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Ron Paul Had Accurate Conspiracy Theory

CIA Was Tied to Drug Traffickers

by Ryan Grim, Washington Bureau Chief

The Huffington Post (December 30 2011)

According to a former aide, Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul has long been drawn toward conspiracy theories. Eric Dondero, who served Paul off and on from 1987 to 2003, wrote recently that the Texas Republican suspected that George W Bush may have had advance knowledge of the 9/11 attacks and that Franklin Roosevelt knew in advance about Pearl Harbor. Paul’s writings and speeches spotlight a host of other plots, including the “war on Christmas”.

But just because not all of Paul’s theories are backed by good evidence doesn’t mean none of them are.

In 1988, while running for president on the Libertarian Party ticket, he highlighted yet another conspiracy theory, and this one doesn’t collapse under investigation: The CIA, Paul told a gathering of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, was involved in trafficking drugs as part of the Iran-Contra debacle.

Drug trafficking is “a gold mine for people who want to raise money in the underground government in order to finance projects that they can’t get legitimately. It is very clear that the CIA has been very much involved with drug dealings”, Paul said.



The CIA was very much involved in the Iran-Contra scandals. I’m not making up the stories; we saw it on television. They were hauling down weapons and drugs back. And the CIA and government officials were closing their eyes, fighting a war that was technically illegal.



Earlier this week, I looked into Paul’s claim in the same speech that the war on drugs had racist origins and that the medical community played a role in lobbying for drug prohibitions. That charge was more or less accurate.

So is Paul’s claim about the CIA and drug trafficking, a connection I explore in the book This Is Your Country On Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America (2010). (An excerpt of the chapter on the CIA appeared in The Root.) The following is drawn from my book.

Since at least the 1940s, the American government has organized and supported insurgent armies for the purpose of overthrowing some presumably hostile foreign regime. In Italy, the United States helped pit the Corsican and Sicilian mobs against the Fascists and then the Communists. In China, it aided Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang in its struggle against Mao Zedong’s communist forces. In Afghanistan, it once backed the mujahedeen in their fight against the Soviet Union and today backs warlords in opposition to the mujahedeen.

All of these and other US-supported groups profited, or still profit, heavily from the drug trade. One of the principal arguments made by the Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) in support of the global drug war is that the illegal drug trade funds violent, stateless organizations. The DEA refers specifically to al Qaeda and the Taliban, but the same method of fundraising has long been used by other violent, stateless actors whom the United States befriended.

An “Uncomfortable” Story

Douglas Farah was in El Salvador when The Mercury News broke a major story in the summer of 1996: The Nicaraguan Contras, a confederation of paramilitary rebels sponsored by the CIA, had been funding some of their operations by exporting cocaine to the United States. One of their best customers was a man nicknamed “Freeway Rick” – Ricky Donnell Ross, then a Southern California dealer who was running an operation The Los Angeles Times dubbed “the Wal-Mart of crack dealing”.

“My first thought was, ‘Holy shit!’ because there’d been so many rumors in the region of this going on”, said Farah twelve years later. He’d grown up in Latin America and covered it for twenty years for The Washington Post.



There had always been these stories floating around about [the Contras] and cocaine. I knew [Contra leader] Adolfo Calero and some of the other folks there, and they were all sleazebags. You wouldn’t read the story and say, “Oh my god, these guys would never do that”. It was more like, “Oh, one more dirty thing they were doing”.’ So I took it seriously.



The same would not hold true of most of Farah’s colleagues, either in the newspaper business in general or at the Post in particular. “If you’re talking about our intelligence community tolerating – if not promoting – drugs to pay for black ops, it’s rather an uncomfortable thing to do when you’re an establishment paper like the Post”, Farah told me. “If you were going to be directly rubbing up against the government, they wanted it more solid than it could probably ever be done”.

In the mid to late 1980s, a number of reports had surfaced that connected the Contras to the cocaine trade. The first was by Associated Press scribes Brian Barger and Robert Parry, who published a story in December 1985 that began, “Nicaraguan rebels operating in northern Costa Rica have engaged in cocaine trafficking, in part to help finance their war against Nicaragua’s leftist government, according to US investigators and American volunteers who work with the rebels”.

Only a few outlets followed Barger and Parry’s lead, including the San Francisco Examiner and the lefty magazine In These Times, which both published similar stories in 1986, and CBS’s “West 57th” TV series, which did a segment in 1987. A Nexis search of the year following Barger and Parry’s revelation turned up a total of only four stories containing the terms “Contras” and “cocaine”, one of them a denial of the accusation from a Contra spokesperson. Stories popped up here and there over the next decade, but many of them made only oblique reference to a couldn’t-possibly-be-true conspiracy theory.

Then came The Mercury News article, a 20,000-word three-parter by Pulitzer Prize-winning staffer Gary Webb, published under the headline “Dark Alliance”. “For the better part of a decade, a San Francisco Bay Area drug ring sold tons of cocaine to the Crips and Bloods street gangs of Los Angeles and funneled millions in drug profits to a Latin American guerrilla army run by the US Central Intelligence Agency, a Mercury News investigation has found”, the story began.

The series initially received little attention from major media outlets, but it was eventually spread across the nation by the Internet and black talk radio. The latter put its own spin on the tale: that the US government had deliberately spread crack to African-American neighborhoods to quell unruly residents. The Post newsroom was bombarded with phone calls asking why it was ignoring the story, the paper’s ombudsman later reported.

In response, The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times would all weigh in with multiple articles claiming that Webb’s assertions were bunk. His career was effectively ruined, and even his own paper eventually disavowed “Dark Alliance”, despite having given it a cutting-edge online presentation complete with document transcriptions and audio recordings.

The big papers had been pushing their same line for years. In 1987, New York Times reporter Keith Schneider had dismissed out of hand a lawsuit filed by a liberal group charging that the Contras were funding their operations with drug money. “Other investigators, including reporters from major news organizations, have tried without success to find proof of aspects of the case”, he wrote, “particularly the allegations that military supplies for the contras may have been paid for with profits from drug trafficking”.

In These Times later asked Schneider why he’d rejected the Contra-coke connection. He was trying to avoid “shatter[ing] the Republic”, he said. “I think it is so damaging, the implications are so extraordinary, that for us to run the story, it had better be based on the most solid evidence we could amass”.

The American republic, of course, is an idea as much as it is a reality. That idea is of a nation founded on freedom and dedicated to the progress of human rights around the globe. It’s most certainly not of a country that aids the underground drug trade – even if it does.

What Drug Runners Do

If Webb didn’t have ironclad proof that the CIA had knowingly done just that, he did, as one Senate investigator later noted, have “a strong circumstantial case that Contra officials who were paid by the CIA knew about [drug smuggling] and looked the other way”. He based his series on court records and interviews with key drug-runners. One of them, Danilo Blandon, was once described by Assistant US Attorney L J O’Neale as “the biggest Nicaraguan cocaine dealer in the United States”.

Webb had been unable to persuade Blandon to talk, but the cocaine dealer testified at a trial shortly before “Dark Alliance” came out. Blandon wasn’t on trial himself, wasn’t facing any jail time, and was in fact being paid by the US government to act as an informant. In other words, he had no obvious incentive to lie to make the United States look bad. Nevertheless, in sworn testimony, he said that in 1981 alone, his drug operation sold almost a ton of cocaine in the United States and that “whatever we were running in Los Angeles, the profit was going to the Contra revolution”.

Blandon’s boss in the operation was Norwin Meneses, the head of political operations and US fundraising for the Contras. Meneses was known as “Rey de la Droga” – King of Drugs – and had been under active investigation by the US government since the early 1970s as the Cali cocaine cartel’s top representative in Nicaragua. The DEA considered him a major trafficker, and he had been implicated in 45 separate federal investigations, Webb discovered through government documents. Regardless, Meneses had never served any time in federal prison and lived openly in his San Francisco home.

