. Some legal. Some not. Some destroying ourselves. Others praised, yet destroying relationships. Others praised and destroying the environment, and the lives of countless others. And a mix of all I’ve said.

Love more,

Pete xox

PS: The quotes from Friedman and Kash Heed, and their links, can be found here, and followed accordingly.

Hillary Clinton’s insight and then lack of sincerity on the War on Drugs

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

One might think from certain choices and statements made by politicians, they’re on drugs.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton flew to Mexico a couple of weeks ago. Mexico, for the record, has had tens of thousands of brutal War On Drugs/drug cartel-related killings over the last few years, and 7000 murders since January alone—and we thought it was bad in Vancouver lately, with our recent killings from drug wars here. In Mexico, common citizens, folks like you and me, have been flocking to the States and Canada, trying to get away from the violence resulting from the selling of illegal drugs.

And so Hillary, arriving in Mexico at the end of March, said, rightly:

MEXICO CITY, March 25—Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton traveled to Mexico on Wednesday with a blunt mea culpa, saying that decades of U.S. anti-narcotics policies have been a failure and have contributed to the explosion of drug violence south of the border.

The major force of the policies in terms of tax-paying dollars are increased enforcement (enforcement-related activities in Canada’s drug strategy make up 75 percent of our anti-drug policy), literally no discussion of decriminalizing or regulating illegal drugs (except of course the big killers tobacco and booze), and increased incarceration.

The result? Massively rich criminals (and I don’t just mean politicians and the weapon builders), the funding of covert wars, vast amounts of armed killings, no decrease in drug use and a terrifying rise in incarceration, a big factor in America, the land of the free, being the most heavily incarcerated country in the world. Never forget the world includes beacons of freedom like China, Russia and the Middle East.

Clinton states:

“Clearly what we’ve been doing [our anti illegal narcotic policies] has not worked,” Clinton told reporters on her plane at the start of her two-day trip, saying that U.S. policies on curbing drug use, narcotics shipments and the flow of guns have been ineffective.

“Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade,” she added. “Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the deaths of police, of soldiers and civilians.”

She even…

…acknowledged that proceeds from drugs sold in the United States—an estimated $15 billion to $25 billion a yearsupport Mexican drug gangs.

Good on her. Brave statement: Weapons. Criminals making massive profits. Bad news. Now we’re getting somewhere. And obviously, as any sincere person would do, she then at least mentioned the idea of decriminalization to, if not diminish drug use, help put the criminals largely out of business, right?

Not so fast, Mr Progressive. Hillary’s ‘change’ in policy? Well, here it is:

…two years ago, [Mexican] President Felipe Calderan unleashed the Mexican military on traffickers, a move that has contributed to an explosion of violence by drug gangs. More than 7,000 Mexicans have been killed in the bloodletting since January 2008, with the gangs battling authorities and one another for supremacy.

…[Clinton praised] Calderan’s “courage”…announcing that the Obama administration is seeking $66 million in new funding for extra helicopters for the Mexican police. She also pledged further unspecified steps to block the movement of guns southward

Hmm. Remember the old commercial: ‘This is your brain on drugs’? A revamp: ‘This is a politician’s brain. This line of thinking is a politician’s brain on drugs.’

Hillary Clinton increased the war by increasing the weapons, making weapons-dealers richer, surely making illegal drugs more expensive, thereby increasing profits to the dealers their fighting, and consequently increasing desperation and theft to support a more expensive habit for the users. And, of course, more citizens will be killed in the crossfire. Well done, Ms Clinton. Very courageous.

And here’s the rub: Clinton states that ‘America’s’ need for illegal drugs is “insatiable” but never asks why this insatiable desire exists. I don’t have a definitive answer, of course—who does?—but experts like the brilliant Gabor Mate and Bruce Alexander, both in Vancouver, ironically, sure can add wisdom to the conversation.

THE ROLE OF FEAR AND INTEGRITY

I’m going to write about it soon, but it occurred to me the other day that after having so wonderfully supporting these drug lords neo-capitalist dreams for so long, and benefiting in countless covert ways, the drug lords are currently so rich and powerful—as in Mexico—perhaps politicians are now terrified for their life to even speak of decriminalization or regulation of currently illegal drugs.

Such madness might already be here, and we don’t even know it. Wouldn’t that be a surprise in a democracy?

From an article in the Georgia Straight:

Where Canada’s war on drugs may lead to in the future worries Tony Smith, a retired 28-year veteran of the Vancouver Police Department and also a LEAP member.

In Mexico, Smith noted, drug cartels have grown so powerful with profits from the drug trade that they can either buy off police, judges, and politicians or kill them at will.

“What’s really the difference here and there?” Smith asked in a phone interview with the Straight.

In the U.S., according to Smith, there’s much talk about drug corruption among law enforcers. That may not be the case in Canada, but he warned that once it starts happening here, “you won’t know which policemen are under the pay of the drug people and which policemen aren’t” and “it’s a very thin line once you approach that point.”

What if, Smith asked, somebody comes “stepping out of the line and thinks, ‘Well, you know, screw it. I’m in a bit of a problem here. I’ll just take out the policeman or the judge or whatever.’ And once that occurs, then we’ll have total anarchy.”

Not pretty. Keep your discernment sharp, and your compassion high, and your belief in freedom ongoing—including freedom from fear of violence and incarceration. Why? Because one day, maybe today, the chance to vote, stand or act will come, and solidarity, compassion and intelligence will be vital.

Love to you,

Pete xox

NOAM CHOMSKY ON DRUGS, yet again

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

I actually wrote a long paper called Noam Chomsky On Drugs, about the Insite safe injection site on the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver, and the madness and hypocrisy of the War On Drugs. It was fascinating research. But I never heard this four-minute talk from Chomsky, largely about the perverse history of prohibition of marijuana.

Now remember, for what it’s worth, I do not use drugs. I do not even drink alcohol (maybe a sip of wine on rare occasions). But all the realities of the disaster of drug use aside (and alcohol and cigarettes are the worst), the delusion behind what we call the War On Drugs, and how we moralize against some drug use, is simply startling, fascinating and compelling in its hypocrisy.

This is from Chomsky, and he can’t even help but laugh as he describes studies in the 1930s showing the effects of marijuana on dogs—it makes them insane, evidently. One might even say barking mad. After getting stoned, all they want to do is watch TV, lick their balls and laugh at bad cat jokes (I made the last sentence up)

Here’s the kicker. According to youtube, this video is, or may be, offensive to minors! The world is insane. Have you seen the ‘kill anybody in sight’ video games minors can play with?

By the way, I hate the term minor. It’s like minor, as in not yet fully significant.

The audio is here.

Lots of love to you, and freedom,

Pete xox

KICKING IT: The Homeless World Cup

Monday, March 16th, 2009

Conn Smythe once said about hockey: “If you can’t beat them in the alley, you can’t beat them on the ice.” Well in this film about soccer, most of the players live in the alley, or the street, or the slum.

Kicking It is a film about thousands of homeless soccer—football!—players from around the world competing to represent their country (there’s irony in that), and then competing for their country at the Homeless World Cup.

All I can say is I thought the Colin Farrell introduction and ending was a little cheesy, it wasn’t shot overwhelmingly well, the ESPN sportscaster announcer did not sound live, but an overdub (it may have been live) and, with all that, I loved every second of the film. I smiled virtually the whole time, sometimes with tears—and felt a few tragedies. Being human is not easy.

