Tag Archives: Drug War

Regime Change Through the Drug War, by Jacob G. Hornberger

The US government and its intelligence agencies have all sorts of ways to get rid of regimes they don’t like. From Jacob G. Hornberger at fff.org:

The Justice Department’s securing of a criminal indictment of Venezuela’s president Nicolás Maduro reminds us that when it comes to the U.S. government’s regime-change operations, coups, invasions, sanctions, embargoes, and state-sponsored assassinations are not the only ways to achieve regime change. Another way is through a criminal indictment issued by a federal grand jury that deferentially accedes to the wishes of federal prosecutors.

The best example of this regime change method involved the president of Panama, Manuel Noriega.

Like many corrupt and brutal dictators around the world, Noriega was a partner and ally of the U.S. government. In fact, he was actually trained at the Pentagon’s School of the Americas, which is referred to in Latin America as the School of Assassins. He later served as a paid asset of the CIA. He also served as a conduit for the U.S. government’s illegal war in Nicaragua, where U.S. officials were using the Contra rebels to effect a regime change in that country.

But like other loyal pro-U.S. dictators, Noriega fell out of favor with U.S. officials, who decided they wanted him out of office and replaced with someone more to their liking.

The big problem, of course, is the one that always afflicts U.S. regime-change aspirations: Noriega refused to go voluntarily.

U.S. officials knew that it would look bad to simply invade the country and effect a regime-change operation through force of arms. Undoubtedly, they considered a state-sponsored assassination through the CIA, which specialized in that form of regime change, but for whatever reason that regime-method wasn’t employed.

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The Evil of the Drug War, by Jacob G. Hornberger

The drug war has wreaked enormous damage on America. From Jacob G. Hornberger at fff.org:

With the exception of the U.S. national-security state and its foreign policy of empire and intervention and its torture, state-sponsored assassinations, coups, alliances with dictatorial regimes, invasions, occupations, wars of aggression, illegal and unconstitutional wars, mass secret surveillance, indefinite detention, secret prison camps, drug experimentation on unsuspecting people, denial of due process, denial of trial by jury, kangaroo military tribunals, and other dark-side practices, it would be difficult to find a better example of an evil and immoral program than the war on drugs.

Consider:

1. Everyone, including the most ardent drug-war proponent, agrees that this decades-long program has failed to achieve its goal, which is a drug-free society.

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Rethinking Drug Legalization, by Jeffrey James Higgins

A former drug enforcer comes out in favor of drug legalization. From Jeffrey James Higgins at internationalman.com:

The war on drugs is not going well. Despite decades of counter-drug efforts, at a cost of more than one trillion dollars, illegal drugs are still readily available on the black market. Worse, drug proceeds have become the lifeblood of terrorist groups, transnational criminal organizations, and street gangs. A 2014 Pew poll showed 67% of Americans prefer drug treatment to prosecution, yet prisons remain overcrowded with drug offenders and citizen’s civil liberties are routinely sacrificed for little gain.

Now is the time to rethink drug legalization.

I spent most of my 25-years in law enforcement investigating drug traffickers. As a deputy sheriff, I investigated street-level drug dealers, then as a DEA supervisory special agent, I traveled the world hunting the upper echelon of transnational drug trafficking organizations. I convicted Haji Bagcho, the world’s most prolific heroin trafficker, and Khan Mohammed, the first person arrested for narco-terrorism. My experience made me sympathetic to the emotional impulses behind prohibition, but it also gave me valuable insight into the ineffectiveness of drug laws. It is ideologically consistent to believe in both the evils of drug abuse and in the immorality and impracticality of paternalistic laws—like drug prohibition.

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The Drug War Is Pushing More Migrants to Our Borders, by Mark Thornton

Don’t overlook the role of the drug war in creating the stream of immigrants coming to the US’s southern border. From Mark Thornton at lewrockwell.com:

Over the last couple of weeks we have been bombarded by news coverage of the US government handling of foreigners illegally crossing the southern border and having their children separated from parents by our government. At first I tried to avoid subjecting myself to this circus, but I have been paying close attention for about a week.

I describe it as a circus because of the hysteria involved. Everyone from the Know- Nothing wing of the Trump party to the ultra-PC progressives, and the libertarians, and even the First Lady Melania Trump have jumped on the emotional roller coaster. The story is all the rage on talk shows and even reporters for NPR, remarkably, have shown audible signs of emotion.

