War on Drugs, part 5: 1998-2010 - From Citigroup to Lehman Brothers

First published by Znet on 21st September 2017

In 1998 the CIA Inspector General (CIA IG) issued a report admitting that the Agency officially knew as early as 1984 that Norwin Meneses was running drugs and arms through Costa Rica in partnership with senior Contras, that the Agency had directly intervened in the San Francisco Frogmen case to cover up the links to Agency assets, and that the CIA and the Justice Department had an agreement to not pursue Blandon and Meneses for cocaine trafficking into the U.S. while they were funding the Contras. While the U.S. media worked itself up into a frenzy over allegations of the 42nd POTUS having an affair, the CIA quietly released an edited version of the CIA IG’s report outlining the Agency’s part in a criminal conspiracy that had drowned large areas of Los Angeles in crack cocaine and destroyed hundreds of thousands of families and entire communities in its path. Although they largely ignored the ramifications of the report, the media did manage to report the DCIA’s mealy-mouthed mea culpa in response to it, when he said “The allegations made have left an indelible impression in many American minds that the CIA was somehow responsible for the scourge of drugs in our inner cities”[i].

It is worth restating the original course of events. In 1981 the 40th POTUS issued Executive Order 12333 in the same week that the CIA was authorised to begin operations in Nicaragua and was already operating in Afghanistan with the Mujaheddin, ISI and MI6. The order outlined the rules of engagement for U.S. Intelligence personnel overseas. Only a few months later, the DCIA and the Attorney General agreed a Memorandum of Understanding of what needed to be reported to the Justice Department and what didn’t need to be reported. On the ‘didn’t need to be reported’ list were crimes committed by people acting on behalf of a USG Intelligence Agency and any drug offences committed by CIA employees specifically. In short, Agency assets could break the law and employees could break drugs laws. This turned out to be a useful legal tool, being that the CIA and it’s assets were just starting to get back into the drugs business in a big way. In his brilliant expose of the CIA-Contra-Cocaine conspiracy, Gary Webb argued that the Agency were unlikely to have known that helping the Contras traffic cocaine into the States was going to result in a crack epidemic amongst America’s poor. He optimistically believed that the CIA was only guilty of “unbridled criminal stupidity”[ii].

By 1998 the International Monetary Fund estimated that the amount of illegal money in the global economy was somewhere between $800 billion and $2 trillion, or between 2 to 5% of the total global GDP[iii]. The United Nations established the Convention against Transnational organised crime, and the Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) as part of it. The UN estimated that transnational organised crime was employing around 3.3 million people in the trafficking of drugs, arms, artefacts, endangered species and people[iv]. In the U.S. in May 1998 Operation Casablanca indicted numerous senior officials across Mexico’s banking sector, including Banco Nacional de Mexico (Banamex) and Banco Santander of Spain, as well as several senior members of the Cali and Juarez cartels. During the arrests of the 112 people, 2 tons of cocaine, 4 tons of marijuana and $35 million was seized[v]. The U.S. Treasury Secretary called it the largest … drug money-laundering case in the history of United States law enforcement. A few years later Citicorp bought Banamex[vi], and the prosecutions collapsed[vii]. Fourteen years after that Citigroup finally shut down Banamex, paying $140 million in penalties amidst ongoing allegations of money-laundering[viii].

By 1998, the wider social impact of the narcotics trade on Colombia was clear to see. 48% of the land was owned by 1.3% of the population, who were mostly super-wealthy absentee landlords, 5% was owned by 68% of the population, overwhelmingly subsistence farmers, and somewhere in the region of 42% of all farm land was owned by drug cartels. Power in Colombia was very much concentrated into the hands of a wealthy elite, with the narcotics trade fully integrated into the day-to-day politics, economics, and military and law enforcement institutions. This was the backdrop against which the war had continued. At the same time as FARC were organising in areas under their control, schools, hospitals, and legal systems, the U.S. company and alleged CIA front Dyn-Corp, was sending mercenaries and ‘assets’ on covert ops in Colombia. In 1998 Dyn-Corp had contracts running with the U.S. State department, Commerce department, CIA and NASA. Dyn-Corp had been doing business with the USG as far back as the administration of the 40th POTUS, when it was alleged to have been trafficking arms and drugs. Not much had changed in nearly two decades. In 1999 the company was investigated for trafficking amphetamines, and in 2000 liquid heroin. By 1998 Dyn-Corp were fighting alongside the Colombian military and the heir to MAS, the private paramilitaries of the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC), who were protecting the growing and distribution of narcotics[ix].

