Gainspotting: Terror War Meets Drug War

Here is some eminent good sense from Norm Stamper, former police chief of Seattle on how to vastly reduce crime – and America's scandalously high prison population – and, not incidentally, stanch the relentless spread of corruption throughout government and the business world, while helping to heal some of the nation's most greivous racial and class divides. What's the secret? It's simple: legalize drugs.

The Los Angeles Times is to be applauded for publishing such a provocative piece, which flies in the face of deeply entrenched (and deeply profitable) conventional wisdom – and to be condemned for trying to undercut it at the same time with a headline designed to set middle-class teeth on edge: "Let Those Dopers Be." As Stamper makes clear, you don't have to be a "doper" to see the incalcuable damage being done to American society and politics by the horrendously stupid and counterproductive "war on drugs."

Then feel free to take a hit of the piece below. This is the first installment of several excerpts from the book, "Empire Burlesque: High Crimes and Low Comedy in the Bush Imperium, 2001-2005," that we will be running in the week ahead, while your correspondent trots the globe. This is from November 2001, and shows the connection between the 30-year-old "war on drugs" and the "war on terror," then in the first bloody bloom of youth.

Gainspotting: Terror War Meets Drug War
November 30, 2001

Among the isolated, out-of-step losers who dare open their mouths to mutter "doubts" about America's military campaign in Afghanistan, you will sometimes hear the traitorous comment: "This war is just about oil."

We take stern exception to such cynical tommyrot. No one who has made a clear and dispassionate assessment of the situation in the region could possibly say the new Afghan war is "just about oil."

It's also about drugs.

For, although we must now hail the warlords of the Northern Alliance as noble defenders of civilization, the fact is that for some time they have also functioned as one of the world's biggest drug-dealing operations. Indeed, one of the main sticking points between the holy warriors of the alliance and their ideological brethren in the Taliban has been control of the profitable poppy, which by God's grace grows so plentifully in a land otherwise bereft of natural resources. (Always excepting the production of corpses.) ....

In the good old days, when the brethren were united against the Soviet devil, all shared equally in the drug-running trade, under the benevolent eye of that great lubricator of illicit commerce, the CIA. When the Northern Alliance was driven from Kabul – having killed 50,000 of the city's inhabitants during their civilized rule – the Taliban seized the lion's share of Afghanistan's opium production. The noble warlords managed to hold on to several prize fields in the north, however, and together with avaricious Talibs, they helped fuel a worldwide rise in heroin traffic.

Earlier this year, the Bush administration bribed the Taliban to stop growing opium – a most effective use of baksheesh, according to the UN, which found that Afghan opium production dropped from 3,300 tons annually to less than 200. But the Northern Alliance leapt manfully into the breach, engineering a threefold rise in opium output on their territory this year.

Now the bountiful southern fields are also theirs for the plucking. For war-ravaged Afghan farmers, the "market realities" are clear: they can plant wheat, and get 50 bucks an acre, or plant opium and pull down $8,000 in hard cash for the same plot of land. Needless to say, the poppy replanting has already begun. Come harvest time, the drug lords – sorry, the noble warlords – will take their cut and ship the dope off to pollute the minds of decadent infidels in the West. Ah, the spoils of victory!

Hey, maybe their CIA buddies will help coordinate the shipments. Those guys are killer when it comes to covert logistics.

After all, as Attorney General "Jailin' John" Ashcroft tells us, the "war on terrorism" is just like "the war on drugs" – that is to say, a never-ending fount of profitable corruption for the ruthless, the murderous and the well-connected.

Certainly, the "war on drugs" makes little sense otherwise. We all know that if the ingestion of various arbitrarily chosen substances were no longer prosecuted, the level of violence, crime and repression in society would be reduced immeasurably. "Substance abuse" would then become what it is now for drugs like alcohol and nicotine: a matter of personal character and private consequence.

Crack addicts, for example, could have their nightly pipe in the safety of their own home, for the same price as a six-pack of beer, a carton of cigarettes or the latest Disney video. They wouldn't need to resort to crime to feed an expensive criminalized habit. And their resulting stupefaction would be no more harmful to the public good than that of millions of their fellow citizens sitting slack-jawed in front of the tube.

But decriminalization will never happen. Illegal drugs are simply too profitable for the various powerful criminal elements known as "mafias," "warlords" – and "intelligence agencies." For drug-running is the perfect way to fund your black ops – no budget restraints, no legal niceties, no pesky legislators looking over your shoulder.

That's how they did it back in those high old Iran-Contra days, as investigator Robert Parry reports on Buried in the papers of that thwarted investigation are outright admissions of CIA connivance with the drug dealers who helped finance the murderous Reagan-Bush terrorist network in Latin America.

This is – in part – what G.W. Bush is covering up with his recent autocratic edict sealing past presidential papers. That, and the fact that his Daddy lied about his own involvement in the criminal enterprise – lies which he drowned certain fathoms deep by pardoning his co-conspirators. Some of these criminal connivers with drug-running now hold high office in the new Bush administration.

You know, the one that "restored honor and integrity" to the White House.

Bottom Line
Let's connect the dots. Drugs help stoke war. Defense firms sell the weapons of war – to governments, warlords, terrorists, whoever will pay. The investors and owners of defense firms – like, say, the Bush family and the bin Ladens – are directly enriched by war. And so the wars go on.

For every American soldier killed, for every Afghan child murdered, George W. Bush adds a few more dollars to his inheritance. His former business associates, the bin Ladens – whom he protected by stifling FBI investigations into their activities, while also crippling probes into Saudi funding of al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups – will do quite nicely as well.

Nu, what can you say? Such is the eternal way of the world, where "oft 'tis seen, the wicked prize itself buys out the law." So it was in Babylon, so it was in Rome; so it was in Moscow, Mecca, Peking and Thebes. The ruthless, the murderous and the well-connected carry it away.