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Implemented in 2000-2001, the Taliban's drug eradication program led to a 94 percent decline in opium cultivation. In 2001, according to UN figures, opium production had fallen to 185 tons. Immediately following the October 2001 US led invasion, production increased dramatically, regaining its historical levels.
The Vienna based UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that the 2006 harvest will be of the order of 6,100 tonnes, 33 times its production levels in 2001 under the Taliban government (3200 % increase in 5 years).
Based on 2003 figures, drug trafficking constitutes "the third biggest global commodity in cash terms after oil and the arms trade." (The Independent, 29 February 2004).
Afghanistan and Colombia are the largest drug producing economies in the world, which feed a flourishing criminal economy. These countries are heavily militarized. The drug trade is protected. Amply documented the CIA has played a central role in the development of both the Latin American and Asian drug triangles.
The IMF estimated global money laundering to be between 590 billion and 1.5 trillion dollars a year, representing 2-5 percent of global GDP. (Asian Banker, 15 August 2003). A large share of global money laundering as estimated by the IMF is linked to the trade in narcotics.
What distinguishes narcotics from legal commodity trade is that narcotics constitutes a major source of wealth formation not only for organized crime but also for the US intelligence apparatus, which increasingly constitutes a powerful actor in the spheres of finance and banking. This relationship has been documented by several studies including the writings of Alfred McCoy. (Drug Fallout: the CIA's Forty Year Complicity in the Narcotics Trade. The Progressive, 1 August 1997).
In other words, intelligence agencies, powerful business, drug traders and organized crime are competing for the strategic control over the heroin routes. A large share of this multi-billion dollar revenues of narcotics are deposited in the Western banking system. Most of the large international banks together with their affiliates in the offshore banking havens launder large amounts of narco-dollars.
This trade can only prosper if the main actors involved in narcotics have "political friends in high places." Legal and illegal undertakings are increasingly intertwined, the dividing line between "businesspeople" and criminals is blurred. In turn, the relationship among criminals, politicians and members of the intelligence establishment has tainted the structures of the state and the role of its institutions including the Military.
Retired general Maurice Belleux, the former head of the French equivalent of the CIA, an organization called SDECE [Service de Documentation Exterieure et du Contre-Espionage]...told me that French military intelligence had financed all their covert operations from the control of the Indochina drug trade.
The French paratroopers fighting with hill tribes collected the opium and French aircraft would fly the opium down to Saigon and the Sino-Vietnamese mafia that was the instrument of French intelligence would then distribute the opium. The central bank accounts, the sharing of the profits, was all controlled by French military intelligence.
He concluded the interview by telling me that it was his information that the CIA had taken over the French assets and were pursuing something of the same policy.
During the long years of the cold war the CIA mounted major covert guerilla operations along the Soviet-Chinese border. The CIA recruited as allies people we now call drug lords for their operation against communist China in northeastern Burma in 1950, then from 1965 to 1975 [during the Vietnam war] their operation in northern Laos and throughout the decade of the 1980's, the Afghan operation against Soviet forces in Afghanistan.
Powerful, upland political figures control the societies and economies in these regions and part of that panoply of power is the opium trade. The CIA extended the mantle of their alliance to these drug lords and in every case the drug lords used it to expand a small local trade in opium into a major source of supply for the world markets and the United States.
While they were allied with the United States these drug lords were absolutely immune to any kind of investigation. If you're involved in any kind of illicit commodity trade, organized crime activity like drug trafficking, there is only one requisite for success, immunity, and the CIA gave them that. As long as they were allied with the CIA, the local police and then the DEA stayed away from the drug lords.
During the cold war the main priority abroad for the United States government was anti-communism, and whenever the CIA mounted an operation, every other U.S. agency was subordinated to the CIA's covert operations.
That meant that when the CIA was running one of its covert action wars in the drug zones of Asia, the DEA would stay away. For example, during the 1950's the CIA had this ongoing alliance with the nationalist Chinese in northern Burma. Initially mounting invasions of China in 1950-51, later mounting surveillance along the border for a projected Chinese invasion of Southeast Asia. The DEA stayed out of Southeast Asia completely during that period and collected no intelligence about narcotics in deference to the CIA's operation.