From as early as 1958 Colombia had been, to all intents and purposes, engaged in a class-based civil war, between a ruling elite supported by the USG seeking to exploit the population and natural resources, and highly politicised and organised sections of the impoverished population seeking to control and define the own future. In the 1990s FARC was in the ascendancy in the poorest underdeveloped areas, which equated to close to 60% of Colombia[x]. Over the course of the 1990s the land used for coca production tripled, while that for opium multiplied by a factor of 5[xi]. Colombia was fast becoming the central axle around which the entire Crystal Triangle spun. It was close to the growing countries of Peru and Bolivia, the money-laundering facilities in Panama and the Caribbean, the trafficking hubs in Mexico, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic, and it shared a history, language and culture with two key distribution and consumption gateways, the southern U.S. states and Spain. As the millennium drew to a close the cocaine trade had infiltrated every facet of the Colombian state and in turn, everything that the Colombian state came in contact with. And when the Colombian people fought against the U.S. client ‘narco-state’, Washington labelled them ‘narco-terrorists'[xii].

While the USG levelled it’s sights on FARC, the Colombian state just couldn’t shake it’s own habit. State employees just kept getting caught up to no good. Between 1998 and 2000 Colombian air-force officers, the Director of Intelligence and the Head of Counter Intelligence all got caught trafficking drugs, arms and embezzling public funds[xiii]. But there was always a strategic objective. Human Rights Watch (HRW) documented in two separate reports from 1991 and 2000 how the U.S. military and CIA had been working with the Colombian Army in the setting up of private paramilitaries, and how senior Colombian officers were directly involved in the planning and carrying out of their massacres. HRW’s conclusion was that the overarching plan was to drive FARC out of of the resource rich north and centre of the country and into the south-east which was already largely outside of State control. However, these operations also had the effect of closing down certain trafficking networks and emboldening other networks. By 2000 there had been no discernible decrease in overall cocaine trafficking, but there had been a significant consolidation of trafficking into their hands of certain networks with close ties to law enforcement and the military[xiv]. From the 2000 HRW report it becomes quite apparent how close these ties had become, with half of all Colombian army commanders being investigated for their links to the trafficking paramilitaries. Further more, it has been argued that as proxies of the State intelligence mechanism, the private paramilitaries were in fact working closely with U.S., British and Israeli intelligence advisers as well[xv].

In 1999 the governments of Colombia and the U.S., under the 42nd POTUS, announced ‘Plan Colombia’. The intention was to reduce drug production by 50% within 6 years and to reclaim control of the areas being held by illegal armed groups (FARC)[xvi]. In 2000 the POTUS signed up officially and earmarked $1.3 billion in the budget to supply helicopters, planes, chemical and biological weapons, electronic surveillance equipment, training and military advisers. The Colombian ‘government’ promised $4 billion and the European Union (EU) a further £2.2 billion. And what did America expect for it’s money? The maintenance and securing of “capitalist socio-economic relations and unhindered access to Latin American markets by American transnational corporations”. And if ever an example were needed, by 2000 the banks being implicated in the laundering of Crystal Triangle drugs profits where names like J.P. Morgan, Chase Manhattan, Citibank, Citicorp and Bank of America. And it wasn’t just the banks. U.S. investigations into money-laundering found links to Philip Morris and Bell Helicopter, with figures being bandied around in the billions of dollars[xvii]. And of course, the plan also entailed the consolidation of the trade into the hands of those most closely allied to the U.S. client ‘narco-state’ and the CIA, who in return would act as proxies when required[xviii].

