By Patrick Henningsen
21st Century Wire
A recent article in the UK Independent headlined US Waives White Flag in Disastrous War on Drugs illustrates the tacit announcement by some leading US policy makers that they are abandoning the failed 40 year long ‘War on Drugs’.
This couldn’t come too soon for a war that has cost thousands of lives, hundreds of billions of tax dollars and has helped push the domestic US prison population to an estimated 2,000,000 inmates, a number that surpasses even China in the international incarceration league table.
Contained within this same article is also one of the mainstream media’s few official admissions of a direct link between the War on Terror and a government sponsored global narcotics trade. UK Independent writer Hugh O’Shaughnessy states here:
“Evidence points to aircraft – familiarly known as “torture taxis” – used by the CIA to move captives seized in its kidnapping or “extraordinary rendition” operations through Gatwick and other airports in the EU being simultaneously used for drug distribution in the Western hemisphere. A Gulfstream II jet aircraft N9875A identified by the British Government and the European Parliament as being involved in this traffic crashed in Mexico…”
In 2004, another torture taxi crashed in a field in Nicaragua with a ton of cocaine aboard. It had been identified by Britain and the European Parliament’s temporary committee on the alleged use of European countries by the CIA for the transport and illegal detention of prisoners as a frequent visitor in 2004 and 2005 to British, Cypriot, Czech, German, Greek, Hungarian, Spanish and other European cities with its cargo of captives for secret imprisonment and torture in Iraq, Jordan and Azerbaijan.”
According to multiple news agency reports, the said Gulfstream II private jet (tail number N987SA) which crash landed on September 24th, 2007 in Yucatan, Mexico came down after being chased by Mexican military helicopters for flying illegally into Mexican airspace. Mexican soldiers found no bodies at the crash site but did discover 132 bags containing 3.3 metric tons of cocaine. The origination of the Gulfstream’s flight is unknown but it was destined for Cancun when it crash landed. Again, here is the important point: that same Gulf Stream II was one of the very same planes chartered to the CIA for the rendition of suspected terrorists prisoners.
Knowing these two facts- the history of this aircraft and its cargo on this occasion, it should not be surprising that this illegal practice of rendition has in some part, been used as a well-run smokescreen for another borderless illegal operation- an extremely lucrative international transfer and delivery of cash and narcotics. One may also speculate about what other cargos with a high black market value could also be moved freely on such high level government contracted transport, namely weapons, ‘company asset’ operatives, and other human cargo. These flights are not subject to regular customs checks, inspections or normal regulations as they move seamlessly between destinations in the US, Britain, Europe, Eastern Europe, Middle East, Central Asia, Cuba and possibly through US bases in Turkey, Greece and Morocco.
The now well-known practice of extraordinary rendition is defined as “the apprehension and extrajudicial transfer of a person from one sovereign state to another”. It was originally alleged (but now widely understood) that the CIA has been running a secret global abduction and internment operation of suspected terrorists, going by Washington’s own innocuous and politically correct name of “extraordinary rendition”, which since 2001 has reportedly captured an estimated 3,000 people and transported them around the world using a series of private contractor and charter transport companies.
Early on, US officials denied charges of “torture by proxy”, including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who famously stated at Andrews Air Force Base, December 5, 2005 that the United States does not torture terrorists and declaring rendition as “a vital, legal tool to combat terrorism, save lives.” Rendition was famously inscribed in the mainstream with the 2007 award winning film Rendition starring Meryl Streep and Jake Gyllenhaal, and in the Oscar Winning documentary film Taxi to the Dark Side(2007).
RT Interview: Torture still continues under Obama
Unsurprisingly, this dark US program has prompted several official investigations into alleged secret detentions, the routine torture detainees and unlawful inter-state transfers involving Council of Europe member states. June 2006 report estimated 100 people had been kidnapped by the CIA with the cooperation of Council of Europe members, and ‘rendered’ to other countries, often after having transited through secret detention centres or ‘black sites’ used by the CIA. According to a separate European Parliament Report on February 2007, the CIA had conducted some 1,245 flights between 2001 and 2006, many of them to destinations where suspects could face torture, this, in violation of article 3 of the United Nations Convention Against Torture. Investigations into the issue have cited a series of flight landing schedules and aircraft verifying the identity and stopovers of rendition flights worldwide, some of which can be viewed here.
The problem with rendition has not been the public’s ability to determine whether or not it was actually happening- volumes upon volumes of testimony and official evidence have confirmed this practice and is now part of the public record. Debate in the US on its legality has been mired for years in legal knots and trap doors thanks to a series of US Attorney Generals, Presidential legal advisors, lawyers and the mainstream media, all of whom have sought to defend the US right to use extrajudicial kidnapping and torture to maintain its own perceived national security during its endless “War on Terror”.
The real question with rendition that has stumped many an astute analyst has always been why it is happening. Thanks to testimonies by released prisoners and films like Taxi from the Dark to the Dark Side, we have learned that the majority of these ‘enemy combatants’ picked up and detained at gulag franchises like Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and Bagram were not hard-core terrorist or non-state-actors. Many were in fact taxi drivers, farmers, school teachers, goat herders or unfortunate bystanders, including prisoners on whom a per-head cash bounty was paid to Afghan informants by the US Military in order to meet perceived bureaucrat quotas to justify the ongoing War on Terror. It goes without saying that the so-called “intelligence” gleaned from these random detainees, including information extracted through “enhanced interrogation” techniques(a euphemism for torture) could not possibly be of any real value in the context of thwarting a genuine or imagined terror attack in the future. Undoubtedly, many within the US Intelligence structure must be aware of this reality. So why continue the decade-long practice of kidnapping and torture? If you consider recent history, you will see how time and time again- arbitrary wars against non-existent enemies can provide the ideal cover for the bulk of the international narcotics and black market trade. Consider it a value-added aspect of any war or conflict.
Drug Assisted Wars: An Established Practice
Students of recent history will know of covert and state-sponsored drugs trafficking, most of which is linked to one war or another. The 1980’s saw to escalation of America’s “War on Drugs”, an effort which coincided with a parallel escalation of cocaine production, exportation and distribution out of Columbia, and heroin out of Afghanistan and Laos. In Vietnam and Laos, the CIA used it’s charter shell company Air America to flying in weapons to its allies and return with high grade Heroin. The scope of this operation was revealed somewhat to mainstream culture through films like Air America (1990) and American Gangster (2007), both film based on real events which transpired during the Vietnam era. To understand the full scope of these US “Drug Assisted Wars”, you can read this comprehensive report by Prof Peter Dale Scott. Scott explains here:
“In Afghanistan in 2001 as in 1980, and as in Laos in 1959, the U.S. intervention has since been a bonanza for the international drug syndicates. With the increase of chaos in the countryside, and number of aircraft flying in and out of the country, opium production more than doubled, from 3276 metric tons in 2000 (and 185 in 2001, the year of a Taliban ban on opium) to 8,200 metric tons in 2007.”
Why does the U.S. intervene repeatedly on the same side as the most powerful local drug traffickers? Some years ago I summarized the conventional wisdom on this matter:
Partly this has been from realpolitik – in recognition of the local power realities represented by the drug traffic. Partly it has been from the need to escape domestic political restraints: the traffickers have supplied additional financial resources needed because of US budgetary limitations, and they have also provided assets not bound (as the U.S. is) by the rules of war. … These facts…have led to enduring intelligence networks involving both oil and drugs, or more specifically both petrodollars and “narco-dollars”. These networks, particularly in the Middle East, have become so important that they affect, not just the conduct of US foreign policy, but the health and behavior of the US government, US banks and corporations, and indeed the whole of US society.”Yet, despite the knowledge of these known government sponsored operations and the reality on the ground, both the US Bush Jr and the UK Blair governments along with its compliant media arms, has attempted to paint the Taliban as somehow proliferating and driving the illegal drugs trade in that country. This idea was also parroted by the media in a cynical attempt to provide another moral reason to occupy Afghanistan since 2001. But with 2009 recent mainstream news stories about the US-backed President Karzai’s own brother Ahmed Wali Karzai being both a drug lord and a CIA informant, there should be little doubt as to the importance of Hamid Karzai as a US puppet of choice and his links to the opium-heroin trade there- a key spoke in the CIA’s wheel of operations in the region.
