Hosted by Dean Becker

Engineered by Philip Guffy

Transcript by Diana Hajer



Guest:  Doug Valentine, author of The Strength of the Wolf, The Secret History of America’s War on Drugs.


(Audio Track) Intro – My name is Dean Becker; Steve Nolin is our engineer.  We invite you to join us as we examine the unvarnished truth about the drug war.


Dean:     Welcome to Cultural Baggage.  Our guest tonight will be Doug Valentine.  He is the author of The Strength of the Wolf, The Secret History of America’s War on Drugs.  I wanted to make note of that little extract you heard after our intro was “Dark Alliances,” a tribute to Gary Webb.  It’s by Skidmark Bob out of Radio Free Santa Cruz, one of our new Drug Truth Network affiliates.  Let’s see, we’re going to bring in Doug here in just a minute.  But first up, let’s go ahead and do our Poppygate report.


Poppygate, bizzare news about the U.S. policy on controlling heroin, featuring Glenn Greenway:  “On November 30 the Afghan government received assurances from U.S. and British officials that they have "never in the past and will never in the future" support any aerial eradication of Afghanistan's poppy fields.

Meanwhile, in Colombia, anti-narcotics police, financed by the U.S., have sprayed more than 500 square miles of coca and poppy in 2004; a new record.

In Afghanistan, on December 6, the British counter-narcotics minister watched Afghan officials burn tons of illegal drugs, including 200 kg of heroin, at a ceremony outside Kabul.

However, shortly before Christmas, the British Department of Health warned that medical heroin supplies could run out within weeks causing patient suffering. The National Health Service has been urged to conserve.

Afghanistan's finance minister, Ashraf Ghani, wrote in a New York Times guest editorial on December 11 that "many Afghans believe that it is not drugs, but an ill-conceived war on drugs that threatens their economy and nascent democracy."

A few days later, Dr. Ghani was fired as President Karzai announced his new cabinet.

This is Glenn Greenway reporting for the Drug Truth Network.”


Dean:   I do believe we have on-line now our guest, Doug Valentine.  Doug, can you hear me?


Valentine:  Yes, I can hear you.  Can you hear me?


Dean:   I hear you just fine, Doug.  Welcome, welcome.  Yes, Doug, as it always was, as it always shall be, there is always conflicting interest in this war on drugs.  Tell us a little bit about this new book of yours, The Strength of the Wolf.


Valentine:  Well, mine’s a history book, and it goes back to 1930 with the creation of the Bureau of Narcotics – the Federal Bureau of Narcotics – and traces the history of that organization until it was dissolved in 1968.


Dean:   Doug, if I could get you to perhaps just hold your phone a little bit more distant.  I have read your book, I think, thoroughly.  I have kind of jumped around and read the beginning, the end, and the middle.  But it’s all over the place.  For decades on end this drug war has moved around to the various nations of the world, been controlled and influenced through the Mafia, and the Vietnamese, and etc.  Give us, if you will, a snapshot.  What is it that goes on?  What is afoot here?


Valentine:  Well, let me give you an example.  In 1960 the CIA formed – the CIA had what is called its Division D.  Division D was the unit of the CIA in its counterintelligence – actually foreign intelligence – branch that went out and captured early spies and got their code books and all that kind of stuff.  And hidden within that was a unit run by a guy named Bill Harvey.  And within that unit there was a secret assassination program.  Because the CIA is boxes within boxes within boxes, just like American foreign policy is boxes within boxes within boxes.  And when it got right down to this assassination program that was hidden in there, the people that Bill Harvey hired to get assassins were agents of the Bureau of Narcotics, and the people that they hired as assassins were Corsican drug smugglers.  So what you have is at the very heart of America’s espionage establishment, of its secret wars around the world, at the very heart of it you have drug trafficking, drug trafficking agents, drug traffickers, CIA agents, all mixed up together in the underworld milieu where people change identities, where they cross borders illegally, where they smuggle things, all sorts of things, across borders.  And they all do it illegally; and because they do it illegally, they have to have a cover.  This is what the book is about.  It’s about the relationship between drug smuggling, espionage, and how there’s actually secret policies that control where our country is going as opposed to its stated policies.


