The late, lamented Gary Webb never really received the credit he deserved for his investigative journalism blowing open the CIA-Contras drug trafficking scandal. Now Ryan Grim sets the record straight in this article for Huffington Post, ostensibly about Ron Paul and conspiracy theories, but really an opportunity to plug his new book, This Is Your Country on Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America:
…Earlier this week, I looked into [Ron] Paul’s claim … 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.” (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 U.S.-supported groups profited, or still profit, heavily from the drug trade. One of the principal arguments made by the Drug Enforcement Administration 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 San Jose 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 12 years later. He’d grown up in Latin America and covered it for 20 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…
[continues at Huffington Post]