In Afghanistan, the Taliban had effectively taken control of large parts of the country, Osama bin Laden had relocated there from Sudan and Jihadist training camps were beginning to appear in increasing numbers. It was at this point that the CIA choose to reignite it’s relationship with the opium trafficking Warlord Ahmed Shah Massoud and his allies in the Northern Alliance[xix]. This was the same Ahmed Shah Massoud that had been the happy recipient of British MI6 and SAS support some twenty years earlier[xx]. Over those two decades opium production in Afghanistan had grown steadily, from 200 tons in 1980, to 1,600 tons in 1990, to 3,100 tons in 2000[xxi]. The opium trafficking Northern Alliance had been growing their businesses very effectively with the support of the U.S. and UK governments. Then as the 42nd POTUS made way for his successor, the CIA established a permanent base in the area under Massoud’s control against the wishes of certain National Security Advisers who warned that close ties to the drug trafficker Massoud risked the Agency getting caught up in the heroin trade[xxii]. In 2000 the Taliban issued a ban on the growing of opium. However in light of their historical alliances with opium trafficking, it is hard to see this as a moral stance, and more likely a strategic one[xxiii]. When the ban came into force, opium production in the Taliban controlled areas declined drastically, going back to the 1980 level of 200 tons. In response the Northern Alliance region increased production to pick up some of the slack. Sensing the imminent U.S. attack, the Taliban withdrew the ban in September 2001 to help fund the war effort, and by 2002 opium production across the country was back up to 3,400 tons[xxiv].

The rationale for why Afghanistan was chosen over Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Hamburg, Florida or Minnesota from which the attacks had been planned, funded and prepared for has been analysed at length elsewhere[xxv]. It is sufficient for the purposes of this study to say that the invasion which followed the 11th September was predictably mired in the global opium trade. As in other U.S. theatres of war previously, with the increase in chaos and traffic there was a concomitant influx of OC and increase in the production of opium. This time, not only did the CIA partner with opium traffickers already resident in the region, but they went as far as to convince a stalwart of the Mujaheddin opium trade out of retirement in France and back into business[xxvi].

Even though bin Laden organised Massoud’s assassination in the days leading up to the 11th September, the CIA had already collected enough data through the Northern Alliance for an extensive list of bombing targets across the country. On that list were 25 major narcotics facilities, which the Pentagon and the 43rd POTUS’s White House refused to target with air strikes. In addition to remaining silent about the opium trafficking in the region controlled by the Northern Alliance, the USG seemed unwilling to do anything about any of the Afghan opium trade at all[xxvii]. The U.S. media, dutifully avoided looking into the role of opium in Afghanistan. And, even in the aftermath of 11th September, the long term impacts of partnering with brutal criminals was going to have to take second place to the strategic objectives of the USG[xxviii]. One of the reasons the Taliban had been welcomed in areas of the country in the 1990s was due to the brutal atrocities committed by the opium warlords. In 2001, the memory of those mass-executions, systematic rapes and burning down of villages were still fresh for many. And, when the Taliban control faltered across those same regions, the behaviour began repeating itself. The revenge attacks by the opium warlords against the ethnic Pashtuns started almost immediately, with wide spread allegations of looting, mass-rapes and executions[xxix].

In 2001 the Colombian government estimated that 40% of the country’s cocaine exports were being controlled by right-wing paramilitary warlords and their trafficking partners, while FARC controlled in the region of 2.5%. The U.S. media chose not to dwell on these estimates as ‘Plan Colombia’ firmly set it’s sights on the ‘narco-terrorists’ of FARC[xxx]. The major trafficking cartels had spent years infiltrating themselves into the wider Colombian power structure, with business interests across the illegitimate and legitimate economy, and in major land holdings. By 2001 Colombia was cultivating three times as much coca as Bolivia and Peru combined. It had gone from producing 230 tons or 25% of global production in 1995, to 730 tons or 76% in 2001. And the DEA was well aware of this, monitoring the growing of coca expanding from 50,000 hectares in 1995 to just short of 170,000 hectares in 2001. In February 2001 the Head of the DEA stated, “there is no evidence that any FARC or ELN units have established international transportation, wholesale distribution, or drug-money laundering networks in the United States or Europe”[xxxi]. But this didn’t make any difference to ‘Plan Colombia’, under both the 42nd and the 43rd POTUS the programme was overwhelmingly militarised and aimed at FARC and the ELN[xxxii]. Between 1996 and 2001, U.S. military aid to Colombia grew from $67 million to $1 billion. In 2001, the Colombian government estimated annual production to be in the region of 800 to 900 tons, with 40% under the control of the AUC, 2.5% under FARC control and the rest under non-specific members of the narco-bourgeoisie[xxxiii].

