Tag Archives: central intelligence agency

A Drug Solution

11 Jul

El Coyote, 1986. Graphite on drawing paper, 12 x 18 in. Collection of Phyllis Aycock and Michael Schreiber.

Lately I have been promoting an idea whose time has possibly come.  Drug use was a central feature of adolescence when I grew up in Los Angeles County.  Pot, acid, bennies, and other sundry pursuits, besides Coors beer and Spanada wine, were the means to enhanced recreation for my peers.  There was an incredible innocence to all of this.  My friend Cindy never considered that the glue she sprayed into brown paper bags and huffed would corrode her brain.  She had a big heart, but she wasn’t the smartest girl on the block.  Bruce was the most obvious example of drugs gone wrong; he often talked about god and the word was that he once saw Jesus on acid.

I hope for enlightened attitudes about marijuana and peyote.  Nature provided them and man has had a sacred, and sometimes profane, relationship with both for centuries.  The fact that marijuana is illegal, and prescribed medicines that lead to addiction are not, is a certain sign of how ludicrous the laws are governing controlled substances.  The Obama administration continues to raid medical marijuana dispensaries in the State of California even though the use and distribution of medical marijuana was legalized by the citizens of this state.  Beyond that, we could really use hemp in this country from our own manufacturing base, rather than importing its products from Canada and countries of the European Union.  Hemp is extremely versatile: paper, rope, textiles, food products.  As for peyote, the above drawing was created the morning after an evening of peyote.  How can one fault the blessings of such a natural substance?

My feelings, though, regarding drug use overall have changed.  The innocence of my youth did not contemplate substances like methamphetamine.  By the time crack was devastating communities during the 1980s, I knew the era of innocence was dead.  When I found out later that the C.I.A. supported Nicaraguan Contra funneling of these drugs into these communities, drug trafficking and consumption took on the darkest overtones I could imagine.  The level of violent crime directly connected to drug trafficking and use today is frightening.  Over 55,000 Mexican nationals have been killed because we use drugs, including marijuana, that come over the border to satisfy our desires.

The proposal is simple: create housing for individuals who use a substance to the point where they begin to harm society.  The housing would be equipped to provide all daily needs.  The drug of choice would be available in this housing 24/7 in unlimited amount.  The individual would, though, be cut off from society, no longer able to mingle with others.  Monitoring would include surveillance of the premises, but no intervention would be used.  If the drug user were to consume their drug of choice to the point of death, nothing would be done to prevent a terminal outcome.

Although I am not serious about this proposal, for various reasons, including the moral and ethical dimensions regarding compassionate intervention, I have mused on the notion purely for its novelty.  As I have talked to others about the proposal, many interesting suggestions have been made that would augment the original.  For instance, one friend suggested allowing people to watch a residence via the surveillance equipment, providing another mode of reality entertainment.  Another friend suggested creating communities on Treasure Island, relegating individuals to communities based on a common drug.  Some suggestions have been truly bizarre.  I discussed the possibility, with a friend, of local government manufacturing the drug so as to weaken the hold that manufacturers of illegal drugs have on society.  My friend proposed the arrest of dealers, which would lead to the arrest of manufacturers.  The manufacturers would then be held in custody and forced to continue producing the drug for the housed users.  And, as a ghoulish nod to Soylent Green, once the drug user expires, the body would be converted into food for surviving users, with the enhancement of drug traces in the recycled body product augmenting the supply of drug already circulating within the housing system.

As farfetched as the idea appears, popular culture has provided the model for decades now.  In W. Somerset Maugham’s 1939 novel Christmas Holiday, the character Simon Fenimore gives voice to the belief that as long as people believe they are receiving what they want, they will be easily controlled: “…I should give the people the illusion of liberty by allowing them as much personal freedom as is compatible with the safety of the state…”  The most frightening moment of George Orwell’s 1949 novel 1984 occurs at the Chestnut Tree Cafe as Winston Smith settles down to a glass of gin, “…his life, his death, and his resurrection,” perhaps the same Victory Gin we see him administering in his home at the beginning of the story, a potion that after an initial shock to the body begins to make the world look more cheerful.  His vain attempt to wrest himself from the power of the State already brutally eclipsed, his re-education through torture and other devices in the Ministry of Love complete, Smith is ready to accept prescribed reality once again.

