Drug trafficking has long been a specialty of Air America, the CIA proprietary airline that transported weapons to anticommunist warlords in Southeast Asia's Golden Triangle during the Vietnam war, and often returned with consignments of opium poppies. (The role of Air America and other U.S. intelligence assets in fostering the illicit narcotics trade has been well-documented in The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade by University of Wisconsin professor Alfred W. McCoy.) The war on drugs has always served a political agenda. During the Red Scare in the early 1950s, Sen. Joseph McCarthy blamed Red China for peddling heroin to weaken the moral fiber of the United States and the Free World. It appears that McCarthy himself developed a nasty little addiction to morphine while leading the anticommunist crusade. But his dope wasn't coming from Maoist China. According to "Ladies Home Journal", that bastion of left-wing political correctness, McCarthy was getting his daily morphine script from Harry Anslinger, longtime head of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Narcotics. There was no mention of massive amounts of still unaccounted-for U.S. aid to Pakistani military officers and Afghan mujahadeen rebel leaders, which helped grease a major arms-for-heroin pipeline in Southwest Asia during the 1980s. Much of the dirty cash was laundered through institutions such as the scandal-ridden Bank of Credit and Commerce International, which functioned, not coincidentally, as a conduit for CIA operations in the region. If recent events in Latin America are any indication, conniving with drug traffickers is a difficult habit for the CIA to kick. Consider, for example, the case of Vladimiro Montesinos, a shadowy figure rarely seen in public, who for many years was the CIA's principal point man in Peru and a lynchpin in the U.S. government's $17.7 billion war on drugs. Trained as a cadet at the School of the Americas, a notorious breeding ground for assassins, Montesinos became head of the Peruvian intelligence service in the early 1990s. During the decade that his leadership of Peru's spy agency won U.S. praise and support, Montesinos built a billion-dollar criminal empire based on drug trafficking, arms dealing, and judicial and political corruption, according to Peruvian parliamentary investigators. What's more, according to Peruvian prosecutors, Montesinos used drug profits to finance death squads, which were responsible for torture, extra-judicial executions, and the disappearance of 4,000 government opponents. By choosing Montesinos as its main ally in Peru, the CIA turned a blind eye to human rights abuses as well as his involvement in the drug trade. By scratching the surface of the narcotics trade it seems that certain drug pushers are OK by the CIA as long as they keep snorting the anticommunist line.

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