In 1981, Blandon testified, he and Meneses had traveled to Honduras to meet Colonel Enrique Bermudez, the military leader of the Contra army and a full-time CIA employee. “While Blandon says Bermudez didn’t know cocaine would be the fund-raising device they used”, Webb wrote, “the presence of the mysterious Mr Meneses strongly suggests otherwise”. The reporter drew on court documents and government records to show that anyone involved in or familiar with the drug world at the time knew exactly how Meneses went about raising revenue.

Blandon sold the Contras’ product to Ross for prices well below what other dealers could command, allowing him to expand his business throughout Los Angeles, then to Texas, Ohio and beyond. Ross told Webb that he owed his rise to Blandon and his cheap coke. ”I’m not saying I wouldn’t have been a dope dealer without Danilo”, Ross said. ”But I wouldn’t have been Freeway Rick”.

Farah, The Washington Post reporter, said that his reporting on Webb’s trail led to one of the biggest battles of his career. “There were maybe, in my twenty years at the Post, two or three stories out of however many hundreds or thousands I wrote where I had this kind of problem, and this was one of them. I wasn’t in general in confrontation with my editors but … this thing was weird and I knew it was weird”, he said. “I did have a long and dispiriting fight with the editors at the Post because they wanted to say ultimately – their basic take was that I was dealing with a bunch of liars, so it was one person’s word against another person’s word, and therefore you couldn’t tell the truth. But it was pretty clear to me.”

The official government response was provided to Post national security reporter Walter Pincus, who had at one time served in the US Army Counterintelligence Corps. “One of my big fights on this was with Pincus”, Farah remembered, “and my disadvantage was that I was in Managua and he was sitting in on the story meetings and talking directly to the editors. And we had a disagreement over the validity of what I was finding. At the time, I didn’t realize he had been an agency employee for awhile. That might have helped me understand what was going on there a bit.”

Pincus, who said that his involvement with the CIA several decades before is overblown, recalled the developing story differently. “To be honest, I can’t remember talking to Doug at the time”, he said. “To me, it was no great shock that some of the people the agency was dealing with were also drug dealers. But the idea that the agency was then running the drug program was totally different.”

Pincus said that Webb’s core story about the Contras and cocaine didn’t resonate not because it didn’t have any truth to it, but because it was obviously true. “This is a problem that came up – it’s probably a question of how long you cover these things”, he said. “It came up during the Vietnam War, where the US was dealing with the Hmong tribes in Laos and some of the people that were flying airplanes that the agency was using were also [running] drugs”.

Through his reporting, Farah concluded, he’d confirmed the greater part of Webb’s story. “The Contra-drug stuff, I think, was there”, Farah said. “Largely, I think it [Webb’s story] was right”.

The Media Onslaught

The editorial cuts and pushback, however, discouraged Farah from pursuing a further investigation into the Contras’ drug-running history. “I was really sort of disappointed at how things had run there at the Post on that story, and there wasn’t much incentive to go forward after that”, said Farah. (The Post‘s top editor at the time, Leonard Downie, told me that he didn’t remember the incident well enough to comment on it.)

Although Pincus said that he didn’t have any role in neutering and burying Farah’s story, he did say that he sympathized with his fellow reporter. “I was writing about there being no weapons in Iraq, and it was put in the back of the paper”, Pincus said. “I’ve been through the same thing”.

The Washington Post, like The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times, published a massive package dedicated to debunking Webb’s story. When a congressional investigation later confirmed the major elements of Webb’s reporting, the papers barely covered it. (I go into the media attack in more detail in the book.)

In the face of the media onslaught, Webb’s editor retracted the story. Webb was demoted and sent to a dustbin bureau 150 miles from San Jose. He resigned after settling an arbitration claim and went to work for a small alt-weekly. Over the next several years, his marriage fell apart and his wages were garnished for child support. On December 10 2004, Webb was discovered dead, shot twice in the head with his father’s .38. The local coroner declared the death a suicide.

Obituaries in the major papers referenced his “discredited” series. The Los Angeles Times obit recalled his “widely criticized series linking the CIA to the explosion of crack cocaine in Los Angeles”, noting that “[m]ajor newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, New York Times and Washington Post, wrote reports discrediting elements of Webb’s reporting”. The New York Times ran a five-paragraph Reuters obit that began, “Gary Webb, a reporter who won national attention with a series of articles, later discredited”. The obit continued, “The articles led to calls in Congress for an investigation, but major newspapers discredited parts of Mr Webb’s work”. It made no mention of the fact that those calls for an investigation were heeded and that the investigation confirmed a great deal of Webb’s reporting.

The headline “Web of Deception” ran atop Howard Kurtz’s story in The Washington Post. “There was a time when Gary Webb was at the center of a huge, racially charged national controversy. That was eight years ago, and it turned out badly for him”, Kurtz wrote. “The lesson”, he concluded, “is that just because a news outlet makes sensational charges doesn’t make them true, and just because the rest of the media challenge the charges doesn’t make them part of some cover-up”.

Reading the obituaries at the time, Farah recalled, was dispiriting. “Everybody, especially in the news business when you’re working fast, makes mistakes”, he said. “But I don’t think that should stand as the final word on what he did”.

Kurtz, however, stands by what he wrote then. “Of course it’s very sad what happened to [Gary Webb] in the end, but I just did some basic reporting on him”, Kurtz said. “I wasn’t going out on a limb.”

Categories: Uncategorized

First Transgender President

Trump Becomes Hillary

by Fred Reed (April 20 2017)

Oh Lord, it’s happening – the remanufacture of Trump by the Establishment. During the campaign, Trump and the Basilisk had nothing in common but their hair dye. Now, almost daily, he looks more like her.

He gets embarrassing. Regarding the alleged gassing in Syria, quoth Donald:



When you kill innocent children, innocent babies – babies, little babies – with a chemical gas … that crosses many, many lines, beyond a red line. … And I will tell you, that attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me … my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much.



God almighty. Who wrote this – a middle school girl with C’s in English, or the President of the United States? Did he retire to his bedroom for a good cry?

Apparently he ordered his missile strike without bothering to find out what happened. The usual suspects are driving him like a sports car.

The election was a choice between fetor and a lunatic. We chose the lunatic. Whether this was better than the alternative, we will never know, but Trump is going from bad to worse, or as the Mexicans say, de Guatemala a Guatepeor.

Does he believe this stuff? Is he naive enough to think that there was something unusually horrible about the attack? Horrible, yes, but not in the least unusual. Do you know what everyday, boring artillery does to children? Five-hundred-pound bombs? Hellfire rockets? Daily Mr Trump’s military and his allies daily drop shrapnel-producing explosives on people, cities, towns, adults, children, weddings and goatherds in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. Good draft-dodger that he was, he probably has never seen any of this. Good psychopath that he may be, he may not care.

This whole gas-attack business smells to high heaven. It looks nicely calculated to force him to attack Assad. Gas was important: Killing babies, little babies with explosives is so routine that no one cares, but we have been programmed to shudder at the thought of Gas!

Actually artillery has killed several orders of magnitude more people, but never mind.

Targeting children was a nice touch. Definitely a public-relations bonus. So Donald goes into his Poor-widdle-fings weep, while Americans weekly kill more children in three to seven countries, depending on the date.

Is the man consciously a liar? Hasn’t got sense enough to think before operating his mouth? Actually believes what he says when he says it?

Glance at a small part of the record and focus on his changing his tune, not on whether you agree with a particular policy. Erratic, erratic, erratic. He was going to run out the illegals within two years, absurd but he said it. Going to put high tariffs on Mexican goods. Didn’t. On Chinese goods. Isn’t. Tear up the Iran treaty. Didn’t. Declare China a currency-manipulator. Isn’t. Ban Muslims. Hasn’t. Promote good relations with Russia. Isn’t. Get the US out of Syria. Ha. Make Nato pay for itself. Isn’t. The man has the steely determination one associates with bean curd. You cannot trust anything the man says.

Having been reprogrammed as a good neocon, bombing places he promised to get out of, looking for a fight with Russia, he is now butting heads with Fat Thing in North Korea. He his said things closely resembling, “We have run out of strategic patience with the North. If nobody else will take care of it, we will.” Grrrr. Bowwow. Woof.