Thank god for grace, gratitude, love.

It reminded me that, no matter what we are doing, there’s always tomorrow, or at least tonight. It reminded me that whenever you’re so happy because you won, there’s always someone so hurt they lost, and vice-versa. There is something bigger than those feelings. Much bigger. And finally, it taught me that there’s always—and it’s just as beautiful and important—a consolation round, a B-group, a silver medal, a participation ribbon, a win after too many losses—that still feels like a World Cup win.

Ah yeah—and it reminded me that so much about Nation-states should be questioned, ignored, etc. We are sisters and brothers. So many boundaries, borders, are our own.

Life, it seems to me wonce in awhile, is this moment. Celebrate it, maximize it, observe it, be thankful for it, let it go, cause as little harm as possible, smile if you can, put your self in someone else’s football cleats, ask who you are, what you stand for—be who you are. Life will go on. Love more.

I recommend the film with great joy.

Lots of love,

Pete

CORNY, MAN: Swimming Against the Current (Ideology)

Friday, February 20th, 2009

Michael Phelps, of course, has been dropped by Kellogg’s for smoking dope. Fair enough. A clause is a clause, I guess.

Now first off, the fact that Phelps could have drank 28 beers and passed out in his own vomit and kept the sponsorship is mildly instructive.

But the big hypocrisy is this: the fact that, because they offer money, Kellogg’s can actually hint that their breakfast cereals—corn flakes and frosted flakes!—might do anything other than promote virtually empty calories and type II diabetes is the real crime. And I know Michael Phelps eats a ton of junk food, but still…

Here are the ingredients:

MILLED CORN, SUGAR, MALT FLAVORING, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, SALT, SODIUM ASCORBATE AND ASCORBIC ACID (VITAMIN C), NIACINAMIDE, IRON, PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B6), RIBOFLAVIN (VITAMIN B2), THIAMIN HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B1), VITAMIN A PALMITATE, FOLIC ACID, BHT (PRESERVATIVE), VITAMIN B12, AND VITAMIN D.

Okay, so there are a few vitamins, and evidently it’s kosher (on the Kellogg’s website), which I think means the cow didn’t bleed all over itself at the moment of slaughter. Great, it just suffered for the months prior to the slaughter.

See, this shite food is yet another corn product. And high fructose corn syrup is just the worst for type II diabetes and general ill-health.

This corn craze is crazy. Corn fed to cows pathologically ravages their stomach lining. There was a time when cows were actually grass fed. And corn is subsidized intensely in the so-called free market world, meaning cows are communist. Heck, Phelps’ bong was probably made out of some corn product. And Phelps, given his diet, is probably three-quarters corn.

Corn flakes. Frosted flakes. Marijuana? If anything, marijuana is a gateway drug that leads to junk food. That’s why I don’t smoke—it might lead to Cheezies. Why isn’t really crappy food illegal?

And it’s not as though elsewhere, outside of arresting 20 million people for marijuana, we humans stress excessive love and/or nutrition for our fellow citizen: in hockey you can punch somebody in the face repeatedly, with a bare fist and get only a five minute penalty; you can take steroids up the yin-yang in baseball (okay, that’s supposedly illegal, now); you can take enough hits to the head in football to be a bumbling mess in your forties, but you can’t, well, you know…

But man that guy can swim. Imagine if he ate well and wasn’t constantly stoned. He’d probably be a basketball player.

Take care of your beautiful, beautiful body,

Pete xoxo

BUSTED UP OVER ENDLESS BUSTS: Cigarettes, Alcohol, Marijuana and the devastating Hypocrisy of the War On Drugs.

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

I don’t smoke cigarettes, I don’t drink alcohol, and I don’t smoke marijuana—in fact I never have smoked a joint. So other than admitting I am the world’s most boring person, I also say this as a disclaimer of non-agenda. In fact, I have zero affection for these three drugs.

However, I despise far more—and believe it to be just as dangerous (because hypocrisy is endlessly pervasive)—the political and moral hypocrisy of the fact that (from an article by Paul Armentano called 20 Million Arrests, and Counting):

“…one American [is] arrested for pot every 38 seconds.

Yet despite this massive increase in arrests—by contrast, federal statistics indicate that adult marijuana use has remained fairly stable over the past decade—the mass media and Congress continue to ignore the story.

By doing so, they ignore the plight of millions of Americans who suffer significant sanctions and hardships because of pot-related run-ins with law enforcement. These penalties include probation and mandatory drug testing; loss of employment; loss of child custody; removal from subsidized housing; asset forfeiture; loss of student aid; loss of voting privileges; loss of adoption rights; and loss of certain federal welfare benefits, such as food stamps.

Talk about disenfranchising and criminalizing a society—a mostly young society, to boot. You know, booze was once legal, too. So was hiding a fugitive slave.

And alcohol? Hardly anyone can gather at a party without bringing this hopeless intoxicant (excluding of course quality dark beer from micro-breweries). Joking. Whatever.

Look, doesn’t the obligatory bringing of alcohol ever make you take pause? Conversations with people whose company one truly delights in isn’t enough without intoxicants? Granted, real idiots can be at parties, too—but don’t they just become bigger idiots after a case of Coors? And don’t get me wrong, I am anti-prohibition. Not unlike the old saying that you only truly believe in free speech if you defend the right of people to say things you despise.

Either way, according to the book Getting to Maybe (pg 190):

“[Drunk driving] remains the single largest criminal cause of death in Canada, where approximately 1,500 people are killed each year as a result of impaired driving, a number about three times higher than the murder rate. The situation is worse in the United States.”

Killed. That excludes injured, maimed, paralyzed, brain damaged etc, which is logically much higher.

And hundreds of thousands die of smoking related diseases in North America every year—and don’t kid yourself, those deaths are often extremely violent. I watched a friend die of lung cancer. It wasn’t pretty. A beautiful, dignified person—and by the end he didn’t have the energy, strength or lung capacity to wipe himself (which wasn’t a regular problem because of the brutally constipating side-effect of taking morphine for the agony he was in.

Ah, yes. Cigarettes.

By the way, he was still, of course, incredibly dignified.

The original article continues.

Some Americans serve time for pot. Nearly 13 percent of state inmates and 12.4 percent of federal inmates are incarcerated for marijuna-related drug violations, according to a 2006 Bureau of Justice Statistics report. (The report did not include the estimated percentage of inmates incarcerated in county jails for pot-related offenses.)

In human terms, this means that some 34,000 state inmates and an estimated 11,000 federal inmates are serving time behind bars for violating marijuana laws.

In fiscal terms, this means U.S. taxpayers are spending more than $1 billion annually to imprison pot offenders.

Well done, small government.

The front-end criminal justice costs—such as the number of hours a police officer must put in to arrest and process the average pot offender—is far greater. Some researchers, such as Harvard University economist Jeffery Miron, estimate it at upward of $7 billion a year.

Heck, that’s 1/100th of the bailout. Think of the war machines you could build for 7 billion dollars.

But the financial and social costs tell only part of the story.

Up to 70 percent of all individuals in drug treatment for pot are placed there by the criminal justice system, according to statistics published by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

It’s just an insane amount of hypocrisy—so much so that I end up defending drug use. That is really perverse. Statistics further show that 1 in 3 of those people put into rehab had not smoked marijuana thirty days prior to admission.

