Policing International Drug Trafficking in Iran

Drugs: No Way Out

Press TV (2018)

Film Review

This is a very interesting documentary about the role of Iranian customs officials  in disrupting the flow of Afghan heroin to Europe. At present, Afghanistan (thanks largely to the CIA) is the world largest producer of opium and heroin. Between 2001-2010, the Afghan opium/heroin trade took in over $68 billion in revenue. Of this, $66 billion went to the drug “mafia” (CIA?), $2 billion to the Afghan government and $200 million to the Taliban insurgency.

The principal (shortest) route for transporting heroin to the lucrative European market is via Turkmenistan, Iran and Turkey. Most of the illicit heroin is smuggled in trucks across the Turkmenistan border. Iranian customs officials also intercept a lot of diazepam (Valium) originating from Pakistan, where the drug is available without prescription.

At the Turkish border, Iran intercepts large volumes of hydrochloric and acetic acid. These chemicals are destined for Afghanistan, where they are used to refine opium into heroin. Large amounts of ephedrine (used to manufacture methamphetamine) and synthetic drugs (eg tramadol and ecstasy) are also intercepted at the Turkish border.

How the CIA Used LSD to Destroy the New Left

drugs-as-weapons

Drugs as Weapons Against Us: The CIA’s Murderous Targeting of SDS, Panthers, Hendrix, Lennon, Cobain, Tupac and Other Activists

by John L Potash

Trine Day LLC (2015)

Book Review

Drugs as Weapons Against Us is a virtual encyclopedia of the global drug trade. Author John L Potash devotes special attention to the long involvement of the British and US government in illegal trafficking – for the political and financial benefit of the elite families who control these governments. Most of the book focuses on MKUltra, the top secret CIA program devoted to developing and experimenting with mind altering drugs such as LSD, MDA (an ecstasy precursor), STP, PCP and scopolamine.

Although CIA Director Richard Helms ordered all MK-Ultra records destroyed in the mid-seventies, 30,000 pages of documents were preserved in the CIA Finance Department. Meticulously researched and footnoted, Drugs as Weapons relies on an extensive variety of sources, including the 30,000 pages, FOIA releases, police files, whistleblower statements, media and alternative media investigations and other prominent researchers such as Peter Dale Scott, Alfred, McCoy, Alex Constantine, Catherine Austin Fitts, and the late Gary Webb and Michael Rupert.

Using MKUltra to Target Leftists and Radical Pop Stars

As the title suggests, Potash is mainly interested in the CIA’s use of LSD (with the help of British intelligence, which ran a parallel MKUltra program at the Tavistock Clinic) to “neutralize” leftists and activist pop stars, such as Paul Robeson, Mick Jagger, Abbie Hoffman, Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix.*

Like many activists, I am well aware of the CIA’s historic role in heroin trafficking in Southeast Asia and in cocaine trafficking in Latin America. However prior to reading Drugs as Weapons, I was totally unaware they were also responsible for most of the LSD produced between 1955 and 1973 – for the specific purpose of “neutralizing” the New Left in Berkeley, at Columbia University and elsewhere. This particular MKUltra project was conceived in response to a 1962 Rand Corporation study recommending that getting left wing leaders hooked on LSD could “cause them to resign or become inactive.”

The Haight Ashbury was a CIA Invention

I was particularly horrified to learn about the LSD distribution network MKUltra agents set up in the Haight Ashbury to lure Berkeley students away from the nationally influential Free Speech movement. The latter, originally formed in 1957 to protest the anti-democratic activities of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s House on Un-American Activities Committee, went on to inspire the national anti-Vietnam War Movement.

In addition to various MKUltra scientists and agents, the CIA also relied on a number of high profile personalities – LSD guru Timothy Leary (an admitted CIA asset), author Ken Kesey (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), and Grateful Dead band members – to promote and distribute LSD as an alternative to organizing against the Vietnam War.

How the Opium Trade Created America’s First Millionaires

Potash begins his book with important historical background on the origins of the global drug trade, which he traces back to 1500 and which European elites relied on heavily to finance imperial expansion and colonization. He also recounts the history of important Wall Street families – the Cabots, Cushings, Bushes, Astors, Russells, Pierponts (JP Morgan’s family) – who all owe their immense wealth to the opium trade the British involuntarily forced on China via the Opium Wars. The investment of these families in illegal drug trafficking continues to the present day, as evidenced by the involvement of all major US banks in multibillion dollar drug money laundering.

The Russell family, who would go on to found Yale and the Skull and Bones Society, openly used a skull and bones pirate flag on their opium trading ships.