The problem with growly ultimata made for television is that somebody has to back down – that is, lose face and credibility. If Trump had quietly told Fat Thing, “If you crazy bastards scrap your nuke program, we will drop the sanctions”, it might have worked. But no. Negotiations would imply weakness. Thus an ultimatum.

So now either (a) Fat Thing knuckles under, humiliating himself and possibly endangering his grasp on power or (b) Trump blinks in a humiliating display of the Empire’s impotence, possibly endangering his grasp on power.

Kim Jong Il, or Il Sung Jong, or whatever the the hell the latest one of them is called, shows not the slightest sign of backing down. So does the Donald start an utterly unpredictable war, as usual in somebody else’s country, or does he weasel off, muttering, and hope nobody notices?

Fred’s Third Law of International Relations: Never butt heads with a country that has a missile named the No Dong.

Many of us favored Trump, slightly daft though he was, because he wasn’t yet Hillary, wasn’t yet a neocon robot, and didn’t want war with every country he had heard of, apparently meaning a good half dozen. At least he said he didn’t, not yet having been told that he did. In particular, he didn’t want war with Russia. But when the neocons control the media and Congress, they can convince a naive public of anything and, apparently, the President.

Why is the Hillarification of Trump important? The necessary prior question: What is the greatest threat to the neocons’ American Empire? Answer: The ongoing integration of Eurasia under Chinese hegemony. The key countries in this are China, Iran, and Russia. (Isn’t it curious that, apart from the momentary distraction of North Korea, these countries have been the focus of New York’s hostility?) In particular if Russia and, through it, China develop large and very profitable trade with Europe, there goes Nato and with it the Empire.


Thus the eeeeeeeeeeek! furor about Russia as existential threat and so on. Thus sending a few troops to Baltic countries to “deter” Russia. This was theater. The idea that a thousand garrison troops can stop the Russian army, which hasn’t gone silly as ours has, on its doorstep is loony.

Hillary was on board with the Russia hysteria and the globalization and the immigration and so on. Trump could have screwed the whole pooch by getting along with Russia, so he had to be reconfigured. And was. A work in progress, but going well.

Too much is being asked of him. One man cannot overcome the combined hostility of the media, the political establishment, the neocons, the myriad other special interests that he has threatened. Mass immigration is a done deal. China develops and America, already developed, cannot keep up. The country disintegrates socially. Washington, always depending on war and its threat, faces a new world in which trade is the weapon, and doesn’t know what to do. The culture courses. The world changes.

Yet if only Trump showed some sign of knowing what he is doing, and could remember from day to day, if only he realized that wars are more easily started than predicted, if only he were not becoming an unbalanced Hillary.

Yet, apparently, he is.

Categories: Uncategorized

The Return of Commercial Prison Labour

by Christoph Scherrer and Anil Shah

The Bullet (April 18 2017)

Prisons are seldom mentioned under the rubric of labour market institutions such as temporary work contracts or collective bargaining agreements. Yet, prisons not only employ labour but also cast a shadow on the labour force in or out of work. The early labour movement considered the then prevalent use of prison labour for commercial purposes as unfair competition. By the 1930s, the US labour movement was strong enough to have work for commercial purposes prohibited in prisons.

Prisoner Strike Solidarity

In the decades following, the number of prisoners decreased to a historic minimum. But with cutbacks in the welfare state, the prison population exploded from about 200,000 in 1975 to 2,300,000 in 2013 (Scherrer and Shah, 2017: 37) and prison labour for commercial purposes became legal again. Today, about fifteen percent of the inmates in US federal and state prisons perform work for companies such as Boeing, Starbucks and Victoria’s Secret. Migrants detained for violating immigration laws are one of the fastest growing segments of prison labour. Under the Trump administration, their numbers are most likely to increase.

Using the example of the US, we will discuss drivers of the return of commercial prison labour.

Neoliberalism: From Mass Incarceration to Commercial Exploitation

The drastic expansion of the penal state was driven especially by the widening of statutory offences for non-violent delicts – such as drug abuse or public urination – and increased minimum penalties. The conservative administrations’ “war against drugs” reveals the racist dimensions of the mass incarceration. The people imprisoned because of substance abuse did not at all reflect the actual proportions of drug consumers. Whereas the Afro-American population constitutes only thirteen percent of drug consumers, roughly corresponding to their demographic weight, they represent three quarters of all those who were imprisoned because of drug-related offenses (Wacquant, 2009: 61).

The transition toward a penal state is closely linked to cuts in state welfare spending. The US prison population is especially large in US states with traditionally lower social security benefits or with big cuts to the social security net (Beckett and Western, 2001). While social programmes aim at social peace, the objective of prisons is disciplining. The prison is an expression of “social disapproval” toward groups with little success in the labour market. It degrades them morally as well as factually to second-class citizens (Alexander 2010: 208). To date, more than six million people in the US have lost their right to vote due to a police record. The deterrent, disciplining moment of this policy of mass incarceration lies in demonstrating the lack of alternatives to precarious work and living conditions, which cannot be circumvented either by hanging around in the streets or by profitable illegal deals such as drug trafficking. Those who resist the discipline of the work society have to expect prison.

The consistent disciplining of “superfluous workers” (Gans, 2012) through mass imprisonment resulted in a steep rise in expenditure on security and prisons. In addition to overcrowding, opportunities for training and rehabilitation were cut to reduce costs. From there it was only a small step to propose using prisoners’ labour power as a source of income. The discourse on financing prisons and detainees moved from “public assistance” to “self-financing”. Under neoliberalism, detention itself is becoming a self-inflicted penalty for which the prisoner and the prisoner’s relatives literally have to pay: processing charges for visits, rents for beds, and co-financing for medical care. In many cases, prisoners are released with bills for prison services of several thousand dollars (Levingston, 2007).

By the late 1970s, federal and state legislation provided legal frameworks for private companies to contract with public prisons to exploit inmates’ labour. Work programmes at the federal level are rather transparent and trade unions as well as local companies are consulted, but state run programs overall employ a much higher share of inmates under undisclosed and highly exploitative conditions. In past decades, a patchwork of decentralized governmental, profit-oriented prison industries has developed. In Colorado, for instance, about 1,600 prisoners were employed in 37 different industrial sites in 2014 (Scherrer and Shah, 2017: 41). That was approximately fifteen percent of the prison population able to work. Production ranges from manufacture of furniture and dairy products to services such as car repair or landscape gardening. Workers received an average daily wage of $3.95 (US) in 2014. Thus the hourly wage, assuming a four-hour working day, remains under $1 (Scherrer and Shah, 2017: 41).

The commercial exploitation of prison labour, although growing, only affects parts of the prison population. The majority of prisoners work on the preservation of the prison itself – for example in the laundry, the kitchen or food distribution. Without this work, the system of mass incarceration would hardly be operable, financially as well as organizationally.

Private Profiting from Migration

The privatization of prisons proceeded in parallel to the recommodification of prison labour. The private prison sector now guards about one tenth of all prisoners. Government agencies pay private companies per prisoner. Unsurprisingly, privatization has not resulted in savings for tax payers despite the paring down of personnel, declining wages and lower fringe benefits – circumstances which have been criticized by trade unions for years.

Three Strikes and You’re Hired

Migration in particular has developed into a profitable branch for private companies. Mandatory detention for migration offences, which was introduced in 1996, resulted in a rapid expansion of deportation centres. By 2011, the daily average population of 32,000 detainees were kept in more than 200 detention centres. Just less than one tenth of all prisoners serve time in private prisons, but forty percent of all immigration detention prisons in the US are privately operated. Two major corporations – CoreCivic and the GEO group – provide one third of detention centre capacity. In 2012, these two companies concluded contracts worth $738-million (US) with federal authorities for detention jails. The government pays for the prisoners as long as the companies meet a minimum quota (34,000 detainees at any moment, since 2013). Thus there is an incentive to detain as many people as possible, for as long as possible. Information about the working conditions in immigration detention prisons are provided solely by newspaper reports. Repeatedly, cases have emerged where migrants were forced to work without payment. About 60,000 migrants are estimated to be working in “voluntary” labour programmes for a daily wage of less than $1 in privately and publicly operated institutions (Urbina 2014).