The Afghan operation: from 1979 to the present, the CIA's largest operation anywhere in the world, was to support the Afghan resistance forces fighting the Soviet occupation in their country. The CIA worked through Pakistan military intelligence and worked with the Afghan guerilla groups who were close to Pakistan military intelligence.
In 1979 Pakistan had a small localized opium trade and produced no heroin whatsoever. Yet by 1981, according to U.S. Attorney General William French Smith, Pakistan had emerged as the world's leading supplier of heroin. It became the supplier of 60% of U.S. heroin supply and it captured a comparable section of the European market. In Pakistan itself the results were even more disastrous.
In 1979 Pakistan had no heroin addicts, in 1980 Pakistan had 5,000 heroin addicts, and by 1985, according to official Pakistan government statistics, Pakistan had 1.2 million heroin addicts, the largest heroin addict population in the world.
Who were the manufacturers? They were all either military factions connected with Pakistan intelligence, CIA allies, or Afghan resistance groups connected with the CIA and Pakistan intelligence. In May of 1990, ten years after this began, the Washington Post finally ran a front page story saying high U.S. officials admit that Gulbuddin Hekmatyar [leader of the Hezbi-i Islami guerilla group], and other leaders of the Afghan resistance are leading heroin manufacturers.
There have been three times in the past 15 years in which the CIA's money transfer activities have surfaced. The first came in the late 1970's when the IRS, investigated a Nassau bank called the Castle Bank. It's a very interesting bank. It was set up by a man named Paul Helliwell, a very senior CIA operative who had retired from the agency. He set up this bank and it grew into a Latin American network of banks. It was used by the CIA to launder money.
As soon as Castle Bank collapsed, a small merchant bank based in Australia, operating offshore between Australia and SE Asia, suddenly mushroomed into a global network of banks. ...This bank called the Nugan-Hand Bank began very quickly in the late 1970's, to acquire a board of retired U.S. intelligence officials, either CIA or various military intelligence services.
The most prominent example, the former Director of CIA, William Colby, became the legal council of Nugan-Hand Bank. The bank was founded by Frank Nugan, an insecure and incompetent Australian lawyer, and by Michael John Hand, a man with a high school degree who had gone to Vietnam with the Green Berets.
The bank was pioneering in the smuggling of heroin between SE Asia and Australia. In the late 1970's Australia had very strict banking laws, and anytime you got foreign exchange you had to account for it. The Nugan-Hand Bank helped Australian organized crime figures get their money overseas so they could buy heroin and ship the heroin back to Australia.
The Australian police investigators documented that Michael John Hand worked very closely with Australia's top criminal drug traffickers to finance the first shipments, the pioneering shipments, of heroin to Australia from Southeast Asia.
In 1980 that bank went belly-up and it collapsed, Frank Nugan committed suicide. Michael John Hand disappeared in the United States and was never seen since.
"There is precious little difference between those people who society designates as respectable and law abiding and those people society castigates as hoodlums and thugs. The world of corporate finance and corporate capital is as criminogenic and probably more criminogenic than any poverty-wracked slum neighborhood.... In the everyday language of the police, the press, and popular opinion, 'organized crime' refers to a tightly knit group of people, usually alien and often Italian, that run a crime business structured along the lines of feudal relationships. This conception bears little relationship to the reality of organized crime today... "
"The close relationship between the U.S. government, the financial community, and organized crime is nowhere clearer than in the activities of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) (Kappeler, Blumberg, and Potter, 1993: 237-238). BCCI was the seventh-largest privately owned bank in the world....Among its many criminal activities was the laundering of at least $14 billion for the Colombian coc aine cartels; the facilitating of financial transactions for Panamanian president Manuel Noriega and international arms merchant Adnan Khashoggi; the funneling of cash to the contras for illegal arms deals and contra-backed drug trafficking.... Despite the enormity of BCCI's crimes and its vital role in drug trafficking, the U.S. Justice Department was more than reluctant to investigate. In fact, the Justice Department had complete information on BCCI's drug and arms operations and its illegal holdings in the United States for over three years before it even initiated an inquiry. Perhaps the reluctance of American law enforcement to interfere with such a major organized crime entity can be explained by the proliferation of what some have perceived as BCCI's 'friends' in the U.S. government holding high office."