The Vietnam War: Protecting Wall Street Drug Interests

Potash also carefully details the special relationship between these Wall Street families and the intelligence agency they founded during World War II (the OSS, which became the CIA in 1947) to protect their special interests. This comes out really clearly in the chapter in which Potash traces the origins of the Vietnam War. He makes a really strong case that this war (which began in the late fifties as a CIA intervention) stemmed directly from CIA determination to protect Golden Triangle opium production from efforts by nationalist leaders in Laos, Thailand and Vietnam to eradicate it.

One of Mao’s first acts after winning control of China was to destroy the country’s vast opium network. With the support of the CIA, the nationalist Chinese generals who had controlled it moved their networks into Burma, Laos and Thailand.

The Link Between CIA-backed Nazi War Criminals and Colombian Cocaine

In a similar vein, the CIA assisted Klaus Barbie and other Nazi war criminals it smuggled out of Germany in setting up a cocaine production and distribution network in Colombia and later the Afghan Mujaheddin in turning their country into the world’s largest producer of heroin.

Potash makes a compelling case that the proximate cause for the US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan in October 2001 was the Taliban’s successful eradication of opium production earlier that year.


*The cases of radical pop stars and activists targeted with LSD and other drugs (in many cases along with witnesses and key investigators) Potash examines include

  • Paul Robeson – African American singer whose career was destroyed when he was involuntarily dosed with LSD and committed for two years to a psychiatric hospital, where he received 54 electroconvulsive treatments,
  • Richard Wright – African American writer involuntarily dosed with LSD who later died under extremely suspicious circumstances.
  • Elvis Presley – became addicted to amphetamines and narcotics after covert intelligence officer became his manager.
  • Mama Cass Elliott – died under mysterious circumstances at age 32 after starting to date an international drug smuggler with suspected intelligence links.
  • Abbie Hoffman –introduced to LSD by roommate who worked for Army Intelligence research LSD effects on unconsenting GIs.
  • Mick Jagger – involuntarily dosed with LSD and subject to numerous drug frame-ups and two unsuccessful Hell’s Angels (working closely with US intelligence) assassination attempts.
  • Brian Jones – subject to numerous drug frame-ups and intense phone harassment and stalking prior to 1969 murder (which police covered up as “accidental” drowning).
  • Jimi Hendrix – intelligence-linked manager strongly implicated in death related to involuntary drugging.
  • Janis Joplin – introduced to amphetamines and heroine via intelligence-linked boyfriend, died after “friend” slipped her a bolus of pure CIA heroin.
  • John Lennon – involuntarily dosed with LSD and framed on bogus cannabis charge. Lennon’s alleged assassin Mark Chapman had strong intelligence links and appeared to be under influence of scopolamine.
  • Bob Marley – involuntarily injected with the cancer-causing chemical methlychoanthine (via a copper wire hidden in boots gifted to him by CIA asset Carl Colby) and subsequently died of fibrosarcoma.
  • Kurt Cobain – involved in heavy drug use by his wife Courtney Love, who had shadowy underworld and intelligence connections. Cobain allegedly shot himself in the head with a shotgun after consuming so much heroin he would have lost consciousness before he could pull the trigger.
  • Huey Newton – initiated into heavy cocaine use by girlfriend/undercover agent. Witnesses maintain he was shot after a failed attempt to kidnap him, discrediting police disinformation about “a drug deal gone bad.”
  • Tupac Shakur – multiple assassination attempts and police frame ups. Coerced, as part of a bail agreement, into signing with Death Row records (see The FBI War on Rap). The latter was run by Los Angeles police intelligence unit and heavily involved in drug and gun trafficking. Killed in drive-by shooting instigated by US intelligence.
  • Eminem – initiated into heavy drug use via undercover intelligence “friends” after helping Afeni Shakur (following Tupac’s assassination) to record many of Tupac’s songs.

Originally published in Dissident Voice

The Ugly History of the War on Drugs

Exile Nation: An Oral History of the War on Drugs

Directed by Charles Shaw (2011)

Film Review

In laying out the sordid history of the US prison industrial complex, Exile Nation helps us understand how the US came to have the largest prison population in the world, far exceeding that of China, which has over four times as many people.

A significant proportion of US inmates are African Americans and Hispanics locked up for “victimless” drug offenses. At present 500,000 of American’s 2.3 million prison population is inside for using heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine. Thirty thousand are there for cannabis possession.

The documentary intersperses commentary by “experts” (cops, judges, sociologists, psychiatrists, defense attorneys, jail monitors, medical marijuana activists and prison rights advocates) with those of ex-offenders.

The US Invents Mass Incarceration

Crime rates in the US first reached a high point in 1830, largely due to high levels of alcohol abuse. The US would be the first country in the modern era to introduce mass incarceration as punishment for law breaking. The Pennsylvania Quakers believed that locking people up would force them to “repent” – the origin of the word penitentiary. The experiment failed. Studies consistently show that imprisoning convicts neither rehabilitates them nor discourages them from re-offending.

Nixon’s War on Drugs

Nineteenth century crime rates slowly declined, plateauing during the Civil War era. From then on, they remained constant until the 1970s, when Nixon declared the first war on drugs. His primary target was the immense social movements of the late sixties and early seventies. Nixon couldn’t constitutionally punish hippies for opposing the Vietnam War nor African Americans for demanding the right to vote. Instead he targeted their behavior, ie the widespread use of marijuana, LSD and cocaine that accompanied these movements.

In doing so, Nixon deliberately ignored the recommendation of a 1972 bipartisan commission that recommended that marijuana use be criminalized.

Reagan’s War on Drugs

The prison industrial complex received a second major boost in 1984, when Reagan declared a second war on drugs. Unlike Nixon, who envisioned drug arrests as a form of social control, Reagan used the drug war (particularly against crack, a new bargain basement form of cocaine) to demonize African Americans and win votes from white blue collar workers.

The Mainstream Media Revolts

The media turned against the drug war and prison industrial complex in the 1990s, with Ted Koppel producing several excellent documentaries highlighting the drawbacks of mass incarceration. The resulting shift in public opinion would lead the federal government and many states to begin downsizing their prison populations. Sadly 9-11 and the War on Terror interrupted this process.

A high point for me were the interviews with medical marijuana activists describing the history of their movement (leading to the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes in 23 states sates).

I also really liked the sections on the medical use of MDMA (ecstasy) in treating post traumatic disorder and the psychedelic ibogaine in treating heroin addiction.

The Demonization of Psychodelic Drugs

Neurons to Nirvana: Understanding Psychodelic Medicines

Directed by Oliver Hockenhull (2013)

Film Review

Neurons to Nirvana is about the detrimental effects of the War on Drugs on research into the medical and sociological benefits of hallucinogenic drugs.

Psychodelics have been used medicinally and in religious rituals for over 10,000. They’ve been used in nearly every culture except our own European culture. Psychodelic plants co-evolved with human beings to enhance our understanding and respect for the interconnectedness of the ecological system that supports our existence. Plants have important investment (to enhance their survival) in interacting with human beings via the chemicals they produce (see How Plants Control Us).

The filmmakers maintain that no brain theory will ever be complete without a complete examination of the the effect of psychodelic drugs. Yet it’s extremely difficult to undertake this type of research in the US or Britain, owing to their archaic drug laws.

Neurons to Nirvana argues the crackdown on psychedelic drugs in the sixties and seventies was motivated mainly by the political threat they pose. This relates in part due to their ability to break down barriers between ethnic groups and social classes and in part due to their ability to disrupt the “consensus trance” created by our constant bombardment with pro-government and pro-corporate propaganda.

The film also makes the point that legalizing psychodelics might be the only solution at this point to breaking through the zombieized mind set that’s destroying our plant. After viewing this documentary, I tend to agree with them.

The documentary divides specific therapeutic effects by drug category:

LSD

First discovered in 1943, LSD is the best study because psychiatrist used it in psychotherapy in the fifties and sixties. LSD research would lead to the identification of the neurotransmittser serotonin in 1948. Serotonin pathways play a major role in regulating the speed and scope of neural interconnections. LSD appears to counter the control Serotonin exerts over these interconnections.

With a dose of LSD, patients experience the ability to make new connections. Use in controlled therapeutic settings can enable patients to connect with repressed and suppressed memories and emotions. LSD users commonly report the realization that there is no “other”, ie that all people and things are interconnected.

Research reveals a single dose of LSD to be the most effective treatment for chronic alcoholism.*

Psilocybin (magic mushrooms)

Most psilocybin research has focused on its use in relieving pain and anxiety in terminal cancer patients. Single doses have also been useful in refractory depression.

Ecstasy (MDMA)

The DEA made ecstasy a Schedule 1 drug (effectively banning it) in 1985, despite a DEA administrative law judge’s recommendation that it be designated Schedule 3 (closely controlled but available by prescription). It’s an extremely effective as a rapidly acting, non-sedating, non-addicting anti-anxiety drug. Its best known therapeutic effect is as a catalyst for psychotherapy in veterans with treatment refractory PTSD.

Cannabis (marijuana)

Cannabis has a wide range of medical benefits and has been used to treat a variety of conditions for 4,000 years. Queen Victoria used it for period pain and the pain of childbirth. Senior citizens are the most rapidly growing demographic of marijuana users. They use it mainly to treat cancer, pain and nausea stemming from chemotherapy.

It contains more than 100 compounds with medial benefits, with cannabidiol the most widely studied.

Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca is a drug used for thousands of years in South American shamanic rituals. It’s primary medical use is in psychotherapy for trauma-related depression.

*Igobaine is another psychedelic effective in treating alcoholism, heroin addiction and PTSD. See Why Are We Sending Veterans to Costa Rica, Canada and Mexico