The drug war, its pretensions, and the way it affects our relationship with Mexico-casts light on the integrity of the White House, the Congress, and the media because this isn't the work of just one person. There are deeply embedded patterns of control at work here-patterns that reinforce trends and tendencies and relationships that didn't start under Clinton or even under Reagan. They go back a long way. Dan Baum, author of Smoke and Mirrors, interviewed a number of people around Richard Nixon, and disclosed the cynical way the drug war was used to marginalize hippies, minorities, and others that could be linked, rightly or wrongly, with the problem of drugs. If we can use the "war" metaphor, is it a victory or a defeat? Who and where are the enemies? Who are the generals who are fighting on our side against the drugs?

See, they don't put it that way! The war on drugs is really no war at all-it's a business! It's a practice of the government, of the institutions that have grown up around it. I'm talking about the hardware-the helicopters, the weapons, the radar, the surveillance, the AWACS, and all that stuff in Latin America that's supposedly fighting rural peasants on the hillsides in the Andes growing coco leaves, peasants in Mexico, or farmers growing marijuana, opium poppies. I'm talking about the hardware that goes to prop up various petty tyrants and other cliques that run many Latin American and Central American countries-hardware that is often used to suppress insurrections that might challenge the cozy corporatist military alliance that oppresses ordinary people. That is a continuation of the so-called war against communism in Latin America. It's part of the military industrial complex.

Look at the millions and billions of dollars going into the same kind of hardware, going down the same rat holes that swallow so much excess and surplus military hardware. The drug war is now costing $14 or 15 billion a year, and that's just the surface. When you add all the prisons, the local police, and the rest of it, you're talking $30-40 billion a year. The war is not even being fought as a "war," although you might think it's a war because the person in charge in the United States is a general, and the kind of hardware used is effective at killing people, surveilling people, and engaging in these little brushfire combats to keep the lid on insurrections born of gross injustice and oligarchy and indifference.

General McCaffrey is coming out of the Command in Panama-the Central American Command-and his job is connected to the fight against revolutionary movements. In connection with him and the Southern Command in Panama City with their 7,000 or so American troops, you have intelligence operatives, which the CIA admits engage in torture, killing, bribery, and violation of election laws. It is rather hypocritical of Gingrich and some of the pundits to take such umbrage about Bill Clinton getting money from China, or possibly Indonesia. What about all the money that the Washington Post and the New York Times and Clinton and Gingrich and all the rest either approve or help funnel into elections like those in Nicaragua which the U.S. taxpayer isn't even told is financing a number of campaigns?

This meddling in other nations makes it hard to run a double standard where it's okay for Uncle Sam to make campaign donations to other countries but it's not okay for Uncle Deng or Suharto or anyone else to donate to the U.S. The "foreign entanglements" that George Washington warned about is certainly what Clinton's been up to and Gingrich as well, and I'm sure Bush and Reagan even more so. The Iran-Contra case is much worse. You can't ask for a standard for others that you violate every time you get a chance. The United States puts money into these foreign countries under the guise of "intelligence" and all the rest. You've got to stop that or shut up when it comes to other countries doing the same to us. When we know the CIA has fired a thousand (about a third) of its assets, its paid spies, its agents, because they gave some information, and we know a good part of it was because they were torturers, murderers, blackmailers, downright thugs and thieves, that's okay. The CIA's view is that if the information is really good, then you can probably torture and kill. If the information is kind of garden-variety stuff about the local budget or this or that, then, we can probably fire you as a torturer or killer or petty criminal because the balancing act is how much human suffering is there vs. whatever information the CIA wants to gather (on top of 19 million pages of secrets compiled by the whole government in one year).

General McCaffrey got his bars and his stripes and knew the anti-communist dance, knew about the hardware and the military industrial complex and fighting the subversives and keeping the investors-the fruit companies, tobacco companies, coffee companies, oil companies, banks, insurance folks, and all the rest of them-happy, and how disruptive it could be if leftist elements got the upper hand. Clinton gave him the mantle of the War on Drugs, so he goes down to Mexico and meets General Jesus Gutierrez Rebollo, whom he found extraordinary, fantastic. What happens? General Jesus is arrested February 18 because he's been taking bribes from a leading cocaine trafficker!

Now, a couple of points. First, General Jesus is the counterpart of General McCaffrey--so this is like General McCaffrey being arrested for taking bribes from a cocaine smuggler. That would be big news. In Mexico, that news was suppressed for 12 days. And this is the gentleman that General McCaffrey had been praising just a few weeks before as a man of greatness. That's one point. Second, just a few days before the Clinton administration certifies Mexico as cooperative, sophisticated, and fighting in good faith the war against drugs-we find that 6 million Americans are said to pay into Mexican coffers for the drugs that are consumed in this country.

Umberto Garcia Abrego's brother Juan, who is the boss of the Gulf cartel in Northern Mexico with links into Texas--is in jail in America. He's been convicted. He's a known smuggler. His brother, Umberto Garcia Abrego, was down at the National Institute for combating drugs being interrogated, but inexplicably, he leaves. He's out the door. Can you imagine the brother of the Cali cartel being interviewed by the FBI and then all of a sudden walking out the door and they keep it quiet because it's the eve of the certification of the suitability of Mexico as an ally in the fight against drugs? They keep it quiet until Madeleine Albright says Mexico must be certified because it's such a good ally on the war against drugs. That's a lie, and Madeleine Albright knows it. Bill Clinton knows it. General McCaffrey knows it. In fact, he had to reach pretty far to say, "To desert the Mexicans now would smack of creative hypocrisy." Well, McCaffrey, I guess I'd have to agree with you on that one-"creative hypocrisy."

