Money doesn't grow on trees ... It grows on plants ... |
We've all heard the saying from our parents at one time or another, along with the one about all the starving children living somewhere who could use the food we didn't eat. Indeed, money doesn't grow on trees, per se, but in many cases it grew on poppy plants in Southeast Asia. It was used to finance all sorts of things, but mostly it paid for war, and, more often than not, the United States was involved.
We weren't the only ones. Chiang Kai-shek used opium to finance a great deal of his anti-communist campaigns in the 1930s. War costs money, and tons of it. Even our economy cannot sustain a war with only legitimate funds. There are so many people to pay off in order to sustain a war effort and so few revenue sources that can be tapped in order to do it. Look at the Iran-Contra affair; there was a drug component in that as well. We also built up Noriega's drug empire in order to solidify his power base as well as to finance some of the weapons purchases that Panama made in the late 1970s to 1980s. The CIA has been in the middle of a major drug trade for quite a few decades.
One of the dark aspects of the numerous wars fought in Southeast Asia in the last six decades was the opium and heroin trade that lurked in the shadows, financing offensives and private armies and lining the pockets of warlords and governments to wage war. In most cases, it was our government that assisted local warlords or tribes with transporting raw poppy plants for processing. Once it had become heroin, the CIA helped transport the drug to various destinations until, by a 1971 White House estimate, 32 percent of American soldiers in Vietnam had tried heroin. The CIA's involvement in heroin trafficking is well documented now. It transported opium from the mountainous regions in Laos courtesy of the CIA airlines, "Air America," and took it to various labs where the opium was processed into heroin. Once processed, it made its way to Saigon and into the western world.
The CIA financed Khun Sa in Burma, making him the most powerful heroin overlord in the world, to finance his war against the Chinese communists. This also gave the CIA a foothold in the "Golden Triangle," the poppy-rich region bordering portions of Laos, Burma, and Thailand. The overall impact gave the CIA tremendous tactical advantage against whatever enemies they saw fit to oppose and, for the most part, the CIA got the heroin warlords to do much of the dirty work ? pretty much the way Chiang Kai-shek operated to have his political opponents silenced.
So what point am I getting to with all this? Even wealthy industrialized nations like the United States cannot fund a war effort alone. There are back-channel payments that must be made when fighting non-Western regions. It isn't just the drug trade, either. In the current war, there is the drug infrastructure of Afghanistan that we have to worry about, but now, since we invaded Iraq, oil is being used in similar fashion to finance all sorts of things that we won't hear about for years.
We essentially built the drug infrastructure in the "Golden Triangle" while creating some very powerful people in that region, such as Khun Sa. We also allowed the drug infrastructure to flourish in Afghanistan to fight the Soviet invasion. The CIA was up to its eyeballs in that one, and one of its legacies is Osama bin Laden. Now there is local drug addiction and problems throughout the region.
Since the 1960s the United States has had an active campaign of one sort or another targeting these drug lords and drug traffic. We've had all sorts of offensives that we launched in public view, while the real drug trade pretty much escaped harm. Former Drug Enforcement Administration agents are now writing tell-all books about the corruption behind the war against drugs that make very interesting reading (e.g., former DEA agent Michael Levine's The Big White Lie: The CIA and the Cocaine/Crack Epidemic). To read an excerpt from Francis W. Belanger's Drugs, the U.S., and Khun Sa, visit P> It blows my mind when I stop to think about how na?ve I am. Most of us realize that the war costs money. Every war we've been involved in cost tremendous amounts of money. But then you start to see that not all the money comes from the sources we think it comes from. The drug problem has much deeper roots than we see here. The supply, while illegal here, is in many cases coming here because our government allowed it to. It is one of the necessary side effects of war. The real problem for us now is that this very source of income will undoubtedly finance those who are attacking us. According to the 9/11 Commission report, Osama bin Laden's wealthy family has cut him off from the family fortune since 1994. Could it be that the estimated millions that al-Qaida spends each year on attacking us was derived from the drug trade?
That is perhaps the hardest pill to swallow. All the suffering that drug addiction causes to individuals, their families, and society is, in part, funding the very people who are using the profits to attack us again. They get us coming and going. So the next time you hear our government announcing some war plans, ask them if they think money grows on trees!