Overcoming Exploitative Prison Labour

Changes in prison labour practices might be brought about by the inmates themselves. Recently, several attempts at organizing have been reported. In September 2016, the Formerly Incarcerated, Convicted People and Families Movement (“FICPFM”) and the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (“IWOC”) hosted a conference on mass incarceration and exploitation of prison labour. At the same time, prisoners required to work went on strike in a number of prisons. Unfortunately, they failed to get the topic of prison labour on to the agenda of the presidential elections. The media mostly ignored the strikes.

In August 2016, the Department of Justice announced that it would end the use of private contractors to run its federal prisons after a report by its independent inspector-general highlighted massive safety and security problems in private prisons. Civil rights activists hailed the decision and already foresaw the end of an era. Less than half a year later, the Trump administration instructed the Department of Homeland Security to “take all appropriate action and allocate all legally available resources to immediately construct, operate, or control facilities to detain aliens at or near the land border with Mexico” (Hamilton 2017). The decision placed $40-billion (US) for the fiscal year 2017 into the service of privately operated detention centres. Within hours, the stock prices of GEO Group and CoreCivic soared.

Trump’s victory is likely to intensify the corporate takeover of prisons, exploitation of inmates’ labour, and profiting from criminalizing migration. These policies will also cast a shadow on labour: their disciplining force will be felt by marginalized segments of the labour force, and their dividing powers by organized labour. Therefore it is vital to join forces against neoliberalism, racial oppression, immigrant baiting and mass incarceration. Labour’s role should be to foster solidarity amongst social movements involved in these struggles.


Christoph Scherrer is Professor for Globalization and Politics at University of Kassel, Germany. He is also executive director of the International Center for Development and Decent Work and a member of the steering committee of the Global Labour University. Forthcoming publication: Public Banks in the Age of Financialization: A Comparative Perspective, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

Anil Shah was a research assistant at the subdivision Globalization and Politics of the Department of Politics at the University of Kassel. He has an interest in theories of global political economy and socio-ecological research. He recently published his master’s thesis, “Destructive Creation: Analyzing Socio-Ecological Conflicts as Frontiers of Capitalist Development” as a working paper.

This is a short version of Scherrer and Shah (2017), first published on the Global Labour Column website.


Alexander, M. (2010) The new Jim Crow: mass incarceration in the age of colourblindness, New York: The New Press.

Beckett, K. and Western, B. (2001) “Governing social marginality: welfare, incarceration and the transformation of state policy”, Punishment & Society, 3(1), pages 43-59.

Gans, H. (2012), “Superfluous Workers”, Challenge, 55(4), pages 94-103.

Hamilton, K. (2017). “Cell high. Donald Trump’s immigration orders will make private prison companies filthy rich”, Vice News, January 26.

Levingston, K.D. (2007), “Making the ‘bad guy’ pay: growing use of cost shifting as an economic sanction”, in T. Herivel and P. Wright (editors.): Prison Profiteers: Who makes Money from Mass Incarceration? New York: The New Press.

Scherrer, C and Shah, A. (2017) “Political economy of prison labour: from penal welfarism to the penal state”, Global Labour Journal, 8(1), pages 32-48.

Urbina, I. (2014), “Using Jailed Migrants as a Pool of Cheap Labour”, New York Times, 24 May 2014.

Wacquant, L. (2009), Punishing the poor: the neoliberal government of social insecurity, Durham: Duke University Press.

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A Ukraine on the Verge of Disaster Benefits No One

by Federico Pieraccini

Strategic Culture Foundation (April 19 2017)

In the past three months, the lines of contact between Ukraine and the forces in Donbass have seen an escalation of considerable tension. Both the republics of Lugansk and Donetsk have suffered violent attacks at the hands of Kiev’s military forces. Of course all these violations are in stark contrast to what was established in the Minsk II agreements, in particular as regards the use of certain weapons systems.

In addition to the military issues between Donbass and Ukraine, Kiev faces important internal struggle between oligarchs regarding economic issues. Symptomatic of this were the clashes in Avdeevka, then the attempts to capture the water filtration plant in Donetsk, and finally the blockade of coal transit from Donbass to Ukraine. All these have further deepened divisions between the components of the Ukrainian state’s power. The consequences of these events have led to greater instability in the country and decisive moves by the nationalist fringe alongside the Ukrainian Ukrainian intelligence service (“SBU”) and other components of the military, who are the authors of the blockade of the railway lines between the Donbass and the rest of Ukraine. Intensifying the divisions within the country, the meeting between Tymoshenko and Trump has further increased tensions, with Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman defining Timoshenko as the source of all problems, both economic as well are regarding corruption. Ukraine is politically divided, exacerbated by disputes between Poroshenko and Timoshenko, and these divisions are being exploited by foreign actors like Israel and Turkey, propping up the nationalist and banderist fringe within the National Guard battalion.

External pressure is clearly exerted indirectly on the Poroshenko administration in order to force it to keep the extreme factions of the nationalist battalions under control. For his part, Trump, by meeting with Tymoshenko, has sent a clear signal that in the case of excessive chaos in Kiev, the succession of power has already been decided. In the same way, the IMF exerts pressure on Kiev, slowing down the funding necessary for Ukraine to survive.

The danger that Western planners see is at the same time simple and delicate. On the one hand, there is a need to avoid a failure of the Ukrainian state, and nearly $18 billion of IMF aid serves that purpose. On the other hand, the withholding of IMF funding is applied whenever there is a need to get something done by the government in Kiev. An example can be easily seen with the escalation in Avdeevka that indirectly led the IMF to reduce the overall aid package, with the justification being that corruption remains high in the country. The goal was actually to avoid a complete breakdown of the Minsk II agreements and put a halt to the Ukrainian operation on Avdeevka. Even in the meeting between Tymoshenko and Trump, the strong signal sent to Poroshenko was clear: stop the nationalists and their provocations or there will be consequences.

The subtle game that is being played in Ukraine sees many components involved, often with diverse objectives and methods. The nationalist component hardly responds to the oligarchs in Kiev and to the central authority. They are often the first to receive training and weapons from western colleagues serving in Nato. American and British instructors have for more than two years provided their services to this component in the country. The National Guard received the blessings of the neoconservative factions of American power, as confirmed by the presence of Lindsey Graham and John McCain in Ukraine a few months ago. In addition to support from the Atlantic networks and the local SBU, these battalions have Turkish support, which involves Islamic extremists in the National Guard. Moreover, they receive both political and economic support from infamous oligarch Igor Kolomoisky. Going straight to the problem, one can see that the National Guard, despite strong political and economic support is not able to deliver a decisive blow to the Donbass and inflict any significant damage, let alone organize an efficient offensive. The problem is therefore clear that the alliance between nationalists loyal to Nato/neocons, Turkish extremists, and Israeli oligarchs like Kolomoisky enable the nationalists to carry out provocations but not to organize a serious military offensive against well-fortified and organized positions of the Donbass republics. To attempt an offensive of this kind would at least need a real army that is well organized and motivated.

Ukraine is back to the usual problems that emerged in 2014 and now plague military planners in Kiev. The Ukrainian army, essential to achieving a real push towards Donbass, lacks the motivation needed to fight. These considerations were already clearly known three years ago at the beginning of the infamous anti-terrorist operation (“ATO”) Kiev carried out in the east of the country. Two years later, Donbass is much stronger. Thanks to a variety of military acquisitions from Russia, as well as targeted training and an important fortification of their defensive positions, Donbass now has a defensive capability that must be taken into account.

In this situation, there are multiple dangers that can unfold for Kiev. Poroshenko must give the nationalists and international networks connected to them the ability to operate virtually without restrictions in Ukraine. He was put in power exactly for that purpose. When this does not happen, as seen in Avdeevka and with the water-supply center in Donetsk, where National Guard battalions had to pull back, there are consequences. In his sense, the National Guard blockade on Donbass is, other than being part of the usual provocations between oligarchs, an explicit message aimed at Kiev, causing considerable economic damage. No wonder Poroshenko sent the army to remove the blockade, which, unsurprisingly, did not actually change the situation.

