(editorial from IN THESE TIMES magazine September 30, 1996)

Since it was formed in 1947 as an instrument of the Cold War, the CIA has been used by one administration after another to violate the sovereignty of nations with which the United States was not at war. Time and again CIA operatives have conspired to overthrow foreign governments and to assassinate their political leaders. Any government or individual that refused to take orders from Washington, or that threatened the interests of American corporations, did so at their own risk. And many who remained loyal to their own people paid with their lives at the hands of CIA assassins.

The CIA has also waged an unacknowledged, though not really secret war, against our own people. In the name of protecting our national interests against godless communism, the CIA cultivated close relationships with drug syndicates around the world. This sordid record began in the '50s, when the CIA collaborated with Corsican drug gangs to fight communist influence on the Marseilles waterfront. As a result, over the course of the following two decades the Corsicans became the main suppliers of heroin to the U.S. market. During the same period in Asia, the CIA helped the defeated Chinese Nationalists support themselves by turning northern Burma into the largest opium producer in the world. And in the '60s, the CIA set up an alliance with Mafia drug dealers in the United States in an ultimately futile effort to assassinate Fidel Castro.

This pattern of collaboration between the CIA and the drug mafia continued with a vengeance during the Vietnam War. The CIA secretly established its own airline, which it used to ferry arms to Hmong tribes in supposedly neutral Laos and to carry opium from them to be sold on the world market as heroin. In the process, some 30,000 American servicemen became addicted during their tours in Indochina. By the early '70s, 70 percent of the heroin entering the United States and Western Europe originated from areas controlled by CIA mercenaries.

Meanwhile, politicians and the criminal justice system have been inexorably escalating their efforts to curb the use of narcotics. So while the police launched a crusade against drug users and pushers in inner-city ghettos and the drug war became an article of faith among politicians, the nation's primary national security agency was secretly allied with the enemy.

Parts of this obscenely sordid story of subversion by a federal agency have been known for years. Indeed, numerous books have documented various aspects of CIA drug trafficking. And it is acknowledged that when Ronald Reagan entered office in 1981. the CIA was used to organize an illegal war against the Sandinista government, which, under Lt. Col. Oliver North's watchful eye, was financed in part by drug sales.

Now, however, the San Jose Mercury News has taken the story a step almost beyond belief. In a special three part series, the Mercury News documented CIA responsibility for starting the crack epidemic that has been plaguing inner-city ghettos since the mid-'80s. It all began when a Bay Area drug ring, led by two contra operatives, sold tons of cocaine to the Crips and Bloods street gangs in Los Angeles and funneled millions in drug profits to the war against the Sandinistas. This drug network, the Mercury News says, flooded Los Angeles with cut rate cocaine that was then turned into crack, sparking a "crack explosion in urban America." And it also provided the cash and connections for the Crips and Bloods to buy automatic weapons for their own drug wars.

As the Mercury News points out, the effects of this CIA scheme are still reverberating in black communities throughout the country. Not only are communities being destroyed by destitute crack addicts, but thousands of young black men are now in prison for selling cocaine brought into their communities as a result of the CIA machinations.

The list of crimes committed by the CIA in the name of saving democracy is almost endless. And the damage the agency has done to the stability and well-being of other nations and our own is incalculable. Nor is this record balanced by accomplishments of any significance. Indeed, even as an information-gathering agency the CIA has time and again simply told administrations what they wanted to hear-from exaggerating the military and political strength of the former Soviet Union to impugning the mental health of Haiti's Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Surely it's long past time to abolish the CIA.

2040 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago, IL 60647
e-mail itt@igc.apc.org


CIA and Third World