Showing posts with label movie review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label movie review. Show all posts

3/31/2015

A Private Murder and a Public Genocide


A multi-millionaire, New York City real estate mogul's wife goes missing.  Friends and family suspect foul play, but the case gathers dust as a missing person mystery never to be solved.  Twenty years later, a stool pigeon reignites the authorities' interest in the disappearance, this time setting their eyes on the husband who just might have gotten away with murder.  The couple's former house is swept for clues, divers search the lake for a body, and just days before the primary person of interest can be interviewed for the first time - unbelievably - she is executed at point blank range in her home at the opposite end of the country.

Less than a year later, the man that was suspected but never charged with committing two murders is arrested for dismembering his elderly neighbor in Galveston, Texas.  He's caught red-handed, with knives and saws in the back seat of his car.  Without realizing the true identity of their suspect, the police grant him a $250,000 bail, which is promptly paid the next day.  He goes on the run, a nationwide man-hunt is issued, and he's busted for stealing a chicken salad sandwich with $500 cash in his pocket.

This is story of Robert Durst - so sensational, so bizarre, that it proves the idiom "truth is stranger than fiction".  Of course it became the subject of a major motion picture, and that's when things took another unexpected turn.  Apparently Durst was so moved by the film that he contacted the director, Andrew Jarecki, and asked him if he'd be interested in interviewing him and working together on another project.  That was the beginning of The Jinx, which was a word Durst used to describe himself when asked why he was adamant about not having children, and in retrospect of his perfectly timed arrest on the eve of the season finale, it's a fitting title for many of his inexplicable actions.

For countless viewers, The Jinx has set a new standard in the young genre of confronting suspected killers in the documentary form.  For many, there's nothing like it: a chronicle of 3 murders over 4 decades with the assistance of the suspect himself.  Key information is revealed throughout each episode, culminating in a shocking pseudo-admission when Durst forgets about his microphone while in the bathroom.  "What the hell did I do?  Killed them all, of course."  Jaws drop, ratings soar!  It's received coverage on every major publication, and undoubtedly, the trial will consume media attention for months to come.

While there are plenty of haters, kudos to director Andrew Jarecki and producer Marc Smerling.  They smelled their rat and followed it through, potentially bringing a murderer to justice while creating a truly engaging and unforgettable television experience in the process.  They couldn't have invented a more perfect villain: a guy that was born into millions of dollars and got away with admittedly chopping up his neighbor into little pieces.  In the era of the 99% and an unhealthy focus on income inequality, it's hard to say which is the bigger crime - but with Durst we get the perfect combination of both.

However, for all the press this event is receiving, and giving fair credit to The Jinx for a job well done, this reminds me of another documentary that exposed crimes far greater by orders of magnitude, and yet, got a fraction of the coverage.  Not only that, but while Mr. Durst was accidentally recorded while talking to himself in the privacy of a bathroom, which is hardly equivalent to a true confession, this other documentary is overflowing with footage of individuals bragging about killing hundreds of people.  In one case, a triple homicide suspect is swiftly brought to trial, but in the other, the criminals continue to not just roam, but rule the streets with impunity.  Why the double standard?  What's the lesson to be learned?  Perhaps Mr. Durst's real crime was murdering without a government uniform.

The Act of Killing

"In 1965, the Indonesian government was overthrown by the military.
Anybody opposed to the military dictatorship could be accused of being a communist: union members, landless farmers, intellectuals, and the ethnic Chinese.

In less than a year, and with the direct aid of western governments, over one million "communists" were murdered.
The army used paramilitaries and gangsters to carry out the killings.
These men have been in power - and have persecuted their opponents - ever since.

When we met the killers, they proudly told us stories about what they did.
To understand why, we asked them to create scenes about the killings in whatever ways they wished.
This film follows that process, and documents its consequences."
These are the opening words to The Act of Killing, the only historical background we are given to a genocide that claimed 500,000 to 3 million lives in a single year.  With the most widely accepted estimate at half a million deaths, it didn't pass the threshold to be included in Rummel's catalog of democides, Death By Government.  With the United States merely supporting the Indonesian government with money and weapons as part of its overall anti-communist policy, but not actively orchestrating the overthrow of their government, the military counter-coup did not make Stephen Kinzer's Overthrow.  Not only has this event gone down the memory hole in the western world, but the events of 1965-1966 are a forgotten page in the Indonesian history books as well.  This is the reason Joshua Oppenheimer went to Indonesia - to meet with the survivors and document the genocide so that it can be rightly included with the other great sins of the 21st century.  However, there was one problem with this approach: the people that committed the genocide are still in power, ruling their victims by fear and terrorizing them from speaking out.  When it seemed that the government would be successful in preventing their story from being told, the survivors gave Oppenheimer one last request: go interview the killers and the executioners, see if they will talk to you.  He did so, and it resulted in arguably the most unique, powerful, and universally important documentary… ever.


Ever?  A case could be made, not because of the importance of the genocide itself, but because Oppenheimer has done something totally unprecedented and amazing in the history of film.  He was able to capture government murderers bragging about their horrendous crimes while still in power.  It's like a real-life House of Cards; like footage from a Man in the High Castle parallel-world with Nazi's bragging about carrying out the holocaust with the smug assurance that nothing will ever be done about it because they won the war.

These people are free, heroes in their country, totally sanctioned by their government, media, and history books - and yet they brutally killed hundreds of people by their own hands.  It can't be overstated enough - they were complicit in the murders of thousands, tens of thousands, likely over 2 million collectively, and they brag about it!  With the innocence and naiveté of a child, the leading subject of the film, executioner Anwar Congo, will demonstrate how he was inspired by American gangster movies to pioneer a cleaner and more efficient way of killing people by strangling them with wire, and in the next moment he'll show off his dancing ability with the cha-cha-cha.  It's absolutely surreal, and Anwar's Jekyll / Hyde persona is perfectly contrasted with fellow executioner Adi Zulkadry, who, rather than being a strange and inexplicable figure, is someone we know all too well.


Anwar and Adi: Reflections of the Statist Mind

As Oppenheimer has explained in several interviews, The Act of Killing is made possible by Anwar Congo's willingness to explore the crimes of his past to satisfy his conscience.  Anwar suffers from nightmares; he sees the open eyes of the people he killed, their ghosts haunting his dreams.  If Anwar can create a "beautiful family film", then maybe he can finally justify his actions and bring closure to his guilt and suffering.  It's a logical goal, as there are dozens of films that try to paint the ugly truths of war and violence as beautiful and heroic every year, some of them winning prestigious awards.

Anwar ultimately expresses guilt and takes some responsibility for his actions while simultaneously maintaining that "he did what he had to do", but fellow executioner Adi Zulkadry holds no such incompatible delusions.  If Anwar represents the American vet suffering from PTSD, ashamed and conflicted with the crimes he committed while "serving his country", then Adi is the stalwart officer of the law, 100% committed to his justifications and convinced that he was "only doing his job".  Combined, they represent the range of the statist mindset.  Neither of them can ever truly face the reality of their crimes: the fact that a government uniform did not alter the morality of their acts by one iota.  But on one extreme, Anwar is at least conflicted and suffers guilt, even although he does not understand it.  On the other end, Adi is a Javert like character that has accepted every statist lie and has nowhere else to go in this life.

