As much as I’ve admired him for 25 years, I can’t figure John Kerry out. Is it the disarming politeness? Or is it political acumen that seals his lips on the politically delicate – and currently hot – issue of cocaine trafficking by CIA-connected supporters of the Nicaraguan contras during the Reagan-Bush era? After all:
The subject serendipitously resurfaced in August in a widely publicized series in the San Jose Mercury News, suggesting that the contra-connected cocaine influx during the Republicans’ White House watch, helped fuel – and perhaps ignited – the crack epidemic that has ravaged America’s ghettos.
Landmark hearings held by Kerry’s Senate Intelligence Subcommittee documented the Reagan/Bush team’s indifference to the narcotics-strewn criminal records of major contra suppliers.
At a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing held October 23rd – in response to the public furor that followed August’s news sensation – Kerry’s former top investigator Jack Blum testified that an “absolute stonewall” was erected by the head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, to keep Kerry’s 1987-89 inquiry from evidence tying the contras to cocaine. The head of that division was Bill Weld.
Sure, the Mercury News’s series has come under attack, especially by the Washington Post. But little in the Post’s 5,000-word critique would assuage CIA critics, least of all the statement that (Nicaraguan cocaine trafficker Jose) “Blandon handled only about five tons of cocaine during a decade-long career.”
Moreover, not only is the CIA/cocaine connection a fact of life – but the Mercury News’ stories resonate with a well-established history of CIA collaboration with and protection of major narcotics traffickers. In postwar France, the newly created Agency recruited thugs from dormant Corsican mafia to terrorize Socialist politicians. The mafiosi, reinvigorated and protected by its new ties to intelligence and the Gaullist party, proceeded to establish the “French Connection” that would ship tons of Southeast Asian heroin to the streets of New York City.
Several years later the CIA assembled a small army of anti-Castro Cuban exiles for the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion. Like the Corsicans before them, veterans of the abortive invasion would use Agency ties to skirt the law and avoid jail – at least till the end of the decade. On June 21, 1970, the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs collared 150 suspects in what the BNDD termed the largest roundup of major drug traffickers in the history of federal law enforcement.” [sic] According to then attorney general John Mitchell, the Justice Department had broken up a “nationwide ring of wholesalers handling about 30 percent of all heroin sales and 75 to 80 percent of all cocaine sales in the United States.” Two-thirds of those arrested were Bay of Pigs veterans.
In the ‘60s and ‘70s in Indochina, CIA-supported guerilla [sic] armies in Laos – and Washington-backed South Vietnamese dictators – profited directly from trafficking in Southeast Asian heroin, with U.S. east coast-based Sicilian mafiosi now in cahoots with the Corsicans.
Then in the ‘80s, while the Agency was orchestrating the contras’ war of terror against Nicaragua’s Sandinista government, the Reagan/Bush White House would pump $2 billion into another army of “freedom fighters” waging guerrilla war in Afghanistan against Russian soldiers. The CIA’s top guerilla warlord, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, would later be exposed as a major heroin trafficker – and trainer of anti-American, Islamic fundamentalist terrorists.
Over this long and sordid history, the most serious and fruitful Congressional inquiry into CIA aiding and abetting of narcotics traffickers has been Senator John Kerry’s. So it’s a mystery why Kerry refuses to make political hay of it.
When Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis opposed Vice President George Bush in the 1988 presidential race, Dukakis seemed incapable of uttering the phrase “contra drug trafficking” – despite the ammunition Kerry’s inquiry was providing.
Now Kerry himself has steered clear of the subject – despite its freshness in voters’ minds, the tightness of his senatorial race, and the allegation, according to Jack Blum, that (Deputy Attorney General) “Weld put a very serious block on any effort we made to get information.” Why, John?