In light of the recent unrest in Iran and heightened tensions between the United States and Iran, it is important to understand the historical path that has led us to this point.
In this light, I recently had the honor of reading Tim Werner’s book, Legacy of Ashes, the history of the CIA, an immaculately researched work based on the years the writer has written on Intelligence for the New York Times. Even I who suspect incompetence, exaggeration, and pure lying at every level am stunned. According to Werner, almost every action taken by the CIA since World War II has been illegal, dishonest, deceptive, and not successful in the long run. In the worst incidents, one of which I will attempt to outline, the results have been catastrophic for vast numbers of people. Millions have paid with their lives, torture and brutality have been let loose on the country, and certainly the results have been contrary to the best interests of the United States and the World in general. In this piece, I will deal with the situation in Iran and how it has been almost entirely created by the CIA, with some assistance from British Intelligence. It is entirely because of the CIA’s past meddling in Iran that Barack Obama must be very careful in his criticisms of recent events.
It is incumbent on all observers of the Middle East to be aware of Persia’s ancient history. [ Iran was at that time known as Persia; I will use both names interchangeably.] Unlike most of the surrounding Arab states, which were all established by the Treaty of Versailles in 1918 at the end of World War I after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, Persian History stretches back Millennium, and Persians are intensely proud of that history. Shortly before World War II, Britain purchased a controlling share of the Anglo- Persian oil company. At the time, these oil reserves were the largest known to the world. For most of the next two decades Iran was run by a Cossack, Reza Khan, who seized power, proclaimed himself Shah of Persia, and held onto it through electoral fraud. During his reign, the British took the vast majority of the oil revenue. British oil executives enjoyed private clubs, while Iranian oil workers lived in deplorable conditions without electricity or running water. Iran asked for a 50/50 split of revenues with Britain, which was rejected outright.
In April 1951, the “Majlis,” a major group in the Iranian Parliament, voted to nationalize Iran’s oil production. Mohammed Mosaddeq who was voted as Iran’s prime minister a few days after the Majlis vote to nationalize the oilfields supported the issue and took it to the United Nations. The British immediately undertook an effort to try to depose Mosaddeq, and even drew up plans to invade and seize the oilfields.
The United States, while opposing any invasion, agreed to attempt a coup to depose the legitimate government that had been lawfully elected in a fully functioning democratic process. The CIA plot was code named, “Operation Ajax.” The plan was approved by President Eisenhower and the British Prime Minister. The CIA had previously stashed away sufficient funds and guns to support 10,000 tribal warriors for 6 months for another venture which had been shelved, and that money was now available for this effort.
The CIA bribed Iranian Senators, Military Officers, and Publishers. They paid for and recruited Goon Squads to beat those opposed to the Coup. The coup was accomplished by a 3-pronged attack. First, the press denounced Mosaddeq as anti-Islamic, a Communist, and a Jew. Hundreds of thousands of pamphlets were also printed up and distributed, particularly around the capital of Tehran. The Shah was recruited and his forces were used to attack the heavily defended home of Mosaddeq. The coup was accomplished on August 19, 1953. It started with a demonstration in a gym by weightlifters and circus strongmen recruited by the CIA for the day. They shouted anti-Mosaddeq statements, and chanted, “Long live the Shah” while marching through the streets. The crowd joined them along with two major religious leaders, one being Ayatollah Khomeini, the future leader of Iran, after being exiled by the Shah. By the afternoon the CIA agents had seized control of Radio Iran. At least 100 people died that day, and at least 200 more perished when Mosaddeq’s house was invaded. The Prime Minister escaped, but later surrendered. He was imprisoned and later held under house arrest until his death.
The Shah was given 1 million dollars in cash and pronounced prime minister. He became the centerpiece of American Policy in the Middle East for years to come. The Shah maintained his position through a new intelligence service, the Savak, who were CIA trained. The Savak were to become reviled throughout Iran. Their powers allowed them to censor the press, arrest, and detain without any lawful process. Torture, starvation, and sleep deprivation were only some of the techniques for which they were to become reviled.
Revulsion against the Shah built up in Iran and among those exiled abroad. Finally by January 1979, demonstrations against the Shah could not be resisted, the Shah was toppled from his throne, and the Ayatollah Khomeini, who had been exiled in France, was bought back to lead a new Islamic Republic. Unfortunately, as in most revolutions, the initial leaders often tend toward fanaticism and move to seizing all power in their own hands. It usually takes many years until the moderates ultimately gain enough support to overthrow them. The French Revolution and the Soviet Revolution are two good examples. The Ayatollah was true to historical form, crushing all opposition groups and centralizing power for himself and a few other radical clerics.
By November 1979, much of the population were enraged by the policies of the USA as described by the controlled press. Students who had been demonstrating outside the US embassy seized the embassy and all its employees. In total 52 diplomats were seized and imprisoned inside the embassy for a total of 444 days. Initially there had been calls by the students to execute the hostages, but eventually views softened, and diplomatic endeavors ultimately led to their release.
The War with Iraq
Less than a year after the hostages were released, Iraq invaded Iran. Many believe that the US was implicit in that invasion. There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein felt emboldened to invade by US animosity toward Iran. The US did provide helicopters to Iraq and satellite intelligence to pinpoint bombing targets. The war was viscously fought by both sides, with estimates of casualties going as high as 2 million. To give some idea of the intensity I will cite 2 examples. First, when low on armaments, the Iranians sent children armed only with wooden rifles to overwhelm Iraqi lines. The children had been convinced that they were impermeable to bullets. These children were in turn mowed down by reluctant Iraqi forces. Similarly horrific was the use of human bodies in the marshes to the South. The Iraqis used Iranian bodies to fill ditches for their tanks to pass over. Saddam Hussein first tried his chemical weapons on Iranian troops in this war.
Finally in 1988 after 8 years of the terrible conflict, a ceasefire was effected, the border remained unchanged, 2 million were dead, and there was massive damage to the infrastructure of both countries. Just prior to the ceasefire, there was another incident by the US that made the Iranian view of the US even worse. A US warship, the USS Vincennes, shot down an Iranian civilian airliner resulting in 290 deaths. While the official investigation concluded that it was done in error, that was largely disbelieved by the Iranian public.
