(with apologies to Alfred W. McCoy – a brief piece exploring the modern day relationship between the US government, Corporate America and the supply of illicit heroin.)
Nick Sandberg 2000
The US Government is not involved directly in the manufacture and supply of illicit heroin. It does not have to be, for it uses its immense political influence worldwide to expand and regulate the trade as suits the expansionist ambitions of Corporate America.
Having an illicit, street-level supply of good quality, cheap heroin has long been recognised by numerous governments as an important factor in effecting high levels of civil control. Furthermore, Corporate America fully realises that the presence of heroin can help facilitate their expansionist ambitions in Europe and the rest of the world.
Big companies like being big and want to get bigger still. Growth is seen as fundamental to existence. Corporations expanding their holdings, both fiscal and human, across Europe and the rest of the world, find it very useful to have certain elements in place within their intended target cultures, prior to and during expansion.
The most important element is a highly-Americanised media. One in which information, whether it relates to news broadcasts or soap powder ads, is formatted in a certain way and conforms to certain structures developed by Corporate America to subtly promote consumerism and materialism at a base psychological level.
Next up, a corporate-compliant scientific establishment unwilling to contradict some of the more dubious claims and visions of media science.
And thirdly, the presence of high-quality cheap and illicit analgesics, like heroin, is useful in that it serves to both politically and socially disenfranchise those persons who, for one reason or another, don’t quite fit into the corporate game plan. Addicts typically neither riot nor vote.
The truth of the matter is that without a ready supply of heroin in a country targeted for corporate expansionism, the parties proposing to move in would have to significantly adjust the nature of their operation. At considerable cost to themselves.
Another important reason for the US governments love affair with illicit heroin relates to its relationship with organised crime. The Americans learnt, notably over the course of the last two World Wars, just how important a healthy relationship with organised crime elements is in maintaining control at street level. By effectively permitting the trade in illicit drugs like heroin worldwide, the US government thus helps facilitate and render subservient to its will organised crime on an international basis.
So, what evidence might one provide to back up claims that the US government and Corporate America are actively regulating the illicit heroin trade to their own advantage?
Three areas one might begin with are as follows:
(i) – The work of the United Nations Drug Control Programme, (the UNDCP), based in Geneva, Switzerland. Following the appointment of a progressive new executive director, Pino Arlacchi, in late 1997, the work of this small UN unit becomes very interesting. Arlacchi, a former mafia-buster in his native Italy, appears highly committed to actually doing something about illicit heroin and cocaine production.
He began to work with “crop replacement” programmes in Afghanistan. And continued doing so until they were found to work effectively. He then developed a crop replacement programme for eliminating illicit heroin and cocaine worldwide. At a UNDCP Special Conference held in New York the 8 – 10th June, 1998, Arlacchi unveiled his grand plan to eliminate heroin and cocaine in front of Bill Clinton and various assembled world leaders and their representatives. Result – pretty much a stunned silence and a lot of umm’ing and ah’ing.
Arlacchi costed his plan at US$5 bn, to be split between participating Western countries and spread out over 10 years. This might seem like a lot until you realise that the US State Department reckons that illicit drug usage costs the USA alone something like US$80 bn per annum!
As of September ’99, the UNDCP has received, to all intents and purposes, no funding for the scheme. And for all the interest the Western press show in the story, it might as well not exist. (Independent journalists have commented that a senior UN official explaining to the leaders of the Western world how to completely eliminate illicit heroin and cocaine should have been the story of the year).
The problem with Arlacchi’s plan, of course, as many experienced commentators on drugs issues are aware, is that it would work.
(ii) – The bizarre problems various progressive governments have encountered whilst trying to initiate more enlightened policies on the treatment of heroin addiction.
In the last year, (98-99), both Switzerland and Australia announced publicly that they wished to begin prescribing heroin to those addicted to it. Such enlightened action has been noted by many sources to greatly reduce the secondary problems associated with heroin addiction. Most notably the crime factor, evident when penniless drug addicts are compelled to commit thefts and muggings to supply them with sufficient money to maintain their habit. In addition, various studies have found that making heroin addicts attend clinics two to three times a day and have a nurse inject them with their drug of choice so de-glamourises heroin use that a significant number of them simply stop using.