Geezuz. Just a little pot for thought. Stay vigilant in your critical thinking, to be sure. And love more, man. That’s the thing. And if you are spiritual-minded, so-called, you don’t have to keep looking to the sky to be closer to God: we increase our divinity by increasing our humanity. Be yourself. Cause no harm. See more and more people as sisters and brothers, until there is nobody unrelated.

Lots of love,

Pete

The Creepiness of Monsanto and Agribusiness: Controlling The World’s Food—One Farm, One Seed At A Time

Sunday, March 30th, 2008

“What you are seeing is not just a consolidation of seed companies, it’s really a consolidation of the entire food chain…”
—R Fraley, Co-President of Monsanto’s Agricultural Sector, 1996

I confess, I feel food is not just vital for life, but by the mystery in which it sustains life, and is life, it is sacred. I also believe it would be much preferable if people who cared about food were growing our food, protecting our food, preparing our food and so on.

Unfortunately, caring about food and understanding the human-food relationship in any sustainable/socially responsible/beautiful way is not what comes out of the grinder of modern corporate philosophy.

To quote again legendary business guru Peter Drucker, speaking without irony or moral confusion, from the film The Corporation:

If you have a business executive who really wants to take on social responsibilities, get rid of him fast. He doesn’t have the right sense of priorities and will do a poor job running the business.

YE OLDE FEUDAL SYSTEM

Here’s another truly insidious way the process of control and takeover unfolds in the agribusiness world. This one involves Monsanto’s Roundup-Ready herbicide tolerant soybeans (Monsanto is a symbol of the war being waged by these corporate behemoths beholden to no one save profits).

This from an article by Tim Philpott called Dominant Traits: Monsanto’s latest court triumph cloaks massive market power, that is really worth reading.

An excerpt:

To understand how this product conquered the farm belt so rapidly, you have to understand how large-scale commodity farmers make decisions. Your neighbor tries a new product, and suddenly boasts weed-free fields and yields that trump yours.

He reveals that he bought newfangled, high-dollar seeds—and more than made his money back with the higher yield. So you do the same. Trouble is, everyone else does, too—and the higher yields nationwide lead to lower prices for soy, erasing any advantage of the new seeds.

Indeed, USDA figures show that soybean production surged after the introduction of herbicide-tolerant varieties in 1995—and prices dropped. Soy prices didn’t recover in any meaningful way until the great biofuel boom that started in 2006. All things being equal, technologies that increase yield end up lowering prices—erasing any net gain for farmers.

Thus in their rush to adapt new technologies, farmers aren’t working in their own interest, but rather in the interests of big corporate buyers like Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill—and, of course, in the interests of the companies that sell the new technologies, like Monsanto.

The full article is here, and again, really worth reading.

A friend of mine (with a passion for ‘games theory’ which shows that humans, surprise, surprise, will often do what they think is best for themselves, but it turns out it’s not!), quite by coincidence, sent me this message, for which I do not have references, but I thought it was informative:

This effect you mention here is also illustrated by the use of Posilac to boost cows’ milk production. Thankfully, it’s not permitted in Canada, but in the US most of the cows (or “production units” as Monsanto calls them) are boosted with hormones that increase milk production at the cost of a higher pus content in the milk and pain for the animals.

Watch the simplicity of the mechanism, again:

All cows produce more milk, prices fall, and there’s no benefit except to Monsanto, who sells the hormone. Precisely the same economic effect as with the soybeans, and the same social mechanism: the individually optimal strategy produces the worst collective result.

And for Monsanto’s diversification and contribution to the War on Drugs, take a look at this blog from a few days ago.

I know, I know, somebody’s got to do it.

Finally, in personal communication, legendary Indian journalist P Sainath summed up subsidies, Monsanto and the ‘free market’ this way:

Neither Monsanto nor any of the other majors would have any chance in a decent world that placed people above profits and communities above corporations.

The ‘free market’ does not exist. It means a situation where corporations are Free to Market, [to] impose, using various dirty tricks, their crap on the world. If it were not for US and EU subsidies for instance, world cotton prices would be double what they are, and farmers in Vidharbha and West Africa would come out of debt.

Food for thought. Support people who care about food, about the cycle of this journey, about sustainability, about smaller enterprise, and individuality, about fair play.

If this begins with phoning your mother to tell her you love her, do it. After that, check out the massive connections political candidates and leaders have with agribusiness, factory farms and other ugly, ugly, ugly processes. Between appointees for the FDA, the EPA, their direct links with big businesses, and contributions to leaders, there is a never-stop-spinning revolving door of conflict-of-interest connections.

Money can buy lots of things, like power, and Monsanto can kill beetles, but as the Beatles said, “money can’t buy you love.”

Love to you and yours—and may growing and eating food be remembered as the sacred cycle that it is,

Pete

KILLER RELATIONSHIPS: AGRIBUSINESS, THE WAR ON DRUGS and MONSANTO

Monday, March 24th, 2008

The mass suicides that take place across the world with peasant farmers as they lose their farms to subsidized agribusiness (for different reasons) is a devastating and well-documented side-effect of uglier and uglier massive corporate control of our food.

Agribusiness’ connection to the so-called war on drugs is less obvious, or well known. I heard this in a film called Plan Colombia: Cashing In On The Drug War Failure. Plan Colombia is the controversial American Plan, begun under President Clinton in 98/99 I believe, of what to do with and how to eradicate Colombia drug trafficking.

What was mentioned in the film surprised me—and although I haven’t read any supporting documentation, this is what was said:

“Despite thirty years of US led war on drugs, and the fall of flamboyant drug lord Pablo Escobar, the traffic seems healthier than ever, with tens of millions of users and hundreds of billions of dollars of profit.

No longer imported from Peru and Bolivia, coca leaves—the primary ingredient of cocaine—are now home grown in practically all parts of Colombia.

Hundreds of thousands of farmers, driven to poverty by the international agribusiness competition, have been hired by the traffickers…

And here’s an interesting addition to Monsanto’s diversification, just to cover all their profit angles of worldwide crop control—by law or by terror—also from the film:

“The Monsanto chemical corporation was commissioned by the US State department to provide a defoliant that could be spread on large areas of forest from a safe altitude above insecure terrirtories.

The result was Roundup-Ultra, a modification of the commercially available Round-Up weed killer [see Canadian farmer, Percy Schmeiser], with a new formulation which has not been disclosed.

With rain and humidity, these deadly chemicals are running into the water supply of the entire Amazon basin—and issue that effects not only Colombia, but parts of Ecudaor, Peru and Brazil as well.”

William Brownfield, current US Ambassador to Colombia, says he has seen no credible scientific data showing these defoliants are dangerous. Dr Theo Colborn, from the World Widlife Fund, offers this in response:

“One of the earlier studies discovered that Round Up—or glyphosate—actually interferes with enzyme systems in the thyroid, in the brain, in the liver abd the pancreas.

And one of the studies actually showed that gyphosate caused tumours in the thyroid, and also in the pancreas, and in the ladig cells, or the testicals. These are the cells that are critical for sperm production in the male.”

I thought you might find it revealing, and even inspiring to consider what you’re eating, and who makes it—support your local food producers! Believe in food!

Lots of love to you,

Pete

The War On Drugs: Smoke (and Mirrors) and the Plan Colombia

Friday, March 14th, 2008

“[Plan Colombia is] not so much an aid program as another way to subsidize the Military Industrial Complex in the United States.”
—William Hartung

I’ve written a lot about the war on drugs, and I admit I know very little about the inner workings, the whys—and even less about what could be done about it. Further, undoubtedly there are many brave and conscientious individuals fighting against trafficking and drug use.