The interplay between Anwar and Adi makes for some of the most memorable moments in the film.  When Anwar discusses his nightmares, suggesting that they are caused by the people he strangled, Adi will hear none of it.  "You feel haunted because your mind is weak", he tells Anwar.  According to Adi, they have nothing to feel sorry about, so all he needs to do is meet with a neurologist, get a prescription for "nerve vitamins", and he'll be a true believer once again.  Adi explains his ability to accept his acts without remorse or regret in a chillingly straightforward way:
"Killing is the worst crime you can do.  So the key is to find a way not to feel guilty.  It's all about finding the right excuse.

For example, if I'm asked to kill someone, if the compensation is right, then of course I'll do it, and from one perspective it's not wrong.  That's the perspective we must make ourselves believe.  After all, morality is relative."
Throughout the film, Anwar demonstrates that he does not agree with Adi's belief in relative morality.  When visiting the site where he tortured and killed hundreds of people, he is overcome with emotion, saying, "I know it was wrong - but I had to do it." He has a physical reaction, throwing up a little, and continues, "Why did I have to kill them?  I had to kill… My conscience told me they had to be killed."  In this instance he confuses his conscience with his friends in government and the Pancasila Youth - they were the ones that painted the "communists" as savages and sub-humans that deserved torture and death.  However, it is his recognition of the inherent immorality of his acts that allow him to identify the defining characteristic of government on par with the great Lysander Spooner:
"...Parliament should be the most noble place in society, but if we see what they do there, they're really just robbers with ties."
Yet again, Adi has a different perspective that reflects an attitude that is all too common in the west.  In one of Oppenheimer's most confrontational moments in the film, he asks Adi what he'd do if he was sent to the Hague and charged with war crimes.  The executioner responds indignantly:
"I don't necessarily agree with those international laws.  When Bush was in power, Guantanamo was right.  Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.  That was right according to Bush, but now it's wrong.

The Geneva Convention may be today's morality, but tomorrow - we'll have the Jakarta Conventions and dump the Geneva Conventions.

'War Crimes' are defined by the winners.  I'm a winner.  So I can make my own definitions.  I needn't follow the international definitions."
When John Oliver interviewed Oppenheimer on the Daily Show, he specifically referred to this scene, saying, "You can't argue with him".  Well of course you can!  But if you did, you'd be forced to confront Adi's ugly truth.  A more honest statement from Oliver would be that you can't logically denounce the mass killings in Indonesia while justifying the crimes of other nations like the United States, such as dropping atomic bombs on civilian cities, killing 500,000 children through sanctions, or torturing sheepherders in Guantanmo Bay.  In both instances, actions that would be deemed as wrong by an objective moral code are dressed in the cloak of "authority" and magically change their moral status.  The only difference is that we can't accept the authority of the Indonesian government when viewed through Oppenheimer's lens.  Lucky for the libertarian viewer, there are several other learning opportunities in The Act of Killing that demonstrate the true nature of government.

A Look Behind the Curtain: The Nature of Government

One of the most eccentric characters in The Act of Killing is Herman Koto, a gangster who spent his entire life in the ranks of the Pancasila Youth paramilitary organization.  A large man with a simple mind and a penchant for cross-dressing, Herman is as brutal of a killer as any and takes his directorial duties very seriously, second only to Anwar.  So it seemed too good to be true when Herman Koto decided to run for parliament because he's "well known".  Three cheers to Oppenheimer, the few minutes of the film covering Herman's campaign didn't move the story of the 1965 genocide, but it does offer the clearest and most honest insight into the mind of a politician outside of the fictional series House of Cards.


Once Herman dresses up for campaign photos and plasters his image all over his campaign car, he's ready to shake hands and kiss babies.  After practicing his best Obama impression, he rides down the street, yelling "Long live the Businessmen and Workers Party!  I am Herman - ready to fight for worker's rights!"  But in the next scene he reveals his real ambitions for elected office.  Herman explains:
"If I get elected and get on the Building Commission - I can get money from everyone.  For example, if a building is 10 cm too small, I can demand "Tear down the building!"

They'll say, "Please don't report us, Here's your money"

Even if nothing's wrong with the building, if I threaten them they'll give me money anyway.

Not just a little money, in a block of 10 buildings if each pays $10,000, just do the math - that's already $100,000.  That's only one neighborhood!"
The Act of Killing doesn't just show the true motivation behind code enforcement, it also tackles eminent domain.  Haji Anif, a paramilitary leaders and businessmen, looks across his vast acreage of land and explains that he gave it to the birds because it makes him happy.  To show what a clever and powerful man he is, he explains how he got the land:
"Everybody's terrified of the paramilitaries… When a businessman wants land where people are living , if he just pays for it, it's expensive.  But we can solve his problem.  Because people are terrified of us, when we show up - they say, 'just take the land.  Pay what you like.'"
What refreshing honesty!  Who needs libertarian class analysis with such candid political elites?  For all the horror and the trauma that the Indonesian people have been through, at least they can clearly identify their enemies.  In these moments, The Act of Killing highlights many of Hoppe's arguments in Democracy: The God that Failed, as a government this openly corrupt doesn't suffer from the army of useful idiots parroting "we are the government".  That said, there is at least one moment in the film when a government official thinks he may have gone too far and considers his public image.  Before filming the attack on Kampung Kolam, Deputy Minister of Youth and Sport Sakhyan Asmara makes a special appearance to give the actors a pep talk, and before long he's in the middle of a foaming-at-the-mouth blood rage.  "Crush the comments!  Wipe them out!  Slaughter them!  Kill them all!  Don't let any escape!  Take no prisoners!  Destroy them all!  Burn down their houses!  Kill the communists!  Chop them up!  Burn them!  Kill them all!"  It's pretty intense, so Sakhyan Asmara decides to give a disclaimer:
"Now I'm speaking as a leader of Pancasila Youth.  What we've just shown is not characteristic of our organization.  We shouldn't look brutal, like we want to drink people's blood.  That's dangerous for our organization's image.  But we must exterminate the communists.  We must totally wipe them out - but in a more humane way."
So there we have it.  When it comes to official government policy, it's important to be humane when you kill a million or so people.  This is the primary reason why the Indonesian government requires paramilitaries like Pancasila Youth.  By all objective accounts they certainly meet the criteria of the state; they are an integral part of the "monopoly of violence".  They kill, rob, shake-down, and commit all sorts of other crimes with total impunity.  Not only do they receive privileges usually reserved for government enforcers, but top members of the government are also members of Pancasila Youth!  But just in case any "uncharacteristic" event spins out of control they always have plausible deniability.  Vice President of Indonesia, Jusuf Kalla, explains the importance of Pancasila Youth this way:
"The spirit of Pancasila Youth, which people accuse of being gangsters...  Gangsters are people who work outside the system - not for the government.

The word 'gangster' comes from 'free men'.  This nation needs 'free men'!

If everyone worked for the government - we'd be a nation of bureaucrats, we'd get nothing done.  We need gangsters to get things done."
If there was ever a reason to take a step back and consider the pros and cons of Obama's call for a civilian security force, this would probably be it.


Conclusion

The Act of Killing brings about such a sense of unease in the viewer because it goes to the heart of a commonly promoted superstition: that the human species is going ever onward and upwards - righting wrongs, learning from mistakes, and making progress.  Footage of Nazi's bragging about their crimes wouldn't elicit the same reaction, the take away would be that they lost the war because they were evil and got what they deserved in Nuremburg.  But here you have to contend with an unjust world, one where a group of mass-murdering gangsters won control over their government, put down their opposition, controls the masses through fear and propaganda, and are still in charge today.  It is a film that shows that crime pays - only if the crime is big enough.