If we view the present turmoil in Iran through the eyes of those who have lived through these events, it is terribly obvious why Barack Obama must be very careful with his words about the present turmoil. If not for interventions by the CIA and British Intelligence, Iran might be a very different country today.
With this proper context, let’s now take a brief look at more recent events. Iran’s Supreme ruler is currently Ali Khamenei, who succeeded Ayatollah Khomeini after his death. The Supreme ruler controls the Armed Forces, Radio and TV, Security, the Chief Judge, and the Guardian Council. There is an elected council and president, who mainly deal with day-to-day governing matters and economics. Anyone who wishes to run for those positions must first be approved by a body loyal to the Supreme Leader. The rejection rate however is close to 80%. From 1997-2005, there was a moderately progressive President Sayed Mohammed Khatemi. However, he failed to deliver on any serious reformist policies.
It should be noted that directly after 9/11, there was a street demonstration of over 1 million in support of the US. All of this was support was lost by continuing US sanctions on Iran, the disastrous War in Iraq, and the Bush White House’s grouping of Iran in the “Axis of Evil.” In 2005, Sayed Mohammed Khatemi lost the presidential election to the ill informed, firebrand Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This swing to the right was probably largely a result of the three factors mentioned above.
Of course, during the recent election, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was reelected, likely by fraud. It is my opinion that the Supreme Leader did not wish to have a reformist President to deal with now that there was no longer George Bush in the White House, but rather the new more popular US President, Barack Obama. A moderate President was OK when the White House could be counted on to alienate the average Iranian, but could not be risked with Barack Hussein Obama in the White House.
What Does This All Mean?
How it will all play out is anyone’s guess. Effective change is unlikely as the Military and Security services are protected from the poverty and poor economy suffered by the average Iranian. It is encouraging that the Obama administration has chosen a policy of engagement, rather than strict neoconservative rigidity. However, engagement alone will not be the magic bullet needed to fully reverse a century of bad blood, imperialism, and CIA sponsored coups. When dealing with Iran in this light, incremental progress on any front will be a huge step forward.
I started my search with hope, but in the end there was nothing, but that’s OK. My search spanned many years, many books, and many miles traveled. It is a journey made in some way by all of humankind, an effort to correlate religious belief within the parameters of authenticated history and science. While I was never a regular Church goer, after a brush with cancer, I decided to explore the options.
Just as man has developed over the centuries, so have religions evolved and developed to mirror man’s progress. In the very beginnings were the worship of the sun, natural phenomena, and the spirits of the animals. With the establishment of city states, so came the idea of King/Gods to give strength and courage to their soldiers in battle, by convincing them that the sacrifice, even of their lives, would be rewarded by their God/Kings. [This theory is explained by Jared Diamond in his best seller Guns, Germs and Steel.] The Gods were depicted as enhanced versions of themselves, living in improved versions of our cities, suspended above us in the sky.
From those early beginnings, education, philosophy, and the sciences emerged. With more knowledge of the known world, the old City Gods seemed primitive, and all encompassing religions with one God became the norm. The first of these monotheist religions that grew around the Indus valley in India was Hinduism. The beginnings of Hinduism in India occurred around 2,000 B.C.E. Much of its beliefs were imported with the Dravidians, who entered India from the North already with many of the basic beliefs of what was to become Hinduism. It retained the old Gods at a base level, but assumed the belief that at a higher level, God was one, but man was too lowly to comprehend the higher complexities. Buddhism, which in many ways is more of a philosophy, was then born with the Buddha in 563 B.C.E . Many devout Hindus claim to this day that Buddhism is really just an offshoot of Hinduism.
The area where all our western monotheisms or one-God beliefs started was the Middle East. There Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all arose with very similar and overlapping histories. Jerusalem is of course central to all of those faiths. It is intriguing that some of the main beliefs of our Abrahamic faiths are taken directly from the pre-Abrahamic Gods.
Validation of the Faith
For as far back as faith has been around, humankind has attempted to validate that faith through the scientific philosophical approach. [Here I am indebted to Karen Armstrong for her amazing book, A History of God.] Thousands have sought over the ages to prove the existence of God. Indeed, probably all of us have at some point. The Greeks were probably the earliest recognizable true philosophers. They rejected mythological answers to solve the basics questions of heaven and earth. Probably the most intense and prolonged questioning occurred in Iberia during the 700 years it was under Arab rule, while Europe was still deeply mired in the Medieval mud. It was there that the sharpest religious minds from Judaism and Islam cooperated closely to try to reach a proof, any proof. From all of this evolved the most elaborate theories, doctrines, and suppositions, all as improvable as the original question. The mystic approach, where students look deeply within their own being, has proven more successful to its adherents. Christian Mystics, Muslim Sufis, and Hindu Sadhus have all turned their focus inward through a variety of modes of contemplation. Sufis whirl in concentric circles; Sadhus contemplate, often in poses for hours or days on end in positions that would be extremely uncomfortable for most of us for even a few seconds. Some Monks go without speaking for years on end in an attempt to hear the small inner voice. Even hippies have tried this approach, perhaps the easy way with Mescaline, LSD, Magic Mushrooms, and other mediums. Unfortunately, these approaches probably reveal more about the complexity of the human neurology than the nature of God.
Religious opinions change almost on a daily basis in an attempt to remain pertinent to societies own changes. For right or wrong, it has been essential to keeping stability in many societies by helping keep a promise of a better life after death for those who live indigent livelihoods and as a mechanism for keeping a people united under a common tribal identity against a common enemy with supposed lesser beliefs.
Should Have Religion Died in 1543?
In 1543 Copernicus’s seminal work, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres), posited that the heavens did not revolve around the earth, but the other way around. Arab and Indian scholars had of course knew that for centuries, but this was the first time it was proven to the Christian world. Before this, everything was about us and our planet. Our earth was the center of the universe, all things revolved around us, and, of course, our God overlooked us, judged us, rewarded us, and helped us out in times of trouble. After 1543 we were an immeasurably tiny part of billions of galaxies that extend outward for millions of light years.