CRJ 875: Crime and Public Policy
The Department of Criminal Justice and Police Studies Eastern Kentucky University
Former chief of special operations for the U.S. Air Force, Fletcher Prouty, says it began when drugs were used to pay anti-Japanese tribesmen in World war II. Out of this sprang a drug trade that then became the means by which U.S. run guerrillas fought the secret wars of Indochina. This drug trade, he states, was the reason for starting the Nugan Hand Bank and 'Michael Hand worked out of my office before going to Indochina'....The men who perfected the guns-for-dope traffic moved to the Middle East as experts in the sale of sophisticated arms, protected by officials at the top in the Pentagon and CIA. Richard Armitage, now the key Pentagon official in counter-terror and covert operations is named consistently by investigators as the man who helped the drug warlords market their crops. Gen. Khun Sa, who governs the Shan territory of Upper Burma with an army that dominates the infamous Golden Triangle, the world's biggest single source of dope, testified recently that U.S. officials facilitated his business running funds through the Australian bank with Armitage's help.... Daily News Digest reports, 'There is an enormous amount of coroborative material being sent to our office nearly every day. It supports the conclusion that a formal or informal organization of high CIA and military officers, some former, some present, exists which has for decades been a major, if not the major importer of heroin and coc aine into the U.S.' The most prominent name recurring in this connection is [former] Vice [later] President  George Bush. While he was CIA director, much of these activities blossomed, but more serious charges are being made by former intelligence officers who believe passionately in the need for a powerful secret intelligence capability but who fear that their institutions have been corrupted by a few self-proclaimed patriots."
BANK OF INTRIGUE
Toronto Sun, 13 August 1987 www.dcia.com...
In 1979, Bush's first business, Arbusto Energy, obtained financing from James Bath, a Houstonian and close family friend. One of many investors, Bath gave Bush $ 50,000 for a 5 percent stake in Arbusto. At the time, Bath was the sole U.S. business representative for Salem bin Laden, head of the wealthy Saudi Arabian family and a brother (one of 17) to Osama bin Laden. It has long been suspected, but never proven, that the Arbusto money came directly from Salem bin Laden. In a statement issued shortly after the September 11 attacks, the White House vehemently denied the connection, insisting that Bath invested his own money, not Salem bin Laden's, in Arbusto.
In conflicting statements, Bush at first denied ever knowing Bath, then acknowledged his stake in Arbusto and that he was aware Bath represented Saudi interests. In fact, Bath has extensive ties, both to the bin Laden family and major players in the scandal-ridden Bank of Commerce and Credit International (BCCI) who have gone on to fund Osama bin Laden. BCCI defrauded depositors of $ 10 billion in the '80s in what has been called the "largest bank fraud in world financial history" by former Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau. During the '80s, BCCI also acted as a main conduit for laundering money intended for clandestine CIA activities, ranging from financial support to the Afghan mujahedin to paying intermediaries in the Iran-Contra affair.
Those who served in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War swear that indeed the CIA actively participated in drug running as an "off-the-books" way to finance the secret war in Laos.
And, two decades later, similar charges flew that the CIA used the same playbook in Central America to finance our support for the Contras in Nicaragua during a time when Congress refused to fund that effort.
Six weeks ago here I quoted various newspapers from the mid-1980s that carried the charge by Burmese Drug War Lord Khun Sha against longtime CIA employee Richard Armitage - by name - that Armitage was directly involved in the drug trade and in importing the drugs into the U.S.
Armitage has always denied these reports.
Still, he is the only U.S. government employee I have ever heard of who was specifically fingered by name in a drug charge.
Of all the American companies dealing directly with the US military and providing cover for CIA operations, few firms can match the global presence of this giant construction powerhouse which employs 20,000 people in more than 100 countries.
Originally formed as a heavy construction company to build dams, Brown & Root grew its operations via shrewd political contributions to Senate candidate Lyndon Johnson in 1948. Expanding into the building of oil platforms, military bases, ports, nuclear facilities, harbours and tunnels, Brown & Root virtually underwrote LBJ's political career. It prospered as a result, making billions on US Government contracts during the Vietnam War. The Austin Chronicle, in an August 28, 2000 Op-Ed piece entitled "The Candidate from Brown & Root", labels Republican Cheney as the political dispenser of Brown & Root's largesse. According to political campaign records, during Cheney's five-year tenure at Halliburton the company's political contributions more than doubled to $1.2 million. Not surprisingly, most of that money went to Republican candidates.