Inevitably, having to contend with this reality begs the question - if the Indonesians still live in a country ruled by mass-murderers and brainwashed with a corrupt media that portrays villains as heroes - what can I say for sure about my own government?  Is it possible my "duly elected leaders" have the same contempt for me?  In this way Oppenheimer is able to open a window into the true nature of government for anyone watching it - regardless of what country they come from.  A Stockholm Syndrome defense mechanism would kick in if you showed someone a film attacking his own government; all the years of childhood indoctrination ensures that one can always double-think out of any unpatriotic thought.  But the Act of Killing lowers those defenses, it captures the imagination by showing a world far removed from our day to day life, and the anxiety we feel when watching it is a long-dormant moral compass awakening and challenging the inherent illogic of living in a modern state.

The Jinx may be a ratings success for HBO, and undoubtedly the trial of Robert Durst will receive significant airplay for months to come, but in the end, Durst is a sloppy piker compared to the likes of Anwar Congo.  Sure he's got millions of dollars, but what is that compared to the power of government?  What are 3 murders compared to a genocide of 3 million?  If the answer is "a million times worse", then shouldn't Oppenheimer's masterpiece still be receiving the attention it deserves?  Unfortunately, The Act of Killing's temporary rise and fall just goes to show that when it comes to judging the importance of a murder, the most important criteria is whether or not it was done with the authority of the state.

1/06/2015

Punishment Park, U.S.A.


They have been branded enemies of the state: thought criminals, anti-American propagandists, political extremists and even the occasional violent agitator.  Stripped of their rights, hustled through kangaroo courts and abused by indifferent captors; many who considered themselves peaceful dissidents learn to channel their righteous indignation into a brutality equal to what was inflicted upon them.  In this way violence begets violence.  But something else occurs.  The agents of the state were taught to see political protesters as cop killers and nonconformists as lethal threats; now their training is vindicated.  When a brother in blue falls in the line of duty vengeance inevitably takes priority over the rule of law.  The killers and their allies must get what they deserve; after all, they’re criminals.  The cycle of hate, violence and toughness escalates and continues.

This scenario is being played out in cities and states across the country as racial tensions, economic recession and police militarization collide in a snowballing eruption.  For anyone familiar with Peter Watkin's 44-year-old film Punishment Park it may bring about a sense of déjà vu.  Unfortunately, we've seen this movie before.

In Watkin's alternative history President Nixon declares a state of emergency to deal with the growing anti-war movement and other dissenters of the American regime.  These emergency powers give federal authorities the ability to abduct and imprison those deemed "risks to internal security"; people like subversive poets, student group leaders and pacifists fleeing the draft.  After each of the accused is summarily sentenced to 10-30 years in federal prison they are given a perverse choice: serve your sentence or take your chances with three days in Punishment Park.  If you survive a 53 mile hike through the Arizona desert and reach the coveted American flag you are set free.  However, if you are apprehended by the police and National Guard members that hunt you as part of their training then you carry out your sentence as before.  Resist their capture in any way and the full force of the state is ready to meet violence with violence.  Film crews from around the world document America's experimental legal system and the result is the mockumentary Punishment Park.

In 1971 this film was met with shock and anger, with Hollywood studios refusing to distribute it.  Innocent Americans branded communist sympathizers, a citizen tribunal consisting of "America take it or leave it" automatons and police enforcers indifferent to the violence they deliver because "they're just doing their jobs"; perhaps these elements combined with the documentary style of the film hit too close to home.  But if the parallels were ominous then, what can we say in a world with legalized indefinite detention, presidential kill lists of American citizens and CIA torture camps across the globe?  Watched through today's lens it's equally valid to call this film prophetic and passé.  Which is worse, that a film that "couldn't happen here" and was viewed as heretically outrageous has indeed come to pass or that we've already moved beyond Punishment Park's quaint limitations such that it doesn't elicit much of a reaction at all?

Pawns in the Game


44 years ago Punishment Park was called disturbing, unpatriotic and possibly even communist propaganda - whatever it took to see it censored and banned in country after country.  When this forgotten film found a new life on the internet a new generation saw it in a much different light.  Instead of condemning Watkins they asked what he would think of his film in the era of the Patriot Act, the NDAA and the invasion of Iraq.  The question was asked, could this movie even be made today?  Many saw parallels between the behavior and attitudes of Punishment Park's police and civilian tribunal with what you now find in the neo-cons of both parties.  As James Allen Wilkins noted in his review, "You can almost interchange the word "communist" with "terrorist" throughout the film and the movie might as well have been made last week."

However, it's important to remember that no one watches this film in a vacuum; everyone brings their own bias to Punishment Park.  In 1971 54% of the public "almost always" trusted the government but now that number has been cut in half, with the millennial generation showing all-time low levels of trust in government.  Hence, one generation relates to the enforcer class and model Americans of the film while another generation mostly sides with the rebels and victims of the state.  This is where I see the brilliance and timelessness of the film.  All the characters give such an honest portrayal of both perspectives that there is no obvious group of good guys / bad guys but rather viewers will walk away with their own narrative based on which group they instinctively relate to in the story.  It's similar to the "libertarian test" of watching a video of a police beating.  Is your first reaction to defend the cop who is "just doing his job" or to side with the person guilty of some heinous crime like selling untaxed cigarettes?


Recognizing that a shift in perspective can lead one to have a totally different reaction to the film, this is where we have a real opportunity to use it as a lesson for exploring the bigger picture.  Instead of automatically siding with either the protesters or the police, it is more interesting to take a step back and look at the system that was erected around them; look at the chess board instead of the individual pawns in the game.

On one side the police and military are saying "I'm just doing my job", "I wouldn't have killed him if he would have obeyed my orders" and "they attacked us, we were just defending ourselves".  Perhaps if the prisoners of Punishment Park had meekly submitted to their arrest no harm would have come to them, so shouldn't they bear some of the responsibility for what happened?  From the perspective of the prisoners recall that they are running for their freedom; they are desperate, starving, dehydrated and being chased 24/7 by the cops and military.  With that waving American flag within arm’s reach, so delirious with the prospect of freedom that they can taste it, of course some of them will resist going back into bondage.  Hence, a peace-seeking and naïve enforcer or prisoner may enter Punishment Park with the best intention of following the rules, but the system itself is rigged to ensure only one outcome is possible: anger, rage and bloodshed.


When we understand that this game always ends in an escalation of violence so that there are no winners, this prompts us to look outside of our own team's interest.  It's memorable of the mock-interview with one of the members of the citizen tribunal, where she is asked how she'd feel if her own child was brought before the court at Punishment Park.  She gasped in horror at the thought, "well that is impossible, my kids would never do that.  They were trained different."  What she failed to consider was that the same unilateral / dictatorial powers that a right-wing president welds against "leftists", "communist sympathizers" and "revolutionaries" could be used by a future left-wing president against "right-wing extremists", "constitutionalists" and "tax-protesters".  The baton of power goes from the right hand to the left and back again but it keeps getting bigger and bigger, perpetually preparing for the next chance to swing an even deadlier blow.

So why even play this game?  The people certainly don't gain anything when a police officer is murdered; all that does is solidify the cops into a gang mentality and prepares them to use their military training against the protesters who are committed to peaceful civil disobedience.  Ultimately the police will not win either.  The economy will be destroyed in a police state and the enforcer class is traditionally liquidated by its own government when it goes down this path.  When we finally see that our self-interest isn't linked to our enforcer/protester costume but to the system we all share then we finally have the opportunity to transcend this game and create something better.  But first we need to understand the game we're playing so that we don't unintentionally duplicate it.  That begs the question, who created it and why?

