Cocaine Politics, Peter Dale Scott and Jonathan Marshall
University of California Press, 1992 ($30.95)
The book starts with the content and flaws of the 1989 Iran-Contra Kerry report to the U.S. Senate. Then-Senator John Kerry chaired the Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics and International Operations formed to investigate, among other things, links between drugs and the U.S. government through the Contra war. The report confirmed that “drug trafficking had pervaded the entire Contra war effort,” and that “senior U.S. policy makers were not immune to the idea that drug money was a perfect solution to the Contras’ funding problems.” But that is only the beginning. As the authors write, “If the Kerry subcommittee’s report had been definitive, this book would not have been written.” The Kerry report omitted and obfuscated extensive testimony and evidence detailing the CIA’s central role in running drugs throughout the Contra war. As the authors dug into their research they discovered a long history of CIA involvement either protecting drug-running operations or operating them. In keeping with the notion that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, from its inception in 1947 the CIA allied with mafias across the globe whose attachments to money and “capitalism” sealed their commitment to anti-communism.
“Indeed, the long and sordid history of CIA involvement with the Sicilian Mafia, the French Corsican underworld, the heroin producers of Southeast Asia’s Golden Triangle, the marijuana- and cocaine-trafficking Cuban exiles of Miami, and the opium smuggling mujaheddin of Afghanistan simply reinforces the lesson of the Contra period: far from considering drug networks their enemy, U.S. intelligence organizations have made them an essential ally in the covert expansion of American influence abroad.”
Published in 1992, Cocaine Politics is a relic from the more optimistic, pre 9/11 past when investigators held the hope that by shedding the light of day on government crimes rectifying actions would be taken. That is clearly no longer the case as public and government reactions to Edward Snowden’s revelations show. Too big to fail as applied to Wall Street means too big to change for the federal government. Moreover, as has been demonstrated persuasively, the United States is no longer really a democracy. It is an oligarchy run by a tiny, very rich fraction of the population (See, Capital in the Twenty-first Century, Thomas Piketty; “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens,” Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page) How then can an effectively disenfranchised citizenry alter the criminal activities of the CIA? In two words, they can’t.
Because of its age (22 years), sense of shame and optimism, Cocaine Politics is a good read for those unfamiliar with depth of institutional criminality in the CIA and the federal government . For the rest of us, it is a fine history of U.S. policy in Central America during the two decades of “dirty war” sponsored and executed under the Orwellian blanket of “plausible denial.”