The End of My Journey
So is this the end of this journey that I strangely found very satisfying? The question then is what drives us to religion, and how it is sometimes used to manipulate us. It is a truism that all of us, from the age where we first have a brush with death, be it the death of a relative, friend, or pet, feel the need for a power that makes it alright. The need for religion makes talented salesmen of religion rich, powerful, and influential in every society around the globe. In areas where religion is strongest, it is essential that our leaders adhere to the true faith. Barack Obama would have stood no chance of election if he had declared himself agnostic, yet reading his autobiographical book Dreams From My Father suggests that he valued the works of the church in their help to the poor in Chicago and the dedication of some of the ministers. However, nowhere is there any statement of his own faith. Although I have no doubt that is he a Christian, the fact that he doesn’t seem to wear it on his sleeve, but rather seems to live it through shared values is probably one of his greatest strengths.
Once we accept that belief can transcend evidence, we are programmed to accept without question what those good Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and Hindu leaders tell us. That is why religion has caused so many conflicts over the ages. Today, of course, medieval tortures have been reinvented to use on those lured into battle by their own deluded religious teachers and leaders.
Religion in one form or another has been with us from the beginning of time and will probably be with us until the end. Einstein himself believed in no formal religion, but thought that their must be some master equation which could be used to harmonize all things. It was this equation which he saw as God’s design. He did not believe that humankind played any role, above being a tiny part in “the equation.” Alas Quantum mechanics, whose theories Einstein opposed vehemently throughout the latter part of his life, with its basis being a lack of any order, has moved physics further from any such unifying equation.
The final question then must be: Has mankind benefited from religion, or has all of it been a chain around our necks. Clearly, as mentioned before, it has been a necessity for stability in many societies. Without this stability, the conditions for economic growth and progress may not have been sufficient. Also, it has been a solace to many in times of great stress or sorrow. It has helped countless people through times of intolerable hardship, famine, plague, and wars. Religion left alone and not seized upon by power hungry individuals, states, or countries, can and has been a power for good. I look on the Dalai Llama, Mahatma Gandhi, and the Aga Khan as shining lights in that respect.
Unfortunately, where religions have evolved into powerful advocacy groups on their own behalf, with their leaders’ power-hungry egos inflated by their own sense of gravitas, they inevitably do more to divide and deride than to resolve, pacify, and heal. Religion will continue to hold sway for many more millennia, so it essential for us to understand in an historical rational way the damage that can be caused by the lack of separation between state and religion. In the end, that was the main lesson of my personal journey.
During the long years of the Cold War, not many dared to question the US military budget. Since then, however, the budget has continued to expand, often sending troops overseas to situations that were created by previous diplomatic blunders. Some of those blunders have directly created the morasses that we attempt to extricate ourselves from today. As such, let’s take a look at some of the history of what the CIA refers to as blowback for the U.S.
Brief Blowback History
In 1953, Iran, or Persia as it was then called, had a functioning democratic system. A successful coup by the CIA and British Intelligence overthrew the democratically elected government and replaced them with the hereditary Shah of Persia. His abuses and misrule led directly to the Islamic Revolution and the problems we have encountered with their Islamic government ever since. In the early 1980s, Iraq thus was encouraged to invade Iran, by the US in a fit of pique, and was supplied with arms in the resulting war. This assistance helped solidify Saddam Hussein’s military ambitions and indirectly encouraged his invasion of Kuwait in 1991, all of which led to the mess in Iraq today.
Meanwhile during the 1980s, the military assistance given to the tribes opposing the Russian occupation of Afghanistan led to the Taliban taking over the country. These people, who were responsible for 9/11 (despite what the Bush administration’s claims to the contrary), are whom we continue to fight today in Afghanistan. In addition, they also have brought the war on terror to the nuclear-power country of Pakistan.
Bill Clinton didn’t help matters, when he, in the midst of the Monica Lewinsky affair, launched Tomahawk missiles against suspected Al Qaeda munitions facilities at a site in Sudan and the Bora Bora site in Afghanistan where Osama Bin Laden was thought to be. This was in retaliation after US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania had been previously bombed. One of Tomahawks destroyed a human and veterinary manufacturing plant in Sudan, killing at least 20 Sudanese and putting many out of work. The Sudanese government immediately cut off all ties with the U.S. and released an important Al Qaeda suspect they had been about to hand over to the U.S. The Tomahawks in Afghanistan missed Bin Laden totally–he was in Kabul at the time. He in turn sold an unexploded Tomahawk to the Chinese for 10 million dollars. Worse, almost all of Africa, who had been outraged over the Embassy bombings by Al Qaeda, swung against the US policy after the bombings. Sound familiar?
In addition, it is clear to most of the world, though rarely reported in the US, that huge military assistance to Israel keeps them so dominant that they often disdain from entering into meaningful dialogue with the Palestinians or other nations in the region. Without meaningful legitimate political channels, arguably, that may have in turn indirectly led to the cult of the indefensible and grotesque suicide bomber.
Similar situations of blowback have occurred on all continents. It is alleged that the policy of supporting vain, immoral megalomaniacs as leaders in the more unstable areas of the world could be summed up as, “We don’t care if he’s a bastard so long as he’s our bastard”.
In too many situations today, previous meddling in the internal affairs or politics of other countries has led directly or indirectly to these messes that we may now face. If intervention leads to revolution or serious instability in the country involved, it is often inevitable that the beneficiaries of the situation will be the worst possible choices. It takes many generations for the situation to settle down and for the voices of reason make headway over the radicals who are always the initial power base. The French Revolution, The Russian Revolution, and the Persian [Iranian] Revolution are all cases in point
To return to the end of the Cold War, there was at that time, along with a feeling of relief that we were all suddenly safe, a hope that the troops could come home, and be discharged. That of course never happened. Why not?
The Military Industrial Complex
Today the US spends 46% of the total world’s military budget. The next 4 nations, the UK, France, Japan and China spend between 4-5% each. The US military budget has risen from 250 billion dollars in 2001 to over 700 billion in 2008. Thus, the sensible solution to help our failing economy would logically have to be to cut the military budget and bring everyone home. Wouldn’t that give us iron clad security at home? Maybe we could even make our inner cities safe and bring down the horrendous murder rate from the 17,000 yearly victims it is today.