Dean:   Now, a couple of week’s back, a reporter, Gary Webb, was reported to have committed suicide.  And many had in the beginning said he was off base; said he was totally wrong.  But as time has gone by, it’s been proven that he was pretty much on the money.  Do you want to talk about that aspect?


Valentine:  Well, yes.  Gary Webb was exactly right.  What he did was he just uncovered one facet of what is going on.  I mean, the piece of the puzzle that he exposed gave America at the end of the 20th Century a real window into what is happening; and so that window was closed up very fast when Cynthia McKinney and other people started trying to look through it.  But what Gary Webb exposed was just a fraction of what is happening.  If you take Gary Webb and you multiply it by a 100, then you have a good idea of what is really going on.  I mean just last week, somebody sent me an e-mail with an article about how the Pentagon is divided whether or not it wants to suppress opium production in Afghanistan.  Because they know if they go after the warlords that are in the CIAs employ, they won’t be able to create a puppet government.  So they have actually come out and stated publically – the Pentagon – that it is divided on whether or not it wants to prosecute the war on drugs in Afghanistan.  Because it’s a puppet regime that relies on drug smuggling for its existence; and that has been the case with America secretly forming alliances with countries that relied on drug smuggling since the 1920s.  And that’s one of the things my book does, is it traces that history of how beginning with Nationalist China starting in 1927, the United States has always formed secret alliances with nations that relied on drug smuggling.


Dean:   In many instances within your book, I see there are times when the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, at that timeframe, would be doing an investigation and source down a shipment of heroin and determine that they are actually going after people within the CIA and having to back down.  That happens quite often.


Valentine:  That happens a lot in this book, and one of the agents actually said that every big case he made, at some point he ended up stumbling on the CIA.  But the biggest – the part of my book that focuses on this most intensely – is the part about the French Connection, where, especially starting in 1962, Federal narcotics agents realized that an American labor leader names Irving Brown was actually involved with Corsican drug traffickers.  And this was – all of a sudden, they started doing an investigation and they found out that going back to right after World War II, this guy Irving Brown, representing the AFL, had gone over to Europe and had actually hired Corsican drug smugglers to smash Communist labor unions that were organizing in France after the war.  This set a precedent and a pattern that would be followed and is visible throughout the entire so-called French Connection, which is actually many, many cases.  Where any time the Bureau of Narcotics was on the verge of making a big French Connection case, or every time they did make a French Connection case, the specter of the CIA would show up behind the scenes, and all of a sudden certain leads that it wanted to follow would just disappear or the CIA would come over and just take over the case.  And this happened so much that the agents just eventually took it for granted and lots of times didn’t even take it seriously anymore.  Or actually, because they knew that the CIA was screwing around, they became corrupt themselves; because when your government is behaving badly, clandestinely, it sends a message, and that message has been received loud and clear by most DEA agents today, too.  That the whole war on drugs is basically a hoax, and so a lot of them are just in it for their own self aggrandizement.


Dean:   Now speaking of the history, I mean, whether it’s Fidel Castro, Che Gueverra, the Sandinistas, the Contras, the Vietnam war, the involvement with Laos and Cambodia – it’s everywhere, is it not?  I mean, every international conflict –


Valentine:  Yeah, everywhere that people need guns.  This is sort of the simple formula:  anywhere where people need guns, there’s drugs.  Because if you’re a counterrevolutionary, and you’ve got to raise money to get guns to fight your revolution, you have got to do it illegally.  And there is no more profitable way of making a bundle real fast than dealing drugs.  On the other hand, if you are fighting a counterinsurgency and you want to keep it off the books, it’s the same thing.  So all the dirty wars that are fought in this world are funded through illegal sources, and very often it’s narcotics, and the best – in researching this book, in talking with lots and lots of narcotic agents who served overseas, almost all of them said that their best informants were gun smugglers; you know, who were able to – who were at that end of the drug smuggling network, and then would have information on all the drug smugglers.  So those two things go hand in hand.


