America's Drug Crisis Brought to You by the CIA

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Next time
you see a junkie sprawled at the curb in the downtown of your nearest
city, or read about someone who died of a heroin overdose, just
imagine a big yellow sign posted next to him or her saying: “Your
Federal Tax Dollars at Work.”

Kudos to the
New York Times, and to reporters Dexter Filkins, Mark Mazzetti
and James Risen, for their lead
today reporting that Ahmed Wali Karzai, brother of Afghanistan’s
stunningly corrupt President Hamid Karzai, a leading drug lord in
the world’s major opium-producing nation, has for eight years
been on the CIA payroll.

Okay, the article
was lacking much historical perspective (more on that later), and
the dead hand of top editors was evident in the overly cautious
tone (I loved the third paragraph, which stated that “The financial
ties and close working relationship between the intelligence agency
and Mr. Karzai raises significant questions about America’s
war strategy, which is currently under review at the White House.”
Well, duh! It should be raising questions about why we are even
in Afghanistan, about who should be going to jail at the CIA, and
about how can the government explain this to the families of the
over 1000 soldiers and Marines who have died supposedly helping
to build a new Afghanistan). But that said, the newspaper that helped
cheerlead us into the pointless and criminal Iraq invasion in 2003,
and that prevented journalist Risen from running his exposé
of the Bush/Cheney administration’s massive warrantless National
Security Agency electronic spying operation until after the 2004
presidential election, this time gave a critically important story
full timely play, and even, appropriately, included a teaser in
the same front-page story about October being the most deadly month
yet for the US in Afghanistan.

What the article
didn’t mention at all is that there is a clear historical pattern
here. During the Vietnam War, the CIA, and its Air America airline
front-company, were neck deep in the Southeast Asian heroin trade.
At the time, it was Southeast Asia, not Afghanistan, that was the
leading producer and exporter of opium, mostly to the US, where
there was a resulting heroin epidemic.

A decade later,
in the 1980s, during the Reagan administration, as the late investigative
journalist Gary Webb so brilliantly documented first in a series
titled “Dark
” in the San Jose Mercury News newspaper,
and later in a book by that same name, the CIA was deeply involved
in the development of and smuggling of cocaine into the US, which
was soon engulfed in a crack cocaine epidemic – one that continues
to destroy African American and other poor communities across the
country. (The Times’ role here was sordid – it and other
leading papers, including the Washington Post and Los
Angeles Times – did despicable hit pieces on Webb shamelessly
trashing his work and his career, and ultimately driving him to
suicide, though his facts have held up.) In this case, Webb showed
that the Agency was actually using the drugs as a way to fund arms,
which it could use its own planes to ferry down to the Contra forces
it was backing to subvert the Sandinista government in Nicaragua
at a time Congress had barred the US from supporting the Contras.

And now we have Afghanistan, once a sleepy backwater of the world
with little connection to drugs (the Taliban, before their overthrow
by US forces in 2001, had, according to the UN, virtually eliminated
opium production there), but now responsible for as much as 80 percent
of the world's opium production – this at a time that the US
effectively finances and runs the place, with an occupying army
that, together with Afghan government forces that it controls, outnumbers
the Taliban 12-1 according to a
recent AP story

Your tax dollars
at work.

The issue at
this point should not be how many troops the US should add to its
total in Afghanistan. It shouldn’t even be over whether the
US should up the ante or scale back to a more limited goal of hunting
terrorists. It should be about how quickly the US can extricate
its forces from Afghanistan, how soon the Congress can start hearings
into corruption and drug pushing by the CIA, and how soon the Attorney
General’s office will begin a grand jury probe into the CIA’s drug

the rest of the article

30, 2009

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