My previous post provoked some comment from two readers one of whom expressed surprise about my claim that the US provided covert support to the drugs gangs that controlled the heroin trade in south east Asia’s Golden Triangle during the Vietnam War and wondered about the extent to which it had been documented. She also raised the question of the so called French Connection.
The extent of US involvement in heroin trafficking from the Golden Triangle has been exhaustively documented most famously by Alfred W. McCoy in The Politics of Heroin: CIA involvement in the Global Drug Trade (first edition 1973 and third edition 2003). At the time of initial publication McCoy’s book was vigorously criticised by the CIA, which was granted by the publisher a right of criticism and reply. The criticisms the CIA duly made of the book were acknowledged to be weak and unconvincing and its thesis is now accepted as true by mainstream scholarship.
McCoy is a serious academic based at Yale and his book was something of a tour de force involving extensive field work in the area. He established that the gangsters initially behind the heroin trade in south east Asia were anti Communist Chinese belonging to the Kuomingtang movement that had governed China before the Communist Revolution. As such they were reliable allies of the US in the war against Communism in south east Asia. It seems that US assistance to these criminals even extended to the CIA arranging for some of their heroin to be shipped to the US in its own aircaft.
As for the French Connection, this was a criminal gang that in the 1960s and early 1970s processed Turkish opium into heroin in the south of France and then smuggled this heroin into the East Coast of the US (principally New York) from the French port of Marseille. It achieved worldwide fame as a result of a feature film made in 1971 called The French Connection.
The French Connection serves as another example of the collusion between western governments and drug traffickers that I discussed in my previous post. The French Connection was set up after the Second World War by a group of French Corsican gangsters who during the war had served in the Carlingue, the French auxiliary arm of the Paris Gestapo. After the war they avoided punishment for collaboration because the CIA and the French secret service the SDECE used them to fight the Communist party, which during the war through the maquis had gained strong influence along the French Mediterranean coast especially in Marseille. Under cover of this protection and using funds originally stolen by the Carlingue they set up the French Connection. When in the 1970s it became clear that a Communist takeover of France was not going to happen the French Connection lost its usefulness to its CIA and SDECE protectors and was quickly wound up.
The background of the French Connection was also touched on by McCoy in his book. It received no mention in the film, which makes it appear a rather more glamorous and civilised organisation than it actually was.
In making these points I repeat again a point I made in my previous post. I do not say that all drugs traffickers enjoy the favour and protection of the western powers. An astonishingly high proportion of them however do, which makes the effort to wage the War on Drugs futile and ridiculous. Any discussion of the War on Drugs that pretends to honesty and objectivity must face this reality. So far none has done so.
PS: I would just add as a brief postscript a reference to the latest James Bond novel Devil May Care. This is set against a backdrop of the Soviet Union hatching a nefarious plot in the 1960s to flood the western world with heroin in order to demoralise western society. In fact the Soviet Union and its allies were never involved in any aspect of the illegal drugs trade whilst the involvement of the western powers in the illegal drugs trade is a matter of record.