Dean:   Now, Doug, from one of our earlier discussions, you’re one of the few guests that I feel comfortable in talking about the nexus if you will between the war on terror and the war on drugs.  How one is kind of piggybacked one on the other.  And I’ll tell you what, we are going to take our midpoint break, and we’ll be back in just a few minutes.


            Speaker 1:  So, what’s that you’re holding?  The Controlled Substances Act?


            Speaker 2:  Controlled Substances Act?  Brilliant! What do you do with it?


            Speaker 1:  Oh, I found a way to incarcerate 1.6 millions Americans every year.


            Speaker 2:  Can you arrest them in their own homes, wherever they are?


            Speaker 1:  Yes!


Speaker 2:  Arrest people wherever they are!  Brilliant!  What else you working on?


            Speaker 1:  Finding that marijuana is more dangerous than crack!


            Speaker 2:  More dangerous than crack!  Brilliant!  Brilliant!


            Prohibition is a drug trafficker’s dream.  They enjoy it everywhere.




Dean:            Discover the unvarnished truth at the Marijuana Policy Project,


            It’s time to play “Name That Drug By Its Side Effects”:  skin inflammation, loss of strength, chills, fever, insomnia, anxiety, nervousness, agitation, abnormal dreams, drowsiness, fatigue, excessive sweating, nausea, disturbances of appetite, diarrhea, weight loss, muscle pain, back pain, joint pain, urinary tract infections, painful menstruation, sexual dysfunction, euphoria, hostility, amnesia, and, according to last week’s British Medical Journal, an increased risk of suicide.  Time’s up.  The answer:  Prozac, another FDA-approved product.




            Okay, that closing bit there was an extract for a production put together by Nora Callahan, the director of the prison rights group,  You are listening to Cultural Baggage on the Drug Truth Network.  Our guest tonight is Douglas Valentine, author of the Strength of the Wolf, The Secret History of America’s War on Drugs.  Doug, the correlation, the nexus, if you will, between the war on terror and the war on drugs, do you want to talk on that point?


Valentine:  Yes, please.  Can I make 10 points that might take a little bit of time?


Dean:   Well, sure, help yourself, Doug.


Valentine:  Okay, well first of all, drug enforcement was unique in Federal law enforcement because it was the only branch where agents actually created a crime – that they went undercover, into the criminal milieu, they assumed the identity of a criminal, and they lied and they stole, they cheated.  If they had to, they would bump somebody off – in order to get involved with the highest levels of the Mafia so that they could make these big narcotics cases.  So at the end of the day, they came back home and they thought that they could hang up, you know, like they could hang up their coat, this ethic that they had adopted.  But they couldn’t.  And so what happened is that narcotic law enforcement became incredibly morally and ethically complex.  It was not a simple law enforcement effort of good and bad; in fact it was deemed worse than the people you were going after.  And they brought this ethic into the government.  And it was very effective because when they wanted to – to go overseas and grab a drug trafficker who had never set foot in the United States, right?  This is a guy who is in France, or he is in South America, and he’s dealing drugs.  But he has never been to the United States.  They devised laws to be able to just go out and kidnap these guys.  And indict them in the United States.  Go out, kidnap them, bring them back, like bounty hunters.  And that was the first branch of government that did that and so this is what you see today as sort of the legal precedent for the war on terror in which we are going overseas and we are grabbing people who have done something to us although they have never been here and we are indefinitely detaining them and torturing them and doing all sorts of horrible things to them.  And so in that sense, drug law enforcement is the precedent of the war on terror.  But then there is this other broader sense.  And I also think that America is schizophrenic.  It’s a conflicted country.  It’s the world’s biggest consumer of illicit narcotics, and yet it blames everybody else in the world for its habit.  So here you have a country which has the largest demand and rather than handling its problem itself, it uses its demand problem, its own habit, as a pretext – and this again is where we get into the idea of a stated policy versus a secret policy – it uses its own problem as a pretext to go overseas; and we are talking about a country whose CIA has a budget that’s bigger than the gross national product of most countries.  Even the DEA has a budget that is bigger than most country’s.  And America feels threatened, so threatened by everybody in the world, that it is waging this war on terror, globally, and it just doesn’t make sense.  It’s this total contradiction that allows it to also criminalize marijuana, to perpetrate myths like “marijuana is a stepping stone to heroin.”  Because the war on drugs becomes not just a pretext for the war on terror, it becomes a pretext for America deluding itself about what it is and who it is and it is almost as if Americans are on a pseudo-LSD high and hallucinating and yet at the same time, behind it is this very rational, logical, Darwinian plan to conquer the world.


