In the wake of World War II, the US and British political elites were confronted with a threat of socialism on a global scale. Fearing that a question mark might be hanging over their own future, they reacted by mobilizing resources – those on public display and deeply hidden – to implement a Roll Back program meant to reverse global communist gains.August 05, 2012 By Dmitri Sedov Article from Strategic Culture Foundation
A serious roadblock in the way of the anti-communist mobilization was that, for the most part, the US population was wary of far-reaching foreign-policy projects as such. An ordinary American’s world was confined to the North American continent, with the interest in overseas development staying at a minimal level. Due to this grass-roots isolationism, heavy government spending on foreign policy at the time when the Cold War was in its relative infancy was out of question in the US. Moreover, the CIA, a top spender in the realm of the US foreign policy, was, for the majority of Americans in the early post-war era, an agency like any other, while in reality it was already rising as a key player. Facing the task of pulling off massive operations worldwide, the CIA asked the White House for a license to tap into alternative funding sources, the drug business being the most rewarding of those within sight. The criminal nature of the business, however, dictated the rules of the game accordingly. While some of the revenues were indeed used to support covert action, some were diverted towards the personal enrichment of the agency’s involved operatives and top brass or remained in the hands of the financial groups with lobbying powers in the US Administration. Thus the complicity in the drug business started to spread to the upper levels of the US establishment.
The fist case exemplifying the CIA drug business connections dates back to 1947, the year when Washington, concerned about the rise of the communist movement in the post-war France, partnered the notoriously ruthless Corsican mafia to fight against the left in the country. Since money could not be poured into the unsavory alliance via official channels, a large heroin factory was set up in Marseilles with the CIA assistance to fuel the job. The venture employed Corsicans, while the CIA organized the supply chain, and the psychological and physical terror against communists in France eventually prevented them from winning the race for power.
Later the scheme was extensively replicated across the world. In the early 1950ies, the CIA ran a network of heroin factories in South East Asia, diverting the revenues to prop up Chiang Kai-shek who fought against the communist China. Then the CIA took to patronizing the military regime in Laos and, in the process, got entrenched in the Golden Triangle region comprising Laos, Thailand, and Burma, which contributed 70% of the global opiates supply. Most of the stuff went to Marseilles and Sicily for processing at the factories operated by the Corsican and Sicilian mafias. In Sicily, the criminal syndicate running numerous drug factories was founded by Lucky Luciano, an Italian-born US mobster deported to Italy after World War II. Declassified information leaves no doubt that Luciano worked for the US intelligence. The man was, for no obvious reason, released from jail in the US in 1946 before the end of his term, and the syndicate in Italy functioned under the US oversight, sharing revenues with the US patrons who used the money in a secret war against the Italian communist party.
The CIA continued to draw money from the Golden Triangle during the Vietnam War. Drugs from the region were both smuggled to the US and distributed at overseas US military bases. As a result, many of the Vietnam War veterans are scarred not only by the war, but no less by the acquaintance with narcotics.
The CIA drug-related activities were supposed to remain under wraps, but completely avoiding blunders is impossible. A huge scandal erupted in the 1980ies around the Nugan Hand Bank of Sydney which had branches registered on the Cayman Islands and entrained former CIA director W. Colby as legal council. Among other types of mischief, it transpired that the CIA used the bank in money-laundering operations to handle the proceeds from drug and arms trade in Indochina.
The geography of the CIA-backed drug trafficking expanded steadily. In the 1980ies, the time-tested arms-for-drugs scheme was rerun by the CIA to fund the Nicaraguan Contras, but the story surfaced and the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee had to open a probe. A passage from the Senate report on the matter famously read: “U.S. policy makers were not immune to the idea that drug money was a perfect solution to the Contras funding problems”. Applied wider and issued in a less diluted form, the statement could be that the CIA-assisted drug business was tightly integrated into US foreign policy.
The CIA drug dealing swelled to unprecedented proportions when the US and the USSR clashed indirectly in Afghanistan. The US intelligence community lavishly funded Afghanistan’s Mujahideen, in part with the money made on narcotics. US aircrafts which delivered arms to the country during the campaign flew back with loads of heroin. According to independent assessments, around 50% of the US consumption of heroin at the time hailed from Afghanistan.
“The Mafia, CIA and George Bush” by Pete Brewton (New York: S.P.I. Books, 1992) offers an impressive array of factual data proving that CIA Director and, later, US President G. Bush had links with the drug mafia and, at certain phases of his career, combined top-level state service, politics, and the drug business.
At the bottom line, the US establishment concluded that, along with being fleetingly put to work under individual combinations of political circumstances, drugs could be handy in the pursuit of long-term geopolitical objectives. When P. Brenner became the boss in Baghdad with the authority the ousted S. Hussein could never dream of, the US diplomat made no attempt to build a barrier against the narcotic wave that swept over Iraq. It is worth noting in the contexts that the drug business problem used to be nonexistent in the country under S. Hussein.
“Oh hell yes, that’s just the panacea for any unrest and wanting the US out. Drug ’em up, get them hooked, marlin for the wall. Then with control of their radio, tv and print outlets, mindnumb them with propaganda … BAGHDAD: The city, which had never seen heroin, a deadly addictive drug, until March 2003, is now flooded with narcotics including heroin.
According to a report published by London’s The Independent newspaper, the citizens of Baghdad complained that the drugs like heroin and cocaine were being peddled on the streets of the Iraqi metropolis. Some reports suggest that the drug and arms trafficking is patronized by the CIA to finance its covert operations worldwide”, writes Brenda Stardom. In her account, a Baghdad resident explained: “You would be hanged for trafficking. But now you can get heroin, cocaine, anything”. The drugged population simply has no will to resist, while the triumphant Washington got the land with its riches underfoot and does not care that the people are doomed to extinction.
