Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade

The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug TradeThe Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade by Alfred W. McCoy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was a Teaching Assistant for Dr. McCoy while in graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. We taught his highly regarded class on "The Vietnam Wars" together, with him as lecturer and me and another graduate assistant as teachers of the breakout sessions. These were some of my fondest memories of my college career.

Dr. McCoy is an outstanding and rigorous scholar, though this work walks the fine line between journalism and history in a similar way to how Michel Foucault walks the line between philosophy and history. I can vouch for McCoy's authenticity. I've seen his HEAVILY redacted CIA and FBI files. While a graduate student, when he began this research, he had an FBI agent assigned to watch him, even going so far as to follow McCoy for hours at a time and investigate the work that he was doing at the library. Creepy stuff, but not altogether surprising to me. I was raised in the military by a father who had classified clearance and who told me some fairly scary stuff after his clearance ran out post-retirement (though there are still many things that Dad will take to the grave with him, things that I will never know). I've also seen OSI (Office of Special Investigations) in action tracking the comings and goings of high school students, GIs, and their families. So, while McCoy's work might seem a bit paranoid, at first blush, don't blow this work off as the work of some crazed conspiracy theorist or paranoid anarchist. You'll find the book thoroughly researched and well-reasoned.

If half of what Dr. McCoy says is true (and I believe much more than half of it is true), then the CIA has a lot to hide and much to answer for. One cannot blame the CIA entirely for their complacency in the Southest Asian, Middle Eastern, and Central American drug trade. To be fair, federal funding maneuvers and congressional budget cuts might have pushed the agency to raise money in whatever way possible (c.f. Iran/Contra scandal). But McCoy's research into the degree to which the CIA was/is involved in the worldwide drug trade is fairly damning of the agency itself.

Not a book for those who like to live with their head in the sand, but too-well documented, researched, and verified to be dismissed as the lunacy of some crackpot. And aren't accusations of insanity a historically-proven way of discrediting one's detractors? Read the book (brace yourself - it's going to take a while) and decide whether or not Dr. McCoy is raving or revealing.

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