wrong side of freedom

Crack - illustration by Tom Ferguson

Dark Alliance by Gary WebbGary Webb’s book, Dark Alliance, casts dark aspersions on the United States. In its historical and hysterical opposition to “leftist” thought it has routinely allied itself with criminals. Obvious examples are the regimes it supported in Cuba prior to the revolution, the Somoza regime in Nicaragua prior to “its” revolution, dictatorships in the Philippines, Vietnam and… it goes on and on (just read some Chomsky).

Politics of Heroin in Southeast AsiaAlfred McCoy in his book, The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia, documents U.S. alignment with heroine smuggling mafiosa where said mafia were allowed to import their product to the U.S. in exchange for union-busting and other undemocratic “services” by said thugs.

The U.S. brands third world resistance to oppressive and corrupt right wing governments as “left” to justify support of what they brazenly call “democratic forces”, even “freedom fighters” as Reagan called the Contras attacking Nicaragua, “Equivalent to our Founding Fathers” he said. The World Court disagreed, convicting the U.S. of terrorist acts against the country. Reagan also stated that the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, made up of U.S. citizens fighting the fascist takeover of democratic Spain in the 30s, “fought on the wrong side.”

The resistance is portrayed as violent and “godless” communism, a tried and true demonizing formula. In fact, what is usually going on is that ordinary citizens attempt to organize opposition to oppressive elite rule. The tiny minority of privileged landowners hire thugs, even death squads, to squelch this movement with terror. Lynchings in the U.S. south were no less terroristic than the death squads in El Salvador, both aimed to suppress dissent, to terrorize the population into silence, to maintain the status quo, rule of the elite.

Occupy has ingeniously given us a valuable, accessible term for that elite, the 1%. The U.S. government, representing that 1%, fears any society that might demonstrate a successful alternative to capitalism, all the more urgently if it’s a democratic one. People elsewhere, even here, might get ideas.

Henry Kissinger famously remarked that the issues in Chile were too important to be left to the people to decide. That is, democracy is fine rhetoric but when it threatens corporate/elite control the dogs must be unleashed. Thus the U.S. supported a vicious 1973 coup, replacing a vibrant democracy with a ruthless dictatorship. The result for Chilean society was thousands of murder victims and the economy sacrificed to the gods of the “free market.”

Shock Doctrine by Naomi KleinNaomi Klein nicely elucidates this pogrom, among others, in her book, Shock Doctrine. A footnote: one has to disassociate with the U.S., as in “The U.S. supports terrorist Contras.” since it is not the people carrying out these acts but the elite-captured government.

So with this background it is no surprise to find that CIA planes delivered weaponry to Central America “Freedom Fighters” – in the propaganda version of the phrase – and returned with drugs, the sales of which, some of which, went back into the terrorist project. Attendant protection of the dealers, some of whom considered themselves “patriots” doing their bit to return Nicaragua to elite rule, ensued, in the form of those arrested being let off for “national security” reasons, and investigations being dropped for the same reasons.

The fact that one hit of this product, crack, left its victims temporarily elated and, in short order, so depressed that they could think of nothing but getting more, mattered to the traffickers, the Contras, their right wing supporters in congress, the administration and CIA about as much as the innocent Contra victims in Nicaragua, and the death squad targets in El Salvador and elsewhere. In a word, none.

Even when a figure like Archbishop Romero was killed in El Salvador it seemed like the government saw it as a PR problem. The human rights president Carter continued arms shipments even as Romero pleaded with him to stop, just before he was permanently stopped. He was killed during a church service, a very public message delivered: question elite rule and you die. Jeanne Kilpatrick, Reagan’s U.N. Ambassador reminded us, falsely, that the church women, U.S. citizens, murdered by death squads, were “political activists,” as if that excused their execution and rape. Their “activism” consisted of attempting to help the poor.

Gary Webb was known for his dogged research and his editors at first supported him. Once they began breaking the story and were vilified by the rest of the major media they had second thoughts. Gary is quoted in one of his essays to say that he thought he lived in the land of the free press but realized that this illusion was maintained for him only because he had never done a story that exposed the workings behind the curtain until his Contra/CIA/Crack article.

Webb’s newspaper, the San Jose Mercury News, more or less retracted its story, caving to the mainstream smear. Webb was let go, published this book which shows substantiation of his charges in official sources such as Senate hearings, did investigative work in Sacramento until political shifts there left him jobless and in debt. His death was ruled a suicide, shot himself in the head – twice! Kind of unusual and certainly suspicious.

Wikipedia sums up his career claiming that his articles were well researched but peppered with errors, that his wife accepted that his death was suicide, a film was made of his life, also peppered with errors but well-received… hard to really know what happened, where this “peppering” comes from, but the preponderance of evidence, I suggest, based on the history mentioned in the first paragraphs above, would vindicate Gary’s work. He was treated like most whistle-blowers, since the rulers do not want their little projects, their anti-democratic endeavors revealed, with an organized, focused and pointed vilification.

This outlines the major thrust of the book and Webb’s subsequent fate but there are many interesting diversions and personalities in the text such as the “rags to riches” (to prison) story of a young, highly effective entrepreneur who served as the chief distributor for Contra cocaine smuggling. It is also intriguing to witness the massive documentation Webb gathered to support his thesis, the numerous interviews and cross-checking that built his case, a superstructure that unfortunately was then used as the scaffolding for his demise.

The writer was warned by several other writers who naively thought they could expose this kind of story and found, the very hard way, that in the land of the free, home of the brave, certain behavior, conflicting as it does with the pretty rhetoric in our “mission statement,” must remain hidden.

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Image: "Crack" illustration is by the author, Tom Ferguson.
Tom Ferguson

Tom Ferguson

Tom is a painter, a cartoonist, a musician, a thinker and more. View some of his web sites:

  • www.thinkspeak.net (Painting)
  • toons.thinkspeak.net (Political Cartoons)
  • thinkspeak.bandcamp.com (Music)
  • tfthinkspeak.blogspot.com (blog)