People interested in the global narcotics trade should keep three things in mind: One, western governments have made numerous alliances with drug dealers.
Two, if every government in the world cut off all links with drug pushers, narcotraffickers would still keep on selling drugs in mass amounts.
Three, when governments make pacts with drug runners, it's usually for political reasons and not because the state wants to become a pusher. (An exception would be the 19th century opium war. See Drug War 10).
Last week (Drug War 11) we mentioned Gary Webb, a former San Jose Mercury News reporter who wrote on the CIA-Contra drug connection in the 1980s. After leaving the Mercury News, Webb wrote a book called Dark Alliance: the CIA, the Contras and the Crack Cocaine Explosion.
In a 1999 review of this book, a Los Angeles Times writer made an excellent point.
"In Central America in the 1980s, the CIA had one overriding goal - defeating communism - and everything else was secondary," wrote Jim Rosenfield. "In the drive to overthrow the Sandinistas, the CIA overlooked political assassinations, disappearances, massacres, torture and rape. Is it really so surprising, then, that it would overlook drug trafficking as well?"
In other words, Washington was on a holy crusade to rid the world of communism. For the far-right, communism and socialism was no better than fascism. Tens of millions of people died under Mao, Stalin and Pol Pot, they pointed out. Therefore, any attempt to create a left-wing government - be it Chile, Nicaragua, Afghanistan - had to be crushed for the good of humanity.
Critics, of course, would respond that the right was full of it. The real goal of conservatives, they would argue, was to conquer and dominate foreign lands for economic reasons. But that's another story.
What's relevant for this column is that the West got into bed with drug traffickers because they provided useful political support. When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan the U.S. had no problem supplying anti-Russian Mujahadeen fighters, even though they were linked to the opium trade.
Likewise, when Washington decided that Slobodan Milosevic, the former Yugoslav president, was the reincarnation of Hitler, they had no difficulty getting into bed with anti-Milosevic Kosovo rebels that had ties to the drug trade.
Renowned media critic Noam Chomsky, who is famous for his attacks on U.S. foreign policy, argues that Washington is not interested in being a drug pusher per se. Rather, when they get into bed with organized crime it's for political reasons.
"It's not that the US is trying to increase the use of drugs," he told High Times in 1998, "it's just the natural thing to do. If you were in a position where you had to hire thugs and gangsters to kill peasants and break strikes, and you had to do it with untraceable money, what would come to your mind?"
Itís at this point where the hypocrisy of the West comes into full view. The U.S., and at times their western allies, justify their alliances with drug dealers as an acceptable price for keeping the world free. But in the process of this "democratic" war, they engage in covert actions, reward narcotraffickers and remove civil liberties from their own citizens.
In other words, the war to save democracy has stuffed our prisons with drug offenders, made the criminal underworld rich, assisted in the spread of drugs and made our own governments get into bed with some nasty, nasty folk.
Alejandro Bustos is open to suggestions. Some.
High Times interview with Noam Chomsky: +++
Dark Alliance book review: