Lord Hempton, proprietor of Hempton Manor and my chief employer, is not a man to beat around the bush. He is a candid fellow and periodically wont to set me tasks which extend well beyond my usual role as gardener-cum-entheobotanist within the grounds of Hempton Manor. On the occasion in question, Lord Hempton approached me whilst I was in the process of observing a particularly fine specimen of nettle which had taken opportune root in one walled corner of the rose garden. Having recently researched on the cultural history of the hemp plant, I was taken aback by the very close similarity of form between the nettle and hemp and was therefore loathe to uproot it. In particular, the leaves of these two plants are remarkably alike in both shade and texture . But before I could explore this botanical similarity, Lord Hempton called my attention and pressed me with what he referred to as some 'strictly political business'. Already I knew that an unusual assignment was on the cards, for it is the more usual custom of Lord Hempton to ask me to carry out 'strictly shamanic business' or even 'strictly conscious business'. But not so on this occasion. Indeed, he confronted me with the following dire question, asked in sober earnest:
"Are you familiar," he asked as he sniffed and savoured a rose in bloom, "with the role of CIA complicity in the trade of hard and addictive semi-synthetic plant drugs?"
I paused for a moment, and then replied somewhat sheepishly,
"Well your Lordship, I know that the CIA are mischief-makers who regularly profane history. Indeed, the bounders were even involved in the initial discovery and investigation of the psilocybin mushroom, possibly the greatest and most sacred of all plant organisms which, as you know, has absolutely no place in their ungodly hands. But I can't say that I am wise to any tales of what you call CIA complicity in the trafficking of addictive drugs like, say, heroin, cocaine and tobacco. Whatever do you mean?"
Well, Lord Hempton thence launched himself into a serious briefing on this topic. After he had presented me with all the evidence he had chanced across on this issue, I asked him what the point was of discussing such profane information.
"You see," said Lord Hempton, "Whilst we two are in the business of documenting the various astonishing and valuable facts surrounding the use of entheogenic flora, the careful shamanic use of such plants, which we endorse, is, unfortunately, bound up with the entire ignominious issue of drug use in general. And America's so-called War On Drugs which, as any intelligent individual knows, is impossible to win, cannot be debated in full unless certain facts about the role of the CIA in hard drugs trafficking be admitted and be brought into the clear light of day."
"I see," I said, and then added, "But with all respect Lord Hempton, all that you have related to me is but hearsay until I can verify these alarming facts of yours for myself. I mean, you cannot go making such allegations against the CIA hither and thither without firm support. Am I here to infer that you find the CIA to be out-and-out dastards squared without any redeeming features whatsoever? Do you consider them corrupt to the core? This is risky talk your Lordship..."
"No, quite the contrary SG," replied Lord Hempton with a wry smile. "Indeed, the CIA were instrumental in the introduction of one of the most pharmacologically potent, not to mention efficacious, psychedelic substances known to man, namely LSD-25. And for that we should all be grateful. But that's another story entirely...."
Ignoring my consternation and fear for his knee-caps, Lord Hempton then got back to the business at hand by providing me with a couple of book references both of which were quite recent. To judge from their titles, both bespoke of 'heavy' content. One book was entitled The Politics Of Heroin by political historian Alfred W.McCoy, whilst the other was called Cocaine Politics by Peter Dale Scott and Jonathan Marshall. Lord Hempton asked me to research both books and disseminate the gist of information therein. He then winked at me and returned to the Manor, saying that he had some kind of phytoalchemical work to attend to in his laboratory.
I sighed at the prospect of researching such an overtly political topic as outlined by my employer. What made the assignment even more unusual was the fact that Lord Hempton had been dressed in a rather raggedy T-Shirt with the ornate legend 'Satan' written upon it. Although his Lordship had explained to me that this was a sort of sly ruse based upon a variation of the logo of some popular music band called Santana, the fact of the matter was that it was a trifle disturbing. Then again, what he had told me of the CIA's covert and complicit role in the trafficking of heroin and cocaine was surely more diabolically satanic in nature than a simple garment.
Anyhow, I left the garden and made my way to the Hempton Manor Library to read up on the two book references Lord Hempton had provided me with. What follows is a verification of the information Lord Hempton believed should be disseminated in order to help end the futile War On Drugs. I would just add that the tone is sombre as befits this decidedly secular subject area.
The so-called War On Drugs is spearheaded by the USA. Billions of dollars and massive amounts of manpower are involved. Yet a simple glance at the statistics of current drug use - whether worldwide or from the USA - reveals that the war has done little, if anything, to reduce illegal drug use. And more to the point, a careful look at recent American covert CIA-driven history reveals a sinister twist to the War On Drugs. For in certain situations, it appears that the CIA have actually granted complicit aid to the very trafficking of hard addictive drugs like heroin and cocaine which the War On Drugs is attempting to stem. Controversial allegations indeed. The story goes like this....
THE CIA IN AFGHANISTAN
Another time, another place, another war. A Cold War to be precise. Recall, if you will, that in December 1979 Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan and installed a dreaded Communist as president. Always a numero uno priority, such a Cold War offensive had to be dealt with forthwith by the USA. President Carter soon mobilised forces against the new Communist threat by giving military aid to Afghan mujaheddin guerrillas opposed to the Russian presence. When, in 1981, Hollywood actor Ron Reagen took office, the WhiteHouse gave fully 3 billion dollars worth of military aid to General Zia, the then military leader of Pakistan (neighbour to Afghanistan). This money was to be channelled by General Zia into the mujaheddin efforts to displace the Russians. It was through General Zia and the Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) that the CIA were to work their covert operations in Afghanistan.
The fusion of the ISI and the CIA was a real big-boy's club. As one foreign correspondent reported, "It was a proper marriage of mutual interest." A few years earlier, when general Zia first took power in Pakistan, the ISI was but a "trifling" military intelligence. But with the able assistance of the CIA, Zia built up the ISI to be the fist of his martial-law regime.
THE CIA AND HEKMATYAR
This covert CIA aid, channelled through Zia and the ISI, eventually found its way to one Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, leader of a small mujaheddin guerrilla group. Hekmatyar became the chosen leader of the CIA's covert action in Afghanistan. This was a grave error, for after the CIA had empowered him to form the largest Afghan guerrilla force, Hekmatyar revealed his true colours. Not to put too fine a point on it, Hekmatyar was an opportune cad. To be sure, he fast became an opium drug lord of the most corrupt kind.
In retrospect, Hekmatyar's character was not researched in any great depth by the CIA, for, had they bothered to look deep enough into Hekmatyar's past, then they would have discovered a youth misspent in religious militancy and other questionable enterprises. For example, the zealous and youthful Hekmatyar had been known to order his adherents to throw acid in the faces of woman students who refused to wear veils. He had also been accused of murdering a Leftist student. Not exactly a charming man to heap funds and guns upon then. Yet the CIA still managed to pick him out as the eventual recipient of the bulk of their financial and military aid.
Under CIA and ISI supervision, steady shipments of rifles, rocket launchers and all manner of efficient killing hardware were dispatched to Hekmatyar. As well as protection of course. Although a risky card to play, we must not forget though that this was the Cold War which the CIA were fighting. The USA's War On Drugs was to sit on the backburner....
IGNITING A JIHAD
It has been estimated that over 10 years, the bulk of the billions of dollars of covert aid that was shipped out to Afghan guerrillas reached Hekmatyar. No sooner was he equipped Terminator-fashion, than he began to control other resistance groups through the use of violence. Hekmatyar's men thought a Jihad or Holy War was taking place before their trigger fingers. Defectors were summarily snuffed. Indeed, numerous violations of Human Rights perpetrated by Hekmatyar were reported to Amnesty International and Asia Watch at this time. Yet the sinister nature of this man so readily fuelled by the CIA, was only reported in the New York Times after the Soviet withdrawl in 1989. Before this time, Hekmatyar had only received glowing reports in the media...
THE LURE OF OPIUM
With their newfound military might granted them by the CIA, the ISI's mujaheddin forces began capturing agricultural areas within Afghanistan during the early 1980's. Peasant supporters were urged to grow opium poppies en masse. The opium was then sold t o the new heroin refineries built to order in neighbouring Pakistan. Soon, trucks full of CIA arms would bring arms from Karachi and return with loads of heroin (a process echoing the use of Air America aircraft to traffic arms and opium during the Vietn am war). These facts were reported in the Pakistani press at the time, yet nothing could be done. The CIA knew, General Zia knew, Hekmatyar knew, even the DEA knew. Both European police and Pakistani police claimed that all investigations into this heroin trade were intercepted and dismissed at the highest level. As ever, it would appear that all is unfair in war.
We now know that Hekmatyar eventually gained control of at least 6 heroin refineries. With such a massive amount of heroin production, citizens of Pakistan were sure to suffer. Indeed, by the early 1980's, Pakistan was left with one of the world's largest populations of heroin addicts. Addiction there rose from 5000 users in 1980 to 70,000 in 1983, then to a staggering 1.3 million addicts in 1986. In this same year (by which time the problem had, by necessity, to be dealt with) fully 16 military officers in Pakistan were arrested for heroin trafficking.
