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The Politics of Heroin: Central Intelligence Agency Complicity in the Global Drug Trade [Paperback]

Alfred W. McCoy
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, Afghanistan, Southeast Asia, Central America, Columbia The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, Afghanistan, Southeast Asia, Central America, Columbia 4.8 out of 5 stars (5)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 634 pages
  • Publisher: Lawrence Hill & Co.; New edition edition (31 Jan 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556521251
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556521256
  • Product Dimensions: 22.4 x 15.4 x 4.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 514,748 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Synopsis

Discusses the politics and economics of the drug trade, and traces the role of the CIA in drug trafficking.

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15 of 21 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Zack Schwartz 11/12/98 U.S. Drug Policy: Book Review
The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade by Alfred McCoy is a volume obviously devoted to opiates, more specifically heroin. This version is a combination of two of McCoy's earlier works (The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia and Drug Traffic). Also there is further research incorporated into the book concerning Central America and Southern Asia. The main focus of the book is how the goals and operations of the CIA and its predecessors (e.g. OSS) basically take precedence over most if not all other interests. McCoy also delves into the world of American/ Sicilian organized crime in the context of the global heroin trade. However, the important points McCoy makes concern anti-Communist interests that became intertwined with the illicit opiates trade. McCoy accuses the CIA of aligning itself with local cartel leaders who command the opium crop. Furthermore, the CIA seems to be indifferent to, if not encouraging of, abuse of the transport of funds by operatives. In supplying weapons for its allies, the CIA, claims McCoy, does not especially care if the load that is returned is one of cocaine or opium, so long as they make their money. On occasion, the Agency might need a local to run a little shakedown action in case the locals feel like asserting themselves, or if they show any measure of discontent with how they were being treated. These native bosses could be refinery managers, traffickers, racketeers, etc. Amazingly enough, McCoy does point out, briefly it ought to be remembered, that the Agency's foreign counterparts such as Mi-6 and the French Surete have similar track records in such illicit affairs in the area.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
66 of 72 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly, but limited 12 Oct 2000
By Douglas Doepke - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
By all accounts, this is the standard reference on the explosive topic of drugs and politics; the reputation is well deserved despite several shortcomings. The volume is lengthy, the style impersonal, the language carefully measured, the conclusions temperate in the extreme. All in all, qualities befitting a scholarly navigation through minefields that customarily produce heavy-handed hyperbole. Distinguishing Mc Coy's work is the inclusive historical background each topic receives as it evolves over the pages into the familiar news stories of the day. Thus, the roots of heroin addiction among GI's in Vietnam is traced back in time to Kuomintang exiles of northern Burma and to the politics of intrigue among the many power-brokers of southeast Asia. The reader emerges from this hundred page excursion knowing a great deal more about the Golden Triangle than he perhaps wanted, but nonetheless is thoroughly informed about that murky but crucial region.
Oddly missing from the book is a similar historical account of Turkey's role as a major supplier of First World markets. Though mentioned sporadically, Turkey remains largely outside the text's focus, despite its traditional connection to Mediterranean traffickers. Also eclipsed is Mc Coy's all-too-brief discussion of Latin America's part in the developing world of drug trade, about which so much new material has surfaced since the book's 1991 publishing date. Unfortunately, readers looking for material on these critical areas should look elsewhere.
No book on the drug trade is complete without a discussion of the role the CIA has played in boosting the industry's world-wide network. Here Mc Coy's cautious approach is paticularly damning in its findings. In a brief but telling conclusion, CIA policy is indicted for protecting drug lords in the name of national security, and for directly contradicting Drug Enforcement Agency's efforts to interdict major traffickers. Worse, he sees a growing tolerance for narcotics as an informal weapon of covert warfare whose trajectory now extends beyond Cold War confines. Considering the evidence amassed of at least indirect CIA complicity in a variety of hot spots, such conclusions are hardly overblown. However, his hope for both a reformed CIA and domestic War on Drugs are, it would seem, tenuous at best, given the global size of wealth and power that is at stake. As his book has shown, Cold War or no, the political economy of illegal narcotics, with its often useful underworld connections and expanded instruments of repression, is simply too powerful a tool for empire builders of any stripe to surrender.
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read during the "war on terrorism" 28 Oct 2001
By H. B. Franklin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Ever since the publication of this updated edition
in 1991, this book has been an essential text
for those trying to understand the "war on
drugs," the exceedingly dangerous role of the CIA
in influencing the course of history, and
historical relations between drugs and empire.
But now the book takes on crucial new
significance. Anybody attempting to comprehend
how billions of U.S. dollars were spent in
creating the agents and forces that launched
the September 11 attacks should read McCoy's
final chapter. And this chapter suggests
what a treacherous path has now been chosedn for ou
nation and the world by the very same people
who created and nurtured the Frankenstein's monster
now lurking in Afghanistan and developing
new schemes for destroying its creator.
35 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars McCoy's book is thoroughly interesting, and informative. 12 Nov 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Zack Schwartz 11/12/98 U.S. Drug Policy: Book Review