In the first few months of 2002 the Colombian government stepped up its attacks on FARC accusing them of running a massive narcotics trafficking and kidnapping network out of San Vicente del Caguan in Southern Colombia. In reality, FARC had been doing no such thing. They had, with tens of thousands of workers and peasants taken control of the region, running it’s own police force, utilities, schools, health service, road infrastructure and mass-vaccination programs. Under pressure from the USG, the Colombian government ordered a military invasion and bombing campaign of the region. The operation forced FARC into a guerilla insurgency, fighting out of the jungles and cities. The state stepped up the dismantling of the advances made by the revolutionaries, at the same time as bolstering the production of cocaine. Under two POTUS, Plan Colombia had effectively condemned the people of Colombia to a life of oppression by warlords and oligarchs. The American people where misled by the billionaire George Soros’s organisation, Human Rights Watch, who had effectively allied themselves with the Colombian ruling class. In August of 2002 Alvaro Uribe Velez became President of Colombia and promptly enacted a legislative programme of privatisations and wholesale destruction of workers rights. Pensions, healthcare and social security were all privatised as safeguards against foreign resource exploitation were torn up. Transnational Corporations descended on the country like vultures, hoovering up the countries resources, industries and budgets[xxxiv].

By 2002 the true impact of Plan Colombia was becoming apparent. The targeting of FARC in the rural regions had allowed the narco-bourgeoisie to concentrate themselves in to the state defended cities of Bogota, Medellin, Cali and Barranquilla. The rural areas where the peasants were concentrated, were subjected to the mass-aerial defoliation programme. According to the State Departments own estimates, rather than decrease the area of coca cultivation, the result of the mass-spraying of highly toxic chemicals across rural areas significantly increased the cultivation of coca from 122,000 hectares in 1999 to 170,000 in 2001. By 2002 cocaine exports were estimated to be generating in the region of $3.5 billion, slightly less than Colombia’s oil exports. That same cocaine was generating sales for OC on the U.S. streets of $11 billion. Which raises the question, whether the mass-spraying was a defoliation program aimed at coca or chemical warfare aimed at the people trying to stop a very profitable business. Aerial spraying entire regions during a civil war with highly toxic chemicals is indiscriminate, it will poison peasants, wildlife, livestock and crops alike. At the same time as this was happening the Colombian government were campaigning relentlessly in the urban areas with a message inciting fear and anxiety against the ‘narco-terrorists’, while the Colombian army was resurrecting a U.S. strategy from Vietnam which entailed wiping out local civilian populations in villages that supported FARC, in order to drive a wedge between the paramilitaries and their supporter base. It was called ‘draining the sea to kill the fish’.”[xxxv]

The accumulation and concentration of power and wealth through the narcotics trade in the Crystal Triangle has occurred on an epic scale. In 1999, Colombia’s National Association of Financial Institutions (ANIF) estimated that less than 10% of the global sales of Colombian narcotics were being brought back into the Colombian economy. ANIF estimated at that time, that the global sales of Colombian cocaine, heroin and marijuana was roughly $46 billion, and that in the region of $3.5 billion was being repatriated into Colombia. And of the drug money coming back into the country, much of it was being laundered by reinvesting it in the real estate market. By the turn of the century, it has been estimated that $2.4 billion of cocaine profits was used to purchase 4.4 million hectares of land. By 2003, the Colombian narco-bourgeoisie were estimated to control somewhere in the region of 18 million hectares of land. In addition to cultivating cocaine, opium and marijuana, this land was also being used for narcotics processing and logistics; as well as tourism, industry, private residencies, livestock and legitimate crops. The narco-economy, was at that time already arguably close to becoming the foundation on which the entire Colombian economy rested. By 2003, it has been estimated that just the U.S. market for cocaine had reached $52.8 billion. And again, allegations of corruption abounded. That same year an ex-General of the Colombian Army reported that agents from the DEA and the Colombian Police were involved in murdering two informants. The case, involving two tons of cocaine eventually saw seven police arrested and a further eighteen fired from their jobs. The DEA denied any involvement[xxxvi].