Despite my diligence in reluctantly following this story, without exception there has been no coverage of the reason why these people from Central American are risking their lives during a treacherous journey. They leave all to get to a country where they face our hostile president and government and they don’t even speak the local language. While Mexicans have been crossing into America at least since the US annexed Texas in 1845 and stole the northern half of Mexico in 1848, Central American immigration to the US is a relatively new phenomenon.

If we knew what was causing this new phenomenon of the highly risky immigration we might be able to stop it and end all the hysteria. Yet, the media does not appear to be interested in discovering the cause of this effect. Maybe they are not bright enough to recognize that most effects have causes?

Central American Violence

The direct cause of this migration is violence in their home countries. The level of violence has risen dramatically in this century. According to UN statistics, the Central American country of El Salvador had the highest murder rate in the world with a recorded 83 murders per 100,000 inhabitants in 2016. Its neighbor to the north, Honduras, had the second worst rate at 57. Tiny Belize had the 7th worst rate. Guatemala was 15. th

To continue reading: The Drug War Is Pushing More Migrants to Our Borders

Congress Prepares to Give Jeff Sessions More Power to Ban Whatever Substance He Doesn’t Like, by Michael Krieger

Congress wants to allow the federal government still more power to tell you what you can and cannot put in your own body. From Michael Krieger at libertyblitzkrieg.com:

Allowing government to arbitrarily determine which substances human beings can put into their own bodies is one of the most idiotic things a society can do. As such, its no surprise Congress is salivating at the prospect of furthering this travesty by giving additional discretion on the matter to drug war-crazed loon, Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Reason published an excellent article on the topic in yesterday’s piece: Congress Wants To Give Jeff Sessions Unprecedented New Drug War Powers.

Here are some key excerpts:

If you think the Department of Justice has more than enough tools to wage the war on drugs, a bill passed by the House would create a fast-track scheduling system that could lead to the criminalization of kratom, nootropics, and pretty much anything that gives you a buzz and isn’t already illegal.

The House of Representatives voted on Friday to create a new schedule of banned drugs under the Controlled Substances Act, called “Schedule A,” and to give Attorney General Jeff Sessions broad new powers to criminalize the manufacturing, importation, and sale of substances that are currently unregulated, but not illegal. The bill is now headed to the Senate, where co-sponsors Dianne Feinstein (D–Calif.) and Chuck Grassley (R–Iowa) will likely have little problem whipping votes.

The Stop the Importation and Trafficking of Synthetic Analogs Act, or SITSA, is intended to crack down on drugs that closely resemble currently banned or regulated substances in either their chemical structure or intended effects. SITSA would also empower the attorney general (A.G.) to add drugs to this new schedule with few checks from other branches of government….

To continue reading: Congress Prepares to Give Jeff Sessions More Power to Ban Whatever Substance He Doesn’t Like

When Government Evil Triumphs, Freedom Falls, by John W. Whitehead

John W. Whitehead explodes the fallacy that when the government does it, it’s okay. From Whitehead at rutherford.org:

It is often said that if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.

Unfortunately, the American government has been the opposite of good for too long now.

In fact, the American government has been very, very, very bad: so bad, in fact, as to be almost indistinguishable at times from the evil it claims to be fighting, whether that evil takes the form of terrorism, torture, drug trafficking, sex trafficking, murder, violence, theft, pornography, scientific experimentations or some other diabolical means of inflicting pain, suffering and servitude on humanity.

Philosopher Susan Neiman suggests that referring to something as “evil is a way of marking the fact that it shatters our trust in the world.”

It’s an apt description for a government that keeps violating the sacred trust of its citizenry.

“We the people” should have learned early on that a government that repeatedly lies, cheats, steals, spies, kills, maims, enslaves, breaks the laws, overreaches its authority, and abuses its power at almost every turn can’t be trusted.

Consider just a few of the ways in which the government—in a misguided, ill-conceived, flawed, bureaucratic and downright Orwellian attempt to fight evil with evil—continues to inflict evil on the citizenry.

Peddling child pornography to catch child porn consumers: As part of an effort to crack down on child porn consumers and traffickers, for two weeks in 2015, the FBI secretly hijacked a child porn website, improved the technical functionality of the site, and uploaded tens of thousands of images of child pornography to the site. In doing so, the government not only became the largest distributor of child pornography, but it also became the largest exploiter of children. All told, the FBI was accused of hosting an estimated 22,000 images, videos and links of child pornography that more than 100,000 people accessed.

