Saturday, March 29, 2008


Deterring Democracy Copyright © 1991, 1992 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press.
Chapter 4: Problems of Population Control Segment 3/11
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2. The Drug War

To fit the part, a menace must be grave, or at least portrayable as such. Defense against the menace must engender a suitable martial spirit among the population, which must accord its rulers free rein to pursue policies motivated on other grounds and must tolerate the erosion of civil liberties, a side benefit of particular importance for the statist reactionaries who masquerade as conservatives. Furthermore, since the purpose is to divert attention away from power and its operations -- from federal offices, corporate board rooms, and the like -- a menace for today should be remote: "the other," very different from "us" or at least what we are trained to aspire to be. The designated targets should also be weak enough to be attacked without cost; the wrong color helps as well. In short, the menace should be situated in the Third World, whether abroad or in the inner city at home. The war against the menace should also be designed to be winnable, a precedent for future operations. A crucial requirement for the entire effort is that the media launch a properly structured propaganda campaign, never a problem.

A war on drugs was a natural choice for the next crusade. There is, first of all, no question about the seriousness of the problem; we turn to the dimensions directly. But to serve the purpose, the war must be narrowly bounded and shaped, focused on the proper targets and crucially avoiding the primary agents; that too was readily accomplished. The war is also structured so that in retrospect, it will have achieved some of its goals. One major objective of the Bush-Bennett strategy was a slow regular reduction in reported drug use. The test is to be the Federal Household Survey on Drug Abuse, which, a few weeks before the plan was released, showed a decline of 37% from 1985 to 1988.14 The stated objective thus seemed a rather safe bet.

The war was declared with proper fanfare by President Bush in early September 1989. Or rather, re-declared, following the convention established 20 years earlier by President Nixon when he issued the first such dramatic declaration. To lay the ground properly for the current phase, Drug Czar William Bennett announced that there had been a remarkable doubling of frequent use of cocaine since 1985, "terrible proof that our current drug epidemic has far from run its course" and that we are faced with "intensifying drug-related chaos" and an "appalling, deepening crisis"; a few months later, the White House called a news conference to hail a new study "as evidence that their national drug strategy was succeeding and that narcotics use was becoming unfashionable among young Americans," Richard Berke reported in the New York Times. So the drug warriors, in the truest American tradition, were stalwartly confronting the enemy and overcoming him.

There are, however, a few problems. The decline in 1989 simply continues a trend that began in 1985-6 for cocaine and in 1979 for other illicit drugs, accompanied by a decline in alcohol consumption among the elderly, though there was no "war on alcohol." Cocaine use declined sharply in 1989, with a drop of 24% in the third quarter, prior to the declaration of war, according to government figures. Bennett's "doubling" is a bit hard to reconcile with the figures on decline of cocaine use, but a few months after the shocking news was announced with proper fanfare and impact, the paradox was revealed to be mere statistical fakery. On the back pages, we read further that a study by the State Department Bureau of International Narcotics Matters contradicted Bennett's claims that "the scourge is beginning to pass," thanks to his efforts.15

As required, the war is aimed at "them," not "us." Seventy percent of the Bush-Bennett drug budget was for law enforcement; if the underclass cannot be cooped up in urban reservations and limited to preying on itself, then it can be imprisoned outright. Countering criticism from soft-hearted liberals, Bennett supported "tough policy" over "drug education programs": "If I have the choice of only one, I will take policy every time because I know children. And you might say this is not a very romantic view of children, not a very rosy view of children. And I would say, `You're right'." Bennett is somewhat understating his position when he says that punishment is to be preferred if only one choice is available. In his previous post as Secretary of Education, he sought to cut drug education funds and has expressed skepticism about their value.16

The flashiest proposal was military aid to Colombia after the murder of presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galán. However, as his brother Alberto pointed out, "the drug dealers' core military power lies in paramilitary groups they have organized with the support of large landowners and military officers." Apart from strengthening "repressive and anti-democratic forces," Galán continued, Washington's strategy avoids "the core of the problem," that is, "the economic ties between the legal and illegal worlds," the "large financial corporations" that handle the drug money. "It would make more sense to attack and prosecute the few at the top of the drug business rather than fill prisons with thousands of small fish without the powerful financial structure that gives life to the drug market."17

It would indeed make more sense, if the goal were a war on drugs. But it makes no sense for the goal of population control, and it is in any event unthinkable, because of the requirement that state policy protect power and privilege, a natural concomitant of the "level playing field" at home.

