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The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade Paperback – May 1, 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 734 pages
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press; Revised edition edition (May 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556524838
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556524837
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #64,821 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“A fascinating, often meticulous unraveling of the byzantine complexities of the Southeast Asia drug trade . . . a pioneering book.”  —The New York Times Book Review

About the Author

Alfred W. McCoy is a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He holds a doctorate in southeast Asian history from Yale University and is the recipient of the 2001 Goodman Prize from the Association for Asian Studies. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Excellent - well researched, thorough, and eye-opening.
Kaiser Aguirre
I highly recommend this book for anyone remotely interested in understanding how the world works.
Newton Ooi
An informative book about US and CIA involvement in Afghanistan.
Mir A. Rahim Aziz

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By PEREMHERU on November 3, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Subject, Methods, Database:
A historical study of the opium and heroin trade and its political context, based on primary and secondary sources, including interviews with some of the key players of the developments in Indochina in the 1950s through 1970s.

Content:
The book falls into four main parts. Following a preface that illuminates the fascinating story behind the story and a brief introduction on the history of heroin, the first part deals with the cross-Atlantic heroin trade from the 1940s through 1970s, with special emphasis on the Mafia and Marseille based Corsican syndicates. The second part, taking up some 300 out of 530 pages (not counting the notes), describes in great detail the development of the Asian opium trade from colonial times up to the end of the Vietnam War. In the third section McCoy critically reviews the U.S. wars on drug from Nixon to Clinton, while the fourth part specifically addresses the question of CIA involvement in drug trafficking in the context of covert warfare in Afghanistan and Nicaragua during the 1980s and 1990s.
Opium had become a major commodity in world trade before it was outlawed early in the 20th century as a result of increased medical awareness of addiction and a global temperance movement. Prohibition drove opium into an illicit economy eventually controlled by upland drug lords and urban crime syndicates. By the late 1990s, 180 million people, or 4.2 percent of the world's adult population, were using illicit drugs worldwide, including 13.5 million for opiates, 14 million for cocaine, and 29 million for amphetamines.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By TLR on October 12, 2013
Format: Paperback
McCoy was a PhD from Yale, a scholar in Asian history teaching at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia was widely ignored by mainstream reviewers of the time because of its linking drug lords to US military-intelligence men. Much of the information in the book came from interviews with eyewitnesses.

US support of anti-communists in Asia, who often financed their activities through poppy, opium and heroin growing and manufacturing, led to this situation. It really began in WWII, when mobsters like Lucky Luciano and Vito Genovese were let out of jail to help the US invasion of Sicily, and then to keep the unions in southern France out of the hands of the Communists in the post-war years. The latter focused on the port city of Marseille, which soon became a center of heroin refining and exporting (the "French Connection). In the '50s, the Shah of Iran put a stop to the massive poppy industry in that country. Some of the remnants of Chiang Kai-shek's troops fled into the jungles of Burma after their defeat by the Communists; the US pressured Burma into allowing those troops to stay there, and the CIA began supplying them with Company airlines (Civil Air Transport and Sea Supply Corporation, which soon became Air America).

The KMT troops in Burma grew opium to finance themselves, while they used US arms and sometimes CIA planes to fly the opium out to Thailand or Taiwan. The drug center of the region was the town of Chiang Mai in northwest Thailand. The commander of the Thai police, Gen. Phao, was in on the racket and was the CIA's man in that country. In the '50s, heroin became a major problem in the US.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 22, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There is not a more exhaustive study of the international heroin trade written. This book will bring you from the Marseille cartels of the 40's who worked with the OSS against the Nazis and remained partners into the efforts of the CIA in Vietnam. It is comprehensive in the sources of poppy and the above board and undercover machinations to keep the heroin trade alive and well for many different reasons. Fleshing out many key players in the trade and delving into murky corners of geopolitics not widely known, you may find more than you want in this book. I work with some people from Laos and Cambodia and after reading the chapters on Southeast Asia, we were able to hold a very illuminating conversation about the on the ground effects of this policy. It is well known to the people there and should be to the people here in America.

Amazingly well researched and very well written, this is the authoritative tome on the highly questionable connections between the American intelligence community and the global drug cartels.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Charlene Smith on September 26, 2011
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This is really the seminal work on the subject, it has incredible research over many years, but grounded in truly remarkable research in the beginning. It is disheartening when one realises the same is happening in Afghanistan with opium and that during the war from 2001 to the present, American involvement has seen 1,700 Americans die and Afghanistan become the biggest trade of opium globally, earning billions of dollars for drug lords.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By K. S. Lutz on August 6, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is quite a detailed and academic reference that no college student should be without. I have been out of graduate school for over 10 years and it took me nearly 2 weeks to complete and comprehend the facts of the book. There are just so many places and names in the book that one can easily get lost and confused. Nevertheless, the author gives the reader and complete history of the heroin trade starting with 19th century opium production and use in China to present day heroin production, distribution, and consumption that is coming out of Afghanistan. I highly recommend this book to everyone who wants to really understand why we are losing the War on Drugs. You want to know the truth about the drug trade? Then this is the book for you.
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