Review of ‘Whiteout: the CIA, Drugs and the Press’

Asad Ismi: review of ‘Whiteout: the CIA, Drugs and the Press’ by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, 1998

“I toiled wholeheartedly in the vineyards because it was fun, fun, fun. Where else could a red-blooded American boy lie, kill, cheat, steal, rape and pillage with the sanction and bidding of the All-highest.”
– George Hunter White, who oversaw drug experiments for the CIA (p. 209).

After the Second World War, the United States government went on a genocidal rampage that has killed about six million people in the Third World. Cockburn and St. Clair examine a cross-section of this terror pertaining to the CIA and drugs. Written in a clear, readable style and supported by solid documentation, Whiteout is a compelling catalogue of the horrors of U.S. foreign policy.

The authors are at their best when revealing the Nazi roots of this policy in a superb chapter titled, “Klaus Barbie and the Cocaine Coup.” Barbie‚s career shows the continuity between Nazi Germany and the U.S. and also links the latter to the rise of cocaine in Latin America. Known as the “Butcher of Lyons”, SS officer Barbie commanded the slaughter of more than a million Slavs and Jews and tortured French resistance fighters to death. Yet his career “scarcely missed a beat” before the U.S. had hired him in postwar Germany and then smuggled him to Bolivia where he continued killing people as head of internal security for cocaine-trafficking generals brought to power in U.S.-backed coups in 1970 and 1980. The increase in Bolivian cocaine production under the generals led to the emergence of the Colombian cartels. Barbie continued to work for the CIA, engaged in drugs and arms trafficking and played a significant role in the U.S.-inspired “Operation Condor” aimed at suppressing popular rebellions and keeping dictators in power throughout Latin America. The monstrous crimes of men like Barbie were the example followed by the U.S. in dealing with the threat of Third World liberation. As the authors explain:

“In less than a year the [Nazi] mobile death squads [in Russia] under the command of men such as Barbie killed more than a million people. Here was the model for the CIA’s death squads in Vietnam…and in Latin America where CIA-sponsored teams in Guatemala, El Salvador, Chile, Colombia and Argentina applied similar methods of brutal terror, killing hundreds of thousands. There’s nothing, in terms of ferocity, to separate a Barbie-supervised killing in Russia from later operations such as My Lai or El Mozote.”

The CIA’s drug connections began earlier than its coziness with Barbie. In 1943, the Office of Strategic Services (the CIA’s predecessor) made a deal with Lucky Luciano, the leading gangster and drug trafficker in the U.S. Luciano was released from prison in exchange for his help in securing the Mafia’s cooperation in the Allied invasion of Sicily. Thus began the CIA’s global alliance with drug traffickers in Sicily, France, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Miami and Latin America. Drug-dealing funded mass murder (called “covert operations” by the CIA) of the poor in the Third World who were the main impediment to U.S. dominance. Drug trafficking also corrupted and destabilized Southern countries, maximized the transfer of wealth from the Third World to western banks (which are notorious for money laundering), and helped keep thousands of the U.S. poor in prison. A long line of drug traffickers and assassins have led the U.S. national security state – the bigger Mafia. Evidence provided by the authors indicates that Clinton was elected with drug money, something he punished former Colombian President Samper for, severely.

Reporters such as Gary Webb who exposed the sordid reality of U.S. power in his brilliant articles documenting the CIA-organized Contras’ cocaine trafficking in Los Angeles, were vilified by the slavish mainstream press represented by the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times. In a report issued last October, the CIA admitted facilitating drug trafficking by the Contras, thus making these newspapers look doubly ridiculous.

The CIA’s drugs and murder strategy has corrupted almost every Latin American government especially that of Mexico and the authors astutely detail what free trade is really all about. Mexico is one the world’s largest narco-states and drug trafficking exploded under former President Carlos Salinas, a main architect of NAFTA. After protecting drug dealers for six years, Salinas left office reportedly with $5 billion while his brother Raul made $1 billion. At the same time, Mexican wages fell by 60%. President Zedillo too, is reported to have received $70 million from the Cali cartel and the ruling class is drowning in drug connections. The CIA bankrolls the secret police (DFS) which guards drug traffickers and with the Agency’s connivance tortured a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent to death. According to Hector Berrellez, the DEA’s most decorated agent, the CIA ran camps for the Contras in Mexico “with big planes flying in and out full of dope.” His informants told him about “strange, fortified bases” all over the country from which U.S. military planes were shipping drugs. Much of Mexico’s drug money goes into U.S. banks while Washington backs a massive militarization to crush the Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas and the Pentagon readies itself for intervention as the whole rotten system threatens to come crashing down. Ideologically, the Nazis won World War II as former Guatemalan President Juan Jose Arevalo said in 1951, and millions of the world’s poor are still paying for it with their lives.

Published in:

CCPA Monitor, February 2000

Americas Update, Vol 20.3, 2000,

Outreach Connection, July 2000.

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