But whether by design or not, the so-called War On Drugs serves to marginalise certain groups of people—generally people of colour—while also helping to profoundly fund counter-insurgency wars, counter-terrorism and proxy wars all over the world.

To name a few examples, the Afghan war after the Russian Invasion (where drug money helped fund the solidarity movement of disparate extremist Islamic groups and individuals to fight the Russians), the Taliban now, the Contras in Nicaragua, Colombia, Vietnam etc etc.

INNER-CITIES AND CRIME

As for marginalizing certain already marginalized groups, here’s a thought: supposedly some twenty-five years ago, the incarceration rate in the United States was roughly the same, per capita, as much of Western Europe. Today the rate is something like five to ten times as high, per capita, as most of Europe, and much of that is to do with drug-related incarceration. How can that be?

I’m not saying one shouldn’t be against drugs, or believe whatever one believes to be right about drug problems. Countless lives are shattered by drugs, mostly booze and cigarettes. And it is the combination of the criminilization of drugs and the drugs themselves that shatters most lives in the illegal drug world—at the profit of many. A quick walk around the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver will reveal that.

I’m just saying don’t believe the political rhetoric on the drug wars.

ECONOMICS 101

Consider this from author Alfred McCoy:

“The UN report [1997, at the general Assembly] concluded that the global traffic in all illicit drugs represents 8 percent of world trade.

The traffic in illicit narcotics is larger than the trade in textiles, which is a human fundamental. Food, shelter, clothing are the three human fundamentals. Well, illicit narcotics as international trade is larger than one of those three human fundamentals.

So the attempt to apply crude instruments of repression—police, law and military—to a global narcotic traffic is simply irrational.”

For a further interesting primer, check out the film Plan Colombia: Cashing In On The Drug War Failure. Like the escalating incarceration rate, this plan really took hold during the Clinton years, I believe, and the Plan’s double purpose seems quite evident.

One watches this film and realises—even if what’s told is only partially true—that the real objectives of Plan Colombia are a far cry from the solely expressed objectives of erradicating cocaine trafficking out of Colombia.

Even oil rears its ugly spout yet again—though I rarely hear about Colombian oil.

Military strikes are largely targetted against guerilla groups in Colombia (where 20 to 30 million of the 40 million people are in deep poverty), while the major association of drug money appears to be with the paramilitary (government sponsored troops). Targeting the guerrilla groups, however, is to the great advantage of multinational oil interests.

Luis Murillo, ex-governor of the Choco region in Colombia, explains it this way:

“Over the past decade, Colombia went from producing 100,000 barrels of oil a day, to now producing close to 900,000 thousand barrels a day.

Colombia is now the seventh largest provider of oil to the US.

To give you an idea, Venezuela produces 1,600,000 barrels a day. Colombia, 900,000—and nobody pays attention.

And it is also a sweet deal for foreign companies because Colombia [unlike Venezuela, of course] went from having a fifty-fifty profit sharing with these companies, to offering now a seventy-five percent deal in favour of multinational corporations, with only 25% in favour of the Colombian government.”

And the banks—surprise, surprise—are also complicit. This from the film:

“An estimated 400 billion narco-dollars in solid cash are still freely moving about the world’s largest financial institutions every year, without anybody apparently noticing anything.”

And in trying to reveal what money is dirty (good luck), the US Banking Lobby has been militantly opposed to the passing of ‘anti-money laundering bills’ because—well, perhaps it’s because:

“About half of narco-trafficking dollars pass through US banks.”

WAR ON CAMELS

And, as I said, of course sincere people are working very hard and undoubtedly risking their lives to try and stop the import of drugs etc. But after reading the followng statistics, and the nature of comments in the Economist, who can take the War On Drugs line seriously?

I know some people don’t equate cigarettes with the War On Drugs. That is understandable. But then again, Tobacco companies don’t equate the two either, and who wants to be in step with their propaganda of death?

Further, the argument that cigarettes do not cause violence is only partially true. Death by smoking related diseases is often extremely violent—I’ve seen it first hand—and the cost of the habit is economically violent, both as a user and in terms of health costs—massively so with its full blown export to the developing world.

And the numbers of deaths by cigarettes dwarf all other deaths by drugs combined. Supposedly 2.3 million people die in Asia every year from smoking-related illness—its own sort of self-induced holocaust and misery. That’s a solid land war. What ever happened to “Never again!” there?

Consider this from the Economist article: How To Save A Billion People, where the writer lays out the death toll, and the Tobacco industry’s relentless invasion of the developed world, and yet calls California’s anti-smoking legislation “draconian.”

Typical. From the Economist:

“[Smoking] cuts short the lives of between a third and half of its practitioners.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), perhaps 100 million people died prematurely during the 20th century as a result of tobacco, making it the leading preventable cause of death and one of the top killers overall. Another 1 billion more may die from it in this century if current trends continue unchecked.

And then, although some 700 million Asians will light up today and smoking by women in Russia has doubled since the collapse of Communism in 1991, they go on to say:

The draconian curbs introduced by California in 1998 have been followed, at least in part, by well over half America’s states. But the number of smokers in China, India and other developing countries is continuing to grow, as addiction spreads faster than information.

And that’s all as legal as blowing your nose. That about says it all. I would counter that a five-to-ten fold increase in incarceration rates is a true draconian implementation, but maybe I’m naive. After all, profit is profit—which is one of the major forces that makes drug trafficking virtually impossible to decrease, let alone control.

The full article is here, and worth the read.

Don’t change your views on drugs, whatever they are, if you feel them. But don’t fall for the War On Drugs’ rhetoric. It’s been an abysmal, expensive failure for decades—for those who are sincere about it, anyway.

Time for a smoke break (kidding). I’ve actually got a cold, so it’s time for sleep. Lots of love to you and yours—and the potential of the human brain to figure its very own course in intellectual self-defense,

Pete xo

The Lost War—Assuming There Was Ever A War At All

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

Take a deep breath, and then check out this recent article in the Washington Post, from Misha Glenny (August 19, 2007), entitled The Lost War: We’ve Spent 36 Years and [hundreds of] Billions of Dollars Fighting It, but the Drug Trade Keeps Growing.

An excerpt:

Thirty-six years and hundreds of billions of dollars after President Richard M. Nixon launched the war on drugs, consumers worldwide are taking more narcotics and criminals are making fatter profits than ever before.

The syndicates that control narcotics production and distribution reap the profits from an annual turnover of $400 billion to $500 billion.

And terrorist organizations such as the Taliban are using this money to expand their operations and buy ever more sophisticated weapons, threatening Western security.

Similar patterns, as everyone knows, were used by the prototype of the Taliban, the American-sponsored mujahideen “Freedom Fighters”, as Ronald Reagan called them, in the Afghan War against the Russian invaders, where a million or more Afghans died.

Drug-trafficking was also used with American leadership awareness to finance the Contras in their American-backed civil war in Nicaragua.

Indeed, the list, in varying degrees, allegedly goes on and on with the list of proxy wars.

It turns out that the most addictive and deadly habit to come out of the War On Drugs is the use of drugs to fund rapacious murderers, thugs, State terrorism, counter-terrorism, straightforward terrorism, and blame it on, or in support of, the War On Terror.

