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The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade Paperback – April, 1991

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Nearly 20 years ago, McCoy wrote The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia , which stirred up considerable controversy, alleging that the CIA was intimately involved in the Vietnamese opium trade. In the current volume, a substantially updated and longer work, he argues that pk the situation basically hasn't changed over the past two decades; however the numbers have gotten bigger. McCoy writes, "Although the drug pandemic of the 1980s had complex causes, the growth in global heroin supply could be traced in large part to two key aspects of U.S. policy: the failure of the DEA's interdiction efforts and the CIA's covert operations." He readily admits that the CIA's role in the heroin trade was an "inadvertent" byproduct of "its cold war tactics," but he limns convincingly the path by which the agency and its forebears helped Corsican and Sicilian mobsters reestablish the heroin trade after WW II and, most recently, "transformed southern Asia from a self-contained opium zone into a major supplier of heroin." Scrupulously documented, almost numbingly so at times, this is a valuable corrective to the misinformation being peddled by anti-drug zealots on both sides of the aisle. First serial to the Progressive.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

It seems that the American government has learned nothing from its war on drugs. In 1972, the CIA attempted to suppress McCoy's classic work, The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia ( LJ 11/15/72 ) , which charged CIA complicity in the narcotics trade as part of its cold war tactics. Now, this revised and expanded edition, incorporating 20 years of research, discusses in almost overwhelming detail how U.S. drug policies and actions in the Third World has created "America's heroin plague." McCoy notes that every attempt at interdiction has only resulted in the expansion of both the production and consumption of drugs. He also charges that 40 years of CIA protection of Asian drug traffickers and active participation in the transport of opium and heroin has undermined U.S. anti-drug efforts. A massive work that raises serious questions. For larger public and academic libraries.
- Wilda Williams, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 634 pages
  • Publisher: Lawrence Hill Books; Revised edition (April 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556521251
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556521256
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #376,132 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

66 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Douglas Doepke on October 12, 2000
Format: Paperback
By all accounts, this is the standard reference on the explosive topic of drugs and politics; the reputation is well deserved despite several shortcomings. The volume is lengthy, the style impersonal, the language carefully measured, the conclusions temperate in the extreme. All in all, qualities befitting a scholarly navigation through minefields that customarily produce heavy-handed hyperbole. Distinguishing Mc Coy's work is the inclusive historical background each topic receives as it evolves over the pages into the familiar news stories of the day. Thus, the roots of heroin addiction among GI's in Vietnam is traced back in time to Kuomintang exiles of northern Burma and to the politics of intrigue among the many power-brokers of southeast Asia. The reader emerges from this hundred page excursion knowing a great deal more about the Golden Triangle than he perhaps wanted, but nonetheless is thoroughly informed about that murky but crucial region.
Oddly missing from the book is a similar historical account of Turkey's role as a major supplier of First World markets. Though mentioned sporadically, Turkey remains largely outside the text's focus, despite its traditional connection to Mediterranean traffickers. Also eclipsed is Mc Coy's all-too-brief discussion of Latin America's part in the developing world of drug trade, about which so much new material has surfaced since the book's 1991 publishing date. Unfortunately, readers looking for material on these critical areas should look elsewhere.
No book on the drug trade is complete without a discussion of the role the CIA has played in boosting the industry's world-wide network. Here Mc Coy's cautious approach is paticularly damning in its findings.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful By H. B. Franklin on October 28, 2001
Format: Paperback
Ever since the publication of this updated edition
in 1991, this book has been an essential text
for those trying to understand the "war on
drugs," the exceedingly dangerous role of the CIA
in influencing the course of history, and
historical relations between drugs and empire.
But now the book takes on crucial new
significance. Anybody attempting to comprehend
how billions of U.S. dollars were spent in
creating the agents and forces that launched
the September 11 attacks should read McCoy's
final chapter. And this chapter suggests
what a treacherous path has now been chosedn for ou
nation and the world by the very same people
who created and nurtured the Frankenstein's monster
now lurking in Afghanistan and developing
new schemes for destroying its creator.
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35 of 42 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 12, 1998
Format: Paperback
Zack Schwartz 11/12/98 U.S. Drug Policy: Book Review
The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade by Alfred McCoy is a volume obviously devoted to opiates, more specifically heroin. This version is a combination of two of McCoy's earlier works (The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia and Drug Traffic). Also there is further research incorporated into the book concerning Central America and Southern Asia. The main focus of the book is how the goals and operations of the CIA and its predecessors (e.g. OSS) basically take precedence over most if not all other interests. McCoy also delves into the world of American/ Sicilian organized crime in the context of the global heroin trade. However, the important points McCoy makes concern anti-Communist interests that became intertwined with the illicit opiates trade. McCoy accuses the CIA of aligning itself with local cartel leaders who command the opium crop. Furthermore, the CIA seems to be indifferent to, if not encouraging of, abuse of the transport of funds by operatives. In supplying weapons for its allies, the CIA, claims McCoy, does not especially care if the load that is returned is one of cocaine or opium, so long as they make their money. On occasion, the Agency might need a local to run a little shakedown action in case the locals feel like asserting themselves, or if they show any measure of discontent with how they were being treated. These native bosses could be refinery managers, traffickers, racketeers, etc. Amazingly enough, McCoy does point out, briefly it ought to be remembered, that the Agency's foreign counterparts such as Mi-6 and the French Surete have similar track records in such illicit affairs in the area.
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17 of 23 people found the following review helpful By P. GUPTA on February 5, 2002
Format: Paperback
The author is no doubt the master of his domain in as far as the Southeast Asia (the Golden Triangle) is concerned, but only 20 or so pages talk about Golden Crescent, while more than 400 pages are about very minutely detailed drug trade (& politics/ economics) of the Golden Triangle. Considering that countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan earn more than $12b in drug trade every year (only about $1b worth foreign exchange in legal exports), the importance of drug money in financing these breeding grounds of terrorism can't be emphasised enough.
I have to admit that the writing style lacks pace, and I was often confused with the different names that keep cropping up as the author goes back and forth in history. This is a great book for anyone wanting to understand the Southeast Asia though.
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