As Drug Czar under the Reagan administration, George Bush was instrumental in terminating the main thrust of the real "war on drugs." Officials in the enforcement section of the Treasury Department monitored the sharp increase in cash inflow to Florida (later Los Angeles) banks as the cocaine trade boomed in the 1970s, and "connected it to the large-scale laundering of drug receipts" (Treasury Department brief). They brought detailed information about these matters to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Justice Department. After some public exposés, the government launched Operation Greenback in 1979 to prosecute money launderers. It soon foundered; the banking industry is not a proper target for the drug war. The Reagan administration reduced the limited monitoring, and Bush "wasn't really too interested in financial prosecution," the chief prosecutor in Operation Greenback recalls. The program was soon defunct, and Bush's new war on drugs aims at more acceptable targets. Reviewing this record, Jefferson Morley comments that the priorities are illustrated by the actions of Bush's successor in the "war against drugs." When an $8 billion surplus was announced for Miami and Los Angeles Banks, William Bennett raised no questions about the morality of their practices and initiated no inquiries, though he did expedite eviction notices for low-income, mostly Black residents of public housing in Washington where drug use had been reported.18

There may also be some fine tuning. A small Panamanian bank was pressured into pleading guilty on a money laundering charge after a sting operation. But the U.S. government dropped criminal charges against its parent bank, one of Latin America's major financial institutions, based in one of the centers of the Colombian drug cartel.19 There also appear to have been no serious efforts to pursue the public allegations by cartel money launderers about their contacts with major U.S. banks.

The announced war on drugs has a few other gaps that are difficult to reconcile with the announced intentions, though quite reasonable on the principles that guide social policy. Drug processing requires ether and acetone, which are imported into Latin America. Rafael Perl, drug-policy adviser at the Congressional Research Service, estimates that more than 90% of the chemicals used to produce cocaine comes from the United States. In the nine months before the announcement of the drug war, Colombian police say they seized 1.5 million gallons of such chemicals, many found in drums displaying U.S. corporate logos. A CIA study concluded that U.S. exports of these chemicals to Latin America far exceed amounts used for any legal commercial purpose, concluding that enormous amounts are being siphoned off to produce heroin and cocaine. Nevertheless, chemical companies are off limits. "Most DEA offices have only one agent working on chemical diversions," a U.S. official reports, so monitoring is impossible. And there have been no reported raids by Delta Force on the corporate headquarters in Manhattan.20

Go to the next segment.

14 Richard Berke, NYT, Sept. 24, 1988.

15 Berke, NYT, Feb. 14; Philip Shenon, NYT, Sept. 2; Franklin E. Zimring, director, and Gordon Hawkins, senior fellow, at the Earl Warren Legal Institute at the University of California at Berkeley, "Bennett's Sham Epidemic," Op-Ed, NYT, Jan. 25, 1990. Berke, "Drug Study Faults Role of State Dept.," NYT, Feb. 6, 1990, section D, page 24.

16 Richard Berke, "Bennett Asserts Drug Education Isn't Key," NYT, Feb. 3, 1990.

17 Galán, BG, Sept. 26, 1989.

18 Morley, Nation, Oct. 2, 1989.

19 COHA's Washington Report on the Hemisphere, Sept. 27, 1989.

20 Brook Larmer, "US, Mexico Try to Halt Chemical Flow to Cartels," CSM, Oct. 23, 1989, reporting on the lack of any serious efforts and blaming Mexico. KEYWORDS terrorist democracy elections cia mossad bnd nsa covert operation 911 mi6 inside job what really happened wtc pentagon joint chiefs of staff jcs centcom laser hologram usa mi5 undercover agent female sex exploitation perception deception power anarchy green social democratic participation japanese spy black-op false flag gladio terror.

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