The sick paradox is overwhelming. But taking a step back, try to see the web from a wider angle.

One begins to picture a relationship of one (the War On Terror) feeding off the other (The War On Drugs) and vice-versa, like an ever-moving, shifting, somehow-invisible, war and death spreading machine (and I don’t even like science fiction!).

And utterly inherent in the War On Drugs and the War On Terror relationship is the relentless world-wide small arms trade (and not so small arms trade).

The trade in illegal narcotics begets violence, poverty and tragedy. And wherever I went around the world, gangsters, cops, victims, academics and politicians delivered the same message: The war on drugs is the underlying cause of the misery.

Everywhere, that is, except Washington, where a powerful bipartisan consensus has turned the issue into a political third rail.

The problem starts with prohibition, the basis of the war on drugs.

To read the entire article, press here:

Just before I finish, one thing might deserve mentioning:

The idea of the War On Drugs being a failure depends on what the objectives actually are.

In short, only if the objective of the War On Drugs is 1) increased incarceration (specifically of minorities) and 2) support of the hundreds of billions of dollars generated by the selling of illegal substances that actually props up the economy with paper money (for example Miami in the ’80s) and 3) the endless support of proxy wars, could the policy be considered a success.

Just maybe those three things largely are the objectives (with 2) actually a by-product.

Or as Steven B. Duke, the Law of Science and Technology Professor at Yale Law School puts it:

If [the Drug War’s] purpose is to make criminals out of one in three African-American males, it has succeeded.

If its purpose is to create one of the highest crime rates in the world—and thus to provide permanent fodder for demagogues who decry crime and promise to do something about it—it is achieving that end.

If its purpose is de facto repeal of the Bill of Rights, victory is well in sight.

If its purpose is to transfer individual freedom to the central government, it is carrying that off as well as any of our real wars did.

If its purpose is to destroy our inner cities by making them war zones, triumph is near.

In considerable ways, this turns out to be so.

Success is found in what is called the “Drug-Industrial-Complex,�? where drug war “costs�? turn out to be “gains�? for construction firms, private prisons, often built in rural areas, and so on.

Meanwhile, with the gentrification of, say, certain areas of New York, a not insignificant amount of displaced people—women and children—have migrated to these rural areas, living in hovels. Why? To be closer to the prisons housing their partners, the fathers of their children.

The term “Drug-Industrial-Complex�?, of course, is taken from the “Military-Industrial-Complex�?, which President Eisenhower urgently and perhaps hopelessly warned the American public against in his legendary farewell speech of 1960.

The external, social—even foreign—effects of the War On Drugs are so extreme, so insidious, that after years of being in agreement, even William F Buckley can no longer stomach its growth:

Buckley, speaking to the New York Bar Association:

[T]he drug war is many times more painful, in all its manifestations, than would be the licensing of drugs combined with intensive education of non-users and intensive education designed to warn those who experiment with drugs.

We have seen a substantial reduction in the use of tobacco over the last thirty years, and this is not because tobacco became illegal but because a sentient community began, in substantial numbers, to apprehend the high cost of tobacco to human health…

And added to the above is the point of civil justice. Those who suffer from the abuse of drugs have themselves to blame for it.

This does not mean that society is absolved from active concern for their plight.

It does mean that their plight is subordinate to the plight of those citizens who do not experiment with drugs but whose life, liberty, and property are substantially affected by the illegalization of the drugs sought after by the minority.

I have not spoken of the cost to our society of the astonishing legal weapons available now to policemen and prosecutors; of the penalty of forfeiture of one’s home and property for violation of laws which, though designed to advance the war against drugs, could legally be used—I am told by learned counsel—as penalties for the neglect of one’s pets.

I leave it at this, that it is outrageous to live in a society whose laws tolerate sending young people to life in prison because they grew, or distributed, a dozen ounces of marijuana.

I would hope that the good offices of your vital profession would mobilize at least to protest such excesses of wartime zeal, the legal equivalent of a My Lai massacre.

And perhaps proceed to recommend the legalization of the sale of most drugs, except to minors.

But to think the War On Drugs, for certain policy makers, is simply a failure may in fact miss the point. Just like with the absolute destruction of Iraq, allowing for American control of oil in the area, the objectives of the War On Drugs may be different than what we all think.

From Noam Chomsky:

[The War On Drugs] is highly effective domestically in controlling and eliminating superfluous people and enriching powerful sectors, [and] it’s highly effective overseas in counterinsurgency.

Of course it has no effect on drug use, so liberal critics can wail about how it’s money wasted, though any ten-year old could figure out that if a huge costly program continues year after year without success in its proclaimed goals, then the actual goals must be different—and they’re easy to figure out.

But since that doesn’t conform to the Party Line, it’s unthinkable.

It is hard (on the heart) to think that.

But it’s also, year after year, study after study, proxy war after proxy war, punishingly hard to believe something so catastrophic to civilians and peace as the War On Drugs via incarceration could be continued—indeed commanded—by sane people without other motives.

Or maybe it’s just evolution: the genetic predisposition of certain forms of human life, unconsciously manipulated by an ever-increasing world-population squeeze and environmental degradation killing thousands of species a year.

And I told you I don’t even like science fiction—but don’t you get the feeling we’re somehow living in the middle of a curious experiment? And if Buckley and Chomsky being in agreement (and Milton Friedman, too, incidentally) isn’t science fiction, then I’m E.T.

By the way, call home.

Whatever your take on the situation, fight paranoia, fight hatred, embrace love, courage and action. Love your sisters and brothers, that all beings may be a little happier…

Pete xox

The War On Drugs (Give Truth A Chance)

Monday, December 11th, 2006

The War on Drugs, as so many almost instinctively know, has limited meaning when held up against the connections between CIA covert operations, drug smuggling, and the resulting rise in heroin and cocaine addiction in America, and all across the West (not to mention Pakistan, China, India, Indochina etc).

Nonetheless, just the other night a friend of mine who is in law enforcement in Vancouver was passionately telling me about the disastrous lack of rehab (0), detox (1) and mental health facilities in Vancouver, and how 5 percent of the “criminal” population in Vancouver literally commit 100% of the property crime.

Further, many of these people commit literally hundreds of property crimes without either being incarcerated or put into rehabilitation (for virtually all of them are drug addicts).

I might have got those stats all wrong, but something like that. I would like to write about this soon.

Judicially, the courts and the judges who have power, do not have whatever collective solidarity it takes to stand up and do something progressive about this problem: in short, demand more rehabilitation and mental health facilities.

What this means in detail, what sort of rehabilitation facilities are needed and so on, needs to be worked on and worked out, of course—probably most efficiently in partnership with drug addicts, or at least former drug addicts.

And what about the question of legalizing drugs, as is the case with alcohol and tobacco? For the record, the amount of death and the cost caused by their use and perhaps their legalization is staggering, and systematically encouraged.

Perhaps judges, by their generally “conservative” ideologies, believe endeavours like more rehab would increase the welfare state and would also be “soft on crime.”

To anyone remotely interested in reality, a cursory glance at what ‘conservative’ governments since and including President Reagan have done to the American economy would see the danger of these ideological misconceptions.

And I am no supporter of the Democrats/Liberals, either.

The cost of putting these “criminals” through the court system literally hundreds of times, only to be back on the street, overdosing and thus through the medical system, breaking and entering and then returning to the courts to be slapped on the wrist and kicked back onto the streets again is, evidently, insanely exorbitant and costly to the tax-payer.

