Thursday, December 25, 2008

American Foreign Policy Spreads Illegal Drug Trade Worldwide

The Taliban has been smuggling Afghan opium into Western nations, such as Great Britain in order to finance its war against the American occupation. The American War on Terror has caused the illicit drug trade to explode worldwide, just as American foreign policy has continually done throughout history. The unstable situation in Afghanistan has caused illegal opium production to jump 34 percent in 2007 from already record levels in 2006, according to a report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The Taliban has been smuggling Afghan opium via central Asia and West Africa en route to consumer nations, such as the United States and European nations. Drug profits are being used by the Taliban to finance its insurgency against Western occupation forces in Afghanistan. About $4 billion worth of opiates were exported from Afghanistan in 2007.

However, this is not the first time that illegal drugs have been used to finance an insurgent or rebel war. The same situation had occurred during the Reagan administration’s cold war against communism. This lead to the U.S.-backed Contra war against the communist Sandinistas in Nicaragua, and then eventually spawned the Iran-Contra scandal. Ironically, this time the drug smuggling was occurring on the American side of the conflict. It was the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) who had knowingly dealt with drug smugglers in Nicaragua in order to further Reagan’s anti-Communism campaign in Latin America, according to Gary Webb’s “Dark Alliance,” a series of articles originally printed in the San Jose Mercury News. Webb later wrote about the controversy surrounding his series of articles in a 600-page book, Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion. In 1989, Sen. John Kerry conducted a highly-detailed senate report which “found cases in which high U.S. officials," due to fear of disrupting Reagan’s war against communism, “intervened to stop law enforcement operations aimed at nailing drug kingpins.” Money from smuggling cocaine into the United States was funneled to the Contras for weapons and other supplies in their war to overthrow the Russian-backed Sandinistas.

Although the CIA denies knowledge of any drug smuggling operations, many of their agents were being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). "In my 30-year history in the Drug Enforcement Administration and related agencies, the major targets of my investigations almost invariably turned out to be working for the CIA,” said Dennis Dayle, former chief of an elite DEA unit, according to Cocaine Politics: Drugs, Armies, and the CIA in Central America, Updated edition , a book by Peter Dale Scott.

The largest cocaine smuggler in the history of the United States was Barry Seal, a CIA agent. Although the government had suspected him of being a drug smuggler they kept Seal on their payroll as an agent. The CIA would have Seal fly to Nicaragua to deliver arms to the Contras in Nicaragua in order to fight the communist Sandinistas. On his way back from Nicaragua he would bring back shipments of cocaine. After U.S. authorities seized $1.5 million in drug money during a sting operation, in which Seal acted as a DEA informant, Lt. Col. Oliver North suggested that the drug money be used to help the Contras, according to Kerry’s subcommittee report. The DEA ultimately denied North’s request. However if the drug bust never occurred the money probably would have gone to the Contra cause. More than likely North and the CIA were well aware of that.

During the Vietnam War, the same “secret army” the CIA had trained and equipped in Laos to fight the Vietnamese Communists were responsible for growing opium, which eventually found its way in the form of heroine to American troops fighting in Vietnam. One of the CIA’s operatives, Edgar "Pop" Buell, was responsible for teaching the Hmong, the mountain tribes recruited by the CIA, advanced agricultural techniques for growing opium in order to help fund covert actions against Vietnamese Communists in the hills of Laos, according to Professor Alfred W. McCoy’s book, The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade. Also, after the end of the war North Vietnamese rulers who were put into power by the U.S. government were responsible and profited from the illegal heroine trade, which found its way to U.S. soldiers. Eventually many of the troops who survived the Vietnam War came back to the United States as heroine addicts, causing dramatic increase in demand for the deadly substance back home.

Historically, US foreign policy has caused instability in developing nations, which in turn causes an increase in the world wide illegal drug trade. In some instances the U.S. government is at best negligent, if not complicit, in speeding up the flow of drugs into its own streets as is the case during the Iran-Contra and the Vietnam War. At other times, such as with the war in Afghanistan American foreign policy is the destabilizing catalyst for drug smuggling into Europe and the U.S. With a dramatic increase in opium production from Afghanistan, a surge in heroine addiction in consumer countries such as the United States and European nations will surely occur.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Mumbai and 9/11: Links Run Deep

The recent terrorist attack on Mumbai was meant to be India’s 9/11, claimed Azam Amir Kasab, 21, the only surviving gunman. This is just one connection between the terrorist attack in Mumbai and the 9/11 terrorist attack in New York. In both attacks authorities and security agencies were warned beforehand. However, in both incidences, security was decreased just before the strikes.

Prior to the recent attacks in Mumbai the US intelligence warned India of a possible plot by terrorists to launch a waterborne assault, according to CBS. India was also warned that terrorists were planning to attack monumental and symbolic sites, such as the Taj Mahal. Security at the Taj Mahal was increased as a result. Taj Mahal security is operated by the Tata Group, India’s largest private corporation. But, instead of keeping security tight at the Taj Mahal, Tata Group decided to scale down previously added security measures prior to the attacks. “It's ironic that we did have such a warning and we did have some measures," Rattan Tata, Tata Group’s CEO, told CNN.

"People couldn't park their cars in the portico where you had to go through a metal detector… But if I look at what we had -- which all of us complained about -- it could not have stopped what took place”. Tata claims that the attackers had not gone through the entrance of the hotel, which previously had metal detectors, therefore claiming that scaling down the Taj Mahal security measures was inconsequential to preventing this specific attack.

Ironically, before 9/11, the US government had received intelligence of a possible terrorist attack using hijacked planes. Just before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Vice President Cheney ordered the Air Force to stand down. The US government was also criticized for its slow response time. Some critics such as essayist, Gore Vidal in his book Dreaming War: Blood For Oil and the Cheney-Bush Junta, claimed that the Bush administration purposely ignored warnings of the attacks.

Another common thread between 9/11 and Mumbai is American International Group (AIG), which had been in the news for receiving $85 billion in US government bailouts. AIG is the majority shareholder of Kroll Associates, the company in charge of security at the World Trade Center during the 9/11 attacks. AIG also has links with Tata Group, who was in charge of security at the Taj Mahal. Tata Group had teamed up with AIG to form Tata-AIG, which insures the Taj Mahal and other hotels against terrorist attacks.

The attacks on the World Trade Center resulted in a declared “War on Terror” by the Bush Admistration. This lead to war in Afghanistan followed by war in Iraq. Kasab claims that he and his fellow gunmen were a part of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a jihadist group based out of Pakistan.

This has caused increased tension between India and Pakistan. This alarmed the world community because both India and Pakistan possess nuclear weapons. India and the US had just signed the 123 Agreement, which allows the US to exchange equipment and information to aide India in developing nuclear power. Coincidentally, AIG, even while asking for a government bailout, was still spending millions of dollars to lobby congress to sign the 123 Agreement. The US government denied Pakistan’s request for a similar agreement.