The blockade actually obliged Kiev to buy coal from Russia, which was ironically left the only supplier. This fact was exploited by the same nationalists who created the blockade in the first place, blasting the Kiev government for buying coal from their enemy. In this mess, the Kiev government and Poroshenko should be aware of the consequences of excessive provocations against Donbass by the National Guard battalions. The ability of the Donbass to provide a firm response to any further aggression should be pondered by Kiev, even as tensions within Poroshenko’s inner circle continue to rise. The Ukrainian president is forced to support the nationalists and their rhetoric against “terrorists in the east” to ward off new Maidan.

At the same time, he needs to by all means avoid a military response from the two separatist republics. Kiev is aware that it does not possess the capacity to conquer the Donbass in terms of personnel and equipment, and is also aware that if the conflict got out of hand, with the complete collapse of the Minsk II agreements, the Donetsk People’s Republic (“DPR”) and Luhansk People’s Republic (“LPR”) would have the capability to extend their boundaries decidedly to the south, setting their sights on the Ukrainian coastline along the Black Sea.

Realistically, this scenario would be a nightmare for all the actors opposing the Donbass, especially for Nato and Poroshenko. Mariupol and Odessa appear to be the likely targets of a hypothetical new advance of the Donbass should the Minsk II agreements collapse. The Russian Federation and Donbass have made it amply clear that any new aggression from Ukraine will be met with a firm response. While this would not involve a direct attack on Kiev, it would establish a larger buffer zone that could include Mariupol and maybe even Odessa. This posture intends to create the necessary awareness in Kiev, and even in Nato, that it is not in their interests for an all-out war to be waged against Donbass.

The consequences of these actions call directly into question the Nato strategy in the Black Sea. The ultimate purpose of Nato is not to save Ukraine from a non-existent Russian threat but rather to put continuous pressure on the Russian Federation in every possible way. The objective is not even to reconquer Donbass, something that is also unfeasible for the military planners in Brussels, but the continuum of tension on Russia’s borders, occupying the attention of Moscow and continuously creating hotbeds of tension on its borders. In this regard, the Ukrainian access to the Black Sea is fundamental for Nato. The continued presence of Nato ships in the Black Sea to carry out joint exercises with Ukraine violates the Treaty of Montreux and is done to exert pressure on Russia from the sea. To bypass the Montreux convention and have a semi-permanent presence, the United States intends to donate a couple of ships to the Ukraine Navy in order to change the flag of the vessels, thus ensuring Nato’s legal permanent presence in the Black Sea without violating the Montreux Treaty. The port of Odessa is central in these calculations and it is of no particular surprise that in the event of a Novorossiya offensive following a Ukrainian attack, both Odessa and Mariupol would be difficult to defend for the Ukrainian army. Already in 2014, both Mariupol and Odessa had been calculated as possible targets of a wider strategy to liberate the cities from Kiev’s forces.

The bottom line is that the Kiev government is between two fires. On one side, the oligarchs battle each other, without regard for the life of Ukrainian citizens or the residents of Donbass, solely focussed on enriching themselves. On the other side, the western components in Ukraine (known as neoconservatives) fan the flames of conflict with military trainers and equipment banned by the Minsk II agreements, providing them to the Azov battalion, the most extremist wing of the National Guard. At the same time, Germany, and especially Russia, is gravely concerned over a possibility of the Ukraine economy defaulting, and of what that could mean in terms a huge wave of migration towards both countries, a situation Berlin would struggle to digest after all the migration coming from the Middle East over the last two years.

A potential default of the Ukrainian economy, and resulting destruction of the country, overshadows any struggles between oligarchs, and even the battle against Donbass. Options for Putin, Trump and Merkel all seem to be on the table with economic (nationalization of industries in the Donbass, slowdown in lending by the IMF), political (Trump meets Tymoshenko, a rival of Poroshenko) and military pressure (strong Russian presence behind the two separatist republics) applied in every way to prevent an all-out war in Ukraine.

The main danger is now clear to everyone involved – to Russia, the Donbass, Nato and Kiev. A new war between Donbass and Ukrainian would result in the defeat of Ukrainian forces, with consequences for Nato, since Donbass would hardly stop outside Mariupol and would instead proceed to Odessa. Kiev has a very weak capacity to mobilize motivated forces ready to sacrifice their lives for what are deeply corrupt oligarchs. This situation would cause an internal dilemma for Nato as was the case in 2014. Would Nato deploy its forces alongside those of Kiev to defend the ports in question, especially Odessa? If doubts where high three years ago, hardly anything has changed in recent years. Nato will not rally to the Kiev’s side. And the reasons remain the same, namely the risk of a direct confrontation with Russian troops, although Trump’s recent actions in Syria have raised much concern in Moscow in relation to the Ukrainian situation. A war against Donbass could easily lead to a wider conflict between superpowers, something impractical for even the most hyped warmongers on the Atlantic sphere. Realistically, Donbass troops, after repulsing Ukrainian aggression, would go on the offensive, and enjoying clear superiority in the region, thanks to Russia as well as to a higher level of motivation, would probably make their way all the way up to Odessa, securing the entire coastline.

The consequences of such a defeat would lead to the collapse of the central authority in Kiev, to an open war between oligarchical factions, to an end of loans from the International Monetary Fund, condemnation from European and American politicians, and to a definitive collapse of the Ukrainian economy. This would spell the end of business for Poroshenko and other business oligarchs, both in Kiev and in the West. Again, no one is interested in seeing such a scenario coming to fruition.

It is also important not to underestimate the partial unwillingness of Moscow to support an open war on the offensive by the Donbass army, especially given the political and economic consequences that the West would visit on Moscow.

The economic assistance that the Donbass would require from Moscow is another important consideration and something that the Russian Federation would prefer to avoid. It should, however, be stressed that in the unlikely event that Ukraine does not hold at bay its eagerness to wage war in Donbass, Moscow would openly side in favor of the Donbass, and the consequences for Ukraine and Nato would be disastrous, as we have seen. There would be enormous concern in such a scenario from Moscow, and the Russian Federation would take every step to avoid such a scenario, but if things got worse, Putin would be ready to support the advance of Novorossiya up to Odessa in order to secure once and for all the republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.

All the provocateurs in Ukraine should be aware that playing the nationalist card can be dangerous and can even result in a defeat that, when compared to 2014~2015, would be dramatically worse, condemning Ukraine to an economic, social and political crisis without precedent or a way out. It literally could be the beginning of the disintegration of Ukraine as we know it today.

Categories: Uncategorized

The CIA and Drugs

Just say “Why not?”

by William Blum

Third World Traveler (undated)



In my thirty-year history in the Drug Enforcement Administration and related agencies, the major targets of my investigations almost invariably turned out to be working for the CIA.

– Dennis Dayle, former chief of an elite DEA enforcement unit {1}



On August 18 1996, the San Jose Mercury initiated an extended series of articles about the CIA connection to the crack epidemic in Los Angeles. Though the CIA and influential media like The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times went out of their way to belittle the significance of the articles, the basic ingredients of the story were not really new – the CIA’s Contra army, fighting the leftist government of Nicaragua, turning to smuggling cocaine into the US, under CIA protection, to raise money for their military and personal use.

What was unique about the articles was (1) they appeared in a “respectable” daily newspaper and not an “alternative” publication, which could have and would have been completely ignored by the powers that be; and (2) they followed the cocaine into Los Angeles’ inner city, into the hands of the Crips and the Bloods, at the time that street-level drug users were figuring out how to make cocaine affordable: by changing the costly white powder into powerful little nuggets of crack that could be smoked cheaply.

The Contra dealers, principally Oscar Danilo Blandon and his boss Juan Norwin Meneses, both from the Nicaraguan privileged class, operated out of the San Francisco Bay Area and sold tons of cocaine – a drug that was virtually unobtainable in black neighborhoods before – to Los Angeles street gangs. They then funneled millions in drug profits to the Contra cause, while helping to fuel a disastrous crack explosion in Los Angeles and other cities, and enabling the gangs to buy automatic weapons, sometimes from Blandon himself.