CIA Drug Running Circa 1980
The infamous IRAN-CONTRA scandal was the public’s first real look into a somewhat triangular international trade of weapons, cash and cocaine between the Columbia-Nicaragua, US and Iran, one where the CIA played a central role. Likewise, heroin played a key role in maintaining CIA operations in Afghanistan during the Mujahideen insurgency of the 1980’s. Revenue from the heroin trade was used to finance various insurgent groups during the Soviet-Afghan war, in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The very same bank implicated in the IRAN-CONTRA scandal- the Bank of Commerce and Credit International (BCCI), was also supporting the CIA’s covert operations, by funding the Mujahideen through the laundering of drug money. Drugs money was used or “recycled” by using a series of high-profile banking institutions in conjunction with a number of anonymous CIA shell companies:
“Because the US wanted to supply the Mujahideen rebels in Afghanistan with stinger missiles and other military hardware it needed the full cooperation of Pakistan. By the mid-1980s, the CIA operation in Islamabad was one of the largest US intelligence stations in the World. `If BCCI is such an embarrassment to the US that forthright investigations are not being pursued it has a lot to do with the blind eye the US turned to the heroin trafficking in Pakistan’, said a US intelligence officer. (“The Dirtiest Bank of All,” Time, July 29, 1991, p. 22)
Big Winners: The Banks
Certainly banks like BCCI played their role in facilitating numerous dirty money deals including those during the IRAN-CONTRA affair. Banks benefit significantly from drug trafficking. According to a recent report in the London Observer, drugs money worth billions of dollars provided liquidity for Wall Street and the City of London’s leading banks and kept the financial system afloat at the height of the global meltdown. Another Senate staff report estimates “that $500 billion to $1 trillion in criminal proceeds are laundered through banks worldwide each year, with about half of that amount moved through United States banks.”
Film: “Crack the CIA”
The London Independent reported in 2004 that drug trafficking constitutes “the third biggest global commodity in cash terms after oil and the arms trade.”
In the Beginning: The Opium Wars Between Britain and China
War has long played its part as a curtain behind which the international drugs trade has thrived. Opium, which was not prohibited in the US, UK and Ireland, was smuggled by merchants from British India into China in defiance of Chinese prohibition laws. The First Opium War between Britain and China began in 1839. Further disputes over the treatment of British merchants in Chinese ports resulted in the Second Opium War. China was defeated in both wars leaving its government having to tolerate the opium trade in which cheap narcotics plagued Chinese society. China stance of prohibition on the issue of opium laid the groundwork for a network of organised crime in South East Asia, one which endures until today. In an effort to control the movement and supply of illicit good by sea, Britain forced the Chinese government at that time into signing the a number of Unequal Treaties as well as the annexation of Hong Kong by Britain. Chinese found these agreements humiliating and these sentiments contributed to the Taiping Rebellion (1850–1864), the Boxer Rebellion (1899–1901), and the downfall of the Qing Dynasty in 1912, putting an end to dynastic China and laying the ground of domestic discontent and power vacuum which culminated in the Communist revolution later during the 20th Century.
The War on Nothing
Whether it’s the War on Drugs, the War on Crime, or the War on Terror, by now experience should teach us that our government can neither wage, nor win “wars” against abstract nouns. Formally and mutually “declaring war” must first recognise sovereignty, which generally assures formally Declared Peace, a Cease Fire, an Armistice etc or a Surrender with Cessation of Hostilities for a mutually agreed and declared “Victory”.
There can be no victory in such political pursuits, only ultimate defeat. History is clear on this.
Yet, we are told that, “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing,” and “there is no other option,” even if it means losing everything else from morality and integrity, to wealth and freedom (as in the case of the War on Terror). We were told that we needed rendition and torture to keep America safe from terrorists. The results, or lack thereof, certainly speak for themselves. Insiders at the CIA may even tell you, off the record, that involvement in illegal drugs trafficking is essential to fund operations which our elected officials will not sanction. But don’t be fooled- billions in black market cash is the real grease that fuels our Shadow Governments and turns the wheels of power and control worldwide. Who collects and controls that cash effectively controls all dark aspects of politics, business and the major global crime industries.
Whether it’s under Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr, Clinton, Bush Jr – or Obama, the policies have remained the same and the damage to our bottom line has been mountainous. Americans may also ask themselves whether or not practices like indefinate detention, torture and ‘black’ prisons makes them proud to fly the stars and stripes.
It’s time to ditch the policies we have come to tolerate for decades before they consume what is still left of our moral core.