The contradictions between the ‘accepted’ narrative and the reality weren’t going unnoticed in Afghanistan. In 2002 the Boston Globe argued that “every major warlord and every provincial government in Afghanistan is involved in the drug business, while the Guardian added, “By using heroin-financed gangsters of the Northern Alliance … the U.S. has handed over most of the country to the same war criminals that devastated Afghanistan in the early 1990s”[xxxvii]. But it took the truly unflinching critics to go beyond the shocked indignation of the mass media to point out the ongoing pattern of behaviour and its entirely predictable impact. Peter Dale Scott has spent decades unpicking and unravelling this terrifying policy. He has demonstrated time and again the direct comparisons between Afghanistan in the 2000s and Laos and Vietnam in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Both countries, when America stepped up from covert action to public warfare, where divided along religious/ethnic and rural/urban lines, warlordism and highly corrupted systems of state were rife, there was no democratic mandate to speak of, both countries were central points in the global narcotics trade, and in both cases key CIA assets close to the client-Presidents were major players in the trafficking of opium[xxxviii]. For those who had been looking closely, there were no surprises in Afghanistan or Colombia.

With the Taliban supposedly routed, and the new U.S. backed Afghan government in place, the historical pattern continued repeating itself as senior CIA staff began losing interest in the Afghan opium trade. So, while low level analysts where calling for the targeting of drug labs, senior management where shifting resources from counter-narcotics to counter-terrorism. Senior Pentagon staff supported the Agency’s refocussing, fearing that the Pentagon would have to redirect their forces against their Warlord allies, which in turn would spark another insurgency on a yet another front. The outcome was inevitable and entirely predictable. As soon as the U.S. client government took control, opium production and trafficking exploded. According to the DEA, by 2002 Afghanistan was producing 1,278 tons of opium, this doubled in 2003 and then nearly doubled again in 2004, making U.S. controlled Afghanistan the producer of 87% of the entire planet’s opium supply. By the end of 2004, according to the CIA, Afghanistan was cultivating opium poppies across 206,000 hectares, with the potential to produce $7 billion worth of heroin. This made Afghanistan at that moment, the largest single producer country of any narcotic on the planet[xxxix].

As 2003 drew to a close the relationships between the CIA and the trafficking of narcotics in Latin America was becoming increasingly difficult to unpick. With the increased reliance on Private Military Contractors (PMCs) three levels of secrecy were effectively cloaking the behaviour of the USG in the Crystal Triangle. Corporate confidentiality, national security and the bi-lateral agreement between the U.S. and Colombian government subjecting both past and present USG employees, contractors and military to U.S. as opposed to Colombian law, all came together to create the perfect camouflage for covert actions. At the time, it was estimated that 90-95% of all human rights violations in Colombia where being committed by the narco-military network. This cloaking system makes it difficult to establish which transnationals were managing which operations, which in turn allowed the companies to effectively exploit and violate the country and it’s people with total immunity from prosecution. And the PMCs taking advantage of this free-for-all were the usual suspects. L3 Communications, KBR, Halliburton, Dyn-Corp and SAIC all had their snouts in the trough[xl].

By 2004 Afghanistan was supplying 75% of Europe’s, and nearly all of it’s neighbouring countries heroin demands, while 90-95% of America’s heroin demand was being met out of Colombia, Mexico and south-east Asia. The situation in Afghanistan had become so endemic by 2004 that the narcotics trade was estimated to represent around 60% of the GDP, and employ 10% of the total Afghan population. The explosion of production had driven prices down. According to British law enforcement, between 1997 and 2004 the price of a gram of heroin on the street had dropped from £74 to £61. And like so many times before, even with extensive knowledge of forty major heroin syndicates on the Afghan-Pakistan border, the DEA didn’t make one major arrest or seizure[xli].