Of course that is about as realistic as overall world peace. But why?
The answer to why that apparently sensible solution is currently a pipe dream was first given by President Eisenhower in 1961. Eisenhower was the first President, as a former General, to recognize the power of the Military Industrial Complex.
That term refers to an over friendly relationship between the government, the military, munitions manufacturers, and defense contractors. All in this relationship benefit financially, and unfortunately peace can get in the way. Eisenhower as a military man saw what could occur when future Presidents without military experience tried to go up against this Complex. They would be easily maneuvered by the military to react where no reaction was necessary, and to keep the US military equipped with constantly updated equipment and every new technology. Today, there is a defense contractor in every State of the Union. If there are cutbacks, you can be sure these workers will be out in force rallying senators and representatives at every level. The President will be lambasted across the nation and the Republicans will make hay. Any President to take on this issue will be lauded by history, but unlikely to win a second term.
Will Barack Obama be able to break this endless cycle to prevent the never ending cycle of blowback? If recent history is a good predictor, it certainly won’t be easy. For the sake of the rest of the world, let’s hope for the best.
Several months ago, in my first piece as a writer for Demockracy, I talked about my perspective as a Police Officer who is against the War on Drugs. In the months that followed, this article became a very popular piece on this Web site and across the social networks. As such, I’ve had several requests to follow up on this piece and talk more about my career experiences and share my insights on this ill-begotten war on drugs. From these requests, I’ve decided to write a follow-up piece. In this follow-up article, I will explore some of my personal experiences that have led me to many of my current conclusions. I hope you enjoy and please share any comments that you may have.
As I’ve shared in the past, I am a retired Policeman from Vancouver B.C., and I represent LEAP, Law Enforcement Against [drug ] Prohibition. We are a worldwide organization of Police Officers, Corrections Personnel, Judges, and many others who work in different areas of law enforcement, both active and retired. We currently number some 8,500 members. Our advisory board is made up of one US Governor, four sitting US Federal District Court Judges, five former police chiefs, the ex-mayor of Vancouver B.C, Senator Larry Campbell, the Former AG of Colombia, and from the UK, a former Chief Constable and the former head of narcotic task forces for all of England. We do not support drug use and realize that in an ideal world we would be better off without it. What we do believe is that “The War on Drugs” has created most of our problems with drugs and addiction today. Addiction is a disease, not a crime.
More On My Experience
With that said, let me tell you a bit more about myself and why I have come to these conclusions. I joined the Vancouver Police Department in 1973 and served for 28 years. The date of my joining is important, as the year before in 1972 a Canadian Parliamentary Committee known as Le Dain concluded that due to the high costs of enforcement and the relatively benign effects of marijuana, that there should be a gradual withdrawal of criminal sanctions over time resulting eventually in legalization of marijuana. All in-depth studies going back to the British India Hemp act of 1895 have come to the same conclusion about marijuana. However, the Canadian Parliament chose to ignore those recommendations.
As I recall, there was little focus on drugs when I went through the Vancouver Police Training Academy. (I did however learn that reasonable force extended to choking a dealer to prevent his swallowing the evidence and that the ponytails favored by so called hippies made a very effective handle to restrain them.) After completing training, I discovered that drug enforcement was mainly left to the individual officer’s discretion. No high level traffickers were ever investigated. Enforcement was done only at the street level. Those, however, who centered their activities on drug enforcement made substantial overtime amounts from court appearances. This policy, however, has never been the policy of the Federal Police, the R.C.M.P. They, unlike municipal departments, receive considerable federal funding to enforce the drug laws and do so enthusiastically.
One individual I worked with during my early years routinely arrested individuals on the basis of a dirty hash pipe or a spoon with enough residual heroin to analyze. It was not unusual to bring in 4 or 5 individuals from a rundown hotel room on the basis of a small baggie of weed. At that time, the hotel clerks would tell us the rooms where they suspected the occupants of drug use and hand us the keys, while we turned a blind eye to the other illegal activities carried out by the hotel managers and staff. (I suspect these hotel managers were probably the largest traffickers in the buildings and, according to more than one source, charged prostitutes a premium for brief hotel stays.) Drug charges in Vancouver often resulted in some officers doubling their wages from the overtime and court time involved. The drawback was that there was less police presence on the streets to handle the ongoing and routine crime of downtown Vancouver.
In 1995, I started the Vancouver Police Anti-Fencing Unit. Addicts tend to concentrate in the low rent districts as do pawnshops that often supply the addicts with money. The dealers are normally right outside the pawnshop doors to complete the equation. The average addict at that time was spending between $100-$200 daily on his or her addiction. Unfortunately, pawnshops normally only pay 10 cents on the dollar; therefore to support their habits, the addicts have to steal $1,000-$2,000 worth of property. The evidence of stolen property in these pawnshops was so rife as to be almost ludicrous. I remember at one time entering a pawnshop when an addict came in with an armload of stolen property from London Drugs. While negotiating with the owner, he was ripping the London Drugs labels off CDs with his teeth while negotiating the price with the pawnbroker, as he had no spare hands to do the job.
There are unfortunately a small percentage of people who through nurture or genetics, always seem to fall to the bottom and are unable to survive without their self-medications. They have no time for treatment as their days are filled with theft to support their addiction, finding a dealer, and after purchasing their drug of choice, never knowing the quality of their purchase. We cannot help these individuals by locking them away. We must not kid ourselves; in jails, drugs are readily available. Generally, the prison system tolerates drugs as they tends to calm the inmates. The substance that the jail staff often fear is actually alcohol, which leads to riots and destruction. I was told by numerous prison guard colleagues that alcohol is so valued by some of the old alcoholics in jail that they will often attempt to import considerable quantities of drugs, just to trade for alcohol, which is much harder to find inside.
As a policeman, I attended many untimely drug related deaths in the downtown eastside area of Vancouver where I spent much of my career. Overdoses of various drugs were very common. No one paid much heed, and most were not too traumatic to me, as relatives were usually far away, often in Northern BC or other Provinces, and it was up to the local RCMP detachments to notify them. That area in Vancouver is the poorest area in Canada according to tax returns and acts as a magnet to those who have run away from home due to abuse, sexual and domestic. Few of them had any local support in Vancouver. These individuals rapidly became involved in the drug culture of the area and many died there. It was impossible to determine if the drug deaths were a result of long-term abuse, mixing too many drug cocktails or the strength of the drug being greater than expected, either by deliberation, such as we hear of with a hot cap, or by accident.
