The History of Drugs
These two companion articles elicited the most 'personal' reaction I've ever gotten. Both times they appeared in print, several Vietnam veterans approached me to say how much my writing reflected their own experience there. (I myself missed the Vietnam draft by six months.)
First Published in the Unification News in May 1992
Second Edition: February 1997
This article was first published in May 1992. Unfortunately, little has changed in the nearly five years since, at least when viewed externally. To frame the debate, an understanding of history becomes important.
It's a vast and complex subject. Here we will concentrate on times and places where 'illicit drugs' became the basis of large-scale commerce, or of governmental foreign policy. As we shall see, there are far too many of these. Some of these incidents are well known, others obscure, and a few are still highly controversial. Few nations come out with clean hands.
One of the earliest documented incidents of a drug-centered policy comes from the Middle East. From 1090 until 1256 AD, the Hashisheen flourished in several towns and fortresses in what is now Syria and Lebanon. To Europeans they were known as the Sect of the Assassins. They used hashish and other 'forbidden pleasures' to woo their converts, and their fedayeen warriors aimed to overthrow the Muslim states. They reached an accord with their neighbors, the Crusader states, but were destroyed by invading Mongol forces. Some historians tie their remnants to the notorious thuggee cults of India.
Opium has been cultivated in India since ancient times. In the early 1700s the Mogul dynasty held a monopoly over the opium trade, and profited from its sale and taxation. Eventually these operations were taken over by the British East India Company, centering at Ghazipur on the Ganges river.
At the same time, Dutch traders introduced the habit of smoking opium for its narcotic effects into Manchu China. From ancient times, it had been used only as a medicine–and in the proper hands, it remains an effective one today. The Manchu government saw the threat of this spreading addiction and issued edicts against it in 1729 and 1780. These were only weakly enforced, and the Portuguese gained a monopoly in trading opium for Chinese goods and silver.
The British inherited and expanded this trade. They pressured the Manchu rulers, and this resulted in the Opium Wars of 1839-42. By 1858 the Brits were transporting 10 million pounds of Indian opium into China. Domestic cultivation had also taken root in China. By 1906 some 44 million pounds of domestic opium was produced.
Dr. Sun Yat Sen's early Republic of China moved to stamp out this production. With some international help, the "trade" was seriously impacted by 1913, and by 1917 it had declined to almost nothing. However, due to political instability, local warlords regained power, and sought the easy profits possible. By 1924 production had rebounded.
In the ancient territory of Vietnam, the fierce and independent hill tribes have long cultivated opium poppies, while the 'civilized' lowland peoples grew rice. In 1884-88, the French moved into Vietnam in force, establishing a colony. Following the British pattern, they taxed and profited from the opium trade, establishing trading stations below the hills. They were to continue this system for some 50 years.
During the 1930s and early 40s, the Japanese were taking advantage of the disarray in China, gradually annexing territory. The Chinese warlords continued opium cultivation on their territories, while the trade was expanded by itinerant Chinese and Korean traders.
Japan's Kwantung army, along with their kai secret societies, decided to weaken China -as well as enrich themselves- by taking over this trade. They pioneered the practice of 'psycho-chemical warfare,' operating heroin factories through their puppet government. They bragged that they, "the superior race," were "above drug addiction," while the "decadent Chinese, East Indians and Europeans" were going to serve them, even as they withered away.
During the turmoil in China, both Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists and Mao Tse-tung's Communists traded opium products on the black market. Before long, the victorious Communists were to make good use of this industry.
By the 1950s, the French were slowly losing the war against Ho Chi Minh's communist Viet Minh. With little understanding of the jungle-covered hills, and waning support at home, the French generals lost a series of remote garrisons. Finally, they planned to draw out the Viet Minh, and fortified a town called Dien Bien Phu as the bait. One reason the French selected it was that the lucrative opium trade centered there made it an attractive target.
Older readers and history buffs will recall the stunning French defeat there in May 1954. The victorious Viet Minh inherited the opium trading system intact!
In the 1950s, the victorious Chinese Communist government made use of the lesson learned at the hands of their Japanese occupiers. This strategy kind of actually goes back over 2,000 years, to the famous military writer Sun Tzu. About 400 BC, he wrote: "All warfare is based on deception," and "Those skilled in war subdue the enemy's army without battle."
In 1965, it is reported, Chinese leader Chou En-lai bragged to Egypt's Pres. Nasser that they planned to "demoralize and subvert the U.S. soldiers in Vietnam." They actually hoped that as many U.S. troops as possible would be stationed there for as long as possible! Chou claimed: "We are preparing the highest grades of opium for them."
By 1970, hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops were in Vietnam. Heroin was being sold on the streets, even by children, for as little as $20 per ounce, some one-fiftieth of its normal value. Many soldiers became addicts, as well as heavy users of hashish, etc.
The number of new addicts was reportedly 60,000 or more. Upon their return home, they were intended to spread drug use, and the drug trade, to every region of America. The Chinese further hoped to alienate these Americans, with an eye towards future revolutionary activities.