As the CIA sent each new classified set of numbers on opium cultivation in Afghanistan over to the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) at the State Department, the Assistant Secretary of State running it couldn’t believe his eyes. With no sense of irony, each new report showed a significant increase in the amount of opium being planted. And as Afghanistan descended into being just another U.S. client narco-state, President Hamid Karzai was re-elected to office. Having returned to Afghanistan in 2001 under the protection of the CIA and U.S. Special Forces[xlii], Oil executive Hamid Karzai’s own brother would further complicate the situation. CIA asset Ahmed Wali Karzai, was later accused of using his own narcotics trafficking network to fix elections in Afghanistan[xliii]. For the international trade in narcotics, in Afghanistan at least it was business as usual, even with the world’s media watching.

In 2004 President Uribe of Colombia successfully lobbied the 43rd POTUS to lift the cap on U.S. military and PMC personnel[xliv]. Between 1997 and 2004 Brands International Company (Chiquita) made over 100 payments to the terrorist organisation AUC. Even after they were prescribed as a terrorist organisation by the USG in 2001 Chiquita continued paying them, eventually spreading $850,000 across over 50 payments. The Colombian paramilitaries were extending their operations beyond FARC. In May 2004 86 Colombian paramilitaries were captured by Venezuelan security forces in a house outside Caracas Venezuela owned by the anti-Castro anti-Chavez Cuban, Roberto Alonso. The Colombian paramilitaries were wearing Venezuelan army uniforms. Progressive leaders across the America’s were highly aware of the CIA’s behaviour. When Evo Morales banned the DEA from Bolivia he directly referenced ex-DEA agent Michael Levine’s book. Meanwhile in the States, the street price of cocaine had steadily declined since the 1980s. The DEA’s own figures were that a gram of cocaine costing $600 in the 1980s, was only $200 by the mid 1990s, and by 2005 was only $20-25 in New York and between $30-100 in LA[xlv]. One of the main impacts in the U.S. of the development of the cocaine trade in the Crystal Triangle was to turn it from being a luxury item affordable to only a select a few, to a mass-market product that almost anyone could destroy their lives with.

In 2005 the CIA informed the INL that it was highly likely that a percentage of the profits from the Afghan narcotics trade was funding the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-e Islami, the remnants of the Taliban and quite possibly even al Qaeda. By the middle of the year U.S. and Afghan forces were raiding some sites, but it was half-hearted at best, and in reality had little if any impact on the overall industry. It appeared that neither the DEA nor the Pentagon seemed eager to publicly acknowledge or take any real steps to diminish the production, processing or the trafficking, even if it meant allowing the insurgency to continue. Then, in the middle of the year, one of the Taliban regime’s top opium traffickers in the 1990s, Haji Bashir Noorzai was arrested and indicted in New York. By the summer of 2005 the press had started asking difficult questions, like how in 2001, after being detained and interrogated, the Pentagon had thought it appropriate to release Noorzai, who was a close ally of Mullah Omar, with known links to both al Qaeda and the Pakistani ISI and one of the most effective opium trafficking business in Afghanistan[xlvi].

In 2006 the World Bank issued a report stating that 25-30 of the key narcotics traffickers in Afghanistan, mostly based in the south of the country, were working with key politicians and members of the government. It went on to warn that the entire Afghan economy, state, society and politics was being affected by the trade[xlvii]. Even the country’s own Minister for Narcotics was having to admit that while cabinet ministers were being implicated in drug trafficking and money-laundering, the justice system was just too corrupt to effectively pursue them[xlviii].

When the Taliban banned opium growing in 2001 the trade dropped to 185 tons, most of which was being produced in the Northern Alliance’s north-east corner of the country. After the CIA engaged the opium traffickers as allies in their upcoming invasion, opium production exploded almost immediately to 3,400 tons by 2002[xlix]. Amidst the chaos that played out on the TV screens each night, the trafficking continued quietly growing. In 2007, UNODC reported opium production in Afghanistan to be estimated to have reached 8,200 tons, being cultivated over 193,000 hectares and with an income attached to it representing one third of Afghanistan’s total, illegal and legal, GDP[l]. At this time it was estimated that Afghan opium represented somewhere in the region of 93% of the global opiates market. By 2007 it was being reported that four of the key people in the Afghan heroin trade were senior members of the Afghan government. In 2009, it was being reported that Colonel Abdul Razik, a close ally of Hamid Karzai was a key drug trafficker that had entrenched his position with the support of officials in Kandahar and Kabul, and NATO Commanders. Taliban opium revenues only represented 5% of total drug income in 2008, and 6% in 2009. The total insurgency income from drugs was under 12% in 2008. At the time the UNODC was estimating the total Afghan opium crop was valued at $65 billion on the world’s market, 88% of that income was not funding the insurgency or the Taliban[li].