After the Soviet withdrawl in 1989, CIA aid declined and thus Afghan leaders stepped up opium production in order to sustain their armies. Various 'Kings of Heroin' - military leaders fast becoming versed in the art of smack refinery - sprang up, even fighting amongst themselves for control over poppy cultivation. The problem of opium farming and heroin production was now cast. And the entire sorry state of affairs had been set in motion through the covert actions of the CIA in fighting America's Cold W ar. McCoy sums up this regretful shard of history as follows:
"By investing a local ally such as Hekmatyar....with the authority of its alliance, the CIA draws the ally under the mantle of its protection. So armed, a tribal leader, now less vulnerable to arrest and prosecution, can use his American a lliance to expand his share of the local opium trade. Once the CIA has invested its prestige in one of these opium warlords, it cannot afford to compromise a major covert action asset with drug investigations. Respecting the national security imperatives of CIA operations, the DEA keeps its distance from agency assets, even when they are major drug lords. During the 10 years of the Afghan war, some 17 DEA agents sat in the US. embassy at Islamabad watching - without making a major arrest or seizure - as the flood of Afghan-Pakistan heroin captured 60% of the US. drug market."
Before CIA intervention, Southern Asia - Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan - was self-sufficient in drug production, most of its homegrown opium being used within those 3 countries. Now however, Afghanistan looks as if it will remain a major supplier of heroin to Europe and the USA. At the height of CIA intervention in the mid 1980's, more than half of the heroin demand in the USA. and Europe was satisfied by Afghan poppy fields and Afghanistan/Pakistan border heroin refineries. The CIA have a lot to answer for. How can the USA. possibly hope to win a War On Drugs when its own most powerful Intelligence serves - whether directly or indirectly - to increase the production and distribution of hard addictive drugs? A slight mix-up of agenda's it would seem....
These covert operations of the CIA in Afghanistan are, unfortunately, not the only example where hard drug trafficking has been silently endorsed. A similar scenario unfolded in Latin America in the 1980's.
CONTRA'S AND COCAINE
In the early 1980's, the USA succumbed to a massive influx of cocaine. Between 1982 and 1985 there were estimated to be almost 6 million cocaine users in America. This dramatic increase in cocaine use coincided with the CIA's involvement with Contra guerrillas fighting the Left-wing Sandanista government in Nicaragua. It has now been established that the Medellin Cartel - the world's largest and most powerful group of cocaine dealers once led by infamous Pablo Escobar - used the Contra's to traffic their lucrative powders during the 1980's. In particular, it was the aircraft and the protection provided to the Contra's by the ever-efficient CIA that the Medellin Cartel exploited. We should not be surprised here. This was a multi-million-dollar business opportunity not to be wasted.
As an example of these sniffy dabblings, the head of the CIA's Central American Task Force later testified the following about Edin Pastora, the then leading commander of the Contra forces:
"We knew that everybody around Pastora were involved in cocaine. His staff and friends....were drug smugglers or involved in drug smuggling."
In 1986, the US State Department paid 4 contractors almost a million dollars to supply humanitarian aid to Contra forces. All 4 companies were owned by known drug traffickers! For instance, one of the contractors - a transport company called SETCO - was owned by a Honduran cocaine trafficker listed as a "class one DEA violator". Yet once again, such facts were conveniently ignored by the USA in their vigorous attempts to be rid of the Sandanista's.
Such an oxymoronic mix of priorities was sure to confuse the efforts of the DEA in and around Nicaragua. Like Afghanistan, it was a case of the CIA versus the DEA. This became absurdly manifest in Honduras where the Northern Front of the Contra's were located. This spot had become a major trans-shipment point in the trafficking of Colombian cocaine. A new DEA office had opened there in 1982. It was closed a year later however, just as cocaine shipments were on the increase. As one DEA agent was later to testify:
"The Pentagon made it clear that we [the DEA] were in the way. They had more important business."
This more important business was, of course, the CIA's covert operations to help arm and protect the Contra's. The major enemy of the Contra's - the Sandanista's - had taken the place of hard drugs like cocaine as the dark enemy. As McCoy concludes:
"By using Contra support aircraft to carry their cocaine, the Medellin cartel's smugglers reduced the risk of seizure. For the DEA to determine which light aircraft crossing the Caribbean were CIA, cartel or both became increasingly difficult. Simply by launching a major covert operation in a strategic drug zone, the CIA contributed, albeit indirectly, to a major expansion of America's cocaine supply."
