The War on Drugs – A 2ndlook
The drug surge
In the past 40 years, the U.S. government has spent over $2.5 trillion dollars fighting the War on Drugs. Despite the ad campaigns, increased incarceration rates and a crackdown on smuggling, the number of illicit drug users in America has risen over the years and now sits at 19.9 million Americans. (via The War on Drugs).
In modern times
The 2 crore (20 million) figure is more than 16% of the working-age, labour population of the USA – which stands at 16 crores (160 million). The use of opium, heroin, morphine by armies created a core group of addicts, from where opium addiction increased. Used extensively during the Civil War, by 1900, the US had more than a 10 lakh (1 million addicts) – compared to nearly 2 crore (20 million) narcotic-users now.
The current wave of drug usage possibly started after the Vietnam War. It is estimated that as many as 40% of US soldiers, in Vietnam, were heroin users.
Although the U.S. government has battled drugs for decades — President Eisenhower assembled a 5-member Cabinet committee to “stamp out narcotic addiction” in 1954 — the term “War on Drugs” was not widely used until President Nixon created the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in 1973 to announce “an all-out global war on the drug menace.” (via The War on Drugs).
Earlier, in the 19th century, the Opium trade with China siphoned out vast amounts of silver, under the logic of ‘free trade’, giving rise to some of the biggest Western fortunes (of the Roosevelts, for instance). Or the remarkable story of David Sassoon.
The Sassoon opium saga
A Jewish trader, David Sassoon originally Daud ibn Sassoon, was born in Baghdad 1792 and died in Pune, 1864. The Jewish synagogue in Pune, Lal Deval, was set by up the Sassoon family; the Sassoon Library in Mumbai also, and above all the huge Sassoon Docks, from which their ships carried China’s destruction – opium from India.
Son of Sheikh Saleh ben Sassoon (1750–1830), David Sassoon came to Mumbai in 1832, after his father’s death in Bushehr, in modern Iran. His father, a rich Jew, well connected to the Ottomans rulers, chose Sassoon as the family name. This choice was possibly linked to the Persian royal origin, Sassan, grandfather of Ardashir-I, founder of the Persian-Zoroastrian Sassanian dynasty. Interestingly, Sason in Hebrew means joy, similar to the ancient Sumerian word for opium, hul gil.
David shifted from Baghdad-to-Persia-to-Bombay, after the Sassoon family fell out of favour with some powerful business interests in Baghdad. Meanwhile, the British branch of Sassoons cultivated the rising power – British royalty. Ferdinand Sassoon, Arthur and Philip Sassoon, hosted Prince Edwards, the future king and also Queen Victoria. Reuben Sassoon (1835-1905), part of the British branch of Sassoons, was especially close to the future king of England, Edward – to become ‘perhaps the Prince of Wales’s closest friend’. Not only British royalty, even big-name families in the USA, like
Franklin D. Roosevelt’s fortune was inherited from his maternal grandfather Warren Delano. In 1830 he was a senior partner of Russell & Company whose merchant fleet carried Sassoon’s opium to China.
British opium trading companies like Jardine Matheson, David Sassoon & Company and sundry traders set up The Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation for facilitating this misery.
What’s common in the Golden Crescent & the Golden Triangle
After WWII, traditional opium supplies from (Greater) China, by Government granted opium monopolies of Yugoslavia and Italy, were replaced by Iran, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Mexico. It was the Golden Triangle and the Golden Crescent which dominated opium supplies from 1960s, after the start of Vietnam War.
For some time during the Vietnam War, the French intelligence also used drug money to funds its own operation. Like its British and American counterparts, French Government identified its intelligence agencies to manage drug trade.
After abolition of the French Indochina opium monopoly in 1950, SDECE imposed centralized, covert controls over the illicit drug traffic that linked the Hmong poppy fields of Laos with the opium dens operating in Saigon. This generated profits that funded French covert operations in their Vietnam war.
With the advent of the Fifth Republic, and through 1962, the SDECE was used as a strategic intelligence service by the prime minister Michel Debre, and was particularly efficient in the struggle against the rebellion in Algeria. (via DGSE – General Directorate for External Security – Direction Generale de la Securite Exterieure – French Intelligence Agencies).
Drug flows from these new supply sources coincided with America’s Asian Wars in Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Korea, etc. These wars were justified under Eisenhower’s Domino Theory – which made Communism an enemy ‘under-your-bed’. The subject of much research, many Hollywood films and significant evidence confirm that American armed forces and the CIA were behind drugs import into USA. The so-called Phoenix operation was run by CIA with some 200 Green Berets – whose major activity apart from killings, assassinations and torture, was narcotics.
Some 75 years later Jardine Matheson-David Sassoon’s bank for opium, CIA too set up banks in the Bahamas, like the Mercantile Bank and Trust and Castle Bank and Nugan Hand Bank (incorporated in Cayman Islands and operating from Australia) to handle heroin trade out of the Golden triangle.
While the Oil and Terror linkage is much talked about, the role of Saudi Arabian funding much discussed, the global footprint of the drug trade is overlooked. As controls on gold sparked a global crime wave, the war on drugs is sparking another crime wave – a wave of terror. When the West wanted they imposed Opium Trade in the name of open markets. When the West wanted they declared a war on drugs.
Either way, someone else is paying.
The Indian enigma
Some things strike me as interesting: –
- All the major drugs in the world came from India – opium is afeem, khus-khus, पोस्त; cannabis is charas, ganja, marijuana, hashish. Heroin is a derivative of opium.
- The Sanskrit word for opium is अहिफेनः, अहिफेनम् ahi-fenam – which also means venom. The Arabic word afeem, Chinese word ya-pien, come from this. Though modern history believes that Arabs introduced opium to India, it seems improbable.