It was only when I attended deaths out of the usual pattern that the reality of the horror really set in. A one time partner of mine lost his 16 year old daughter to a drug overdose. Unfortunately, her dealer did not monitor her slide into abuse. He did not offer her counseling or monitor the purity and strength of the drugs he sold. He was probably an addict himself, dealing to support his habit. The outrage is that he and thousands more are still out there still selling their products, everywhere to our children.
Raw opium increases in price by several decimal places from the poppy fields, to the addicts in North America. Coke is not quite as profitable and the other drugs even less so, but anyone can rapidly rise to enjoy the lifestyle of say a successful surgeon or lawyer with no educational requirements, experience, skills, and very little work required. The only way we can break this cycle, ensure a uniform product, help those who request it, and monitor those who need help is to legalize the product, heavily regulate it, and supply it to those in need.
Why don’t we go out and arrest all drug dealers? We could arrest them all and you know what will happen? There will be fights, stabbings, shootings and deaths, AND tomorrow new dealers will be there to carry on business as usual. When you arrest a drug dealer, the only thing you create is a job opportunity. As an example, there was recently an investigation of an individual planning to blow up a city block in Surrey, BC, in order to rid it of all the drug dealers there. Some may believe that his point of view could be justified. The only problem was that he himself was a dealer and hoped to take over all the business with the others gone.
Ask yourself if heroin or cocaine were legal, would you use them? I wouldn’t. No one who is rational and has aspirations for a meaningful life is going to. In fact, 99% of all people tell us that they wouldn’t. The first drug laws were enacted because 1-3% of the population was believed to be addicted to drugs. By addicted I mean unable to hold meaningful work and behave in a socially responsible way. Today, after countless millions have been arrested and billions of dollars spent, the percentage of addicts is still estimated at between 1 to 3 % of the population.
Let’s take the money from the criminals, reduce property crimes, reduce prostitution, reduce disease, and give our social agencies the funds to really have an impact on society. Above all, let’s give that 1-3% a chance of a real life.
I should start by stating that I am a novice in the fields of economics and finance. My career was as a law enforcement officer. I do, however, believe that I have a firm grasp of world history, human nature, and a sense of how much the human spirit can endure until endless mass frustration leads to a chain of events that explodes into actions which can result in regime change and major shifts in worldwide belief systems.
After the First World War, communism and socialism emerged to duke it out with Hitler’s fascism and other conservative regimes for the balance of power in Europe. After the Second World War, unfettered missionary capitalism emerged in the US, bolstered by evangelic Christianity. Liberalism and socialism tended to dominate in old Europe where the relative place of religion diminished, and today is virtually non-existent in many such secular states. Into this mix, multinational corporations emerged, with no allegiance to anyone except their shareholders. Their power enabled them to shape government policies, and their financial weight enabled them to implicitly blackmail governments into giving them sweetheart deals, which were often to no ones benefit except theirs and the richly rewarded politicians who supported them. From this standpoint, I do suspect that the shock waves radiating around the world from the stock market meltdown were not entirely created by a few bad apples running amok in Wall Street, but were rather a symptom of the basic dishonesty that seems ensconced in most stock markets around the world.
Events of the past decade and the past year in particular have convinced me that we are at Epoch’s End and that the current worldwide geopolitical and economic system is so broken that it can never be completely fixed. What will emerge I cannot venture to guess, but it will likely take many years to reach this yet unknown new global equilibrium. In this new equilibrium, the standard of living that many in the western world have taken for granted in recent generations may not be seen again.
Certainly many have been expecting Epoch’s End, through global warming, plagues or famines, but its tipping point appears to have occurred not through those venues, but through economic breakdown. As life has proceeded happily upward for us in the developed world since the Second World War, we have long forgotten that this uninterrupted growth was unprecedented in recent world history. World history suggests that the past fifty or sixty years are more likely to be seen as an outlier rather than as a permanent new paradigm. In the past, plagues have wiped out the working forces, old industries closed down and new ones developed, and populations followed the jobs. Crop failures caused those who wanted to survive to move on to new areas or even to new continents. Growth has been followed by stagnation. Fifty or sixty years may seem like a long time in the scope of a human lifetime. However, it is all but a footnote in world history.
Over the last 50 or 60 years we have come to expect that things will always improve–we will have better cars, holidays, and medical care, and our incomes will continue to provide more of these things. Many companies have based their development on a policy of increasing their revenues as much as 10% a year. Most of these companies have psychologists study shoppers brain waves to use exactly the right words in their sales promotions and to find the best place to put certain items in the store to trigger the buying impulse. We have all happily shopped and shopped for more and more things we don’t need. Products we really need require no advertising. How many television commercials do you see for bread and milk? If the whole world were to enjoy the standard of living that we currently enjoy in North America, we would need three worlds just to keep up. Perhaps most selfish of all, most people now expect to live longer without giving any thought to the potential consequences of this like increasing the world’s population, all the problems of pollution, global warming, polluted water ways, etc. With the world’s population approaching 8 billion plus people, it is close to cardiac arrest. We can’t expect to live forever and have growth forever; death and cyclical stagnation of populations and civilizations are a part of the natural balance of our planet.
As you probably expected, I am nothing of an expert in the ways of the multinational corporation. However, what I do know is that there are many Chinese workers, working at monotonous, dangerous jobs for $5 a day or less, with unpaid overtime expected. They produce cheap quality goods for us that we really don’t need. Who then is the net gainer? At least in the short run, it is a few wealthy shareholders. In order for this situation to flourish, our wage levels must remain 20 times higher, for the same or less effort, than a Chinese worker. The whole approach is broke.