THE IGNOBLE STORY CONTINUES IN GUATEMALA
The sort of "just fly low" hypocrisy we have been discussing has continued in recent years. In Guatemala, America's backing of a corrupt and brutal military regime has enabled the drugs market to flourish. Guatemala has become a shipping point for cocaine traffickers (the largest ever cocaine seizure took place there in 1987). The military in Guatemala - who strongly influence the politics of the country - are known to be involved in cocaine trafficking. In 1989, a certain Lt. Fernando Minera was arrest ed trying to load 25kg of cocaine onto a Miami-bound jet. Minera was to grass up a number of other Guatemalan military personnel on similar drug charges. These included the brothers of the Guatemalan president along with 2 prominent army colonels of an Intelligence unit called G-2. In 1990, a similar bust took place in which a Guatemalan army colonel was caught with 634kg of cocaine.
Given the role of Guatemalan military involvement with cocaine smuggling, it comes as a surprise to learn from the Los Angeles Times a few years ago that:
"US. agencies are making payments to Guatemalan military officers, particularly in army intelligence, known as G-2 ...for their cooperation in combating drug traffickers' use of Guatemala as a trans-shipment point cocaine en route to the United States..."
What is going on here? According to Peter Dale Scott, Washington's real agenda is in the fight to stave off Leftist forces who operate in Guatemala. By giving support to the military, the USA hopes to keep the brutal Right-wing regime in operation. If th is entails the smuggling of cocaine by corrupt military leaders then so be it. This appears to be a theme running through much of the USA's involvement in the politics of many Central American countries. Considering the aforementioned cases in total, such covert affairs by the USA make their ostensibly moral War On Drugs no more than a cosmetic sham. Such is the sublimely insipid art of the American State when it comes to their agendas in other countries south of the border. Here ends a lesson in hard truth...
After I had completed my research and was mourning the loss of some of my illusions about America, I once again met Lord Hempton in the grounds of the Manor, this time whilst I was examining (during my tea break) one of the many species of poppy which grow there. It was late summer and the poppies in question had flowered. All that remained of the reproductive flowering parts were the distinctive green poppy heads or seed capsules as they would eventually become.
"I see you are admiring the poppies," said Lord Hempton as he came and stood beside me. "A beautiful piece of Natural Intelligence yes?"
"Indeed they are redolent in naturally sophisticated design," I replied. "A quite distinct morphology. I was just wondering about the contents of these unripe heads. It amazes me that all the trouble and misery associated with heroin addiction stems from the alkaloidal content of just these seed cases. Once the raw opium has been artificially processed that is..."
"But you must remember SG," said Lord Hempton, "that this same sappy residue is also the source of morphine, the greatest painkiller on the planet. Consider how much misery has been conversely allayed due to morphine."
I thought about it for a bit and then said, "You are right Lord Hempton. It seems then that the poppy be a plant with 2 faces, one benign, one dangerous. Perhaps there is a Gaianesque lesson from Great Nature to be learned in this organic manifestation. Whatever the case, I'll wager that no opium lord ever contemplates the reasons why the poppy exudes morphine. Opium is just marketed and that is that. It is a similar story with cocaine. Those cocaine cartels get fat off cocaine without the slightest inkling as to why the Coca plant makes cocaine. The same is true with the users of these drugs. One wonders who is in ultimate control here. Gaia and Her influential botany or we humans..."
"Tell me SG," said Lord Hempton changing the subject. "Getting back to all these unsavoury facts about the CIA and their covert operations with which you are now familiar, do you not feel that the time for a Pharmistice is at hand?"
"A what?" I asked. I had never come across the term 'Pharmistice' before. Lord Hempton then explained to me what he meant.
"The laws of drug prohibition constitute a gross infringement of human rights," declared his Lordship as he began to pace up and down the rose garden with his hands clasped behind his back. The tone of his voice had changed somewhat. He obviously had something very serious to say. He continued:
"Drug prohibition serves only to waste public money and police resources, while making vast profits for organized crime. I submit that the so-called War On Drugs cannot be won. Indeed it is already lost, and yet is still allowed to continue. Surely a war is that which one state wages against another "enemy" state, not upon its own citizens. This War On Drugs should more correctly be known as the War On Some Drugs, being selectively and hypocritically waged upon certain substances only.