Admittedly, any form of change, let alone finding answers to social mayhem, is more than difficult to enact. And even then you’ve got to get your friends at the banquet to agree.

Nonetheless, Ben Franklin once wrote: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

It seems this is true for both those addicted to drugs and those of us addicted to our ideology.

Incarceration is also unsustainable—and some could argue often inhumane—as we are all beginning to see in the US prison system, which has become Big Business for a few, and disastrous and expensive for the rest (both criminals and taxpayers).

But let’s save this essay for another, better informed day.

***

On Friday over lunch, a good friend of mine asked me to explain a different drug dynamic: the connection of drugs and the CIA—ie in Indochina, the Nicaraguan Contra scandal, Afghanistan in the 1980s and so on.

I couldn’t do it very well.

These covert, illegal, often immoral missions are remarkably confusing.

Nonetheless, before trying to delve into the “criminal” negligence on the East side of Vancouver, I’ve decided to try and put together a relatively simple synopsis of CIA drug involvement for me and for him—and of course, anybody else.

If anybody can add, enhance, clarify or question this simplification—or knows or can quote anyone who might—that would be great.

Here’s a little info. Despite all we know about the world, the troubles, the wars, this seemingly unstoppable unfairness and inhumane cruelty, it’s still, on some strange level, difficult to believe any of this CIA/drug involvement is true, or real. But alas…

In The Beginning, there was the Seed

Drug smuggling into China was undertaken in earnest by the British in the early to mid 1800s, at the height of her Empire. The negative response to this, or what is today known as “blowback,” resulted in the Opium Wars.

The very short of it was this: China’s goods were of value to the West, but China was not much interested in Western (British) goods, and was a very closed society in general.

As Britain’s deficit with China increased, Britain finally found a product the Chinese would, if they got a taste for it, find difficult to refuse:

Opium.

Opium, however, was not wanted in China, at least by the authorities. The smuggling of opium into China made Britain one of the great narco-traffickers in history.

By the 1830s, via the British smuggling of opium, to a large degree from India (whom the British were colonizing at the time), into China:

…opium had became a vice in China. Virtually all men under 40 smoked opium. The entire army was addicted. It affected all classes of people, from rich merchants to Taoists. The total number of addicts in China in the 1830′s was as high as 12 million.

Battles over trade continued. With opium addictions out of control, China made the drug illegal, with possible death as punishment for its use, and decided they would not be open to foreign trade at all. Britain opposed this, of course, and war broke out.

The British victory—due in part to China’s closed borders and resulting limited military technological advancement—forced open Chinese borders to trade.

Thus, Britain could now sell opium legally, like toothpaste and ipods, in a more open market, so-called. By all accounts, the victor’s post war treaties were deeply punitive upon China.

Nonetheless, according to American President John Quincy Adams the wars (1841, 1842) were not a result of opium any more “…than the throwing overboard of the tea in the Boston harbour was the cause of North American Revolution.”

After this time (sometime around the 1870s), and supposedly until the 1960s, Britain “farmed out” these narco-trafficking businesses to what are known as the Triads (roughly, underworld Asian criminal organizations in Hong Kong, Macau, mainland China, Taiwan etc).

This technique of supporting clandestine narco-traffickers and drug producing groups for funds would also be employed by the CIA.

DRUGS and THE CIA

At the end of World War II, the United States and the USSR became the two world superpowers, occupying a position that had primarily and previously been held by Great Britain.

Despite the USSR’s siding with America and Britain against Hitler’s Germany during the latter part of the WW II, with the war’s close Russia was considered different and dangerous (as they had been considered before the war with the Red Scare).

Thus began the Cold War, which became the dominant paradigm from 1946 onwards.

The battle was considered ideological, between democracy (so-called) and Communism (so-called).

The dominant feature of the struggle was massive arms build up.

At the same time, colonized countries all over the world—primarily India, and in Africa, Latin America and also the Middle East—were fighting for their independence against, generally, their former European occupiers.

The rebels in these colonized countries would generally adopt an ideology which defined their cause. This ideology would often be influenced further by whether they received support from the West (America, generally) or the USSR.

If rebel groups striving for independence from their colonial oppressors appeared to be adopting Communist (socialist/Marxist) tendencies that impinged on American interests, American foreign policy would often fund groups opposed to these rebels.

These are known as proxy wars.

According to Wikipedia, a “…proxy war is a war where two powers use third parties as a supplement or a substitute for fighting each other directly.”

The reasons behind American intervention have generally been explained as their commitment to freedom, and the necessity of stopping the evils of Communism rising and/or spreading.

A less mainstream response—but highly visible in say Vietnam (1962-1975) or Nicaragua in the 1980s—is the belief that America is simply fighting against these rebels to maintain or obtain American (Empirical) Business interests/resources in a specific country and its region.

Because proxy wars do not directly involve the United States and they are often brutal, impinge on sovereign rights and ignore international law, it can sometimes be difficult for the US government and Big Business interests to convince a democracy (and Congress) to help fund these wars.

Alternate sources of funding may be needed.

These funds can be created through the selling of arms for money—which is an aspect of what the Iran Contra scandal was about. These wars can also be funded directly or indirectly by the trafficking of narcotics, mostly heroin and cocaine.

So the main purpose for the CIA to be involved in drug trafficking is:

Drug trafficking offers huge financing possibilities for these proxy wars, and the the means (drugs) justify the ends (freedom from Communism and/or control of resources in a given area, and a geo-strategic stronghold).

This funding can take place by direct involvement or by turning a blind eye to drug cartels and letting them traffic drugs without interference (including into America).

In return, the CIA covert operation or the rebels it is backing receive funds from a given drug trafficking group.

From here I’ll give a limited timeline and greater detail of at least a few of these proxy wars. I may also get long-winded and confusing, so feel free to bow out now claiming: “You SOB, that’s way too long for a blog!”

For the record, the general dynamic as stated above seems to remain consistent.

EARLY DAYS

ITALY:

There appears to have been CIA (then known as its precursor the OSS or Office of Strategic Services) drug involvement during the invasion of Italy and Sicily in 1943 before the end of World War II.

This took place by using the connections of imprisoned American narcotics smuggler and mafia leader “Lucky” Luciano, for example, to help with intelligence and support the advancement of invading American troops.

In return—and because of Mafia’s staunch anti-communist views—the OSS deliberately helped the syndicates regain an “economic and social standing” they hadn’t enjoyed since the rise of Italian fascism under Mussolini.

According to Wikipedia, “…this became the true turning point of mafia history and the new foundation for its subsequent 60-year career.”

For more about Italy after the war, it’s worth looking up the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) created Gladio project, which allegedly included terrorist actions against western citizens by western governments and rebel groups to counter rising Communist influence.

FRANCE:

In the late 1940s and early 50s, there was CIA involvement with the Corsican underworld in a battle to stop the rising tide of Communisn in France.

CHINA:

CIA involvement and the use of drug trafficking funding also took place along the Burma-Chinese border. CIA objectives were to support the anti-Communist Chinese forces (the KMT or Kuomingtang) against Mao’s Communist regime in China, which had taken power in China in 1949.

With the funding of the KMT, CIA involvement, tolerance and complicity of drug trafficking took place in that grand opium producing area known as the Golden Triangle, a ‘relatively lawless area’ where Burma (now Myanmar), Thailand and Laos all intersect.

