Thursday, March 17, 2016
CIA, Contras, and the drug trade
This is a pretty thoughtful treatment of the allegation that the CIA promoted crack cocaine in black ghettos in the 1980s. The short summary is that no, the CIA did not have an explicit campaign to invent crack and addict people to it in the US, but they did basically look the other way when the CIA-supported and -approved Contras engaged in drug trafficking. For those who are rusty on their 1980s history, the Contras were a gang of largely fascist reprobates (by Jon Stewart's reckoning "an army of drug-addled jungle rapists" or something like this) who wanted to replace the center-left Sandinista government in Nicaragua with the return of the preceding decades-long dictatorship of the right-wing Somozas. They weren't very skilled fighters and didn't have much popular support, but were kept viable for a while by intensive support from the CIA. Once Congress and the people of the US got wise to this and made it clear that we didn't want to support the Contras' project, the CIA and the Contras had to search for other forms of financing. These sources included donations from private individuals in the far-right aristocracy of US politics, the proceeds from the infamous sale of arms to our enemies the Iranians, and narcotrafficking. The latter financing source was a natural choice; the cocaine trade was thriving in the 1980s, Nicaragua was right on the main route from South America to the US, and in fact many of the corrupt fascists supporting the Contras were already involved in the trade. So indirectly, the CIA accepted or at least didn't protest the drug trafficking that everyone knew was to some extent financing their boys, the Contras. Not as salacious a story as the CIA somehow creating the crack epidemic singlehandedly, but still pretty shameful.