“The War on Conspiracy” — The War on Drugs has allowed the U.S. government to manipulate and profit from drug trade.
By Ramona Gomes-Mcewen
The “War on Drugs” has been the center of many debates since its announcement in 1971 by President Richard Nixon. The War on Drugs is an extremely complex topic on which people have many opinions: it is either working or not working, drug abuse is “public enemy number one”, the War on Drugs is wrong, or happening for the wrong reasons. But what has been widely dismissed from the conversation, and written off as nearly laughable are the allegations that there was more to the War on Drugs than meets the eye: that hidden behind the mask of American drug addiction (ostensibly being combatted by the War on Drugs) is a web of conspiracy and corruption leading back to the U.S. Government.
When brought up in social conversation, theories about government conspiracy might be associated with the ramblings of Ron Paul or perhaps your distant relatives you only see once a year, but taken the time to dig a little deeper, theories of drug war conspiracy taken from the right sources, and proposed in the right way appear to have some validity. Those who participate in this rhetoric believe wholeheartedly in what they see as clear connections between the CIA and the transporting and distributing of foreign drugs for profit, as well as ulterior motives for declaring a War on Drugs. These types of allegations are thoughtfully defended by an almost strictly logos based argument, including specific and confirmed evidence that proves difficult to dispute. The position is that the War on Drugs has allowed for the United States Government and the CIA to be involved in drug trafficking and money laundering while self-regulating under the guise of concern for American health. Further exploration on this idea is provided in the case study below.
A healthy dose of skepticism is necessary when discussing issues concerning the government, or any form of authority, and many various groups have, and continue to take this notion and use it to their own whims. Those who have found themselves dissecting their government pertaining to the War on Drugs seem to simply be curious, curious with a purpose.
Take for example Gary Webb, an investigative journalist based in San Jose, California, who uncovered this story while investigating offences against suspected crack dealers in Oakland, California. Webb, like all reporters with the title “investigative journalist”, had an aptitude for scrutiny and inquiry– ultimately, Webb would have said that he only wanted to know the truth. Webb pursued his investigation on the War on Drugs and its links to the CIA and U.S. government funded drug trafficking up until he died in 2004, after having published his book on the subject, The Dark Alliance, in 1998.
Others who have adopted this narrative come from a similar track: simply wanting to know more, and in many cases in order to share what is is that they find. A bolder approach to this was observed when Senator, veteran, and current Secretary of State John Kerry launched his investigation on the Iran-Contra scandal in the late 1980s. A former prosecutor, Kerry’s bold and inquisitive nature lead him on a determined exploration to find the truth, and to share that truth no matter the costs to him or his associates. And Kerry was ridiculed quite vigorously by those who opposed him in the Reagan administration, calling him childish and impulsive for his brash attempts to uncover the truth.
Webb and Kerry, both Democrats and relatively anti-war, seemed to speak from a place of good intent, and overall stood to gain nothing from exposing a scandal of this nature, except the satisfaction of having uncovered what they believe to be the truth, and enlightening those oblivious to it. Appearing to gain nothing substantial from their investigative exposés, Webb and Kerry had little use for appeals of the emotional variety, and at the time neither had the authority to claim to be knowledgeable on the subject. The two relied on logical argument and facts uncovered through research and thurow investigation. In other words, neither seem to be in the business of fooling or manipulating anyone. They simply believed that there was more to what the government was doing in Nicaragua.
While theories of government conspiracy are often dismissed and not taken seriously, the severity of some of these claims and the effects they have had do not seem to have been acknowledged to the full extent that they should. When Gary Webb began his investigation of the ties between crack trade in the U.S. and the civil war in Nicaragua, he did so out of curiosity and with no real incentive. Having made connections with Coral Baca, confidant of Nicaraguan drug dealer Rafael Cornejo, Webb was soon able to draw connection between U.S. backed Contras in Nicaragua and the increasing crack trade empire in Los Angeles, California lead by “Freeway” Rick Ross.
As Webb’s investigation continued, he began losing support; it seemed the claims he was making were beginning to make people uncomfortable. Webb had begun recording his findings where he worked as an investigative journalist for the Mercury News in a series he called the ”Dark Alliance”. Webb began receiving ridicule for his efforts, most notably from the L.A. Times who had dedicated a team to belittle his story, and his supporters at the Mercury News slowly lost faith in him. Webb’s top editor, Jerry Ceppos eventually bailed on the story after writing a column mocking the series, calling it “irresponsible”. While Webb still had many followers, one too many errors were let slip in the editing process, allowing Webb to use more hyperbole than was necessary in his journalism, which eventually led to his downfall.
After an internal investigation was executed on the “Dark Alliance”, the series was discontinued by editors who released a statement on its shortcomings. Webb was then ejected to an isolated division in Cupertino, California, having been offered the choice between that or remaining in San Jose in a highly supervised and restricted position. Soon after, in December of 1997 Webb resigned from the Mercury News.
After leaving the Mercury News, Webb began writing his book, while continuing to do freelance investigative journalism. But Webb was a broken man, beaten down and exiled from the world of journalism, his previous work labeled “discredited.” The CIA itself had also gone to great lengths to destroy Webb’s reputation, denying most claims that were made against them, especially outraged at the allegations that they had allowed for the crack cocaine abuse that devastated California’s African American neighborhoods. This, and a tough battle with divorce left Webb barren and broken, and he ended up committing suicide in 2004.
Although Webb had many followers throughout his investigation, his ordeal with the CIA and other news agencies had a permanent effect on the conversation about government involvement in the War on Drugs, and conspiracy in general. A somber tone was left by the shell of a man Webb had become, and bitter end he had faced, despite the fact that he may have been right about everything. If Webb had any lasting effect on the discussion though, it would be that he left his ideas and body of work behind, permanently imposing his ideas on the world. If nothing else that this man had died trying to expose something he believed to be the truth, and may very well have been.
As of now, the debate on the allegations that the War on Drugs allowed for the CIA and U.S. government to be involved in drug trafficking, while self-regulating, seem to be at a stand still. Those who partake in this train of thought may not be actively advocating for the acknowledgement of these charges at the moment, but these ideas will have a firm place in the reasoning and thought process of these individuals, and are simply dormant for the time being.
As for the Gary Webbs of the world, this topic is a sad one, and while conspiracy is still laughed at and made light of, Gary Webb lies dead in his grave, a casualty of free speech, and strong belief. Whether or not one believes in the claims made by Webb in the “Dark Alliance” – that under the guise of consideration for American health at the hands of drug abuse, there was underlying corruption and deceit – it is safe to assume that the death of a man, driven to take his own life, is ample cause for regret. The War on Drugs lives on in other regards (just take a look at American drug addiction), and there will always be those who have their own opinions on it, but this time, maybe listen to them. You might save a life.