CIA funding of the defeated KMT narco-traffickers took place at the same time as the Chinese Revolutionairies under the diabolical Mao were theoretically beginning to undermine these traffickers. At the time the area was allegedly producing 85% of the world’s heroin.

Although no invasion by Chinese Nationalists back into China took place, the project led to a KMT monopolization of heroin operations in the area, wherein KMT leaders sometimes became drug traffickers.

INDOCHINA (LAOS/VIETNAM/CAMBODIA)

CIA connections to the drug trade are well-documented with the Vietnam war, and very specifically to the secret war in Laos (1960-1975) and the supporting of anti-communist Hmong peasants there by helping them develop their military funding cash crop of choice.

Battles took place near the North Vietnamese border, and according to scholar Mahmood Mamdani (pg 68, Good Muslim, Bad Muslim):

The Hmong’s main cash crop was opium, and the CIA readily turned the other way as the Hmong Commander, General Vang Pao, used a Corsican charter to export his crop to distant markets.

In 1965, when the escalating air war and the political infighting in the Laotian elite “forced the small Corsican charter airlines out of the opium business,” General Pao was able “to use the CIA’s Air America to collect opium from his scattered highland villages…

The story goes on, much of it from Mamdani, much cited from Alfred McCoy’s The Politics of Heroin.

There are two areas that I’m going to key on through a few cited writings.

One is Afghanistan and the massive rise in heroin trafficking during the CIA bringing together of Islamic extremists (mujahideen) from all over the world in the 1980s to fight Russia.

The other is Nicaragua, and the Iran-Contra affair, where mostly cocaine drug trafficking and the sales of arms to Iran for money were used to finance the American-backed Contras against the Sandanistas in Nicaragua, who had come to power by overthrowing the brutal Somoza regime that had ruled for some forty years.

DIRTY WARS, DIRTY MONEY: The CIA and Islamic Extremists, Afghanistan 1979-1989

As mentioned, the American government’s response to counter Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan (sometimes called Russia’s Vietnam) was to bring together Islamic extremists from all over the world to fight the Russians (in Afghanistan).

According to Mahmood Mamdani, (pg 126):

[S]ustained cooperation between the CIA and Pakistan’s [secret service, the] Inter Service Intelligence (ISI)…[came together] to provide maximum firepower to the mujahideen and, politically, to recruit the most radically anti-Communist Islamists to counter Soviet forces.

The combined result was to flood the region not only with all kinds of weapons but also with the most radical Islamist recruits. The Islamist recruits came from all over the world, not only Muslim-majority countries such as Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Indonesia, but also such Muslim-minority countries as the United States and Britain…

The groups [the CIA] trained and sponsored shared a triple embrace: of terror tactics, of holy war as a political ideology, and of a transnational recruitment of fighters, who acquired hyphenated identities (163).

By hyphenated identities, Mamdani is referring to, among many, the notorious terrorist group al-Qaida.

Al-Qaida, of course, were the heinous 9/11 attackers, killing nearly four thousand citizens in one day in America—and god knows how many people elsewhere.

Their leader, the notorious Osama bin Laden, if not officially funded by the CIA, nonetheless was trained and came of age during the CIA-arranged gathering of Islamic extremists in Afghanistan from across the globe.

Ronald Reagan on several occasions praised the Afghan “freedom fighters,” and even invited a group to the White House, saying on March 10th, 1982: “…the freedom fighters of Afghanistan are defending principles of independence and freedom that form the basis of global security and stability.”

Members of the mujahideen would become the most extreme, misogynist, Islamic government in the world: the dreaded Taliban.

HEROES OF HEROIN

According to almost anybody, opium and heroin played a significant role in funding the Islamic extremists/American war against Russian expansion, creating what some call a second Golden Triangle.

McCoy writes, as cited in Chossudovsky:

[T]he Pakistan-Afghanistan borderlands became the world’s top heroin producer [overtaking Golden Triangle production], supplying 60 per cent of U.S. demand.

In Pakistan, the heroin-addict population went from near zero in 1979 to 1.2 million by 1985, a much steeper rise than in any other nation…

CIA assets again controlled this heroin trade. As the Mujahideen guerrillas seized territory inside Afghanistan, they ordered peasants to plant opium as a revolutionary tax. Across the border in Pakistan, Afghan leaders and local syndicates under the protection of Pakistan Intelligence operated hundreds of heroin laboratories. During this decade of wide-open drug-dealing, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in Islamabad failed to instigate major seizures or arrests…

In 1995, the former CIA director of the Afghan operation, Charles Cogan, admitted the CIA had indeed sacrificed the drug war to fight the Cold War. ‘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. There was fallout in terms of drugs, yes. But the main objective was accomplished. The Soviets left Afghanistan.

IRAN CONTRA(DICTIONS): The Destruction of Nicaragua

The Iran-Contra affair is remarkable for many reasons, one being it involved Ronald Reagan, uber-American Oliver North, drugs, terrorism, death squads, support for the arch enemy Iran, endless lies, abuse and disregard of Congress, and loads of illegalities, and yet its machinations remain difficult to explain with clarity.

For example, one of the most famous and respected reporters in the US is Pulitzer Prize winner Seymour Hersh. This is a funny exchange between him and Amy Goodman in a Democracy Now! interview.

AMY GOODMAN: And Seymour Hersh, for young people who don’t remember Iran-Contra, can you just fill people in on who Elliott Abrams is, his history?

SEYMOUR HERSH: Elliott Abrams was one of the key players in this incredibly wacky scheme we had in the Iran-Iraq war of two decades ago. Between 1980 and 1988, Iran and Iraq fought each other, and we supported Iraq.

We supported Saddam Hussein, the United States did, with a lot of secret arms, secret intelligence, even shipping him secret formulas that could be used to make biological weapons and chemical stuff and intelligence, etc, etc. And that was because of course, Khomeini—we had been kicked out of Iran, when our Shah, the Shah was overthrown.

We were terrified of the Shiite leadership there. And so, one of the plans, one of the schemes was, in the middle of all of this hostility, Ronald Reagan was so committed to the Contra War in Latin America, that is, defeating what he thought was a communist-led insurgency in Nicaragua in an election there, that he cut a deal to ship arms—let’s see. It’s complicated. They sold arms to Israel, which they were shipped, I think, into Iran. You help me out on this.

Anyway, the bottom line was that it was a policy that brought us into contact with Iran, secret trading. We were going to get weapons that were going to—the Israelis were going to buy weapons.

Money was—they were going to sell weapons to Iran. Money was going to be generated from that sale to support covertly, outside of Congress’s knowledge, to support aid for the opposition in Nicaragua that we favored—

AMY GOODMAN: For the Contras.

SEYMOUR HERSH: The Contras, yes, and so there we are. It was totally a crazy policy. When it unraveled, it should have probably led to, in a normal process, an impeachment proceeding for Ronald Reagan, but by that time, he was—everybody understood he was—he wasn’t well with Alzheimer’s or whatever.

That’s sweetly funny, but sadly revealing (not about Hersh, but about media and history). According to Wikipedia, in short:

The Iran-Contra affair (also called the Iran-Contra Matter and Iran-gate) was one of the largest political scandals during the 1980s. It involved several members of the Reagan administration who in 1986 helped sell arms to Iran, an avowed enemy [who were in a war with Iraq at the time], and used the proceeds to fund the Contras, an anti-Communist guerilla organization in Nicaragua.

