Tag Archives: drug trade

Geopolitics, Profit, and Poppies: How the CIA Turned Afghanistan into a Failed Narco-State, by Alan Macleod

The real reason we’ve been in Afghanistan for twenty years. From Alan Macleod at mintpressnews.com:

The war in Afghanistan has looked a lot like the war on drugs in Latin America and previous colonial campaigns in Asia, with a rapid militarization of the area and the empowerment of pliant local elites.

AFGHANISTAN — The COVID-19 pandemic has been a death knell to so many industries in Afghanistan. Charities and aid agencies have even warned that the economic dislocation could spark widespread famine. But one sector is still booming: the illicit opium trade. Last year saw Afghan opium poppy cultivation grow by over a third while counter-narcotics operations dropped off a cliff. The country is said to be the source of over 90% of all the world’s illicit opium, from which heroin and other opioids are made. More land is under cultivation for opium in Afghanistan than is used for coca production across all of Latin America, with the creation of the drug said to directly employ around half a million people.

This is a far cry from the 1970s, when poppy production was minimal, and largely for domestic consumption. But this changed in 1979 when the CIA launched Operation Cyclone, the widespread funding of Afghan Mujahideen militias in an attempt to bleed dry the then-recent Soviet invasion. Over the next decade, the CIA worked closely with its Pakistani counterpart, the ISI, to funnel $2 billion worth of arms and assistance to these groups, including the now infamous Osama Bin Laden and other warlords known for such atrocities as throwing acid in the faces of unveiled women.

“From statements by U.S. Ambassador [to Iran] Richard Helms, there was little heroin production in Central Asia by the mid 1970s,” Professor Alfred McCoy, author of “The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade,” told MintPress. But with the start of the CIA secret war, opium production along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border surged and refineries soon dotted the landscape. Trucks loaded with U.S. taxpayer-funded weapons would travel from Pakistan into its neighbor to the west, returning filled to the brim with opium for the new refineries, their deadly product ending up on streets worldwide. With the influx of Afghan opium in the 1980s — Jeffrey St. Clair, co-author of “Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press,” alleges — heroin addiction more than doubled in the United States.

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Guatemala: The Human Rights Nightmare That Is the US Drug War, by James Bovard

The wars on drugs, poverty, and terrorism have all been spectacular failures, which in Washington means they’ve developed a constituency both inside and outside the government that presses for their perpetuation and funding. From James Bovard at mises.org:

Vice President Kamala Harris visited Guatemala earlier this week to bestow millions of dollars in new foreign aid on that government. The Biden administration is pretending that giving more US tax dollars to Central American governments will miraculously reduce the surge of illegal immigrants that Biden’s appointees are welcoming in Arizona, Texas, and elsewhere. The purpose of Harris’s trip and the new handouts is not to solve that problem but simply to make the Biden administration appear to give a damn about the issue.

In her official statements during the visit, Harris included no admission of how the US drug war has been a pox on Guatemala. Her silence was no surprise considering Joe Biden’s nearly half century of fanaticism for that pointless crusade.

I learned about the wreckage of US drug policies when I visited Guatemala in 1992. I had been writing articles bashing drug prohibition for almost a decade at that point. But before that trip, I had only vague notions of the ravages being inflicted on hapless foreigners.

I went to Guatemala to give a couple speeches on the follies of protectionist trade policy, spurred by the publication the previous year of my book The Fair Trade Fraud (St. Martin’s Press). I was hosted by the president of Francisco Marroquín University, Manuel Ayau, a genial yet fearless fighter for free markets. I didn’t realize until I arrived that Ayau had recently been the presidential candidate of the “party of organized violence” and was on several left-wing “death lists.” Guatemala had shortages of almost everything except political assassinations. Ayau, a compact dynamo, was hepped up because he’d just gotten a laser sighting attachment for his Clint Eastwood/Dirty Harry caliber .44 Magnum. As his chauffeur-bodyguard drove us around the capital city, Ayau trained that red dot on all sorts of targets. I was happy I was sitting behind him.

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The True Meaning of the Afghan “Withdrawal”, by Alfred McCoy

You cannot understand the U.S. presence in Afghanistan without understanding the drug trade. Alfred McCoy, who wrote the magnificent The Politics of Heroin, CIA Complicity In The Global Drug Trade, is the perfect man to explain this story behind the story in Afghanistan. From McCoy at tomdispatch.com:

The True Meaning of the Afghan “Withdrawal”

Will the Nightmare of Saigon’s Fall Return in Kabul?

Many of us have had a recurring nightmare. You know the one. In a fog between sleeping and waking, you’re trying desperately to escape from something awful, some looming threat, but you feel paralyzed. Then, with great relief, you suddenly wake up, covered in sweat. The next night, or the next week, though, that same dream returns.