In 2004 the UK press was reporting that drug trafficking had reached the level where it was the third largest cash commodity in the global economy after oil and arms. In 2005 a USG report estimated that between $500 billion and $1 trillion of illicit funds where being laundered through the legitimate banking industry. Going on to explain, how in the region of 50% of those funds were passing through U.S. banks specifically. By 2010 it was apparent that because of the sheer size of the global narcotics trade and it’s integration into the legitimate banking sector, extremely large sums of cash were in the banks at the time of the crash. So much so in fact, that during the global financial meltdown, the UNODC went as far as to make the case that billions of dollars of drug cash had kept the financial system afloat. In the UK, one newspaper made the case that for some banks, the only liquid capital they had access to was the proceeds of organised crime. Some people have even made the case that one of the things we have learned from the 2008 economic crisis was just how reliant the global economy is now on the illegal trafficking of drugs[lii]. Maybe Lehman Brothers would be still be with us if they had just focussed on laundering drug money.

Over the course of these five essays I have brought together the work of countless researchers, journalists, authors, whistle-blowers and government bodies. It has been their relentless pursuit of the truth and their bravery in the face of what is arguably one of the largest, longest running and most brutal conspiracies in history that stands as a beacon of hope for all of us , not least of all for me. As I desperately tried to shake myself free from a life overwhelmed by addiction to illegal narcotics I struggled to find answers. Alfred McCoy’s The Politics of Heroin, and Peter Dale Scott and Jonathan Marshall’s Cocaine Politics started me on a journey that began to give me some of those answers. My problems had been part of a much bigger structure. Long before I was even born the people whom had been entrusted to protect me and my loved ones had been conspiring with those who were willing to kill me in order to exploit me and my loved ones. From 1773 to 1946 Empires had been built and sustained by addicting and exploiting large sections of human society. It had been a terrible time in human history, but my grand parents generation were assured that we were stepping into the light. A golden age of social democracies, global peace and nations united was upon us. It was a lie. Amidst the fanfare of victory in Europe and the Pacific, few noticed that the USG was secretly making plans to build and maintain an empire. From 1947 onwards, from one administration to the next, from one presidency to the next presidency, the CIA has worked with pushers, pimps, war criminals, fascists, rapists, murders, mass-murders and Nazis in their pursuit of an American hegemony. Better informed people than me have argued that the CIA’s role in the drugs trade was down to unbridled criminal stupidity, while others have suggested it was nothing more than a price the establishment had deemed worth paying. For me, I’m not so sure. It feels a lot more malevolent and persistent than that.

Word count: 5,410

Further reading:

Arnove, A., Iraq Under Siege, 2000
Churchill, W. & Vander Wall, J. – Agents of Repression, 1988
Cottle, D. & Villar, O. – Cocaine Death Squads and the War on Terror, 2011
Curtis, M. – Web of Deceit, 2003
Dale Scott, P. – American War Machine, 2010
Dale Scott, P. – Drugs, Oil and War. 2003
Dale Scott, P. – The American Deep State. 2003
Dale Scott, P. & Marshall, J. – Cocaine Politics, 1998
Evans, R. – Undercover, 2013
Levine, M. – The Big White Lie, 2012
Macdonald, D. – Drugs in Afghanistan, 2007
Marks, J. – The Search for the ‘Manchurian Candidate’, 1991
McCoy, A. – The Politics of Heroin, 1991
Scahill, J. – Blackwater, 2007
Shaxson, N. – Treasure Islands, 2011
Shlain, B. & Lee, M. – Acid Dreams, 1985
Valentine, D. – The Strength of the Wolf, 2004
Webb, G. – Dark Alliance, 2015
Wikileaks Contributors – The Wikileaks Files, 2015
Wilson, E. – Government of the Shadows, 2009
Zepezauer, M. – The CIA’s Greatest Hits, 1994