The Power of Prediction


This scene is currently unfolding: cops follow orders to enforce malum prohibitum laws like a tax on cigarettes and murder a man on video.  The secret proceedings of the grand jury result in no charges being pressed against the police.  Protests turn violent as someone randomly murders two police officers, not because of their acts but because of their uniform.  Now the state can ratchet things up and it will go back and forth like this across the country.  Will the final escalation result in the logical consequence of the state's monopoly on violence - a complete gun ban? If so, this would be the story of America's second civil war.

This is the scenario that Alex Jones has been warning about for years.  While he's known as the king of conspiracy for seriously investigating the "inside job" angle of events from the Oklahoma City bombing and 9/11 to Sandy Hook, this aspect of his work often distracts from his record of accurate predictions.  Credit must be given where credit is due.  Regardless of what someone thinks concerning the origin of these events one cannot deny that Alex Jones has been incredibly accurate on the state's reaction to them.  Whether it is an Illuminati plot using the tried and tested formula of problem-reaction-solution or a more modest criminal enterprise that is prepared to heed Rahm Emanuel's advice to "never let a serious crisis go to waste", Jones has been chillingly prophetic when it comes to how our world would change in response to terrorism, mass-shooting attacks and economic crises.

As someone who has been a listener to his show for 8+ years, his consistent message has warned of an American police state, economic collapse and a resulting civil war.  When it came to 9/11 he always said that the specter of Muslim extremists were always the necessary excuse to pass laws like the Patriot Act and the NDAA, but that the Homeland Security apparatus was always designed for the American people.  For Jones, foreign wars not only made the military industrial complex billions but also hardened our troops for what would be required of them when they'd return to police American streets as if they were in Fallujah, Iraq.  Derivative bubbles, "too big to fail" banks, Wall-Street bail-outs and legislation that is conveniently passed or repealed paves the way for one economic crisis after another, making the average American increasingly desperate and willing to trade liberty for security.  Watch one of Jones' first films from the '90s and recognize with disappointment how right he's been.

But it always goes back to the same question that's harder to answer with satisfaction: Why?  How was Jones able to predict these events and how America would increasingly be turned into a Police State?  Whose master plan is this?  As George H.W. Bush said 10 years to the day before 9/11, "it's a big idea... a New World Order".  You cannot have world government with any sovereign nation, so “order out of chaos" techniques are used to destabilize one nation after the next, with America being the last shining jewel to take down.  As America's wealth is used to run the engine of global police it has the dual effect of discrediting America and destroying it from within.  If we can't wake up to this trap we'll play out the scenario Jones warns of the most: a civil war brought on by economic depression and gun control with the military and police against the American people, all the pawns senselessly killing each other while the globalists laugh in their offshore fortresses.

Austrian Economics meets Conspiracy Theory


The Jonesian picture may be hard to swallow: New World Order, Skull and Bones, and Illuminati secret societies pushing civilization off a cliff to establish world government.  Many libertarians will decry these types of theories as discrediting to their movement.  However, one can ignore this angle of a sinister agenda and still find events like 9/11 completely predictable and even logical using only Austrian business cycle theory and libertarian class analysis.

For just over 100 years, since the beginning of the Federal Reserve, the eventual collapse of the dollar was predictable.  Power corrupts and the power to print money out of thin air is such an awesome force that few could withstand the temptation for abuse.  Like the ring of Sauron it pollutes and defiles all who weld it.  Indeed, the reason Dr. Ron Paul first ran for Congress was because of the end of Bretton Woods, when the dollar lost its last remnant backing to gold.  Dr. Paul was trained in the school of Austrian Economics and he knew that a pure fiat dollar could not last, such that he's been giving the same warning speech for 40+ years.  Some thought he was a prophet, but what's more amazing than clairvoyance was his consistency and integrity to never sell out and never back down from what he knew would be true.

Thus, one can assume that those of us familiar with the Austrian School of Economics are the only ones that understand the inherent problems of fiat currency: how it fuels business cycles and pumps up bubbles that must end in busts.  Under this theory our global government, banking and finance leaders have swallowed their own Kool-aide and actually believe that Keynesianism solutions are solutions, regardless of the logical and historical evidence to the contrary.

But let's explore another option: assume that at least a few people in power are completely aware of the long-run futility of money printing as a panacea.  A few insiders know that the inherent instability of the petro-dollar, the 100+ trillion in unfunded liabilities, etc. will eventually bring economic collapse, with that collapse most likely followed by one last heroic attempt at money printing to result in hyper-inflation.  For those in power, who most certainly want to maintain their power, what should be done with this knowledge?

Knowing that time is running out for the American empire, and perhaps even holding to some bizarre ends-justify-the-means logic of preventing a new uprising of the communist system, those in power would have a very real incentive to institute a police state to ensure that they can maintain their power during a time of economic hysteria.  Dissidents would have to be silenced; revolutionaries would have to be disappeared.  Maybe they got some of their ideas from Punishment Park.  The point is that these police state powers would be unthinkable under the American system of 100 years ago, 50 years ago, or even pre-9/11.  The American people would rebel if these changes were instituted overnight.  But instead, do it slowly, year by year, right-wing administration followed by a left-wing administration, and blame it all on an external threat, the shadowy Muslim extremists in faraway lands.  They will never see it coming.  You can even imagine how a "patriotic American" could be persuaded to assist in such a diabolical plan; after all, the future of "America" depends on it.  A few billion dollars in pay-off and hush-up money wouldn't hurt either.

Conclusion

Whether this was all planned 100 years ago by Cecil Rhodes and Satan or if we're all in the back seat of a car being driven recklessly off a cliff by drunkards who know not what they do, the question remains: what should we do about it?  How do we stop this tragedy of errors where innocent people are murdered by police with official immunity and random cops are in turn murdered by desperate people who see no other way to achieve justice?  Are we destined to stupidly kill each other while the people that put this system in motion, the ones that constructed our Punishment Park, sit back and laugh?

What must be done is education and peaceful non-compliance.  This is not the fast and easy answer, but it is the only chance we have at true success.  We need to reach out to those in uniform and those without state issued costumes.  The nosy neighbor or the parent that calls the cops to deal with an unruly child will certainly learn the folly of their ways when their baby is summarily murdered, but surely this isn't the best or only way to learn this lesson.  Don't call the police unless you absolutely need men with guns - because that's all they are good for.  Similarly, we must reach out to those in uniform and wake them up to the role they are playing in this lose-lose game.

The common thread connecting the 9-1-1-calling-boob and the license-to-kill-carrying meter maid, the root of the problem we face, is the belief in authority.  As demonstrated in Punishment Park, the police and military do not hold themselves accountable for the murders and other crimes they commit while they are in uniform, nor do the member of the citizen tribunal who sentence the innocents to their fate.  As Larkin Rose says, their actions are no longer their own, they have become a part of "authority" such that they are free from the moral responsibility and consequences of their actions.  This myth must be overcome.  It won't be easy, 12-20 years of government school indoctrination has made sure of that, but it is the only possibility of success we have.

The last and most important point that cannot be overstated enough is this: aggressive violence is not the solution.  The state, as defined as the holder of a monopoly on violence, has gotten very good at violence, just as anyone becomes excellent at a particular trade through specialization and practice.  We shouldn't challenge Michael Jordan to a game of basketball or Tiger Woods to a game of golf, not when our lives depend on it.  We cannot win a game of offensive violence with the government, we cannot out-state the state.  The state is the problem; anarcho-capitalism is the answer.

10/30/2014

Government Drug Dealing: from "Kill the Messenger" to "Pinocchio"

“For the better part of a decade, a San Francisco Bay Area drug ring sold tons of cocaine to the Crips and Bloods street gangs of Los Angeles and funneled millions in drug profits to a Latin American guerrilla army run by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, a Mercury News investigation has found.