To continue reading: When Government Evil Triumphs, Freedom Falls

 

Here’s Why America’s Drug War Has Been an Epic Failure, by Alice Salles

The war on drugs, like the wars on poverty and terrorism, promotes that which it ostensibly is meant to either curtail or eradicate. From Alice Salles at theantimedia.org:

The U.S. government’s efforts against illicit drugs have finally run their course. With over one trillion dollars wasted over the past several decades and nothing to show but failure, taxpayers are beginning to ask a simple yet pertinent question: Is it time to end the bottomless funding of this utterly ineffective anti-drug crusade?

With a $29 billion budget for the 2017 fiscal year, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has secured vast resources to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). With a sizeable budget — $2.8 billion in 2015 — the agency tasked with the chore of enforcing “the controlled substances laws and regulations … and [bringing] to the criminal and civil justice system … organizations and principal members of organizations involved in the growing, manufacture, or distribution of controlled substances appearing in or destined for illicit traffic in the United States” has continued to be the number one drug warrior within the federal government. But the DOJ’s Criminal Division, which is tasked with overseeing multiple offices, also houses the Organized Crime and Gang Section (OCGS), an agency that specializes in “developing and implementing strategies to disrupt and dismantle” gangs and organized crime, including drug trafficking. The 2017 budget for the Criminal Division alone is $198.7 million, which represents a “9.3 percent increase over 2016.”

Over the years, these agencies have time and again been tasked with capturing drug lords and low-level sellers, attempting to put an end to the flow of illicit substances into the country. But despite the copious amounts of resources used in this task alone — whether it’s through the DEA, the OCGS, or even the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) — illicit substance use (and abuse) has only grown across the country.

To continue reading: Here’s Why America’s Drug War Has Been an Epic Failure

The Drug War is State-Sanctioned Theft, by Lorelei McFly

Making drugs illegal is one of those “crimes” that spawns far more criminality than the original crime. From Lorelei McFly at copblock.org (for links, please refer to the original article):

One of the biggest lies our government tells us is that it wages the War on Drugs to keep us safe. More than 40 years after it was started, we know that it has been a colossally-expensive epic failure on its stated goals, was intentionally designed to further disenfranchise marginalized groups, and has become a full-fledged assault on our civil liberties.

Even with all the billions of tax dollars it spends each year, and all the flashy photo ops of seized drugs stacked on tables, the Drug Enforcement Agency only stops 1% of the illegal drug supply from being distributed in America, according to the video below. Not only is law enforcement pathetically inept at stemming the flow of drugs, they are active participants in the illicit drug trade at both the federal and local level:

• Documents Show CIA complicity in the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s
• DEA’s 12-year business arrangement with El Chapo’s Sinaloa drug cartel
• Florida Cops Laundered Millions For Drug Cartels, Failed To Make A Single Arrest
• 13 Current and Former North Carolina and Virginia Law Enforcement Officers Indicted for Drug Smuggling
• California Drug Cop Busted Smuggling $2 Million Worth of Marijuana
• Pennsylvania Police Officer Who Obtained Hundreds of Narcotic Pills from 19 Different Doctors Given Plea Deal for Probation
• Narcotics Unit Supervisor Charged with Stealing Drugs from Evidence Room in Ohio

That drug prohibition causes far more harm than it supposedly prevents would not even be a question of debate were it not for the fact that so many people’s livelihoods now depend on waging it. The ugly unspoken truth is that the War on Drugs is a massive jobs and funding program for law enforcement that is operated under the guise of saving people from the evils of substance abuse.

State-Sanctioned Theft

Everything we do is suspect, and everything we own is subject to seizure— take cash for an example. The saying used to be that “cash is king,’ however these days it’s “cash is criminal” since cash transactions and even withdrawing or carrying “large amounts,” basically more than a few dollars, of your own money is now considered an indication of criminal activity (see here). Section 31 U.S.C. 5103 states, “United States coins and currency (including Federal reserve notes and circulating notes of Federal reserve banks and national banks) are legal tender for all debts, public charges, taxes, and dues,” so why does the government that prints that same money have such a problem with its citizens using it?

How Cash Became Criminal

Cash transactions are anonymous, so it is assumed that people who make cash transactions are trying to avoid leaving records of their activities. And if any aspect of your life is not a traceable, verifiable open book for the government, obviously you must be hiding something. Never mind that the case is often that people simply find using cash allows them to manage their finances more responsibly without risking overdraft or interest fees, or are making a purchase that requires cash, such as buying a used car, or that they simply do not have access to bank accounts due to low income or poor credit history.