For politicians of Joe Biden’s generation that recurring nightmare was Saigon, 1975. Communist tanks ripping through the streets as friendly forces flee. Thousands of terrified Vietnamese allies pounding at the U.S. Embassy’s gates. Helicopters plucking Americans and Vietnamese from rooftops and disgorging them on Navy ships. Sailors on those ships, now filled with refugees, shoving those million-dollar helicopters into the sea. The greatest power on Earth sent into the most dismal of defeats.

Back then, everyone in official Washington tried to avoid that nightmare. The White House had already negotiated a peace treaty with the North Vietnamese in 1973 to provide a “decent interval” between Washington’s withdrawal and the fall of the South Vietnamese capital. As defeat loomed in April 1975, Congress refused to fund any more fighting. A first-term senator then, Biden himself said, “The United States has no obligation to evacuate one, or 100,001, South Vietnamese.” Yet it happened anyway. Within weeks, Saigon fell and some 135,000 Vietnamese fled, producing scenes of desperation seared into the conscience of a generation.

Now, as president, by ordering a five-month withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by this September 11th, Biden seems eager to avoid the return of an Afghan version of that very nightmare. Yet that “decent interval” between America’s retreat and the Taliban’s future triumph could well prove indecently short.

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Did the CIA Cause a Mexican General to Escape Drug Charges? by Jacob G. Hornberger

Someday a brave soul or souls is going to write a comprehensive history of the CIA and the drug trade. It won’t be pretty. From Jacob G. Hornberger at fff.org:

In what can only be called a federal judicial miracle, retired Mexican General Salvador Cienfuegoes is being set free in the United States and permitted to return to Mexico. Just last month, Cienfuegos was taken into custody at Los Angeles International Airport when he was visiting LA on vacation. The charges? That when he was serving as Mexican Defense Minister, which is the second highest position within the Mexican government, Cienfuegos was conspiring with Mexican drug lords in return for bribes.

Cienfuego’s arrest generated the standard drug war hoopla in the mainstream press to which we have all become accustomed during the last several decades. The Washington Post called it a “turning point” in the war on drugs (one of many “turning points” in the drug war over the years). The New York Times stated, “The news not only casts a pall over Mexico’s fight against organized crime, but also underscores the forces of corruption that touch the highest levels of the government.”

But then yesterday, U.S. officials suddenly announced that they had decided to drop the charges and permit Cienfuegos to return to Mexico.

What gives with that? Don’t these guys want to “win” the war on drugs? How do they expect to do that if they are dropping drug war charges against people at the top who they say are involved in the drug trade?

The speculation is that the Mexican government put so much pressure on U.S. officials to drop the charges that the U.S. finally had to relent. People are saying that Mexico was threatening to ban the DEA from operating in Mexico.

But there is another possible explanation for the sudden dismissal of charges: The CIA. It’s entirely possible that Cienfuegos played hardball by promising to reveal CIA complicity in the drug trade if he were ever bought to trial. Given the overwhelming power of the CIA within the federal governmental structure, it would not have been difficult for the CIA to bring the necessary pressure to bear to have the charges against Cienfuegos dismissed.

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Mr President. End This Shameful War Now! By Eric S. Margolis

The US has no business being in Afghanistan. From Eric Margolis at lewrockwell.com:

An ancient Hindu prayer says, ‘Lord Shiva, save us from the claw of the tiger, the fang of the cobra, and the vengeance of the Afghan.’

The United States, champion of freedom and self-determination, is now in its 18th year of colonial war in Afghanistan.  This miserable, stalemated conflict is America’s longest and most shameful war.  So far it has   cost over $1 trillion and killed no one knows how many Afghans.

This conflict began in 2001 on a lie: namely that Afghanistan was somehow responsible for the 9/11 attacks on the US.  These attacks were planned in Europe and the US, not Afghanistan, and apparently conducted (official version) by anti-American Saudi extremists.  This writer remains unconvinced by the official versions.

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The Drug Catastrophe in Afghanistan, by Brian Cloughey

The American invasion of Afghanistan has been good for the drug trade. Undoubtedly the drug trade has been good for at least some Americans in Afghanistan. From Brian Cloughey at strategic-culture.org:

On November 5 yet another US soldier was killed by a member of Afghanistan’s military forces, as the country continues to be wracked by violence in its seventeenth year of war.

Donald Rumsfeld was US Secretary for Defence from 2001 to 2006 under President George W Bush. They, along with other psychotic figures such as Vice-President Dick Cheney, were responsible for the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and their legacy is apparent in many spheres, one of which is the drug production bonanza in Afghanistan. s

In August 2004 NBC News reported Secretary Rumsfeld as declaring “The danger a large drug trade poses in Afghanistan is too serious to ignore. The inevitable result is to corrupt the government and way of life, and that would be most unfortunate.” He issued the warning that “It is increasingly clear to the international community that to address the drug problem here is important for the people of Afghanistan.”