This drug network opened the first pipeline between Colombia's cocaine cartels and the black neighborhoods of Los Angeles, a city now known as the "crack" capital of the world.  The cocaine that flooded in helped spark a crack explosion in urban America and provided the cash and connections needed for L.A.'s gangs to buy automatic weapons.

It is one of the most bizarre alliances in modern history: the union of a U.S.-backed army attempting to overthrow a revolutionary socialist government and the Uzi-toting "gangstas" of Compton and South-Central Los Angeles."
These are the opening sentences of Gary Webb's three-part series "Dark Alliance: The Story Behind the Crack Explosion".  Published for the San Jose Mercury News, Gary Webb's year long investigation culminated in the "most talked about piece of journalism in 1996".  It was released on the internet at the same time of its print publication, making it one of the first national security stories to "go viral" by bringing the Mercury's website over 1 million hits a day.  "Dark Alliance" prompted congressional hearings by Rep. Maxine Waters, an internal CIA investigation in 1998, and now, 18 years later, a major motion picture starring and produced by Jeremy Renner.

The movie Kill the Messenger is based on the book of the same title by Nick Schou, subtitled How the CIA's Crack-Cocaine Controversy Destroyed Journalist Gary Webb.  In the film, Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner) is cryptically warned by a Washington insider, "They’ll make you the story", and that, more than the CIA-Contra-Cocaine controversy itself, is what the book and movie are about.

In today's era of Snowden's NSA revelations and government distrust at an all-time high, the allegations made in the Mercury series and Gary Webb's follow-up book Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Cocaine Explosion seem almost quaint in comparison.  While it was as early as 1986 that the government publicly acknowledged that cocaine smuggling was funding the CIA-backed Contras, Gary Webb was the first one to answer the question of where that cocaine went and where the money came from.  The answer was found in "Freeway" Rick Ross, the "king of crack" who sold $3 million worth of coke a day, bought 455 kilos a week, and in today's dollar had earnings over 2.5 billion between 1982 and 1989.  Rick Ross was a true entrepreneur in his field.  Unlike typical drug dealers, he didn't get bogged down in petty street rivalry because the whole nation would be his market.  He would introduce himself to other dealers by giving them a kilo for free and then offering them his price that was $10,000 per kilo lower than anyone else, thereby turning all of his would-be competitors into customers.

The reason "Freeway" Rick Ross had a seemingly never-ending supply of the cheapest, purest product was because his supplier was Oscar Danilo Blandón - a protected CIA asset.  Blandón sold cocaine through Nicaraguan kingpin Norwin Meneses and thereby funded the "freedom fighting" Contras against the Sandinista government.  While Webb's investigation sparked outrage across the country and prompted many black leaders to accuse the government of purposefully creating crack to destroy inner city minorities, "Dark Alliance" never claimed anything so conspiratorial. What it claimed, and what the CIA's 1998 investigation later admitted, was that the CIA worked with known criminals as a "means to an end" and merely looked the other way when it came to their drug smuggling activities.

Yet, for such a tame accusation, the major papers of the time unanimously rose against Gary Webb and denounced his reporting, his sources, and his ethics - even making straw man arguments by claiming that he went farther than he did in his accusations.  In the beginning of the attack his editors stood up for him, even writing a letter to the Post saying, "While there is considerable circumstantial evidence of CIA involvement with the leaders of the drug ring, we never reached or reported any definitive conclusion on CIA involvement.  We reported that men selling cocaine in Los Angeles met with people on the CIA payroll.  We reported that the money raised was sent to a CIA-run operation.  But we did not go further."

But soon his editors betrayed him. The Los Angeles Times assigned 17 reporters to join the "Get Gary Webb Team", with Nick Schou writing that some former LA Times writers thought it was their mission not to investigate the allegations but to debunk them, commonly saying "We're going to take away this guy's Pulitzer".  Ultimately, they printed more material attacking "Dark Alliance" than the 20,000 words that comprised the series itself.  When the Mercury editor printed a letter acknowledging that some mistakes were made in "Dark Alliance", it was seen as a full retraction and sealed Gary Webb's fate as a professional journalist.


While many reviews of Kill The Messenger are favorable, often echoing Nick Schou's conclusion that "his big story, despite major flaws of hyperbole abetted and even encouraged by his editors, remains one of the most important works of investigative journalism in recent American history", there are still elements that want to downplay the truth that Gary Webb exposed.

Keeping in the tradition of his former peers at the Washington Post, Jeff Leen, the current assisting managing editor of investigations, says that Gary Webb was "no journalism hero", that an "extraordinary claim requires extraordinary proof", the Hollywood version of the story is "pure fiction" and finally, he believes it "significant" that the 1998 CIA internal investigation "found no CIA relationship with the drug ring Webb had written about."

Of course, Gary Webb addressed this problem of the CIA investigating itself in Dark Alliance.  CIA Inspector General Fred P. Hitz appeared before the House Intelligence Committee in March 1998 and after admitting that the agency did not cut off relationships with drug traffickers that supported the Contra program, he testified "the period of 1982 to 1995 was one in which there was no official requirement to report on allegations of drug trafficking with respect to non-employees of the agency, and they were defined to include agents, assets, non-staff employees".  As Webb explained, "the CIA wouldn't tell and the Justice Department wouldn't ask" - so no wonder the CIA didn't find any relationship to drug traffickers - they didn't have to keep any records!

That such a response from the Post could still be given today reminds me that Walter Pincus, the Washington Post reporter who had been assigned to debunk "Dark Alliance", had collaborated with the CIA in spying operations in the late 1950s and early 1960s and openly written about it.  It's also interesting that in promoting their new film, Focus Features presents an article Unbelieveable but True that details six political conspiracies that "turned out to be true".  The first conspiracy they document is Operation Mockingbird, which details how the CIA recruited and worked with 25 news organizations and 400 journalists to create pro-American propaganda and "help paint the appropriate image of United States foreign policy".

With curious timing, less than two months ago the CIA declassified a six page article titled "Managing a Nightmare: CIA Public Affairs and the Drug Conspiracy Story."  As described by The Intercept, "Dark Alliance" was initially a disaster for the CIA that "could hardly be worse", but luckily, due to “a ground base of already productive relations with journalists", the CIA was able to sit back and watch "with relief as the largest newspapers in the country rescued the agency from disaster, and, in the process, destroyed the reputation of an aggressive, award-winning reporter."

Was it a lucky coincidence that large papers with formal ties and "productive relations" to the CIA came out so aggressively to attack Gary Webb?  It's probably just as much of a coincidence that Gary committed suicide with two shots to the head.  While Nick Schou makes a strong case that Gary Webb killed himself due to depression from his "controversial career-ending story - and the combined resources and dedication of America's three largest and most powerful newspapers" combined with going off anti-depressants, financial woes, and having to move back into his mom's house after being denied by both his ex-wife and ex-girl friend, others view the suicide with understandable skepticism.


According to Alex Jones, he had interviewed Gary Webb a dozen times over the years and reports that months before his death Webb had told him he was "receiving death threats" and was "regularly being followed".  Jones states that Gary Webb was working on a new book that would vindicate his claims and he wanted Jones to build a website to host all of the documentation, similar to how the San Jose Mercury News hosted the material for the original "Dark Alliance" series.  Freeway Rick Ross also recalls Webb speaking about a new book and his gut feeling is that "they killed him, because I think it's pretty hard to shoot yourself in the head twice."  If Jones and Ross are correct, it would be odd timing for Webb to commit suicide on the verge of publishing a new book and building a website to reclaim his reputation, but it would be the perfect time to be murdered.