It is clear that everywhere there is oil there is Brown & Root. But increasingly, everywhere there is war or insurrection there is Brown & Root also. From Bosnia and Kosovo to Chechnya, Rwanda, Burma, Pakistan, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, Iran, Libya, Mexico and Colombia, Brown & Root's traditional operations have expanded from heavy construction to include the provision of logistical support for the US military. Now, instead of US Army quartermasters, the world is likely to see Brown & Root warehouses storing and managing everything from uniforms and rations to vehicles.
Dick Cheney's footprints have come closer to drugs than one might suspect. The Center for Public Integrity's August 2000 report brought them even closer. It would be correct to say that there is a direct linkage of Brown & Root facilities - often set up in remote, hazardous regions - with every drug-producing region and every drug-consuming region in the world. These coincidences, in and of themselves, do not prove complicity in the trade. Other facts, however, lead inescapably in that direction.
The Cold War, the War on Drugs, and the War on Terrorism all present the possibility for an endless threat, constant fear, and an ever-escalating military-industrial apparatus. The warning of Eisenhower about the Military-Industrial Complex has come to fruition, likely beyond his wildest dreams. EX-DEA agent (undercover specialist of 25 years) Michael Levine has commented, "with the fade of communism [the Pentagon and CIA] are building a pretext for maintaining their budgets" (March 1991.)
"Attacking the problem directly in terms of the drug trade . . . would undermine the attempt to gain popular support in the region," agreed Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. "There's a real conflict, I think."
The Afghan government has prohibited the aerial herbicide spraying used by U.S. anti-narcotic programs in Latin America. Instead, opium poppy plants in Afghanistan are destroyed by tractors dragging heavy bars. But only 38,500 of nearly 430,000 acres under cultivation were eradicated this year.
In addition to a 26 percent production increase over past year -- for a total of 5,644 metric tons -- the amount of land under cultivation in opium poppies grew by 61 percent. Cultivation in the two main production provinces, Helmand in the southwest and Oruzgan in central Afghanistan, was up by 132 percent.
White House drug policy chief John Walters called the news "disappointing."
The administration has cited resurgent Taliban forces as the main impediment to stabilization and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, and the U.S. military investment has far exceeded anti-narcotic and development programs. But U.S. military and intelligence officials have increasingly described the drug trade as a problem that rivals and in some ways exceeds the Taliban, threatening to derail other aspects of U.S. policy.
"It is truly the Achilles' heel of Afghanistan," Gen. James L. Jones, the supreme allied commander for NATO, said in a recent speech at the Council on Foreign Relations. Afghanistan is NATO's biggest operation, with more than 30,000 troops. Drug cartels with their own armies engage in regular combat with NATO forces deployed in Afghanistan, he said. "It would be wrong to say that this is just the Taliban. I think I need to set that record straight," he added.
Any disruption of the drug trade has enormous implications for Afghanistan's economic and political stability. Although its relative strength in the overall economy has diminished as other sectors have expanded in recent years, narcotics is a $2.6 billion-a-year industry that this year provided more than a third of the country's gross domestic product. Farmers who cultivate opium poppies receive only a small percentage of the profits, but U.S. officials estimate the crop provides up to 12 times as much income per acre as conventional farming, and there is violent local resistance to eradication.
According to a major report on the Afghan drug industry jointly released last week by the World Bank and the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, key narcotics traffickers "work closely with sponsors in top government and political positions."
The report drew specific attention to the Afghan Interior Ministry, saying its officials were increasingly involved in providing protection for and facilitating consolidation of the drug industry in the hands of leading traffickers. "At the lower levels," the report said, "payments to police to avoid eradication or arrest reportedly are very widespread. At higher levels, provincial and district police chief appointments appear to be a tool for key traffickers and sponsors to exercise control and favor their proteges at middle levels in the drug industry."
Opium cultivation was outlawed during Taliban rule in the late 1990s and was nearly eliminated by 2001. After the overthrow of the Taliban government by U.S. forces in the fall of that year, the Bush administration said that keeping a lid on production was among its highest priorities. But corruption and alliances formed by Washington and the Afghan government with anti-Taliban tribal chieftains, some of whom are believed to be deeply involved in the trade, undercut the effort.