Rumsfeld, for once during his catastrophic years as chief war-maker, was absolutely right, and his pronouncement about likely danger and impending corruption was spot on. The US invasion and subsequent operations led to Afghanistan becoming the fourth most dangerous and fourth most corrupt country in the world.

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Why US Imperialism Loves Afghan Quagmire, by Finian Cunningham

The real reasons the US stays in Afghanistan, from Finian Cunningham at strategic-culture.org:

t may seem paradoxical that any American interest would seek to deliberately prolong the Afghan quagmire. Costing trillions of dollars to the national debt, one would think that US planners are anxious to wind down the war and cut their immense losses. Not so, it seems.

Like the classic 1960s satire film, Dr Strangelove, and how he came to “love the A-bomb”, there are present-day elements in the US military-security apparatus that seem to be just fine about being wedded to the mayhem in Afghanistan.

That war is officially the longest-ever war fought by US forces overseas, outlasting the Vietnam war (1964-75) by six years – and still counting.

After GW Bush launched the operation in October 2001, the war is now under the purview of its third consecutive president. What’s more, the 17-year campaign to date is unlikely to end for several more years to come, after President Donald Trump last year gave the Pentagon control over its conduct.

This week saw two developments which show that powerful elements within the US state have very different calculations concerning the Afghan war compared with most ordinary citizens.

First there was the rejection by Washington of an offer extended by Russia to join a peace summit scheduled for next month. The purpose of the Moscow conference is to bring together participants in the war, including the US-backed Afghan government of President Ashraf Ghani, as well as the Taliban militants who have been fighting against American military occupation.

Washington and its Afghan surrogate administration in Kabul said they would not be participating because, in their view, such a dialogue would be futile.

The US refusal to attend the Moscow event, after previously showing an apparent interest, drew an angry response from Russia. Russia’s foreign ministry said the “refusal to attend the Moscow meeting on Afghanistan shows Washington has no interest in launching a peace process.”

One suspects that US reluctance is partly due to not wanting to give Moscow any additional international standing since Russia’s successful military intervention in Syria and its leading role in mediating for peace there.

To continue reading: Why US Imperialism Loves Afghan Quagmire

Honduras Is a Hellhole: Who’s Responsible? by Justin Raimondo

People leave hellholes, and in the case of Honduras, a lot of them come to the US. There is some justice in that, because the US played a significant part in making Honduras a hellhole. From Justin Raimondo at antiwar.com:

Hillary Clinton, US imperialism, and criminal cronyism

As tens of thousands gather at our southern border, roiling US politics, the question arises: why are so many of the asylum-seekers and migrants crossing the border illegally from three Central American countries in particular: El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala?

To begin with, it’s no coincidence that these are the three “most invaded” countries south of the Rio Grande – that is, invaded by the United States and its proxies.

The Reagan years saw the apex of US intervention in the region, with fear of Communist “infiltration” motivating massive US aid to local despots and right-wing death squads throughout Central and South America: the fear of Cuban and Soviet influence drove US policy. In El Salvador, a raging civil war between rightist landowners and a leftist insurgency cost tens of thousands of lives and billions in lost income. In Guatemala, with a long history of US support to a callous and violent elite, a 36-year civil war between conservative landowners and Communist-led guerrillas devastated the country. Honduras is the scene of a recent US-backed coup, and also of a short story by O. Henry wherein the phrase “banana republic” was coined. A more appropriate phrase describing this Central American country could hardly be imagined, what with bananas looming large as the national product and source of wealth, and lots of political intrigue – periodic coups, assassinations, incredible corruption, all of it presided over by the warlords of Washington and their corporate favorites.

So what are these “refugees” fleeing? Is it so bad that parents are justified in paying smugglers to guide their underage children – traveling alone! – across the US-Mexican border?

Unlike the rest of the media, which has routinely ignored most of what goes on in Latin America since the end of the cold war, I’ve been covering the region regularly. On Honduras alone, see here, here, here, and here (since 2006). As I wrote last year:

Honduras has always been an American plaything, to be toyed with for the benefit of United Fruit (rebranded Chiquita) and the native landowning aristocracy, and disciplined when necessary: Washington sent in the Marines a total of seven timesbetween 1903 and 1925. The Honduran peasants didn’t like their lands being confiscated by the government and turned over to foreign-owned producers, who were granted monopolistic franchises by corrupt public officials. Periodic rural revolts started spreading to the cities, despite harsh repression, and the country – ruled directly by the military since 1955 – returned to a civilian regime in 1981.”

To continue reading: Honduras Is a Hellhole: Who’s Responsible?