To continue reading: The Drug War is State-Sanctioned Theft

How Assassination Sold Drugs and Promoted Terrorism, by Tom Englehardt and Andrew Cockburn

Seems that both drug cartels and terrorist organizations are not so much top-down hierarchies, but many headed hydrous, where a new head regenerates, replacing one that has been lost. The distinction is important for US drug and terrorism policy, as Tom Englehardt and Andrew Cockburn make clear, from tomdispatch.com, via antiwar.com:

No one can claim that plotting assassination is new to Washington or that, in the past, American leaders and the CIA didn’t aim high: the Congo’s Patrice Lumumba, Cuba’s Fidel Castro, the Dominican Republic’s Rafael Trujillo. The difference was that, in those days, the idea of assassinating a foreign leader, or anyone abroad, had a certain element of the taboo attached to it. Whatever they knew, presidents preferred not to be officially involved. The phrase of the era was “plausible deniability.” Top officials, including presidents, might approve assassination plots, but they didn’t brag about them.

Even in the CIA, there was a certain reticence about embracing the act. As Tim Weiner writes in his classic history of the Agency, Legacy of Ashes, “On December 11, 1959, having reached [the conclusion that his movement was communist], Richard Bissell sent Allen Dulles a memo suggesting that ‘thorough consideration be given to the elimination of Fidel Castro.’” Bissell was the Agency’s deputy director of plans and Dulles its director. Although it was an internal memo and “elimination” was already a euphemism, writes Weiner, “Dulles penciled in a crucial correction to the proposal. He struck out elimination, a word tinged with more than a hint of murder. He substituted removal from Cuba – and gave the go-ahead.” And yes, “removal from Cuba” turned out to mean an almost endless string of convoluted, failed plots to murder Castro – via the Mafia, poison, even exploding cigars or sea shells. It was, in the end, a performance worthy not of James Bond, but of the Three Stooges.

Jump four decades into a new century and assassination has come out of the closet. It’s something presidents are proud of. Barack Obama’s aides considered the news that the White House had a “kill list” a point of pride well worth leaking to the press. Think of it as plausible undeniability in twenty-first-century Washington. Key figures in the U.S. government now openly, publicly, discuss what the exact limits (and legal authority) might be for the assassination of American citizens and others abroad, and these arguments, even when they take place inside a government known for its fetishistic love of secrecy, soon become front-page news and no one even flinches.

If you need a reason for all this, blame it at least in part on the sexiness of technology. The drone (or its equivalent) first arrived in American multiplexes as a baleful shadow of a horrific future, but when it finally made it into the light of day in our actual world, it turned out to have the glow and glamour of a new Apple product. Think: an iPhone armed with Hellfire missiles. Assassination was no longer a shameful act for the shadows, something from which presidents had to cringe. It was cool. And campaigns to assassinate-by-drone on a large scale, while covert, were not, in the old-fashioned sense, secret, not when the drone was a sentinel keeping Americans safe on a terror planet.

While quite capable of knocking off enemy figures – only recently, for instance, such a drone took out a key religious leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula – the killer drone turned out not to work at all as promised when it came to staunching terrorism or terror organizations. In addition, thanks to the recent killing of two hostages, an American and an Italian, in an al-Qaeda compound in Pakistan, its unremitting “collateral damage” from so-called signature strikes, previously largely ignored here, has suddenly made the news in a big way. In these years, the drone has, in fact, proven a terror promoter. A new book, Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins, by Andrew Cockburn, the Washington editor of Harper’s Magazine, lays out the rise of our latest technology of death in a way no one else has and in the process makes that point stunningly. Kill Chain is, to my mind, an instant classic if you want to understand the new American century (such as it is). Today, in an original essay based on his book, Cockburn takes us back to the drug wars of the 1990s, opening a window on just why the drone is the modern age’s blowback weapon, par excellence. ~ Tom

The Kingpin Strategy
Assassination as Policy in Washington and How It Failed, 1990-2015
By Andrew Cockburn

As the war on terror nears its 14th anniversary – a war we seem to be losing, given jihadist advances in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen – the U.S. sticks stolidly to its strategy of “high-value targeting,” our preferred euphemism for assassination. Secretary of State John Kerry has proudly cited the elimination of “fifty percent” of the Islamic State’s “top commanders” as a recent indication of progress. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi himself, “Caliph” of the Islamic State, was reportedly seriously wounded in a March airstrike and thereby removed from day-to-day control of the organization. In January, as the White House belatedly admitted, a strike targeting al-Qaeda leadership in Pakistan also managed to kill an American, Warren Weinstein, and his fellow hostage, Giovanni Lo Porto.