The principal objection raised by the establishment critics to this scenario was that, even if correct, it didn’t prove that the CIA was complicit, or even had any knowledge of it. However, to arrive at this conclusion, they had to ignore things like the following from the San Jose Mercury series:

1. Cocaine flights from Central America landed with impunity in various spots in the United States, including a US Air Force base in Texas. In 1985, a Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) agent assigned to El Salvador reported to headquarters the details on cocaine flights from El Salvador to the US. The DEA did nothing but force him out of the agency {2}.

2. When Blandon was finally arrested in October 1986, after congress resumed funding for the Contras, and he admitted to crimes that have sent others away for life, the Justice Department turned him loose on unsupervised probation after only 28 months behind bars and has paid him more than $166,000 since.

3. According to a legal motion filed in a 1990 police corruption trial: In the 1986 raid on Blandon’s money-launderer, the police carted away numerous documents purportedly linking the US government to cocaine trafficking and money-laundering on behalf of the Contras. CIA personnel appeared at the sheriff’s department within 48 hours of the raid and removed the seized files from the evidence room. This motion drew media coverage in 1990 but, at the request of the Justice Department, a federal judge issued a gag order barring any discussion of the matter.

4. Blandon subsequently became a full-time informant for the DEA. When he testified in 1996 as a prosecution witness, the federal prosecutors obtained a court order preventing defense lawyers from delving into Blandon’s ties to the CIA.

5. Though Meneses is listed in the DEA’s computers as a major international drug smuggler and was implicated in 45 separate federal investigations since 1974, he lived openly and conspicuously in California until 1989 and never spent a day in a US prison. The DEA, US Customs, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and the California Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement have complained that a number of the probes of Meneses were stymied by the CIA or unnamed “national security” interests.

6. The US Attorney in San Francisco gave back to an arrested Nicaraguan drug dealer the $36,000 found in his possession. The money was returned after two Contra leaders sent letters to the court swearing that the drug dealer had been given the cash to buy supplies “for the reinstatement of democracy in Nicaragua”. The letters were hurriedly sealed after prosecutors invoked the Classified Information Procedures Act, a law designed to keep national security secrets from leaking out during trials. When a US Senate subcommittee later inquired of the Justice Department the reason for this unusual turn of events, they ran into a wall of secrecy. “The Justice Department flipped out to prevent us from getting access to people, records – finding anything out about it”, recalled Jack Blum, former chief counsel to the Senate subcommittee that investigated allegations of Contra cocaine trafficking. “It was one of the most frustrating exercises that I can ever recall”.

A Brief History of CIA Involvement in Drug Trafficking

1947 to 1951, France

CIA arms, money, and disinformation enabled Corsican criminal syndicates in Marseille to wrestle control of labor unions from the Communist Party. The Corsicans gained political influence and control over the docks – ideal conditions for cementing a long-term partnership with mafia drug distributors, which turned Marseille into the postwar heroin capital of the Western world. Marseille’s first heroin laboratories were opened in 1951, only months after the Corsicans took over the waterfront. {3}

Early 1950s, Southeast Asia

The Nationalist Chinese army, organized by the CIA to wage war against Communist China, became the opium barons of The Golden Triangle (parts of Burma, Thailand and Laos), the world’s largest source of opium and heroin. Air America, the CIA’s principal airline proprietary, flew the drugs all over Southeast Asia. {4}

1950s to early 1970s, Indochina

During US military involvement in Laos and other parts of Indochina, Air America flew opium and heroin throughout the area. Many GI’s in Vietnam became addicts. A laboratory built at CIA headquarters in northern Laos was used to refine heroin. After a decade of American military intervention, Southeast Asia had become the source of seventy percent of the world’s illicit opium and the major supplier of raw materials for America’s booming heroin market. {5}

1973 to 1980, Australia

The Nugan Hand Bank of Sydney was a CIA bank in all but name. Among its officers were a network of US generals, admirals and CIA men, including former CIA Director William Colby, who was also one of its lawyers. With branches in Saudi Arabia, Europe, Southeast Asia, South America and the US, Nugan Hand Bank financed drug trafficking, money laundering and international arms dealings. In 1980, amidst several mysterious deaths, the bank collapsed, $50 million in debt. {6}

1970s and 1980s, Panama

For more than a decade, Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega was a highly paid CIA asset and collaborator, despite knowledge by US drug authorities as early as 1971 that the general was heavily involved in drug trafficking and money laundering. Noriega facilitated “guns-for-drugs” flights for the Contras, providing protection and pilots, as well as safe havens for drug cartel officials, and discreet banking facilities. US officials, including then-CIA Director William Webster and several DEA officers, sent Noriega letters of praise for efforts to thwart drug trafficking (albeit only against competitors of his Medellin Cartel patrons). When a confluence of circumstances led to Noriega’s political luck running out, the Bush administration was reluctantly obliged to turn against him, invading Panama in December 1989, kidnapping the general, and falsely ascribing the invasion to the war on drugs. Ironically, drug trafficking through Panama was not abated after the US invasion. {7}

1980s, Central America

Obsessed with overthrowing the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua, Reagan administration officials tolerated drug trafficking as long as the traffickers gave support to the Contras. In 1989, the Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics, and International Operations (the Kerry committee) concluded a three-year investigation by stating:



There was substantial evidence of drug smuggling through the war zones on the part of individual Contras, Contra suppliers, Contra pilots, mercenaries who worked with the Contras, and Contra supporters throughout the region … US officials involved in Central America failed to address the drug issue for fear of jeopardizing the war efforts against Nicaragua … In each case, one or another agency of the US government had information regarding the involvement either while it was occurring, or immediately thereafter … Senior US policy makers were not immune to the idea that drug money was a perfect solution to the Contras’ funding problems. {8}



In Costa Rica, which served as the “Southern Front” for the Contras (Honduras being the Northern Front), there were several different CIA-Contra networks involved in drug trafficking, including that of CIA operative John Hull, whose farms along Costa Rica’s border with Nicaragua were the main staging area for the Contras. Hull and other CIA-connected Contra supporters and pilots teamed up with George Morales, a major Miami-based Colombian drug trafficker who later admitted to giving $3 million in cash and several planes to Contra leaders.{9} In 1989, after the Costa Rica government indicted Hull for drug trafficking, a DEA-hired plane clandestinely and illegally flew him to Miami, via Haiti. The US repeatedly thwarted Costa Rican efforts to extradite Hull back to Costa Rica to stand trial. {10}

Another Costa Rican-based drug ring involved a group of Cuban Americans whom the CIA had hired as military trainers for the Contras. Many had long been involved with the CIA and drug trafficking. They used Contra planes and a Costa Rican-based shrimp company, which laundered money for the CIA, to move cocaine to the US. {11}

Costa Rica was not the only route. Other way stations along the cocaine highway – and closely associated with the CIA – were the Guatemalan military intelligence service, which harbored many drug traffickers, and Ilopango Air Force Base in El Salvador, a key component of the US military intervention against the country’s guerrillas. {12}

The Contras provided both protection and infrastructure (planes, pilots, airstrips, warehouses, front companies and banks) to these CIA-linked drug networks. At least four transport companies under investigation for drug trafficking received US government contracts to carry non-lethal supplies to the Contras. {13} Southern Air Transport, “formerly” CIA-owned, and later under Pentagon contract, was involved in the drug running as well. {14} Cocaine-laden planes flew to Florida, Texas, Louisiana and other locations, including several military bases. Designated as “Contra Craft”, these shipments were not to be inspected. When some authority wasn’t clued in and made an arrest, powerful strings were pulled on behalf of dropping the case, acquittal, reduced sentence, or deportation. {15}