As I write, more and more western governments are announcing huge spending plans to stimulate the economy, using vast amounts of borrowed money. That money is all coming from the sale of our bonds to China. If it works, perhaps we can put off Epoch’s End for a few years, as we attempt to pay the huge debts. Certainly our wages will take a huge hit, and lifestyles will need to readjust. But what if it doesn’t work, what if our spending doesn’t pick up enough to reopen the factories in China? What if China were to ever demand repayment of those bonds to assist their own citizens? We will be bankrupt, there will be no wages for any civil servants, no military wages, no police wages, and no pensions or benefits of any kind will be paid.
Further, as a people, many of us have become lethargic and ignorant. How is it possible to consider people for the highest offices in the land without demanding that they have the knowledge, stability, and honesty to do the job? When you visit your doctor you know that his or her certificate represents years of study, tested time and again by exams and practicum. Yet we are prepared to accept persons for the highest offices because they look good, string a fine line of BS and are just like you and me. Well I have news for you, I don’t want a person like me running a country.
In Canada from where I write, we had a recent Federal Election. The Liberal leader Stephan Dion was put down continually because he didn’t speak perfectly in his second language of English. He didn’t look good in front of the cameras, and he was often filmed from the wrong angles. The saddest thing was that nobody seemed to have the slightest interest in hearing the substance of what he actually was saying. We could save enormous amounts of money and time if we simply gave the job to the best actor and provided a good speech writer. Perhaps getting precisely that for many years has resulted in all our difficulties today. Franklin D. Roosevelt would probably never have been elected today, wheelchair bound as he was. Winston Churchill, similarly, was drunk too often to be electable today. At that time we paid attention to what was said, not the carefully buffed images we see presented today.
In the last U.S. election, most were too polite to state publicly that the election of Sarah Palin as vice president could potentially place every citizen of the US one 72-year old heart beat away from danger. Yes, thankfully Ms. Palin did not become vice president. However, for one of the two major parties of the world’s leading nuclear superpower to even nominate her for vice president should be scary enough. In the case of Mr. Obama and Mr. Dion, being an intellectual was seen as a negative by many. We call this civilization? Thankfully, after eight years of George W. Bush, the America people took a chance on an intellectual. New Canadian Liberal leader and respected Harvard intellectual, Michael Ignatieff, may get a chance in the next few years as well.
If we are indeed at Epoch’s End, we will have all caused this through greed, but most of all because we have failed to keep our eyes on what has really been going on, failed to keep people honest, and preferred to switch on the football game rather than take a glimpse at the foreign-affairs columns or use our computers to access the mass of information which is availably so readily today, yet ignored by most. If we are at an Epoch’s End, it is indeed our own damn fault.
While many in the Western world cower in fear of radical Islamic terrorists and the Arab World in general, many of our fears are completely baseless. The truth is that in radical Islamists do not govern any Arab country with a significant population. That’s right, while many people see the entire Arab World as fanatical Islamists, the fact is they control nowhere.
It is clear that the true holders of power have often encouraged the fanatics in order to provide a distraction from the poverty and lack of development in many of their nations. This is in fact a strategy we also see used very effectively in non-Muslim countries. China continues to fan the people’s disgust for the massacres and tortures carried out by the Japanese during World War II in order that the people do not focus on leaders such as Mao Tse Tung, who was largely responsible for the starvation and genocide of his people. President Mugabe in Zimbabwe inflames the people by blaming the British for the cholera epidemic and malnutrition of the population.
In this light, historical lessons of the past century give us some interesting parallels to current realities. In the Arab world of 50 years ago, many countries were embracing communism, not fanatical Islamicism. After World War I, as anyone who has seen Lawrence of Arabia will know, the Ottoman Turks lost their Empire in the Arab World. Much of it was divided between the British and the French, which caused huge resentment as Lawrence had promised they would have domain in their own nations as payback for their assistance in defeating the Ottomans. The British and the French set up puppet leaders and Monarchs, who assumed full authority when the bombed out European powers deserted most of their empires after World War II. When the European powers left, there was a wide power vacuum in much of the Arab world. The Soviet Union, which had just won the World War II on the eastern front, tried to help fill this vacuum. General Nasser took power in Egypt where Communism was fully embraced for a number of years. The Soviets gave considerable military aid to the Egyptians and built the High Dam in Aswan to control the flooding of the Nile and generate electricity. Communism was embraced by most of North Africa and became very pervasive in Yemen. In Saudi Arabia, communism was only put down violently by the House of Saud when they began to see it as a threat to their power. Socialism was established in Syria and Iraq under the ruling Baath Party. The Baath Party in Iraq had made many improvements for the status of women, education, and medicine before Saddam Hussein became a paranoid tyrant and took up the faith again to try to regain some credibility with his people. Some of these Communists Parties survive in limited forms to this day.
Over the past 50 years, many sons and grandsons of atheist communists have become fanatical Islamists, yet little has really changed in their day to day lives. Their financial situation has not improved, health services have improved minimally, and education has improved little. At the same time, their leaders and monarchs, as they did several generations ago, continue to live lives of uninterrupted luxury, hiding much of their wealth in Swiss bank accounts. They know very well that if they deceive their people to be engaged in rage against the West, whether it be by the Bible of communism or the Koran of Islam, they will maintain their status indefinitely. “The Great Satan of the West has caused their problems, and when he is banished it will be Heaven on Earth for them.”
In this light, it is unfortunate to have political leaders in the Western world who do not see this whole picture. The terrorists can never be beaten by firepower. They are only made martyrs, and like the Hydra, each head that is cut off results only in replication by many more. If we are to win over their minds and souls, tanks and warplanes can never succeed. For the trillions of dollars spent on weapons, how many hospitals could be built, how many wells dug, how many schools built, how many miles of sewers, aquifers, roads. How many farmers’ crops and lifestyles immeasurably improved? How many minds changed in favor of benevolent, trustworthy individuals bringing honest Western help, without questioning the beliefs of the recipients? Mind sets may not change in one generation, but they will in two. If such a fanatical movement can be built in this amount of time, with the power of good will, it can likewise be destroyed.