i Webb, G., Dark Alliance, 2015 p176, 445, 448, 452, 481, 482, 483

ii Webb, G., Dark Alliance, 2015 p445, 448, 452, 482, 483

iii Cribb, R. in Wilson, E., Government of the Shadows, 2009 p5

ivMcCoy, A. in Wilson, E., Government of the Shadows, 2009 p229



viiDale Scott, P. in Wilson, E., Government of the Shadows, 2009 p188


ixCottle, D. & Villar, O., Cocaine Death Squads and the War on Terror., 2011 p26, 27, 30, 167, 69

xCottle, D. & Villar, O., Cocaine Death Squads and the War on Terror., 2011 p18

xiDale Scott, P., American War Machine, 2010 p252

xiiCottle, D. & Villar, O., Cocaine Death Squads and the War on Terror., 2011 p19, 82

xiiiCottle, D. & Villar, O., Cocaine Death Squads and the War on Terror., 2011 p60

xivDale Scott, P., Drugs, Oil and War. 2003 p78, 89

xvCottle, D. & Villar, O., Cocaine Death Squads and the War on Terror., 2011 p59


xviiCottle, D. & Villar, O., Cocaine Death Squads and the War on Terror., 2011 p83, 84, 107, 130

xviiiDale Scott, P., Drugs, Oil and War. 2003 p89

xixRensselaer III, W.L in Wilson, E., Government of the Shadows, 2009 p197

xxSee essay 4 in this series

xxiRensselaer III, W.L in Wilson, E., Government of the Shadows, 2009 p197

xxiiDale Scott, P., American War Machine, 2010 p227

xxiiiDale Scott, P., Drugs, Oil and War. 2003 p0-xii, 41

xxivRensselaer III, W.L in Wilson, E., Government of the Shadows, 2009 p198, 199

xxvWikileaks Contributors, The Wikileaks Files, 2015 p369 and Curtis, M., Web of Deceit, 2003 p50

xxviDale Scott, P., American War Machine, 2010 p227

xxviiRisen, J., State of War, 2007 p18, 153

xxviiiDale Scott, P., Drugs, Oil and War. 2003 p32, 33

xxixCurtis, M., Web of Deceit, 2003 p48, 54

xxxDale Scott, P., Drugs, Oil and War. 2003 p39, 75

xxxiCottle, D. & Villar, O., Cocaine Death Squads and the War on Terror., 2011 p86, 87, 98

xxxiiDale Scott, P., Drugs, Oil and War. 2003 p73

xxxiiiCottle, D. & Villar, O., Cocaine Death Squads and the War on Terror., 2011 p108, 120

xxxivCottle, D. & Villar, O., Cocaine Death Squads and the War on Terror., 2011 p101, 102, 104, 106, 108, 109, 122

xxxvCottle, D. & Villar, O., Cocaine Death Squads and the War on Terror., 2011 p110, 111, 123, 134

xxxviCottle, D. & Villar, O., Cocaine Death Squads and the War on Terror., 2011 p87, 90, 111, 153

xxxviiRensselaer III, W.L in Wilson, E., Government of the Shadows, 2009 p200

xxxviiiDale Scott, P., American War Machine, 2010 p218, 219

xxxixRisen, J., State of War, 2007 p154, 155

xlCottle, D. & Villar, O., Cocaine Death Squads and the War on Terror., 2011 p162, 164, 165

xliMacdonald, D., Drugs in Afghanistan, 2007 p87, 94, 96

xliiRisen, J., State of War, 2007 p152

xliiiDale Scott, P., American War Machine, 2010 p219

xlivCottle, D. & Villar, O., Cocaine Death Squads and the War on Terror., 2011 p116

xlvCottle, D. & Villar, O., Cocaine Death Squads and the War on Terror., 2011 p144, 148, 150, 151

xlviRisen, J., State of War, 2007 p158, 162, 163, 165

xlviiDale Scott, P., American War Machine, 2010 p233

xlviiiMacdonald, D., Drugs in Afghanistan, 2007 p95

xlixDale Scott, P., American War Machine, 2010 p13

lRensselaer III, W.L. in Wilson, E., Government of the Shadows, 2009 p196, 200

liDale Scott, P., American War Machine, 2010 p13, 233, 234

liiDale Scott, P., American War Machine, 2010 p228, 229