Consider this. On April 7, 1996, a year after the slaying of a reform-minded police chief in Tijuana, state and federal officials in Mexico City revealed that federal police agents working for drug traffickers had carried out the killing. This police chief had evidently publicly questioned a federal inquiry into the assassination in Tijuana of a former presidential candidate. He had antagonized powerful cocaine traffickers and wouldn't take bribes from them, so he was killed by agents of the federal police in the pay of drug traffickers. These federal agents work for the agency carrying out the war against drugs that has just been certified as effective by Bill Clinton through Madeleine Albright!

The DEA already said that they know stuff is going on that isn't right. Because of this need to collect information on who knows what, one arm or another of the U.S. government is definitely cozying up to, if not employing, drug dealers. So McCaffrey, you're right. It would be highly hypocritical if the United States decertified Mexico. But by certifying Mexico, the United States makes an utter mockery of the war on drugs.

We know, for example, that the incredibly disproportionate arrest and lockup of African American citizens, as opposed to white citizens, for drug violations is so disproportionate it's unbelievable. If you look at California over a fixed period, as done in a study by a group in San Francisco, the increase in the arrest of violent offenders is almost identical in white and black. But when it comes to drug offenses, it's about a 7 to 1 ratio in the last couple of years, indicating a very clear discriminatory pattern. That's the domestic side. Meanwhile, at the highest levels you have McCaffrey drinking it up and kowtowing with a fellow who's now in jail-General Jesus-and the intelligence folks on all sides passing information, and it goes right back into the cartels. That is not a drug war! That's something different.

Given the absolute dependency on the political class in Washington, on the trade with Mexico, on NAFTA, on maquiladoras, on the whole political economic strategy which President Clinton has embraced with Congress and most of the major media, how can Mexico be denied a trade benefit? The truth is, drug-free futures of the children and citizens of America have been mortgaged to an aberrant economic strategy involving the insertion of Mexico into our economy. That's what Congress wanted to do-both sides, the whole gang! Given that policy choice, yes, Mexico is shipping in 80% of the cocaine. We can play Tarzan, beat our chest, but censor them? What if the Mexican leadership is getting the $120 million directly, like the last president's brother? When the president of Mexico-a guy with all the intelligence and the CIA spookery-appoints General Jesus over here who turns out to be taking money, that can't be an accident. This is a pattern.

This hypocritical drug war is not being fought except against poor people on both sides of the border. The crocodile tears, the "just say no" and the wringing of hands about the drug epidemic is a bunch of hooey because the commitment is to cheap labor, foreign trade, protected by international treaties like GATT and NAFTA. That's the priority-not drug addiction in Chicago or Houston or New York or anywhere else! Nobody said, "Look, we're going to go against the drug cartels, even if it goes against foreign trade, even if it hurts," because spending $13 billion pays off a lot of campaign contributors, keeps the military industrial complex happy, creates the bogey man, marginalizes potential opposition among poor people. It serves all the functions and a lot more than even Richard Nixon conceived when Erlichman and Haldeman figured out the first anti-drug war back in 1969.

The American people don't really have a sense that the drug war is phony. A New York Times article says, "To help keep Mexico stable, the U.S. soft-pedaled the drug war." Carlos Salinas, whom Clinton wanted to head up the new World Trade Organization before he got mired in scandal in 1988, was pledging a renewed effort and formed a 1200-member task force. They grabbed tons of drugs and put the most wanted cocaine smuggler behind bars. It was all very exciting. The same Times article continues, "Six years and much American praise later, law enforcement officials say that Mexico's traffickers have grown more powerful and their protection in the security forces remains widespread." "Security" means the police! That's the power in Mexico or any country! They're saying the narcotics people have influence there. So didn't McCaffrey know that? Didn't he read the New York Times? Doesn't he read the briefing reports coming out of his own operation? Doesn't Clinton know this?

The amount of drugs coming across the border keeps growing because people are paid off. And those payoffs and that pattern is known to the spy operation of America because this spy operation is spending the money on it! They hired spies in Mexico, honeycombed in the security forces, in the anti-drug forces, and they are being paid off by our representatives. The U.S. has no problem paying off people. They just had to fire a thousand of them because either their reports were too sloppy, or they were too grossly in violation of human decency by killing and torturing people. So they know, and they don't care. And they keep up the pretense because of the money, because it makes them look good, because it locks up dissidents at home and abroad, and because it keeps a bogeyman out there that will never go away. They aren't trying to eliminate the bogeyman. They are using the bogeyman, getting rich off the bogeyman.

A lot of this activity is about control, about the march toward a more authoritarian state. A Washington Post article states that last year 8,000 U.S. military personnel took part in 754 counterdrug missions on U.S. soil. That's more than 100 people per mission. In Utah, one of our more conservative states, soldiers assist the DEA with tapping telephones. In Key West, Florida, the federal government has erected a $13.5 million command post where military officers and federal drug agents work side by side. We used to have a law- still on the books-called the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act, which prohibits military involvement in searches and seizures. An incredible erosion of our civil liberties is going on!

My goal here is to get people to develop critical thinking and listening so that the government can't just bamboozle us. The drug war isn't what it purports to be if you look at the whole operation and the tie-in between the American intelligence agencies, these so-called "assets," the spies on the payroll of the CIA, and drug dealers. Don't let members of Congress and the media get away with this complacency and distortion!


Please call "We The People," in Oakland, 1-800-426-1112 or write us at 200 Harrison St., Oakland, CA 94607.

We'll send you some material and ask you to join our efforts. Together we can build a new movement of real democratic activism.

Material for this article was excerpted and edited by Doret Kollerer from Jerry Brown's "We The People" radio broadcasts. North Coast XPress, Apr/May 1997