Complementary to this good will, the Western World must also cut off the leaders of these corrupt nations and city states, banish them from the club until a little more of their wealth, personal enterprise, and interest trickles down to assist their own people. Of course, as long as the Western world relies on their oil for their continued economic growth, this is unlikely. Such is the curse of economic inequality that often accompanies vast national resources in the developing world. Dubai, with relatively few natural resources, has been forced to make that the jump for the good of their people. As other illegitimate Arab monarchs and dictators freeze their Swiss bank accounts and overseas assets, don’t let them ski at our resorts and moor their yachts anywhere in the Mediterranean. Make them unwelcome in our lands. Let them feel the weight of their perfidy to their people. Let’s deal with the illness, not the symptoms.
The proliferation of nuclear weapons and the increasing risk of global catastrophe have been on the minds of all western nations since the end of the Cold War. Nuclear weapons were falsely used as justification for the invasion of Iraq, and they are currently used as justification for harsher sanctions against Iran. Two of the U.S allies in the Sub-Continent of India possess nuclear weapons along with sophisticated delivery systems, and China and North Korea are also members of the nuclear club. All of these countries developed them, despite being party to agreements not to do so. However, why do most of the western world seem to ignore the nation with the largest number of unofficial nukes, all illegal by international convention?
Israel started to develop nuclear technology in the 1950s and had a bomb by 1968. The Wisconsin Project which monitors nuclear weapons around the world has for many years placed that arsenal as between 100 and 200 warheads. Israel itself maintains a policy of refusing to confirm or deny its stockpile of nuclear weapons and the capacity to deliver them anywhere in the Middle East or Europe.
One of the reasons to ignore Israel’s alleged breach of non-nuclear proliferation agreements may have been our assumption that society in Israel is somehow more stable and less corrupt than other nations. However, a quick look under the surface shows that is not necessarily the case. Because of a lack of transparency, we can not assume that the finger on Israel’s nuclear button will necessarily be rational or that Israel has the proper protocols for nuclear detonation.
Israel’s parliamentary leaders have faced much recent controversy. Three recent premiers, Ehud Olmert, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Ariel Sharon have all been subjected to allegations of fraud. It was the recent resignation over fraud allegations of Ehud Olmert that has resulted in a stalemate in government. Tzipi Livni, his successor, has been unable to form a successful coalition with the other parties, and it is unlikely that the situation will be resolved before spring. The President was also being investigated for allegations of rape and sexual assault and has resigned. This is only at the top–some other ministers and MPs have been also been subjected to allegations of fraud and/or resigned. In 2008, Israel placed 33rd in the World Corruption Index, tied with the West Indies and the Commonwealth of Dominica. This ranking was the lowest of any developed nation. Israel scored especially low on the transparency sub index. According to recent public polling in Israel, 72% of Israelis rate the corruption as high to very high, and nearly 50% of all young people would like to leave Israel if they could. The main reason given is government corruption followed by poor educational availability and fears over security. Seven thousand more people left Israel permanently in 2007 than entered.
Given such an epidemic of alleged corruption among Israeli leaders, the real question then is, “Whose finger is on the nuclear button, or may be on that button, and what controls are there on that person’s unilateral ability to press such a button”? In most of the world, there are many strict controls placed on a President or Prime Minister before the option to use nuclear weapons would even be considered. If that stage is ever reached, there are codes to be entered keys, held by separate officials and a multitude of complex procedures before they can be mobilized. For example, India and Pakistan have their own systems of multiple protocols as a condition of acceptance into the nuclear club. The leaders of these two countries have put in hotlines with direct access to each other and have established other protocols in the event of a crisis that could lead to nuclear confrontation. Given that Israel does not even admit to having nuclear weapons, we have no idea if such protocols exist. There are many national security reasons that could explain why Israel is less than fully transparent about their nuclear program. However, considering the recent alleged corruption of its leaders, the time is ripe for more transparency.
Spanish born philosopher and poet George Santayana is famous for saying, “He who ignores history is doomed to repeat it.” For politicians, military leaders, and many so-called experts, ignorance of the history of the Middle East and the subcontinent of India have created much of the chaos in those regions today.
Let’s start with Saudi Arabia, which with the aid of its vast oil wealth has spread religious hatred and intolerance around the world. Saudi Arabia was conquered by the “House of Saud” in the early years of the 20th century. Their success was only possible with the assistance of the Wahhabi tribe of the Bedouin. The Wahhabi adhered to a brand of Islam that originated in the 7th Century and was based on old desert tribal traditions. Unfortunately, in return for the support of the tribe, the House of Saud agreed to adhere to the Wahhabi’s fundamental version of Islam. This created few problems until the 70’s when the Royal Family made some attempts to modernize the Kingdom. In retaliation in 1979, the Wahabbi’s and other fundamentalists seized the City of Mecca. This was devastating to the Royal Family. Mecca is the ultimate city to Muslims. It is Jerusalem, Vatican City, and Varanasi all rolled into one. It is also a major source of revenue, as Muslim beliefs dictate that all believers should visit the City at least once in their lifetime. The Saudi Royal Family could not rely on the support of their military, as many seemed to side with the rebels. Thus, the Saudi Royal Family had to call in French Commandos to re-seize Mecca. Those Frenchmen were of course rapidly sworn in as Muslims, as no unbelievers are allowed in the Holy City.
Since that time, the House of Saud, which consists of over 40,000 individuals, has attempted a balancing act. Royal Family members ski in Switzerland, gamble in Mexico, have their yachts in the Mediterranean, and party and debauch around the world. In return, they have handed education, the courts, the mosques, much of the total revenues, and all religious enforcement to the Wahhabbi’s. Entertainment, music, and literature outside of the Koran are discouraged. Today 40% of all education in Saudi Arabia is according to the rules of Wahabbi Islam. They also fund the majority of all the world’s mosques, which now often preach the same hateful Islamic rhetoric, where the killing of an Apostate [unbeliever] is considered no sin. Life for women in Saudi Arabia is bleak. They cannot drive, they are stoned to death for adultery, and are often whipped for promiscuous behavior after being raped. Change of faith is punished by death. The Royal Family maintains its own small army to protect themselves from the population.
