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Shedding light on the murky world of drug trade

Zia Sarhadi

That the drug problem is a global menace is beyond dispute. What is less well known is that there are many big timers in this murky business. The world has heard of the ‘Golden Crescent’ - Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan - and the ‘Golden Triangle’ - Laos, Thailand and Burma - but who is really behind the trade is seldom, if ever, mentioned.

Pakistan and Afghanistan in particular have been singled out as major culprits. Although not without fault, their image as the world’s main suppliers is a grotesque distortion of reality, as the United Nations Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) confirms in a recent report.

The June 26 report makes some startling revelations. Between them Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran account for $5 billion out of a total world drug trade of $400 billion. This works out to about 1.25 percent of the global drug trade, a far cry from the vicious propaganda against the two Muslim countries.

Clearly, there are others involved in the remaining 98.75 percent drug-trafficking amounting to $395 billion. In May a Brooklyn (New York) rabbi was convicted for laundering drug money, making it ‘kosher’, so to speak, through his synagogue. One of the major players is the US itself. Whether it is the Golden Crescent, Golden Triangle or Central America, the Americans and their agents are actively involved.

The UN report does not touch such issues. This is not surprising but they need highlighting. Without the US and its central intelligence agency (CIA), the drug trade would not have reached such horrendous proportions. The self-appointed global cop has been involved with the most shady characters in the world.

The Panamanian strongman, general Manuel Noriega was recruited by the CIA in the sixties. He became a close friend of George Bush when the latter headed the agency in the seventies. Noriega was used in the dirty campaign against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. By the time Bush became president in 1988, the Sandinistas had been overthrown and Noriega’s services were no longer needed.

He was kidnapped from Panama City in December 1989 when Bush sent in the marines. Brought to the US in handcuffs, Noriega was put through a kangaroo trial. Today he rots in a Miami jail cell. Bush goes around as a senior statesman.

In the early eighties, America was fighting against the Sandinistas who had ousted the hated US-puppet regime of Anastasio Samoza in 1979. Uncle Sam was not going to allow some hotheaded leftists take over in Nicaragua, its own backyard. When the US congress refused funding for the contra rebels, they raised it through selling cocaine in the streets of Los Angeles. Black neighbourhoods were especially targeted. The CIA was fully aware of this but preferred to look the other way. Its own SOBs were involved.

Last year, the San Jose Mercury ran a series of articles (August 18-20, 1996) by Gary Webb which showed that CIA-linked agents were directly involved in selling crack cocaine in the black neighbourhoods of Los Angeles. Using grand jury and court testimony as well as law enforcement documents, the Mercury named two persons: Oscar Danilo Blandon and Norvin Meneses, for the cocaine sales. It further showed that the two may have been protected by federal agents.

Yet the establishment media - the New York Times, Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times - immediately pounced on the Mercury and tried to discredit its series. These papers used CIA denials as justification for their arguments.

The L A Times (October 21, 1996) quoted Vincent Cannistraro, a former CIA official, as a ‘credible and authoritative’ source to deny the Mercury story. Cannistraro was incharge of CIA’s contra activities during the early eighties. He moved to the National Security Council in 1984 and was appointed to supervise CIA aid to the Afghan mujahideen.

Part of the Afghan war funding came from opium cultivation, turning it into heroin and smuggling it to Europe and North America. The heroin laboratories in the tribal belt along the Pakistan/Afghanistan border owe their existence to the activities of Cannistraro and others of his ilk.

Almost all of the drug trade from Afghanistan and Pakistan can also be traced to the murky activities of the CIA. Prior to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, there was not a single heroin addict in Pakistan. Today, there are more than 6 million, thanks to the presence of US drug enforcement agents who insist on keeping the drug in Pakistan.

Despite the propaganda against Pakistan and Afghanistan, the UNDCP director, Giovanni Quaglia, admitted in Islamabad on June 26: ‘Big money is certainly not made in this part of the world.’ He said a pound of heroin was worth only $1,360 in Karachi compared with a street value of more than $50,000 in the US.

‘Pakistan is estimated to have produced about 120 metric tons of opium in the 1994/95 crop year, while output in Afghanistan... was estimated between 2,200 and 2,400 metric tons,’ according to Quaglia. And Iran which seized about 300 tons last year, got little or no thanks from any quarters. The west often criticises it for treating drug smugglers ‘harshly’ (in Iran, the penalty for drug smuggling is death).

Quaglia, however, was full of praise for Iran’s efforts. ‘Confiscating 12 to 13 percent of what is produced is the highest percentage in the world in a single country,’ he said. ‘Had we had similar success in other countries we would have good progress in the drug control field,’ he said. ‘In Europe only five percent of what is smuggled is confiscated.’

The west has traditionally used drug-trafficking and other devious means to pursue its agenda. America has almost always financed its dirty wars through such tactics. Alfred McCoy, author of Politics of Heroin: CIA complicity in the Global Drug Trade, says that beginning with the CIA raids from Burma into China in the early fifties, the agency found that ‘ruthless drug lords made effective anti-communists.’ He goes on to state: ‘During a major operation, everything is subordinated’ to the main purpose.

In this, Uncle Sam has been following in the footsteps of his devious British cousin. When Britain first launched its aggression against China more than 150 years ago, it undermined Chinese society by pushing opium there.

Muslimedia - August 1-15, 1997

Article from

Crescent International Vol. 26, No. 11

Rabi' al-Awwal 27, 14181997-08-01

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