When reflecting on his expulsion from the journalistic community, Gary realized that the reason he'd had prior success wasn't because he was a careful and diligent reporter, but because he "hadn't written anything important enough to suppress".  If Gary Webb had gone deeper down the rabbit hole there would have been no limit to the amount of additional evidence he could have found establishing the relationship between the CIA and drug dealers across the world.  There is so much information to be found that the film Kill the Messenger, far from being an exaggeration, is just the tip of the iceberg and doesn't go far enough.  Instead, when taking the evidence in its entirety, the reality we face is a nightmare scenario only found in a children's tale.

CIA Cocaine Trafficking Collaboration

The documentation and allegations of CIA drug trafficking are legion, so where to begin?  We could start with former Panama leader General Manual Noriega's decades of drug-trafficking under CIA protection that only ended when his connection became a PR liability.  Venezuelan General Ramon Guillen Davila was another CIA asset that smuggled tons of cocaine into the US with CIA approval.  In more recent times, the Costa Rica Star reported on a curious shipment of 24 tons of cocaine that was loaded onto a U.S Air force transport aircraft in route to Miami.  In the category of poetic irony, two blemishes in the history of the CIA collided on September 24, 2007 when a CIA torture plane ran out of fuel over the Mexican Yucatan Peninsula.  Jet aircraft #N987SA, known to have been used on at least 3 rendition flights to Guantanamo's torture chambers, was carrying 3.6 tons of cocaine when it crashed.  How embarrassing when the "logistical coordinator" for a top Mexican drug-trafficking gang that was responsible for purchasing the jet told the U.S. District Court in Chicago that he had been a government asset for the DOJ, DEA, FBI, ICE and Homeland Security since 2004.

These examples are noteworthy for their historical legitimacy, but there are plenty of other whistle-blowers that directly confirmed Gary Webb's accusations of the CIA's cocaine complicity.  When the black community of South Central L.A. was at its height of unrest over the "Dark Alliance" revelations, CIA Director John Deutch made an unprecedented move by going directly to L.A. and speaking at a town meeting.  His plan to placate their concerns and promise that he'd "get to the bottom of this" fell to pieces when he was confronted by former Los Angeles Police Department officer Michael Ruppert.  Ruppert told Deutch that "the agency has dealt drugs throughout this country for a long time" and referenced three specific agency operations - the crowd went wild, chanting "we told you".

Another whistle-blower tied to Gary Webb was former DEA agent Celerino Castillo III.  Castillo spent 12 years at the DEA where he assembled and trained anti-narcotics teams in several countries and raided drug rings from New York to the Amazon.  But it all came to an end one day in El Salvador when he was given a tip to investigate possible drug smuggling by Nicaraguan Contras.  As documented in his book Powderburns: Cocaine, Contras & The Drug War, Castillo discovered that the Contra pilots were smuggling cocaine using the same pilots, planes, and hangers as the CIA.  He thoroughly documented dates, places, names and DEA file numbers, bringing his superiors reams of evidence warranting a full scale investigation.  Instead of being commended he was told to back off.  When he kept going he was reprimanded and then placed under an Internal Affairs investigation that would help destroy his marriage, his career, and nearly his life.

Someone that would not succeed in escaping this controversy with his life was suspected CIA agent Barry Seal, infamously known as "the most successful drug smuggler in American history, who died in a hail of bullets with George Bush's private phone number in his wallet."  According to Daniel Hopsicker's Barry & 'the boys': The CIA, the Mob, and America's Secret History, Seal had an active role in scandals such as the Bay of Pigs, the Kennedy assassination, and Watergate - but his most well-known and undisputed role was in the Iran-Contra Affair.  Seal owned and operated numerous planes out of the CIA cocaine drop point at the municipal airport of Mena, Arkansas.  This included the plane used in the DEA sting operation against Pablo Escobar and other members of the Medellín Cartel to implicate the Nicaraguan Sandinista government.  In the height of hypocrisy, one month after Seal was murdered, one of the photographs that Seal took was paraded on television by Reagan to suggest that top Sandinista government officials were involved with drug smuggling in order to boost support for the Contras.

When the IRS came to seize Seal's property and claimed that he owed back taxes for 30 million made in drug dealing, Seal's response was a presumptuous "Hey, I work for you… we work for the same people!".  When that didn't work, he started making threats that "If you don't get these IRS assholes off my back I'm going to blow the whistle on the Contra scheme."  One week after that conversation he was sentenced to a halfway house as a condition of his plea bargain, making him an easy target.  Within two weeks he was dead, shot to death in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on February 19, 1986.

Another CIA asset that knew Barry Seal, worked with him, and confirms his drug dealing and money laundering activities was former Air Force Intelligence operative Terry Reed.  In Reed's book Compromised: Clinton, Bush, and the CIA, he documents how he was recruited into the Contra operation by Oliver North himself.  Reed was initially recruited as a pilot instructor to train the Contra pilots at rural airstrips in Mena, Arkansas.  His last tour of duty was in South East Asia to equip the Cambodians to fight a covert war - a skill set that was very transferable for the Contra operation.

At Mena, Reed was introduced to Barry Seal, who he was told was the CIA contractor who had the contract work to equip the Contras.  Reed was told that George Bush himself was overseeing the project to insulate the executive branch from constitutional violations and he even encountered then Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton during this time.  Barry Seal told Reed that more than $9 million a week was dropped from planes at Mena that were laundered through an investment banking firm with direct ties to Clinton.  But where did that money come from?

For two years Reed didn't understand that question.  He worked with the Contras "with blinders on" until one day in 1987 when he came face to face with a C130 filled with tons of cocaine stored in ammo crates.  Like others before and after him, Reed asked for a full-scale investigation that went directly to Oliver North, causing him to be labeled a "security risk" and a threat to the operation.  While Oliver North is a well known key player in Iran -Contra, Reed was the one to go on record putting George Bush and Bill Clinton squarely in the middle of the CIA-Cocaine-Contra-Arkansas loop.  When Hillary Clinton said that we can't legalize drugs because "There is just too much money in it", Reason magazine assumed it was because she didn't understand how drug prohibition itself causes the high prices.  But instead, maybe Hillary meant exactly what she said.

The Politics and Money of Heroin

Suffice to say, the Washington Post and the Las Angeles Times didn't find the CIA-cocaine testimonies of Michael Ruppert, Celerino Castillo III, Barry Seal, or Terry Reed compelling enough to corroborate Gary Webb's "Dark Alliance".  However, these individuals were making claims far more bold than Gary Webb ever did.  Instead of pointing to agents that "looked the other way", they had direct knowledge of the CIA-Contra-Cocaine policy being run by the highest levels of power, from the director of the CIA all the way to the presidency.

Taking a step back on the conspiracy spectrum, we can review the work of Alfred W. McCoy, a well-respected academic who holds his Ph.D in Southeast Asian history from Yale University.  In McCoy's voluminous work The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, he goes through great lengths to document his thesis that organized crime throughout American and Europe collaborated over several decades to establish new centers of opium production, heroin refining, and distribution in Southeast Asia that was often aided and accelerated by the CIA.  His detail-oriented book is known as the first to prove CIA and U.S. government complicity in global drug trafficking, something that even CIA mockingbird papers can't deny.