1980s to early 1990s, Afghanistan

CIA-supported Moujahedeen rebels engaged heavily in drug trafficking while fighting against the Soviet-supported government and its plans to reform the very backward Afghan society. The Agency’s principal client was Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, one of the leading druglords and leading heroin refiner. CIA-supplied trucks and mules, which had carried arms into Afghanistan, [and] were used to transport opium to laboratories along the Afghan-Pakistan border. The output provided up to one half of the heroin used annually in the United States and three-quarters of that used in Western Europe. US officials admitted in 1990 that they had failed to investigate or take action against the drug operation because of a desire not to offend their Pakistani and Afghan allies. {16} In 1993, an official of the DEA called Afghanistan the new Colombia of the drug world. {17}

Mid-1980s to early 1990s, Haiti

While working to keep key Haitian military and political leaders in power, the CIA turned a blind eye to their clients’ drug trafficking. In 1986, the Agency added some more names to its payroll by creating a new Haitian organization, the National Intelligence Service (“SIN”). SIN was purportedly created to fight the cocaine trade, though SIN officers themselves engaged in the trafficking, a trade aided and abetted by some of the Haitian military and political leaders. {18}


1. Peter Dale Scott & Jonathan Marshall, Cocaine Politics: Drugs, Armies, and the CIA in Central America (1991), pages. x-xi

2. Celerino Castillo, Powder Burns: Cocaine, Contras and the Drug War (1994) , passim

3. Alfred W McCoy, The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia (1972), chapter 2

4. Christopher Robbins, Air America (1985), chapter 9; McCoy, passim

5. McCoy, chapter 7; Robbins, page 128 and chapter 9

6. Jonathan Kwitny, The Crimes of Patriots: A True Tale of Dope, Dirty Money and the CIA (1987), passim; William Blum, Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War Two (1995), page 420, note 33

7. Scott & Marshall, passim; John Dinges, Our Man in Panama, (1991), passim; Murray Waas, “Cocaine and the White House Connection”, Los Angeles Weekly (September 30 to October 6 and October 7 to October 13, 1988), passim; National Security Archive Documentation Packet: “The Contras, Cocaine, and Covert Operations” (Washington, DC), passim

8. “Kerry Report”: Drugs, Law Enforcement and Foreign Policy, a Report of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics and International Operations, 1989, pages 2, 36, 41

9. Martha Honey, Hostile Acts: US Policy in Costa Rica in the 1980s (1994)

10. Martha Honey and David Myers, “US Probing Drug Agent’s Activities in Costa Rica”, San Francisco Chronicle (August 14 1991)

11. Honey, Hostile Acts

12. Frank Smyth, “In Guatemala, The DEA Fights the CIA”, New Republic (June 05 1995); Martha Honey, “Cocaine’s Certified Public Accountant”, two-part series, The Source (August and September 1994); Blum, page 239

13. Kerry report, passim

14. Scott & Marshall, pages 17-18

15. Scott & Marshall, passim; Waas, passim; NSA, passim

16. Blum, page 351; Tim Weiner, Blank Check: The Pentagon’s Black Budget (1990), pages 151-2

17. Los Angeles Times (August 22 1993)

18. The New York Times (November 14 1993); The Nation (October 03 1994), page 346

William Blum page:

Categories: Uncategorized

Washington Pushes World …

… to Brink of Nuclear War

by Bill Van Auken

World Socialist Web Site, (April 18 2017)

The repeated statements by US Vice President Mike Pence and other Trump administration officials Monday that the “era of strategic patience” with North Korea is over and “all options are on the table” have laid bare the mounting threat that Washington will provoke a war on the Korean peninsula involving the use of nuclear weapons and the deaths of millions.

“Just in the past two weeks, the world witnessed the strength and resolve of our new president in actions taken in Syria and Afghanistan”, Pence declared during a provocative visit to South Korea that brought him to the demilitarized zone (“DMZ”) on the North Korean border. “North Korea would do well not to test his resolve or the strength of the armed forces of the United States in this region”, Pence said.

This boasting about the reckless acts of military aggression – first, the cruise missile attack on Syria on April 7 and then, a week later, the use in Afghanistan of the Massive Ordnance Air Blast (“MOAB”) bomb, the most destructive weapon unleashed anywhere since the US incineration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – cannot be read by the government of North Korea as anything other than an ultimatum to accept US demands or expect to be on the receiving end of far greater violence.

With the naval strike group led by the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson set to take up a position off the Korean peninsula, the means of inflicting such violence are being put into place. The global implications of this buildup were underscored Monday with the report that both Russia and China have dispatched spy ships to trail the Vinson battle group. For these two nuclear-armed countries, Washington’s launching of a war against North Korea poses an existential threat.

The drive toward a military confrontation in Asia that could lead to a nuclear third world war has unfolded largely behind the backs of the people of the United States and the entire world. Neither the politicians of the two big business parties in the US nor the corporate-controlled media have so much as hinted to the public the horrific consequences of even a “limited” nuclear exchange on the Korean peninsula, nor the likelihood that such a catastrophe would draw all of the major nuclear powers into a global conflagration.

The recklessness of the path being pursued by Washington is staggering. Why the “era of strategic patience” has ended is not explained, nor are the conclusions drawn from this declaration even challenged. There are a whole number of states that now have nuclear weapons. North Korea’s pursuit of such arms does not represent a credible threat to the US.
“All options are on the table” can only mean that Washington is prepared to launch an unprovoked first strike against North Korea. Yet, within the media, there is barely a mention that such a course involves the threat of nuclear war. Nor is there the slightest suggestion that the US Congress should convene to vote on whether to authorize an attack that could produce casualties in the millions. The accepted wisdom is that Donald Trump doesn’t have to tell anyone what military action he will take until after the attack is executed. The only hint Trump gave of his intentions was at a Monday Easter egg-rolling event on the White House lawn, where he declared that North Korea has “gotta behave”.

The real character of the policy being pursued by Washington was indicated by John Bolton, the Bush administration’s ambassador to the United Nations, who told Fox News that the “way to end North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is to end North Korea”, that is, topple the government and militarily smash the country.

The real and growing danger posed by Washington’s reckless policy is beginning to be registered, if only in the mildest form.

The New York Times, which had previously celebrated the Trump administration’s turn toward stepped-up militarism against Syria and Russia, proclaiming its feeling of “emotional satisfaction and justice done” over the cruise missile strike of April 7, has become somewhat nervous that things are spinning out of control.

The newspaper, which increasingly functions as the house organ of the CIA, expressed concern Monday that Trump’s “intemperate talk is adding to regional tensions, unnerving allies and likely reinforcing North Korea’s longstanding fear that it could one day be attacked by America – the very reason North Korea invested in a nuclear arsenal in the first place”. It warned that the US president’s bellicose threats served to “box him into some kind of showdown” and paved the way for a “devastating miscalculation”.

Gideon Rachman, the chief foreign affairs columnist of the Financial Times, wrote in a piece posted Monday that if North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un “concludes that the US is indeed poised to attack his regime, he will be tempted to attack first. His incentive to move fast will only have been increased by stories in the media that the US’s war plans involve an early attempt to kill the North Korean leadership.” In fact, the same US Special Operations unit that carried out the 2011 assassination of Osama bin-Laden has been reported carrying out exercises in South Korea.

While Trump’s intimidation and threats could produce a capitulation by Pyongyang, Rachman continues, “… It is more likely that North Korea will not back down-and that the Trump strategy will therefore fail. In that case, the US president is faced with a dilemma. Does Mr Trump’s ‘very powerful armada’ steam away from the Korean peninsula with its mission unaccomplished?”

To ask the question is to answer it. Neither Trump nor the cabal of active duty and retired generals who are setting his foreign policy are inclined to back down from the brink of war without having achieved the objectives over which such a war would be fought, that is, the complete capitulation and disarmament of North Korea.

After 25 years of waging continuous war against largely unarmed oppressed countries and killing millions, while suffering relatively few consequences, US imperialism is now being driven by its own internal crisis and contradictions to an entirely different level of military confrontation.

More and more the situation resembles that which prevailed in the late 1930s on the eve of the Second World War. If Adolf Hitler had possessed a Twitter account, it is hard to imagine how he would have used it much differently from the way the US president is using his own.
“Our military is building and is rapidly becoming stronger than ever before. Frankly, we have no choice!” Trump tweeted Sunday.