Dean:   Doug, I kind of want to draw a parallel to something you stated a moment ago. These surreptitious killings, if you want to call them that, they are still going on.  I don’t know how widely it got reported, but here in Texas in the border towns last year, there were some dozen or so killings.  Some that were reported on almost live to the DEA as they occurred.  The justification, if you will, I guess for these killings, that it might stop drugs, was enough that there was not that much done about it.


Valentine:  This is nothing new.  I’ve talked with narcotics agents who worked in New York City in the 50s and the 60s.  It was nothing – and I mean this bluntly, frankly – it was nothing for these guys to go out and shoot somebody dead, and the NYPD to show up.  And these Federal narcotics agents were just so feared and so ruthless, and also they had such immunity from – just a free pass to do whatever they wanted – so the cops just – even if they were there and witnessed these Federal agents shooting somebody dead, it just became an unsolved homicide.  I mean, it’s been going on for years.  It goes on in every major city in the country.  It’s not just on the borders.  It’s not just overseas.  It’s right here at home, and it happens all the time.  And I know it.  It’s a fact.


Dean:   It does, indeed, Doug.  Another parallel I wanted to draw, you were talking about how we somehow justify going after these terrorists because they might have chemical weapons, a threat to our society.  And I have been trying to draw that same parallel for the last 3 years – that now for 90 years, we have been going after people who possess chemical weapons that are so dangerous they might be a threat to our society.  And of course, those chemical weapons I am speaking of, they are drugs.  We have been using those same tactics, as you said, for lo these 90 years.


Valentine:  Yes, weapons of mass destruction.  And it’s a fact that there was this really fabulous character named Harry Anslinger who was the commissioner of the Bureau of Narcotics from 1930 to 1962.  And this guy made a career out of saying that Red China had a secret plan to poison the minds of America’s youth with heroin.  And he actually went to Congressional committees and convinced them, the Internal Security Committee, that Red China, which they called the People’s Republic of China, was behind all the heroin that was coming into the United States.  And he actually had – of course these people were predisposed to believe him – but they believed that Red China was waging psychological warfare against the United States, and they used it as a pretext for keeping the People’s Republic of China out of the U.N. for 20 years.  You know, ridiculous, and how unbelievably stupid rationales, which in the context of the Cold War were believable.  Those same things are happening today.  The public is believing the same sort of crazy myths, since the American public’s mind was molded by this phony war on drugs that’s been going on for years and years and years, because if you will believe that, you’ll believe anything.


Dean:   Isn’t that the truth?  One other thought I wanted to address.  The safe houses.  These test facilities, if you will.  Talk about that, if you will.