The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade by Alfred McCoy is a volume obviously devoted to opiates, more specifically heroin. This version is a combination of two of McCoy's earlier works (The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia and Drug Traffic). Also there is further research incorporated into the book concerning Central America and Southern Asia. The main focus of the book is how the goals and operations of the CIA and its predecessors (e.g. OSS) basically take precedence over most if not all other interests. McCoy also delves into the world of American/ Sicilian organized crime in the context of the global heroin trade. However, the important points McCoy makes concern anti-Communist interests that became intertwined with the illicit opiates trade. McCoy accuses the CIA of aligning itself with local cartel leaders who command the opium crop. Furthermore, the CIA seems to be indifferent to, if not encouraging of, abuse of the transport of funds by operatives. In supplying weapons for its allies, the CIA, claims McCoy, does not especially care if the load that is returned is one of cocaine or opium, so long as they make their money. On occasion, the Agency might need a local to run a little shakedown action in case the locals feel like asserting themselves, or if they show any measure of discontent with how they were being treated. These native bosses could be refinery managers, traffickers, racketeers, etc. Amazingly enough, McCoy does point out, briefly it ought to be remembered, that the Agency's foreign counterparts such as Mi-6 and the French Surete have similar track records in such illicit affairs in the area. McCoy also includes a number of corrupt local officials like police agencies. Toward the end of the book, McCoy makes a rather haphazard attempt at advocating limited legalization of heroin in this country. One flaw in an otherwise compelling and informative analysis is the matter of China. In the days when opium was legal, China produced an ungodly amount of opium for world consumption. In fact, it was somewhere in the neighborhood of five to eight times what the world produces even today. Even in the twenties and thirties, when the opium/heroin market stateside was controlled by organized crime (mostly Jewish gangsters like Meyer Lansky) China still out-produced the rest of the world by a great deal, as much as fifty percent more than the rest of the world. Of course this all supposedly ended when Mao seized power in 1949. McCoy asserts that poppy cultivation ended in Yunnan province at this time. There was a pilgrimage from China of any individual or organization involved with the illegal drug trade. McCoy does briefly address the rumor that the so-called "GI epidemic" was masterminded by the Chinese, but discounts it on the grounds that there is insufficient evidence to support such a theory. Clearly however, McCoy needs to look much more closely at the Chinese contribution to the opiate trade, and devote at least a full chapter to the discussion, as opposed to brief references scattered haphazardly throughout the text. McCoy does a skillful job of tying the Communists into the picture. On page 433 he states how the Communist government in Laos used opium sales to for revenue. Remembering the staunch drug-free image they projected for the eyes of the world, this is rather curious. For a small country, this is extremely significant, especially when one considers the temporal setting of the Cold War, and the mounds of drug-free propaganda spewed by the Communists of the time. As the various drug lords with whom the CIA became allied are introduced there is a depressing sameness about their portraits. Individuals were frequently presented, initially, in the western press as new, clean, and incorruptible. And indeed, it did appear that initially some of the leaders were clear of the taint of drugs. However, as they shuffled off into the wings most were corrupted in clinging to office. Some of those who arrived and left with them were revealed as corrupt all along. Eventually the Communists in Cambodia and 'the West' in Afghanistan were left with the question, "Can this be described as winning?" It seems defensible to conclude that all the potential leaders on both sides of the equation came from the same paradigm. It is well known that there are some personality types who are attracted to positions of power, and should be kept away from it at all costs. It is not clear what you do if they are the only ones available. In the discussion of events in Afghanistan it is suggested that the CIA was at least negligent in allowing the rulers of Pakistan to select its allies. Some of the subsequent reporting shows that at least some of the alternatives were as corrupt and as corruptible. That might be the CIA stance. There is a much larger group with an even less happy set of alternatives. If your geographical location makes you an asset, and if your strategic attachments can be disputed, you are likely to find yourself living in interesting times. This was the fate of the Hmong people. The underside of a brigand is unlikely to show the colors of the coat he is wearing on the topside - or to change when he turns that coat. In a region in a state of flux it is wise to have visible possession that you can defend, and wise also to be able to disappear with your assets at short notice. To compress a year of agriculture into a few kilos of opium would become highly attractive. From the point of view of the drug enforcement agency it may well be desirable to have a stable ruler who desires to strut a little on a wider stage. From the underside he may still look like the brigand he once was, but he may desire to levy his exorbitant taxes on crops that can be photographed for National Geographic. Those who grow the crops may also like him better that way. The CIA, according to McCoy, also lost out half a world away. Those who had best fitted in with the opium/heroin pirates came to show some of the same coloration. With less excuse they became pirates themselves at home or on their next assignments. Only the drug had been changed (to cocaine) and the innocents protected were those who trusted. The evidence McCoy presents is solid throughout the book. Congressional inquiries can be full of hearsay, but still cannot be ignored. Also the selection of information on Central America is, while less plentiful, just as credible as that having to do with opium. McCoy makes a plausible suggestion that it is time to reassess, or deny, a need for the CIA to accept any covert roles. Failing that, all such services need to be able to remove internal brigands, at least in times of peace. He suggests that there are partial answers to what must be the million-dollar question, being how to remove the bad apples from a visibly corrupt law enforcement system without a complete breakdown of order. Indeed this is an intriguing question, and one that we continue to struggle with all over the world.
17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wanted more on the Golden Crescent as well... 5 Feb 2002
By P. GUPTA - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The author is no doubt the master of his domain in as far as the Southeast Asia (the Golden Triangle) is concerned, but only 20 or so pages talk about Golden Crescent, while more than 400 pages are about very minutely detailed drug trade (& politics/ economics) of the Golden Triangle. Considering that countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan earn more than $12b in drug trade every year (only about $1b worth foreign exchange in legal exports), the importance of drug money in financing these breeding grounds of terrorism can't be emphasised enough.
I have to admit that the writing style lacks pace, and I was often confused with the different names that keep cropping up as the author goes back and forth in history. This is a great book for anyone wanting to understand the Southeast Asia though.
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars 13 July 2014
By ThePrize - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Met expectations.
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