- Most of the world’s drug production (based on opium and cannabis) still happens in India and neighbouring countries – Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia. In recent times, Indian gold smuggling was funded by carriage and export of drugs.
- Why has drugs never become a big problem in India. Even, as Indians are significant producers, Indians themselves are not high on consumption lists – or have significantly profited from it.
- Unlike in China, or in Medieval Middle East (when drug crazed criminals called hashishis became assassins). Or the West in the last 100 years.
- Till the 80′s, these substances were available in India, through ‘licensed’ outlets.
Nail them, jail them
The police actions against drug cartels have given little benefit. The heavy-handed legal approach of criminalizing possession of drugs too has yielded no results either.
in the past 40 years, the U.S. government has spent over $2.5 trillion dollars fighting the War on Drugs. Despite the ad campaigns, increased incarceration rates and a crackdown on smuggling, the number of illicit drug users in America has risen over the years and now sits at 19.9 million Americans.
Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair declare(d) last week that the Mexican government had lost control of its own territory. President Felipe Calderón responded by pointing out that his nation shared a border with “the biggest consumer of drugs in the world and the largest supplier of weapons in the world.” (via The War on Drugs).
Gold and drugs .. and India
The world pays for the US war on drugs!
A major effect of US restrictions on gold ownership, sparked a global crime wave – in which drugs played a major part. The opening of the gold trade across the world during 1973-1993 (especially in India) damped down the power of the Indian Underworld. The other leg on which the Indian underworld stands, is drug trade.
The first effect of restrictions on gold imports in India was on prices. Indian gold prices, on an average, were 30%-40% higher than international prices. The other thing that happened was that gold imports went underground. Gold imports (illegal), called smuggling, spawned the biggest criminals that India has seen.
The common threads in this were, of course, America, drugs, underworld, war, corruption, warlords – but what made all this possible was Indian appetite for gold.
All this was made possible by the Indian hawala system of money exchange. Hawala made money transfers safe, instantaneous, at a low-cost. Traditional Indian ships from a thousand ports in Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat sailed with this contraband and brought back gold.
The countries comprising these Golden Triangle /Crescent are India’s neighbours. The Indian underworld transported drugs through India. These drug shipments originated, were acquired, grown and traded from the Golden Crescent and the Golden Triangle.
The tobacco parallel
Six companies and sundry State monopolies drive global cigarette consumption. These six companies derive more than US$100 billion dollars in revenues, globally. For many years they were advertising industries largest customers.These six companies are headquartered at former European imperial powers (UK, France, Spain), USA and Japan. These six companies work at an arm’s length from the State, giving the State a luxury of ‘plausible deniability’.
After creating appetites and markets for narcotics, the State wants to control the same appetite.
During a 1984 appearance at an Oakland, Calif. school, then-First Lady Nancy Reagan was asked by 10-year-old Angel Wiltz what to do if someone offered her drugs. “Just say no,” replied Reagan. Within a year, 5,000 “Just Say No” clubs had formed around the country, with Soleli Moon Frye, (Punky Brewster) as honorary chairperson. The Los Angeles Police Department’s 1983 Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) school lecture program, grew into a national phenomenon that, by 2003, cost $230 million and involved 50,000 police officers. (via The War on Drugs).
Chinese State Tobacco monopoly
Or how China has replaced Western powers pushing opium in China in the nineteenth century.With a national tobacco monopoly.
Not expected after the opium experience of the Chinese, when Western trading houses, under State protection, using the garb of ‘free trade’, made China into the largest consumer of opium.
The Chinese Govt. has replaced opium with tobacco. In the 19th century, China became the largest grower of opium to stop the drain of wealth from Chinese addiction to opium. The Chinese opium crop of 1906, of more than 35,000 tons, remains the largest ever in recorded history. Compared to that the current crop in Afghanistan has varied between 5000-10000 tons at its peak.
The second secret of the tobacco business is to be dominant in purchasing and cornering tobacco stock. For cornering tobacco stocks, Big Tobacco depends on Central Banks’ support – aka State support. For instance, ITC (and other major global tobacco purchasers) in India has a major presence in Guntur, where Indian tobacco trade is headquartered. ITC’s over-sized chequebook buys it market dominance.
In India, such State policy on drugs and crime was a feat by Mughals and the British. Post-independence Indian State has partly patterned itself on Desert Bloc lines. Will it become a drug dealer?
Will the Indian government ‘learn’ from its counterparts?
- Panel Calls War on Drugs a Failure (online.wsj.com)
- Major panel: Drug war failed; legalize marijuana – eTaiwan News (news.google.com)
- War on drugs has failed, international commission says (theglobeandmail.com)
- Global war on drugs has ‘failed’ (telegraph.co.uk)
- Global Health Survey – Ghost In The Machine (quicktake.wordpress.com)
- War on drugs has failed, international panel says (news.nationalpost.com)
- Global war on drugs has ‘failed’ – Telegraph.co.uk (news.google.com)
- Major Panel: Drug War Failed; Legalize (abcnews.go.com)
- Jesse Jackson Wants to End the War on Drugs (reason.com)
- War on drugs continues south of the border (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Why “The War on Drugs” Has Failed (psychologytoday.com)
- The war on drugs war is lost. Now it’s time for a rational response | Ian Birrell (guardian.co.uk)
- Global drug body says “Legalize it, man” – no way, say Russia and US (rt.com)
- Global Commission on Drug Policy: Legalization, decriminalization, and the war on drugs (psychologytoday.com)
- Mexicans are uneasy about America’s outsourced war on drugs | Luis Hernández Navarro (guardian.co.uk)
- Was Nixon a Drug Warrior or a Reformer? (reason.com)
- At least 4 good reasons to end the war on drugs (sfgate.com)