In other words, the CIA-backed Contras, in fighting the Daniel Ortega led Sandanistas, had an income supplement to go with arms money from Iran:

Narco-trafficking.

Smugglers for the notorious Medellin cartel in Colombia would use Contra airstrips to smuggle drugs to other dealers (or they would do it themselves) on route primarily to North America—where cocaine use sky-rocketed.

For allowing this to happen, the CIA-backed Contras received funds to help in their brutal and terrorist war against the Sandinistas.

The CIA, according to McCoy, would also use these drug- smuggling planes to send arms back from the US to the Contras in Nicaragua.

Sometimes money was exchanged, from either the CIA or the Medellin Cartel to the Contras. Sometimes the exchange was purely weapons and cocaine—harkening back to the noble days of barter.

When the US Congress stopped financing the Contras at the very end of 1982, different methods were employed and deployed. This is where Colonel Oliver North came to prominence. He got former CIA operatives to sell arms to Iran—ruled by the Ayatollah Khomeini, an avowed enemy—to raise funds and buy airplanes for the Contra effort.

It was during these financially “challenging” times that the CIA became, literally, drug-traffickers.

REPORTER GARY WEBB

A series of articles by reporter Gary Webb outlined this, I believe in 1996. They were instructive by both the shocking CIA/drug entanglements and revelations, and how the mainstream media used so little of its potential to really uncover the sordid and extensive details.

In fact, many of Webb’s facts were brought into question by all three of the major American newspapers—the NY Times, the Washington Post and the LA Times—but the real and pervasive problem that had spread through the system, intensely criminal—the use of drug smuggling to support covert and illegal operations by the CIA—appeared beside the point.

All of this is even more ironic given the 49% increase in prison incarcerations in the United States over the last ten years is from drug crimes.

Webb himself said about the lack of media interest in the Contra/CIA drug scandal:

[F]or the past ten years [as of 1996], the major media outlets have studiously ignored or dismissed this topic, with very few exceptions. Now that it has been proven that the Contras were indeed selling drugs to Americans, I think they are hard pressed to explain their lack of attention to a topic that millions of Americans care very deeply about. To accept this story now is a tacit admission that the biggest media outlets in this country have been asleep at the switch for a decade—or worse…

The biggest obstacles were the total lack of cooperation and candor from the US government. All but one of the Freedom of Information Act requests were denied, often for the most absurd reasons, ie, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the FBI didn’t want to invade the privacy of these international drug lords.

Not a single government official with personal knowledge of these activities would agree to answer to questions.

We had public records disappear from court files. We had a witness disappear from a Nicaraguan prison. I was told that I would endanger the lives of DEA agents if we disclosed certain matters. I never felt threatened personally, but as my Nicaraguan colleague, George Hodell, noted at one point, “Things are moving all around us.

Supposedly airstrips in both Costa Rica and Honduras were also used for Contra operations.

When (soon-to-be Nobel Peace Prize winning) President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica discovered what was going on via Costa Rican congressional hearings—that North’s enterprise between Costa Rica and the White House was doubling as a narco-trafficking operation—North and his cohorts were banned from the country.

From Scott A Hunt’s The Future Of Peace, pg 217:

Despite the fact that Arias was highly educated and a proven leader, he was derided at the highest levels of the Reagan administration as the “Boy.”

Retired General Richard Secord, who was assisting White House national security adviser Oliver North in supplying the contras with secret aid, dispatched a message to Washington regarding Arias: “Boy needs to be straightened out by heavyweights.”

The heavyweights who tried to straighten him out included the assistant secretary of state, Elliott Abrams. Reporting back to Washington, Abrams said, “We’ll have to squeeze his balls…”

Aria found Abram’s tone imperious and retorted, “Not even [Margaret] Thatcher, the closest ally you have, supports your policy. Doesn’t that tell you something?”

The Costa Rican hearings, as reported in the Costa Rican Tico Times (7/28/29), stated:

These requests for Contra help were initiated by Colonel North to [Panama] General Noriega…They opened a gate so their henchmen could utilize [Costa Rican] territory for trafficking in arms and drugs.

Noriega, of course, was both a drug trafficker/facilitator and long on the CIA payroll, including while George Bush Sr was CIA Director of Intelligence. Noriega was also the excuse given by Bush when the USA invaded Panama in 1989, killing hundreds and possibly thousands of civilians, in what was known as Operation Just Cause.

As for the Iran-Contra debacle, beleaguered President Ronald Reagan denied having any knowledge of what went on, which speaks volumes for what he stood for, his mental well-being at the time, the legal system and the media—which remarkably didn’t collapse from endless laughing at the absurdity of its own inanity.

Of course, given the incredible amount of torture and death that has unfolded, none of it is funny.

According to Chomsky in Imperial Ambitions: Conversations on the Post-9/11 World (pg 93-94):

When enemies commit crimes, they’re crimes. In fact, we can exaggerate and lie about them with complete impunity. When we commit crimes, they didn’t happen. And you see that very strikingly in the cult of Reagan worship, which was created through a massive propaganda campaign.

Reagan’s regime was one of murder, brutality, and violence, which devastated a number of countries and probably left two hundred thousand people dead in Latin America, with hundreds of thousands of orphans and widows. But this can’t be mentioned here. It didn’t happen.

The person responsible for one component of this terror, the Contra war in Nicaragua, was the person known as the “proconsul” of Honduras, John Negroponte [currently the Director of National Intelligence for the United States, serving President George W Bush] was U.S. Ambassador to Honduras, which served as the base for the terrorist army [the Contras] attacking Nicaragua. He had two tasks as proconsul. First, to lie to Congress about activities carried out by the Honduran security services so that military aid could continue to flow to Honduras…

And second, to supervise the camps in which the mercenary army was being trained, armend and organized to carry out the atrocities, atrocities for which it [the U.S. also] was condemned by the World Court.

But all of this didn’t happen and it soesn’t matter, because we did it. And that’s a sufficient reason for effacing it from history.

Throughout this historical period, Reagan supported the Apartheid government of South Africa, with what was called “constructive engagement”—against the wishes of Congress, who are often laughed at, incidentally. The impetus for “constructive engagement” was found in Reagan’s labelling of Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress as one of the “more notorious terrorist groups” in the world, as they fought against the fascist policies of South Africa.

Okay. This is a very brief overview, that clarified some things for me and hopefully for you. More later…

Okay, one quick time to repeat, because I will get confused, I’ll garl darn quote myself:

Because proxy wars do not directly involve the United States and they are often brutal, impinge on sovereign rights and ignore international law, it can sometimes be difficult for the US government and Big Business interests to convince a democracy (and Congress) to help fund these wars.

Alternate sources of funding may be needed.

These funds can be created through the selling of arms for money—which is an aspect of what the Iran Contra scandal was about. These wars can also be funded directly or indirectly by the trafficking of narcotics, mostly heroin and cocaine.

So the main purpose for the CIA to be involved in drug trafficking is:

Drug trafficking offers huge financing possibilities for these proxy wars, and the the means (drugs) justify the ends (freedom from Communism and/or control of resources in a given area, and a geo-strategic stronghold).

This funding can take place by direct involvement or by turning a blind eye to drug cartels and letting them traffic drugs without interference (including into America).

In return, the CIA covert operation or the rebels it is backing receive funds from a given drug trafficking group.

And I still believe, or at least dream, that love is the principle and guiding force in the world, and in our hearts.

Sisters and brothers, love more.