So why aren’t more governments looking at prescribing heroin to those addicted to using it? Well, what happened in Australia appears fairly typical. Shortly prior to the proposed policy becoming law, senior Australian Home Office ministers were paid a visit by Barry McCaffrey – the US “drugs czar”. McCaffrey’s job was to dissuade the Australians from their proposed policy change by pretty much any means possible. An assortment of highly dubious reasons as to why prescribing heroin to heroin addicts is actually a bad idea were dragged out for the waiting media. And meanwhile the Aussies found out they’d suddenly had some very nice trade deals, previously intended for SE Asian nations, brokered for them by the Americans. Australia finally elected not to pursue the policy of prescribing heroin.
In Switzerland, the situation was slightly different. Not being a member of the EU and already having a “special relationship” with Corporate America and Organised Crime relating to its banking practices, there was less the Americans could do to stop a few “do-gooders” invoking more intelligent policies in relation to heroin addiction. McCaffrey paid his customary visit and attempted to dissuade the Swiss from their proposed action. An observer recalls that “no direct action was attempted by the Americans”, but was suddenly reticent when asked if any indirect action was tried, preferring to repeat the earlier statement.
To date, (Sep 99), a couple of projects prescribing heroin to addicts are operating in Switzerland. A recent published report claimed they are highly successful, resulting in both a large decrease in addiction-related crime and in heroin usage. And in a recent referendum on the subject, Swiss citizens voted to continue the programme.
(iii) – The recent NATO bombing of Kosovo. Several political commentators knowledgeable of illicit drug politics, have written extensively of the “heroin angle” to the recent conflict in Kosovo. (Kosovo has been a principal stop-off and distribution point for illicit Afghani heroin moving into Europe for some years.)
Whilst the media informed the public solely of the human rights abuses being practised against the Kosovans, leading them to approve NATO’s subsequent bombing, many political analysts perceived deeper and darker motivations.
It is often seen that, in practice, there is rarely one single reason why political or military interventions of this type take place. What actually happens is that a type of scale or balance is set up. And that all the reasons to bomb placed on one side, with the reasons against on the other. Should sufficient imbalance result, bombing proceeds.
One very important and likely motivation behind NATO’s action relates to the activities and future of the “hard right” in America. Successive liberal administrations have increasingly threatened the very existence of the US hard right. Legislation on tobacco usage and changed public attitudes to arms sales have hit hard at industries that traditionally act as the hard right’s financial base. Some analysts speculate that Clinton may have done a “secret deal” with the hard right during the political turmoil that followed the publishing of the Starr Report and the Monica Lewinsky scandal. In return for a diminished ardour in resting his presidency from him, Clinton may well have promised simply to locate “some little country somewhere and bomb the living shit out of it”. For bombing is the arms industry’s best earner. Bombs, once dropped, last only fractions of a second and cannot be re-used. Making their employment the fastest way known of transferring public funds into private hands – namely taxpayers dollars into the hands of those who own the arms companies. Most sources agree that the tonnage dropped on Serbia and Kosovo was phenomenally high.
A likely secondary motivation behind NATO’s action relates to heroin. As mentioned earlier, Kosovo is of immense tactical significance to the illicit heroin trade. Conveniently located close to the Mediterranean and virtually under the martial law of the KLA, it makes the ideal “distribution point” for Afghani heroin moving into Europe. Milosevic, usually regarded as some kind of quasi-fascist bully-boy, is not a character who one would think could truly upset the US Government. Yet he apparently did so to a level which provoked a bombing campaign of unprecedented proportions in recent history. Quite simply, Milosevic threatened the continued existence and operation of the Afghani – Europe “heroin corridor”. An action so threatening to the expansionist ambitions of Corporate America that it was met with maximum force.
It’s worth noting that the “ethnic cleansing” of the Kosovans that legitimised NATO’s action in the eyes of the Western world was of course massively stepped up once bombing commenced – as widely predicted by experts in this field.
Pino Arlacchi and the UNDCP – www.undcp.org