The French had left Vietnam, but their 'French Connection' remained. The Sardinia-based French Mafia brought tons of heroin into New York, via Marseilles.
The Soviets followed a similar pattern. Their KGB ran a drugs-for-arms operation through a Bulgarian subsidiary. They traded Middle Eastern heroin for a variety of armaments, in order to gain much-needed hard currency, arm their allied governments and terrorist groups, and flood the West with illicit drugs. Even without Soviet backing, heroin is still produced in Lebanon's Bekaa valley, now under nominal Syrian control.
In early America and England, drugs were completely unregulated. The original Coca Cola (r) ontained actual cocaine. In England, children's 'quieting syrup' contained laudanum, another opium derivative. However, as the terrible health effects became known, the 'first drug war' made these illegal, and the public turned against their use. One of the last efforts in this war was the much-maligned film Reefer Madness.
In the 1960s, drug use again became popular in America. Cultural gurus like Timothy Leary, with 'a wink and a nod' from many elite organizations and universities, almost single-handedly convinced millions to try dangerous, powerful drugs such as LSD.
By the 70s cocaine was the "glamour" drug of choice. Its South American growers, especially in Columbia, prospered, evolving into the now-infamous Cartels. They've had plenty of ongoing assistance from Fidel Castro's communist regime in Cuba–for the familiar twin reasons: money, and subversion of the enemy.
However, it is not only the enemies of the West that engage in drug trade. In the 1950s, some French units -both from their military and intelligence communities- were accused of opium trading.
During the Vietnam conflict, a number of American soldiers were court-martialed for engaging in drug smuggling, using U.S. facilities and both military and civilian transports. These activities may have reached into the higher levels of American government. Certainly, the CIA at least 'looked the other way' when an avowedly anti-communist tribe leader engaged in "the trade." It is entirely possible that some of our POWs were left behind because they knew too much.
Even today, these hill tribes continue their activities in the infamous Golden Triangle area. There are several ethnic groups involved, including remnants of Nationalist Chinese armies which fled south across the Chinese border in the 1950s.
While it is well known that this region of Burma, Thailand and Laos remains a top heroin-producing area, it is officially denied that opium is grown and processed in China's Yunnan province, right across the border. In fact, while ruthlessly stamping out domestic opium/heroin sales and addiction, its export has become an important Chinese revenue source, as well as a foreign-policy instrument. Also, a means of revenge for their humiliating Opium War defeats of a century and a half before.
Insight magazine has reported that civilian Landsat satellite data, for Yunnan province, cannot be obtained--and photographs of the nearby Golden Triangle area clearly depict opium cultivation. Perhaps this is a policy to save the Chinese government from "embarrassment."
We have seen that the Big Money involved in the drug trade has again and again proved an irresistible temptation. Virtually every government, army, tribe and organization that has had the opportunity has taken it. The official corruption, and public health effects, have in every case been horrendous. This has been true whether or not the drugs in question were legal at the time.
However, the legalization of such drugs, in America or anywhere, would only increase their use, make them more pervasive, and thus, accessible to small children. And the intended demoralization of America and the West would continue–at an even faster pace. The current 'medicinal marijuana' debate is another story, with pros and cons of its own.
Several groups, lead by the radical Christic Institute and now backed by certain politicians, are claiming that "the racist U.S. government" has "flooded the inner cities with crack cocaine, in order to destroy the Black race." The instrument was said to have been the CIA, in league with the anti-communist Nicaraguan Contras.
Others turned the table, accusing some of America's top leftists of drug involvement, mainly though an obscure airport at Mena, Arkansas. Alleged connections with Chinese Military Intelligence, via Hong Kong and Indonesia, also came to light.
While these alarmists are pointing their fingers in every direction, their basic theory may indeed be correct!
The simple answer is not to use drugs. It is the only real and effective solution. To end the demand would end both the criminal and the ideological activities centering on the multi-billion dollar drug trade.
There is a positive and hopeful solution! It is based in religious values, and in our own self-image. Rev. Moon has initiated many campaigns, in order to revive America, and especially our young people. The children of caring, God-centered families experience very little drug abuse; while poor, single-parent and selfish, materialistic families can almost count on it.
We Unificationists do carry the answers, and through this nation's countless houses of worship, the message is finally getting out.
With thanks to: Charles Spacek and Dale Milne.
I would welcome any comments, criticisms, compliments, crossfires, curses or corrections. You may reach me at: P.O. Box 74, San Lorenzo, CA 94580
Psychochemical Warfare by A.H. Stanton Candlin
The Opium War by Peter Ward Fay
The Art of War by Sun Tzu
Hell in a Very Small Place by Bernard B. Fall
Various articles in Insight and National Geographic magazines.
(c) 1999 and 2005 by Paul Carlson
VICTORY OVER DRUGS
First Published in the Unification News in June 1992
Second Edition: January 1997
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