"Furthermore, a little research into the matter - such as you yourself have now done - reveals that the nation which coined the very term, and which has been responsible for shaping, if not enforcing the global policy regarding the War On Some Drugs, is itself not only the largest consumer of illicit substances, but has engaged in the trafficking of both drugs and armaments in the pursuit of nefarious foreign policy objectives. The US continues to supply brutal regimes with largesse and materiel, ostensibly to fight the War On Some Drugs, in reality to suppress political opponents. I suggest the time is long overdue for an end to this phoney drug war, time for a Pharmistice no less."
"What then," I asked, "Does a Pharmistice imply? Do we begin to legalise drugs?"
"A gradual process of decriminalisation and eventual legalisation in some cases yes," replied Lord Hempton. "You must remember that it is the very prohibitive laws themselves which cause much of the misery associated with drug use. A substance is made illegal and then the real trouble starts. Consider cocaine. There will always be a market for cocaine. Who buys it? Why, it is the middle classes, those with much money to spend. They want it. They demand it. And where there is an unending market, so too will there be supplies. This is basic economics. Thus, to celebrate some large cocaine bust as though a victory for humanity and our moral well-being had been achieved is, to be frank about it, naive in the extreme.
"Americans, a lot of wealthy Americans, especially those living in Hollywood, love cocaine. If one shipment fails to get through and be sold, then another is sure to get through. The market - the perennial need by wealthy humans to indulge themselves in cocaine euphoria - makes this so. So I say legalise and tax cocaine, or at least decriminalise its use, and thence put the unscrupulous armed and dangerous drug gangs who control the market out of work.
"I believe a similar analysis can be made of other drugs, although each must be given individual treatment when it comes to formulating new legislation. But clearly the War On Some Drugs is a dismal failure. It is time to change the law, time for governm ents to actually take control of these substances. For prohibition is to abandon control and this is not what governments are for."
"I concur with you about cocaine," I replied. "It struck me just the other night how cocaine is considered to be somehow evil. For instance, the TV drama known as Miami Vice and other series of that ilk constantly portray evil cocaine dealers. Yet it is the very actors themselves, the 'dollar fat' entertainment industry and so on, that becomes a welcome recipient for cocaine and its stimulating effects. Thus, the ostensible enemy - the armed cocaine cartels - are merely providing to an insatiable demand ."
Lord Hempton agreed with me and then continued with his ideas on how legalisation should proceed.
"I would propose," he stated, "that along with decriminalisation of most, if not all drugs, there must follow a long-term drug education program instilled in the national curriculum. In this way, upon leaving school, the youth populous will know all and everything there is to know about drugs. Only in such an educated climate in which drug knowledge is as enforced as mathematics and English, will adult individuals be able to make an informed opinion. This is the best that can be hoped for. All adults ought to be free to use psychoactive substances as they wish, just as they now legally use alcohol, nicotine and caffeine. Given that each and every adult be informed in depth about various psychoactive substances - their pharmacology, derivation, history of use, dangers, virtues and so on - then only this can lead to an informed choice. I would surmise that something along these lines is the best solution to ending the futile War On Some Drugs."
"But such a Pharmistice, if it should come to pass, would, by necessity, have to be heralded by a widespread release of information on the true nature of various drugs. One needs to disseminate objective information on this touchy and taboo subject area. Which is why you and I should be learning all that we can about this issue. For I believe that we shall have some role to play in the near future when it comes to disseminating information. Thus SG, I charge you to continue researching these controversial issues in between your bouts of gardening. For, to be truly informed about drug use, one needs to grasp why humans in all cultures and in all ages have what appears to be a natural psychological urge to periodically alter their state of consciousness, and why some drugs like entheogens are deemed a danger whilst others, like alcohol, are positively welcomed. What say you SG? Do you not see the need for more data? I put it to you that such information be for the benefit of all humankind."
"Of course I understand his Lordship," I replied. "I shall begin familiarising myself with more facts tomorrow. Actually Lord Hempton, I am keen to ascertain more about the actual law itself regarding the illegality of certain substances. What, I wonder, are the criteria which make non-lethal entheogens like mescaline ostensibly dangerous Class A substances, but which see fit to exclude alcohol and tobacco from this same class regardless of the fact that tobacco claims more than 100,000 lives per year in the UK? I think you would agree that the actual law itself needs to be studied carefully, although I already divine that it will be found to be nonsensical...."
"Ah," murmured Lord Hempton. "I sense you are on to something here SG. But look, before you embroil yourself in more new learning, let us go and have a bite to eat. My new housekeeper Mrs Cornish should be preparing us a scrumptious cream tea in the drawing room in a few minutes. And it will be home-made strawberry jam too..."
On that mouth-watering cue, Lord Hempton and I made our way back to the Manor. My future academic research would have to wait.
Report by S.G.Powell