Afghanistan has always been a hard country to subjugate. The major and controlling tribe is the Pashtun or Pashto. They are divided into many clans, but all comprise the main tribe. Their tribal lands extend into Northwest Pakistan, and they do not recognize the border. Pakistan since its foundation in 1948 has always been a failed state. The Presidency has consisted only of corrupted officials or military dictatorships. They have never had control over the Pashtun lands. The Pashtun have always been renowned as fearful warriors in this very rugged area. This landscape is a guerrilla army’s dream. In 1842, the Pashtun totally destroyed a British Army of 60,000 with only one survivor. In 1978, the Russians invaded Afghanistan, with again their major opponents being the Pashtun. They too were forced to withdraw in 1989, after their casualties grew too great to bear. The Russians won every battle, but could not defeat a guerrilla army in such wild territory.
During the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, the US and Saudi Arabia started to supply arms and support to the Pashtun on a 50/50 basis. They were assisted by the Pakistan intelligence service known as the I.SS. This was in the short term successful, and antitank and anti-aircraft weapons undoubtedly aided the resistance. It was, however, the Saudi role that has led to most of the difficulties since. Prior to Saudi involvement, the Pashtun were Muslim, but not fanatics. Once the Saudis were established in Northwest Pakistan, from where the arms were taken over the border into Afghanistan, they set up Muslim Schools or Madrassas in this very poor region. These Madrassas taught only the fundamental Wahabbi version of Islam. Any literary skills picked up by the students were only as a by-product of the repetition of Koranic verses.
It is from these Madrassas that the Taliban were born. Their version of Islam is that of their Muslim brethren in Saudi Arabia–hateful, intolerant, with barbaric consequences to all whose views differ from theirs. Saudi Arabia continues to be a main funder of the Taliban, and the funding is generous. A Taliban fighter earns 3 times that of an Afghani soldier. Afghanistan is full of poppy fields, and many think this is the main source of the Taliban revenue. It should, however, be realized that the poppy fields have been there since the time of Alexander the Great, and I suspect that most of the revenues still go to the families who have always received them.
In order to be successful in this part of the world, the first step must be to cut out Saudi Arabia. That country supplies 20% of the world’s oil, and even more of the world’s terrorism. As alternate energy sources are developed, that tap must be closed. As we have seen recently, Pakistan and India have become violently destabilized by the poisonous fundamental Muslim rhetoric spreading out from this chaos. Both of these countries have atomic weapons and long-range delivery systems which are a threat to the stability of the entire world. The consequences are too high for the rest of the world to be ignorant to this complex ethnic, religious, and cultural history. We must strive to learn from this history and to not let it repeat itself.
[Note. The history of the area is very complex, and some generalizations have been made, i.e., not all Taliban are Pashtun, but the vast majority are. The Afghan President Mohammad Kharzi is himself a Pashtun.]
For 28 years, I served as a member of the Vancouver Police Department, and spent most of that time at the street level, in and around Vancouver’s poorest area commonly known as “Skid Road.” This area is Canada’s poorest postal code zone. It is an area of cheap fleabag hotels, bars, and drugs. The only people who reside here are those whom society has cast aside because of disability, personality disorders, or sheer bad luck. It has been like this for at least 50 years. Only the faces and preferences of the addicts have changed.
Quite early in my career as a law enforcement officer, it became very obvious to me that the most dangerous drug was a legal drug. That drug is alcohol. Every riot, every disturbance, every assault, every serious late night motor vehicle accident, every homicide, and every sexual assault almost always involved alcohol.
Where were the horrific crimes caused by drug addicts? They were there, but generally speaking they were non-violent property crimes and prostitution. It has been estimated that somewhere between 75-80% of all property crimes are committed by addicts. This begets the question that most policemen in our major cities have asked themselves countless times: why not treat addicts for their addictions, not as criminals, and supply their drugs temporarily until they get help. Apparently, a significant reduction in property crime, reduced jail costs, and lower medical costs is not a sufficient answer.
The biggest question, which really changed my thinking toward the criminalization of drugs was, is why do we persist with laws that guarantee that serious criminals will become immensely rich, powerful, and violent toward any other criminals who stand in their way. If drugs were legally available, there would be no profits for the gangsters. U.S. history teaches us of a parallel situation that occurred during alcohol prohibition in the early twenty century, when gangsters became rich and powerful supplying bootleg alcohol. Al Capone’s South Side Gang and similar gangs murdered whoever stood in their way. The crime rate shot up 200%. Finally, when alcohol prohibition was canceled, most of the gangs disappeared as the profits were gone, the murder rate returned to what it was before prohibition, AND everyone didn’t become an alcoholic overnight!
Let’s ask ourselves a question. If heroin and cocaine were legal, would you use them? Virtually everyone says no, which is really no surprise if you think about it. We also know that up until the 1920s these substances were legal. Laudanum, a mixture of opium and alcohol was the drug of choice to the Victorians. Today the percentage of drug addicts, by which I mean those unable to function in society due to their addictions, remains the same as before there were any drug laws. Hardly a round of applause for the billions of dollars spent on enforcement over the past 80 years. Indeed if drug prohibition were a business that received payment for its results, it would not have lasted a year.
Everyone fears change, and one of the big fears of the general public is the fear of drugs becoming more readily available to our children. Today most of our children can in fact more easily obtain drugs than they can obtain liquor. The gangsters make sure this is the case by ensuring that dealers are present outside most of our schools. These dealers pay no heed to our children’s health, and they often have little knowledge of the substances cut with the drugs or even strength of their products. Drug prohibition causes this situation to persist.
If we look at the history of tobacco, we know education works. Tobacco eventually kills 50% of all regular smokers. Tobacco is legal. Yet through common sense and education, tobacco smoking is down by two thirds from thirty years ago. Education works, but only if honestly given. This spring I was approached by a grandmother whose granddaughter had phoned her in real distress. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police had been running the D.A.R.E. program in her school, and she was convinced that her parents’ occasional use of Marijuana would cause their deaths. If any of the information given is flawed, kids will reject all information given to them about drugs from parents and other authority figures.
I am a member of LEAP, which is an organization of retired policemen, judges, prison guards, others involved in law enforcement ,and many others. It was founded by a former highly commended U.S. drug enforcement officer, Jack Cole. Today it is worldwide. We all believe that drugs are not good, but it is “the War on Drugs” that is causing most of our problems. This war costs 2.5 billion dollars a year in Canada and 10 times that amount in the United States. WHY?