More recently in Yemen, even as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula took control of a key airport, an American drone strike killed Ibrahim Suleiman al-Rubaish, allegedly an important figure in the group’s hierarchy. Meanwhile, the Saudi news channel al-Arabiya has featured a deck of cards bearing pictures of that country’s principal enemies in Yemen in emulation of the infamous cards issued by the U.S. military prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq as an aid to targeting its leaders. (Saddam Hussein was the ace of spades.)

Whatever the euphemism – the Israelis prefer to call it “focused prevention” – assassination has clearly been Washington’s favored strategy in the twenty-first century. Methods of implementation, including drones, cruise missiles, and Special Operations forces hunter-killer teams, may vary, but the core notion that the path to success lies in directly attacking and taking out your enemy’s leadership has become deeply embedded. As then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put it in 2010, “We believe that the use of intelligence-driven, precision-targeted operations against high-value insurgents and their networks is a key component” of U.S. strategy.

Analyses of this policy often refer, correctly, to the blood-drenched precedent of the CIA’s Vietnam-era Phoenix Program – at least 20,000 “neutralized.” But there was a more recent and far more direct, if less noted, source of inspiration for the contemporary American program of murder in the Greater Middle East and Africa, the “kingpin strategy” of Washington’s drug wars of the 1990s. As a former senior White House counterterrorism official confirmed to me in a 2013 interview, “The idea had its origins in the drug war. So that precedent was already in the system as a shaper of our thinking. We had a high degree of confidence in the utility of targeted killing. There was a strong sense that this was a tool to be used.”

Had that official known a little more about just how this feature of the drug wars actually played out, he might have had less confidence in the utility of his chosen instrument. In fact, the strangest part of the story is that a strategy that failed utterly back then, achieving the very opposite of its intended goal, would later be applied full scale to the war on terror – with exactly the same results.

http://original.antiwar.com/engelhardt/2015/04/28/how-assassination-sold-drugs-and-promoted-terrorism/

To continue reading: How Assassination Sold Drugs and Promoted Terrorism

Can You Say “Blowback” in Spanish? The Failed War on Drugs in Mexico (and the United States), Rebecca Gordon

What do the wars on terror, drugs, and poverty have in common? They’ve created more of what they were supposedly intended to eradicate. From Rebecca Gordon at tom dispatch.com:

They behead people by the hundreds. They heap headless, handless bodies along roadsides as warnings to those who would resist their power. They have penetrated the local, state, and national governments and control entire sections of the country. They provide employment and services to an impoverished public, which distrusts their actual government with its bitter record of corruption, repression, and torture. They seduce young people from several countries, including the United States, into their murderous activities.

Is this a description of the heinous practices of the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria? It could be, but as a matter of fact it’s not. These particular thugs exist a lot closer to home. They are part of the multi-billion-dollar industry known as the drug cartels of Mexico. Like the Islamic State, the cartels’ power has increased as the result of disastrous policies born in the U.S.A.

There are other parallels between IS and groups like Mexico’s Zetas and its Sinaloa cartel. Just as the U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya fertilized the field for IS, another U.S. war, the so-called War on Drugs, opened new horizons for the drug cartels. Just as Washington has worked hand-in-hand with and also behind the backs of corrupt rulers in Central Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa, so it has done with the Mexican government. Both kinds of war have resulted in blowback — violent consequences felt in our own cities, whether at the finish line of the Boston Marathon or in communities of color across the country.

In Mexico, the U.S. military is directly involved in the War on Drugs. In this country, that “war” has provided the pretext for the militarization of local police forces and increased routine surveillance of ordinary people going about their ordinary lives.

And just as both the national security state and the right wing have used the specter of IS to create an atmosphere of panic and hysteria in this country, so both have used the drug cartels’ grotesque theater of violence to justify their demonization of immigrants from Latin America and the massive militarization of America’s borderlands.

http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175971/tomgram%3A_rebecca_gordon%2C_it_didn%27t_work_in_afghanistan%2C_so_let%27s_do_it_in_mexico/

To continue reading: Can You Say “Blowback” in Spanish?