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An American Love for Automated War

22 Feb

Drawing created by a displaced 27-year-old Laotian farmer in 1972. Courtesy of Fred Branfman.

What sadness!  Formerly, the fragrance of ripening rice

would fill the ricefields

I would see flowers opening their blossoms everywhere

in the forests

How beautiful it was for us!

— by a 20-year-old Laotian man, a traditional singer

It was a fertile land, a land of temperate weather and lush landscapes, rich in forests, jungles and mountain scapes.  Rice was the main crop of the region.  Water buffalo, cows, pigs, horses, ducks and chickens were staple livestock.  People lived in small villages where a pagoda might serve as a focal point.  Needs were simple enough that marketing was limited to occasional trips to purchase textiles and clothing.  Then the American bombers came.

From 1964 to 1969, the American government conducted a secret air war against the Laotian people occupying the Plain of Jars, the people there known locally as the Lao Phouen.  The Plain of Jars, so named because of receptacles found in the region believed to be from an ancient Mon-Khmer race, was located in the central Xieng Khouang province.  Editor Fred Branfman’s book, Voices from the Plain of Jars: Life under an Air War (Harper Colophon Books, Harper & Row, New York, 1972) documents the complete disappearance of a civilization through the testimony of survivors from this American-waged Guernica, survivors who were eventually herded into encampments outside the southern Laotian city of Ventiane.

It was the political victory of the Pathet Lao (“nation of Laos”) in May, 1964 that prompted the American government to act.  The United States had earlier attempted to control the Plain: from 1955 to 1963, funding Ventiane regime and far-right coups at a cost of $480.7 million; expanding a right-wing Lao army from a few thousand in 1954 to over thirty thousand by 1960; organizing a separate army of Meos, Laotian hill tribesmen originally from China, under the leadership of the C.I.A.; and establishing Air America bases owned by the C.I.A. (see Branfman, pages 12-13).  Following Western loss of control of most of the Plain, United States influence shrank to an area southwest of the Plain, where the C.I.A. directed the military base Long Tieng (Branfman 13-14).  Strategically, the United States had used northern Laos for Meo and American special forces teams entering North Vietnam on espionage, sabotage and assassination raids, from the 1950’s on; radar sites aiding American bombers attacking North Vietnam in the mid-1960’s; and, also, as a base for carrying out espionage missions into China (Branfman 16 fn. 14).

According to a U.S. Senate Staff Report, quoted by Branfman, the air war was meant “to destroy the social and economic infrastructure of Pathet Lao held areas,” with clarification from Branfman that “it was meant to hurt them by depriving them of local food supplies, disrupting transport and communications, killing off potential recruits and rice porters, demoralizing the civilian population, and eventually causing a refugee flow away from the Plain” (17-18).  Indeed, every aspect of civilian living became targeted under this “automated battlefield.”  Villages were bombed to smoldering ruins.  Rice paddies were destroyed.  As civilians fled to forests and jungles, these refugee sites were destroyed.  Even attempts to live in holes dug in the ground and farm at night were without avail; reconnaissance and electronic aircraft filmed and tracked the people below everyday for five and a half years (Branfman 18).

I found a copy of this book two months ago quite by accident.  Although a teenager in 1972, I was completely unaware of this remarkable testimony from the survivors of an American automated air war.  The words of these people, many who could not understand why the United States was bombing, saddens me greatly.  The drawings that are included are harrowing visions of the destruction we wrought against a people we held absolutely no compassion for.  What are we ignorant of today as our government acts secretly elsewhere in the world?

Branfman continues to educate people about the morality of automated war and the targeting of civilian populations.  You can learn about his life-long peace and justice work, and greater detail about the bombing of the Plain of Jars, at his blog: http://fredbranfman.wordpress.com.  His website, Truly Alive: Facing Death in the Prime of Life, at www.trulyalive.org, addresses psychological and spiritual principles with concern for societal and biospheric well-being.

Note: the above poem appears on page 37 of Voices from the Plain of Jars.