* * *
The anti-terrorist operation launched immediately after the September 11 drama reached completion in Afghanistan 11 years ago. Washington sells it as a major success, but evading the spotlight are serious side effects: the country is left bombed into the stone age, with villages destroyed and thousands of people dead, with prisoners and concentration camps, and refugees all around.
Beating the drug business was nearly the top-advertised goal of the whole US war on terror, but the outcome and the stated goals of the campaign are complete opposites. In the hands of the Western coalition, Afghanistan mutated into the world’s unsurpassed drug outputter. The US with the statehood as we know it and the drug business have been interwoven since the end of World War II. For Washington, drugs have long become a systemic element of foreign policy, a part of the deep world black market nourishing the “legitimate” Western economy…
A dollar thrown into the drug trade yields up to $12,000 under the luckiest conditions. The cost of Afghan heroin climbs as you go north – it amounts to $650 per 1 kg in Pakistan or $1,200 in Kyrgyzstan, climaxing at $70 per gram in the city of Moscow. A kg of heroin equals 200,000 dozes, a hopeless addiction starting after 3 or 4.
The “legitimate” capital would momentarily turn unsustainable without the global black market trailing. Both components of the global economy are centered around the US, and Washington is long aware that the drug production can be set in motion provided that the number one prerequisite – that the end gains do not trickle down to the producer – is met. Otherwise, the black market crumbles in no time.
The mafia which keeps the drug trafficking online nabs 90% of the heroin revenues. Among others taking part, the processing agents get 2%, the poppy crop farmers – 6%, and opiate dealers – 2%. Consequently, the black market’s viability requires that the crops be pulled into into the business at marginal costs. Fostering an armed conflict in the farming zone must be the easiest way to tone done the farmers’ cost appetites as arms become the top-valued commodity equivalent. In other words, the formula is that the bloodier is the conflict the higher are the revenues from the arms sales and the drug business. Instability coupled to chaos control, therefore, must be the engine of the black market. The two factors synchronously even out demand and supply, but the implication is that, to shave off costs and to have no difficulty seeding separatist aspirations, the driver of the situation would rather engage with tribes, clans, compact ethnic groups, or religious factions than with any established statehood bodies.
Afghanistan dished out a total of around just 50 tons of opiates over the mid-1980ies, but the figure jumped to 600 tons by 1990, a year after the Soviet withdrawal. Having seized 90% of the territory of Afghanistan and taken control of the country’s poppy farming, the Talibs shook off the grip of the CIA and the US Department of State, causing the the US to lose its share of the roughly $130b revenue the drug mafia could expect to get if drug supplies could be channeled problem-free via Central Asia. Retaking from the Talibs the control over heroin production was a fundamental objective behind the US campaign in Afghanistan. At the moment, the mission is accomplished, with much of the heroin being bought and relayed to other countries by the CIA and the Pentagon. Having planted military bases in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, and having installed H. Karzai’s government in the subdued Afghanistan, Washington opened up new drug supply routes, got rid of competitors in the criminal business, and made sure that the summary capacity of the opiates-to-heroin processing factories would never lack workload.
At the moment, Afghanistan accounts for 75% of the global, 80% of the European, and 35% of the US heroin markets. Around 65% of the Afghan drug supply traverses the post-Soviet Central Asia, and the arrangement will, in a slightly modified form, persist after the western coalition’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. The criminal alliance between the CIA and the Talibs is an accomplished fact and is not going to evaporate…
Currently, the Kosovo Albanian criminal groups are playing a prominent role in the international drug business. Carving out an independent Kosovo out of Serbia, the US, among other things, planned a new foothold for the drug business with an eye to Europe. Over a million of Albanians reside in West Europe and the majority of them survive on various types of illegal businesses, especially the drug one. No doubt, the US thus deliberately presented Europe with a problem which will grow from now on.
According to Russia’s anti-narcotics agency, some 100,000 people around the world – more than killed by the nuclear blast which destroyed Hiroshima – die every year due to Afghan opiates. In this framework, Russia’s annual death toll is estimated at around 30,000. The Russian drug control agency says the world opiates output has doubled over the past decade and as of today 90% of the drug dozes consumed globally – a total of 7 billion – are heroin.
Drug addiction is spilling across today’s Russia and, in the mix with alcohol abuse, puts in jeopardy the very existence of the nation. Russia does a lot to energize the international anti-drug struggle – the country’s foreign minister S. Lavrov, for example, suggested at the 2010 Moscow anti-drug forum that the UN Security Council generally view the drug problem as a threat to global peace and security. His point was that the coalition mandate in Afghanistan should be upgraded to include far more muscular anti-drug measures including crop eradication and the bringing down of drug factories. Steps countering the drug production in Afghanistan should be at least as decisive as those taken in Latin America against cocaine, says Lavrov, also stressing that a Russia-NATO real-time coordination along the Afghan border could be of great help. Moscow has been sending signals on the above for years but NATO seems unperturbed.
Russian drug control agency chief V. Ivanov said in 2010 that Russia tipped off the US and the Afghan administration about 175 drug factories in Afghanistan, but neither ended up being bulldozed. Consequently, funds continue to pile up on the bank accounts of those running them. It is clear that calls for a broad anti-narcotics front sound naïve. Moscow will only waste time and see more Russians perish if it waits for the West to subscribe to such initiatives – the time is coming for it to take drastic measures against those who disseminate death packaged in dozes.