Three days earlier: “I have great confidence that China will properly deal with North Korea. If they are unable to do so, the US, with its allies, will! USA.”

Trump’s rhetoric echoes that employed by Hitler in the run-up to Germany’s march into Czechoslovakia and Poland. The Nazi leader proclaimed of the Czechoslovak “problem” that it “must be solved”. Then it was the Polish “problem” that “must be solved”. He deliberately created crises as pretexts for military action.

Trump employs similar rhetoric, describing an entire nation, North Korea, as a “problem”, and then warning menacingly that “it will be taken care of”. Why this problem is now so urgent, no one explains, and, as far as the media is concerned, virtually no one asks.

What could Pyongyang possibly do to satisfy Washington? It would have to renounce its nuclear program and open itself up to an inspections regime, going down the same road traveled by Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, ending in their nations’ destruction and their own violent deaths.

The assumption that China can be pressured into imposing Washington’s diktat in relation to North Korea is without foundation. China was compelled to go to war in 1950 when US troops reached the Yalu River, sacrificing hundreds of thousands to drive the American army back. Now Washington wants China to intervene to hand the US and South Korea what they were unable to achieve half a century ago through war. If Beijing were to accede to these demands, it would have immense strategic implications for China as well as major internal political consequences.

There are already indications that tensions between Beijing and Washington are escalating on the Korean peninsula after Seoul’s announcement that it intends to move ahead rapidly with the installation of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, which the US claims is designed to defend against North Korean missiles, but which China recognizes as a means of assuring the US a nuclear first-strike capability.

Twice in the twentieyth century, the crisis of world capitalism drove capitalist heads of state and their general staffs to seek a way out through war, leading to the deaths of tens of millions. Today, similar pressures are unleashing a drive toward a nuclear confrontation that could lead to the destruction of life on the planet.

Everything that is being done by the US government involves astonishing levels of risk, including that of a nuclear war. Whether it happens in the immediate confrontation with North Korea cannot be predicted, but that this is the course Washington is prepared to pursue all over the world is undeniable.

No one can afford the illusion that today’s capitalist governments, unlike those of 1914 and 1939, will not risk war because of the threat of nuclear annihilation. If anything, they are far more reckless than their predecessors. Confronted with deepening economic and social crises for which they have no progressive solution, they are even more prone to dragging humanity to the brink of destruction.

The present crisis is characterized by a terrible chasm between the scale of the danger of war and the absence of any organized movement against it. There is no way to stop the drive toward war outside of the politically conscious intervention of the working class within the United States and internationally.

The Socialist Equality Party and the International Committee of the Fourth International (“ICFI”) are fighting for a new international anti-war, anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist movement of the working class based on socialist policies. The fight for the development of this movement includes the organization of demonstrations at workplaces, universities and in working class neighborhoods against war.

The ICFI on April 30 will hold its annual International May Day Online Rally, which will have as its central aim the fight to mobilize the working class against imperialist war. We call on all of our readers and supporters to participate in and build this rally among the widest possible layers of workers and youth.

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Nuclear Brinkmanship

Trump’s Belligerent Policy on North Korea

by Binoy Kampmark

CounterPunch (April 18 2017)

Photo by Stefan Krasowski | CC BY 2.0

Warring toddlers, fanatical children, one-eyed adolescents who confuse noise with constructive contribution – this is the state of the world, with the recent, and ongoing spat chapter of Washington and Pyongyang.

However you wish to describe the stout, proud and foolishly dangerous Kim Jong-un, murderous leader of North Korea (“DPRK”), comparisons must diminish somewhat before the trigger happy CEO of United States Inc, known as The Donald. Both are in a tussle of theatre and force, and the audience is hoping that this remains such. Between the two countries, after all, only one has ever used the atomic weapon on civilian populations.

The face off between the two resembles a popgun holder against an overly endowed tank, though the popgun holder has threatened to up the quality of his ordnance through ceremonial self-praise and image. There are promised missile launches, promised nuclear tests.

From Washington’s side, the response was quirkily mad ahead of the weapons test scheduled by the regime in Pyongyang to commemorate the “Day of the Sun” – the 105th anniversary of the birth of the DPRK’s founder, Kim Il-sung. Last Thursday, Trump insisted that Pyongyang was a problem that “will be taken care of”, dumping China’s President Xi Jinping in the mess of working “very hard” to clean up the mess.

As the US flotilla, led by the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier, powered towards the peninsula, the North’s KCNA agency made the emphatic point that the US had introduced “into the Korean peninsula, the world’s biggest hotspot, huge nuclear strategic assets, seriously threatening peace and security of the peninsula and pushing the situation there to the brink of war” {1}.

Even before a single shot had been fired, Trump had suggested the possibility of a strike against targets in the north. Misbehave, Pyongyang, at your peril. The NBC news report outlining the claims of such a pre-emptive conventional weapons strike on North Korean targets were subsequently dismissed as “flat wrong” by an unnamed “senior Trump administration” … {2}

Not to be outdone, US Vice President Mike Pence has insisted during a visit to the Demilitarised Zone at Camp Bonifas that all policy options, like a vast and limitless smorgasbord, should be on the table. Yes, the US and its allies would seek to attain objectives through “peaceable means” though he was clear that “ultimately by whatever means are necessary” should also figure.

The “era of strategic patience”, Pence insisted, was over. “We want to see North Korea abandon its reckless path of the development of nuclear weapons, and also its continual use and testing of ballistic missiles is unacceptable”. Such a view was actually expressed at a failed missile test, keeping the world in suspense as to what would happen if the next round of North Korean tests prove to be hunky dory.

As with everything with the Trump administration, qualified voices can also be found amidst the loudness. National Security advisor, H R McMaster, insisted, despite noting the “tough decisions” Trump had made on the use of force against Syria, that it was “time for us to undertake all actions we can, short of a military option, to try to resolve this peacefully”. Less in terms of choice, it would seem, on that smorgasbord.

Where there is muscle, there is credibility, though where that muscle is applied remains the true test of statesmanship. In the not so wise context of Trumpist behaviour, muscle is detached from sentience and cognition, to be applied only in the context of making a deal, ploughing in and hoping for the best. Unfortunately for Trump and much of his ilk, it is hard to imagine receivership and bankruptcy in a nuclear obliterated landscape.

For Kim Jong-un, credibility, like a mythical figure of enormous sexual prowess, has to be faked. He must claim to have weapons he does not have, means he can never possess. The ability to give an orgasm is paraded as being stupendous. Much of this theatrical posturing has to be put down to an emperor who has long ago feared that the clothes have fallen off, if, indeed, they were ever there in even slightly tattered form. This is an impoverished state made more, rather than less dangerous, in the rhetorical sniping that is now taking place.

Little thought is openly given to the very fact that the US remains the greatest enemy, and alibi, of North Korean conduct. In a peninsula still technically at war, there never having been a formal peace treaty signed, the conduct of Washington post-September 11 2001 remains an object lesson for the state.

The invasion of Iraq for not having weapons of mass destruction, or the destruction of Qaddafi’s Libya in 2011, provide the colourful background to Pyongyang’s wishes to have a functioning nuclear capability.

Whether it is a totalitarian entity redolent with images of false achievement and actual desperation, or a Republic which has decided to abandon any pretext for orthodox diplomacy, both are perversely well matched in the word stakes, but dangerously poised to take it to a logical conclusion.

It is such behaviour that has made such veterans as former Army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson dribble with fear that something exceptional will take place:

I’ve been through the Cuban missile crisis, I’ve been through the Bay of Pigs before that, Vietnam War, the two Iraq wars and so forth. And I’ve got to tell you, though, I’ve never been so concerned, as I am now, for the state of this country and world relations. {3}

(The previous imperial bashes were evidently tolerable for US Inc.)

It is with some relief that the little tub of misguided emotions managed to see his project explode in mid-experiment, possibly with US cyber intervention, but it would have also given much dark amusement to have seen the US military misfire in its imperial presumption. The cult of war continues to enchant those who know little of it.





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