McCoy writes,
"Looking back on the forty years of the cold war, it is clear that the CIA's four major covert wars transformed tribal warlords into major drug lords and protected covert assets from criminal investigation.  Under the pragmatic policy of accepting any ally effective against Communism, the CIA used tribal leaders for proxy warfare in the mountains of Asia, unconcerned when these same warlords used its protection to become drug lords.  In the history of drug trafficking during the cold war, there is repeated coincidence between CIA covert assets and major dealers."
In the 1950's you find the CIA working with the Corsican Mafia to fight communism at the expense of strengthening them as they became America's leading heroin supplier.  At the same time, two of the CIA's covert wars developed the Golden Triangle drug trade, giving arms and logistics support to the Nationalist Chinese (KMT) in Burma that turned the region into the worlds largest opium producer.  The same thing happened in Laos during the Vietnam War, with the CIA working with opium-growing Hmong tribesmen and Laotian generals to create heroin laboratories and direct routes to ready buyers, first to the U.S. forces in South Vietnam and next to the U.S. domestic market.  Into the 1980's the CIA's support for Afghan guerrillas aligned with Central Asia becoming the major heroin supplier - and we've already heard enough about the Nicaraguan cocaine trade.

For McCoy, he looks at this legacy of CIA complicity and finds plausible answers that ring of the theme "the ends justify the means":
"American drug agents, with limited budgets and side arms, tracked the drug flow as it moved toward America, occasionally intercepting a shipment but never approaching the source…
...
Their ultimate enemies in this war on drugs were … ruled … with the arms and support of the CIA and its allied agencies.  In the invisible bureaucratic battle for these strategic highlands, the DEA's weak, distant attempts at drug interdiction were overwhelmed by the CIA's direct alliances with drug lords.
...
Critics who look for the CIA's agents to actually dirty their hands with drugs in the line of duty are missing the point.  Under its covert warfare doctrine, the CIA avoided direct involvement in combat and instead worked through local clients whose success determined the outcome of the agency's operation.  The CIA's involvement thus resolves around tolerance for, or even complicity in, drug dealing by its covert action assets - not, in most instances, any direct culpability."
McCoy's magnum opus ends in several key questions: Was the agency ever allied with drug traffickers, did the CIA protect these allies from prosecution, and did the CIA's alliances with drug lords contribute significantly to the expansion of the global drug trade?  To those three questions, he gives a resounding yes, beyond any doubt.  When it comes to the question of, "did the CIA encourage cocaine smugglers to target African-American communities", McCoy takes a queue from Gary Webb:
"Instead of targeting downstream drug flow, the CIA, in its mission myopia, simply ignored it.  The agency's complicity in the drug traffic was an inadvertent consequence of its tactics of indirect intervention through paramilitary operations.
...
Whatever the global impact of CIA covert warfare might have been, the agency's alliances with drug lords has left, in the aftermath of the cold war, a domestic legacy of illegality, suspicion, and racial division.  From their mission myopia, CIA agents fighting secret wars in Laos, Pakistan, and Central America seemed to regard narcotics as mere "fallout" - even when the victims were U.S. soldiers in South Vietnam or Americans in the inner cities."
Apparently, as if 60 years of CIA complicity in drug-trafficking wasn't enough, the fallout must continue.  This year, publications such as Business Insider and the Guardian have reported the embarrassing statistic that, despite spending over $7 billion on counter-narcotics efforts since 2001, opium cultivation is at an all-time high in American-occupied Afghanistan.


So let's get this straight.  In July of 2000 the Taliban declared growing poppies un-Islamic and led one of the most successful anti-drug campaigns of all time, resulting in a reduction of 99% of the opium poppy farming and cutting off roughly three quarters of the world's supply of heroin.  Next comes a supposed attack by men mainly from Saudi Arabia on 9/11, so we do the logical thing and invade Afghanistan.  According to McCoy, it's an unfortunate coincidence that given we had to fight the Taliban we had to ally with regional warlords that just happened to be the country's top drug pushers - and then we're off to the races.  Afghanistan's opium cultivation and heroin production were revived as if the 1 year drought had never happened and now we're seeing all time highs - an “unprecedented” 523,000 acres of opium poppy in 2013.

If that isn't enough to get you thinking, recall the bizarre Geraldo interview of Marines openly guarding the opium fields of Afghanistan.  Geraldo reports that if the U.S forces were to destroy the opium then "the population would turn against the Marines".  But don't worry, they are confident that providing the local Afghans with resources and alternatives will help them grow things like wheat, watermelon and cucumber.  What a "dilemma" they are in, we should all feel sympathy for that Marine because guarding the opium just "grinds in his guts".  Who could have guessed that instead of having record bumper crops of cucumbers we are setting a record in heroin production?

Follow the money and it's pretty easy to guess.  With Afghanistan now producing more than 80% of the worlds opium and the estimated value approaching $3 billion, you have to ask where all that money is going.  Are Afghan drug lords putting it all under their mattresses?  No - worldwide drug organizations launder their billions through the largest banks and any google search will find countless examples of bankers admitting to money laundering on massive scales with hardly a slap on the wrist in response.

In April of 2006 when a DC-9 jet was seized by Mexican soldiers with 5.7 tons of cocaine valued at $100 million, the real prize was the paper trail exposing banking complicity in laundering billions of dollars.  The investigation ended with Wachovia settling the biggest action ever brought under the US bank secrecy act, paying a measly $100 million in forfeiture and a $50 million fine when the bank was sanctioned for transferring some $378 billion dollars without applying the anti-laundering regulations.  That's almost half a trillion dollars, one-third of Mexico's gross national product, and they paid a fine less than 2% of the bank's 2009 profit.  To make matters more humiliating, Wachovia was then acquired by Wells Fargo during the 2008 crash as it gobbled up $25 billion in taxpayer money for the Wall Street bail out.

This is hardly the only example of large banks getting caught with billions of drug dealer money.  HSBC paid a hefty $1.9 billion fine to settle money laundering accusations after a Senate report alleged they were "playing fast and loose with U.S. banking rules" and doing business with Mexican drug lords, with their affiliate HSBC Bank Mexico going through $7 billion in a single year.

Citigroup was hit with enforcement actions for breakdowns in money laundering but they were able to get away without admitting wrong doing.  Citibank had $1.8 million seized from drug dealer accounts after a massive undercover money laundering investigation, but only after Citibank had moved $300 million through their accounts known to be tied to Mexican drug dealers because they "had not realized that anything might be amiss".

Whole books are dedicated to the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), which takes the title of "the outlaw bank" and "the dirtiest bank of all".  What a surprise that there are indications that CIA officials were involved in the founding of BCCI, with Alfred McCoy pointing to evidence that "the boom in the Pakistan drug trade was financed by BCCI".

But where would we be without one last "ends justifies the means" argument.  The UN's drug and crime chief says that during the height of the banking crisis of 2008 $325 billion in drug money was laundered by the major banks and kept the financial system afloat.  It was "the only liquid investment capital available" to those fine institutions of the public good.  So not only do we need the CIA working with drug dealers to fight our covert wars but we need that drug money to keep our banking system propped up too!  If it weren't for the millions of lives that are absolutely ruined in the drug war, you'd think there was no down side to this story.

Who Benefits, Who Suffers?

Far off in Washington, sitting at the top of their would-be world empire, our leaders look down on us common folk with pity.  How could we understand the tough choices that must be made?  To cook an omelet you have to break some eggs. What's more important, stopping a nuclear 9/11 or allowing a few more kilos of cocaine or heroin to hit America's streets?  As Dick Cheney said, "We have to work the dark side, if you will.  We’ve got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world...  It’s going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal to achieve our objective."

