CIA-DRUG CONNECTION 3-Pack
The drugs and war nexus is an old story involving not just criminal gangs but states. Just go back to the U.S. wars in Vietnam and Laos in the 1960s and 70s or in Central America in the 1980s or more recently in Afghanistan to see the connections. Alliances with drug dealers and cartels were part of Washington’s playbook albeit mostly secret. Covert operations need covert funding and drugs are always a handy cash crop. Culturally, the topic always attracts attention. There have been Hollywood movies from Clear and Present Dancer to Kill the Messenger, as well as TV shows and novels. Alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, opium, amphetamine, and cocaine intersect with the history of conflict. Drugs and war have become addicted to each other.
CIA skullduggery is legendary from overthrowing governments to germ warfare to assassinations but its MK-Ultra program may be at the top of the list. MK-Ultra was the code name for the top-secret CIA project in which the Agency conducted hundreds of clandestine experiments, often on unwitting people, to assess the potential use of LSD and other drugs for mind control and psychological torture. MK-ULTRA, was essentially a continuation of experiments that began in Japanese and German concentration camps. Not only was it roughly based on those experiments, but the CIA actually hired the war criminals to share their “research” as to what techniques were effective and what were not. It’s a dark page in U.S. history. The godfather of the whole operation was the largely unknown Sydney Gottlieb. He was sometimes called the CIA’s “poisoner in chief.”
The decades-old drug war never seems to end. The promised light at the end of the tunnel may be the train heading towards us. Billions are spent and millions are incarcerated. Colombia is the latest venue of the war on drugs. If Vietnam, Afghanistan and Central America are any indications, then we can expect a massive increase in trafficking. The persistence of charges that the CIA is connected, at least tacitly, to drug trafficking lingers over the Agency.
Peter Andreas is Professor of International Studies at Brown University. He is the author of Smuggler Nation: How Illicit Trade Made America and Killer High: A History of War in Six Drugs.
Stephen Kinzer was a New York Times correspondent and bureau chief in Nicaragua, Germany and Turkey. He teaches at Brown University. He is the author of many books including Overthrow, All the Shah’s Men, The Brothers and Poisoner in Chief: Sydney Gottlieb & the CIA Search for Mind Control.
Peter Dale Scott, a former Canadian diplomat and UC Berkeley professor, has carefully studied and documented the politics of the global drug trade. He’s the author of The Iran-Contra Connection and Cocaine Politics.