Valentine:  Well, when the CIA – even before the CIA – when the OSS wanted to illegally test drugs in the United States on American citizens, it went to the Bureau of Narcotics to set up safe houses and to provide agents.  The whole program, which was called MK Ultra, really went into high gear in late 1952 when the CIA decided it wanted to test LSD on Americans.  And so again, they went to Anslinger, and Anslinger turned over a couple of his star agents and they set up safe houses around the country.  And these Bureau of Narcotics agents would have their informants, all of whom were involved in all matter of vice – prostitution and stag shows and all that kind of stuff – and they would grab people from the underworld and bring them into these safe houses and they would give them LSD and watch them.  But they were also experimenting on industrialists and people from all spectrums of society because the CIA wanted to see how LSD would affect anybody.  Eventually, they figured out how to use LSD and they turned these safe houses into places where they could actually blackmail congressmen, politicians; where they could turn enemy agents into double agents.  I mean, it just became this incredibly huge expansive operation where – when the CIA, using the FBI because it has a law enforcement function and could provide cover for them inside the United States, as a cover for this incredible sexual, political blackmail scheme.


Dean:   Now, Doug, again I want to remind the listeners we are speaking to Doug Valentine, Strength of the Wolf, The Secret History of America’s War on Drugs.  Doug, this book leads us from about the early part of the 20th Century up to about the mid 70s.  It seems there is more that you could relay to us; are you working on another book in this regard?


Valentine:  Yes, right after I finished this book, I got offered a contract for a sequel book which starts when this one ended in 1968.  It goes through what is called the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs which existed from ‘68 to ‘73, and which the agents called the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous “Drunks.”  through the creation of the DEA.  This was during the era of Nixon and Watergate, and this is when the war on drugs becomes politicized openly and forthrightly, and involves the Golden Triangle.  When the United States actually had to confront the fact that the CIA was dealing drugs in the Golden Triangle and actually controlling that whole area of the world.  Just like the CIA now is controlling drug smuggling in Afghanistan and dealing with the Russian Mafia, the CIA during the Nixon administration and Vietnam War was controlling the Golden Triangle and dealing with every drug dealer – the Mafia, the French Connection, the communist Chinese, everybody.  Same thing.  This book deals with how drug law enforcement was expanded, became worldwide.  Nixon declared war on drugs.  And how it became actually stated national security policy.


Dean:   Well, Doug, I want to thank you for being with us.  A couple of closing thoughts.  You know, I had a run in with some of those “drugs and dangerous drunks folks,” myself.


Valentine:  Yes, the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drunks.


Dean:  Yeah, 5:00 in the morning, kicked in the door, they’ve got guns waving around and liquor so thick you didn’t want to light a match, you know.  Trying to find marijuana on us, of course.  Threatening to kill us if we didn’t move out of the house.  That was rampant here in Houston, and I suppose across much of America.  I hope it is a little better out there.


Valentine:  Depends on what neighborhood you live in.


Dean:   Well, that’s right.  Isn’t that the truth.  Any closing thoughts you might want to relay, Doug?


Valentine:  Yes, the same system exists today that existed in the beginning.  It’s the same system that Gary Webb talked about.  The CIA allows its allies who are fighting whatever war it wants overseas to sell drugs to the Mafia and organized crime in the United States; and within the United States, politicians allow organized criminals to sell their drugs to disenfranchised minorities in order to suppress them politically and also as a source of funding for their foreign misadventures.  It’s the same thing that has always been, and it’s going on right now.


Dean:   You bet it is.  Well, Doug Valentine, we thank you for joining us, and let’s stay in touch.  There is much more we could talk about.


Valentine:  Any time.  I enjoy it immensely.


Dean:   Thank you, sir.  Good night.  Okay, a couple of program notes before we get out of here.  Next week, our guest will be Dr. Rick Doblin.  He’s the president of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies.  You can find that on the web at  He’s going to discuss the medical marijuana study at U. of Amhearst and the MDMA studies at Harvard.  Thank you to all of the affiliates, and as always, because of drug prohibition, you don’t know what is in that bag.  Please, be careful.


            For the Drug Truth Network, and our affiliates in the U.S. and Canada, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage, the unvarnished truth.  This show is produced at the Pacifica Studios of KPFT, Houston.  Tap dancing on the edge of an abyss.