As McCoy concluded in The Politics of Heroin, we have two choices, "We can either deny the agency the authority to conduct covert operations, or we can accept that these missions will involve the CIA in criminal alliances that may well compromise some future war on drugs."

So let's assume that we accept the premise that our national interest extends across the globe in a way that forces our highest government officials to work side-by-side empowering, collaborating, and protecting the largest world-wide drug trafficking networks.  I get it, "drugs are bad", but there are other ways for society to deal with vices.  What really keeps us from having a rational discussion about prohibition and ending the hypocrisy where a government asset can do one thing with total impunity but someone without a special badge can do the same thing and have his life absolutely ruined?  If we are a nation of laws and not of men, then this schizophrenic policy must not continue.

As documented in books like Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces and A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, we've gone from a country raised on Andy Griffith and "peace officers" to battle-hardened "law enforcement" troops - and this change could never have happened without the specter of the drug war.  Today we have 80,000 SWAT teams raids per year, some 220 per day.  They were sold to Americans as the necessary response to Uzi-toting gang-bangers, but now they are in 80% of small towns across the country.

The personal examples of how the drug war utterly destroys innocent families are endless and horrifying.  "Smoke a joint, Lose your Kids", says the Huffington Post.  We're not talking about child abusers here, these are parents that are using legally prescribed medical marijuana to treat diseases like epilepsy and multiple sclerosis only to have their children kidnapped by CPS workers that are far more likely to abuse them.

Her name was Alexandria Hill
One particularly horrible example recently took place in Round Rock, Texas.  The parents of Alexandria Hill made the biggest mistake of their lives when they admitted that they had smoked some pot after putting her to bed.  For his act of "neglectful supervision" the Texas CPS stole her away and put her in foster care.  While the Hill's maintained that Alex had never been hurt, abused, or gone to the hospital while with her family, the first home the state put her in quickly had her coming to her visitations covered with bruises.  The next home they put her in would be her last, as she would be air-lifted to a hospital where she would later die due to blunt force trauma to the head.  Ironically, an investigation into the foster parents revealed the foster father himself had been twice convicted of selling marijuana.

Her name was Rachel Hoffman
Consider the story of Rachel Hoffman.  She was a bright young lady, having just completed her bachelor's degree from Florida State University.  She smoked marijuana occasionally and her troubles started when she was arrested for having some weed during a traffic stop.  Months later her apartment was searched and revealed more government-trafficked contraband which prompted the police to give her a choice: turn over other dealers or face the wrath of the state.  They eventually pressured her into participating in a drug sting, giving her $13,000 in cash to purchase 1,500 pills of ecstasy.  Scared out of her mind, with no training or supervision, her attempt at playing secret agent with the police got her summarily executed by the dealers, her body discarded in a ditch fifty miles away.

The children of John Horner
Finally, in a story that the Atlantic called "a heartbreaking drug sentence of staggering idiocy", you have all the elements of injustice come together: a first time "offender", entrapment by a police informant, and a zero-tolerance jail sentence.  John Horner, a 46-year-old fast-food worker, was legally prescribed painkillers for an eye he lost in 2000. When a "friend" related the pain he was under and asked for help, John agreed to sell him some of his pills.  The "friend" was a police informant and John was sentenced to 25 years in prison.  He has three children and he will be 72 when he's released.

It may be the stories of untimely deaths of the innocent that tug at the heart strings and stir our sensibilities the most, but it's arguable that serving 25 years, 25 years, is a far worse fate.  But at least with a 25 year sentence Mr. Horner can dream of the day when he'll see his children all grown up with families of their own.  For many others they have no hope at all.  A 24 year-old named Tyler was given life without parole for mailing LSD to a friend and he is one of thousands of examples of nonviolent drug offenders that will spend their entire lives behind bars.  An ACLU report reviewed 646 life sentences and instead of finding murderers and rapists, 83% of the time they found nonviolent "criminals".  The ACLU shakes their heads at the waste of it all, $1.8 billion in cost to the tax payers to house 3,278 such inmates.  But is it a waste?  To whom?  Where is that money going?

This is where the individual parts of the government drug running conspiracy come together, as it all begins to make a kind of sick sense: Private Prisons.  As reported by non-US media, America enjoys Chinese style labor camps from coast to coast, bringing the stockholders of America's for-profit prison industry a healthy return on investment with a cheap and readily available workforce.  They aren't just making license plates.  During a time of high unemployment, millions of prisoners are performing slave labor for companies like Chevron, Bank of America, AT&T, Starbucks and Walmart in a variety of industries such as "making office furniture, working in call centers, fabricating body armor, taking hotel reservations, working in slaughterhouses, or manufacturing textiles, shoes, and clothing".

That's right, the next time you call customer support for a company or government agency you're probably talking to a poor soul that's behind bars for possession of government-run narcotics.  The Fed calls it "the best-kept secret in outsourcing", making hundreds of millions a year with their 75-year-old "Federal Prison Industries" program that deceptively markets itself through company names like Unicor.

When the inmates of private prisons aren't busy raising Tilapia fish for Whole Foods, they enjoy extracurricular activities such as getting raped, being placed in solitary confinement for weeks and months at a time, beatings by security guards, fighting off giant rat infestations, and eventually resorting to madness or suicide.  The best part is if the cops aren't catching enough people using government-run drugs then the private prison corporations can always pay off the judges to keep their prisons full and their profits up.  The documentary Kids for Cash relates one such instance where a Pennsylvania Judge was caught and sentenced to 28 years for accepting more than $2 million in bribes for jailing over 3,000 juveniles - some only 10 years old.

Conclusion - The True Story of Pinocchio

Just like when I woke up and saw how 100 different puzzle pieces only formed a coherent picture when taken together, watching Kill the Messenger in isolation may result in one walking away with the feeling that the story of government drug-dealing must be exaggerated.  Sure, there may be a few bad apples, but let's not throw the baby out with the bath water.  Instead, take a look at decades of government complicity, collaboration and encouragement of worldwide drug-dealing, from the forests of Nicaragua to the mountains of Afghanistan.  Think of the hundreds of billions of dollars of drug money laundered through the largest and most prestigious banks on the planet.  Contemplate the additional billions spent by tax payers to "fight" a hopeless war that does nothing to stop drugs, but if anything just takes out the government's small-time competition in the drug-dealing business.  Finally, review the network of industries making hundreds of millions in building jails, housing inmates, and profiting off of their slave labor.  Taken together, this is something so diabolical it only belongs at the doorstep of a shadowy group like the Illuminati.

Our predicament is so awesome in its scope and sinister in its consequences that it's easier to grasp by relating it to a children's tale.  In the movie Pinocchio, the young puppet is lured away from his loving father and the guidance of his conscience to a place called Pleasure Island.  Here, Pinocchio can drink, smoke, gamble and engage in other vices with his peers without a care in the world.  But the owner of Pleasure Island, the one who encourages the children to engage in vices, the one who runs the "drugs" of Pleasure Island, he's not providing this service from the good of his heart.  No, this enterprise is going to make the owner a lot of money.  Once the children have crossed the line and tasted of his forbidden fruit a magic spell transforms the helpless boys into donkeys.  After their metamorphosis is complete they are stripped of their human remnants, packed into crates, and shipped to the salt mines by shadowy figures to work and die - all for the benefit of the owner and all according to his master plan.

If there is one honest and effective anti-drug PSA out there it would be this: don't do drugs because it's a TRAP.  The criminals that run the planet ship the drugs, launder the money and handsomely profit when the legal system catches drug users and turns them into slaves.  Don't do drugs: don't become a jackass like the prisoners of Pleasure Island.

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