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Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion Seven Stories Press 1st ed Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 120 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1888363685
ISBN-10: 1888363681
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In July 1995, San Jose Mercury-News reporter Gary Webb found the Big One--the blockbuster story every journalist secretly dreams about--without even looking for it. A simple phone call concerning an unexceptional pending drug trial turned into a massive conspiracy involving the Nicaraguan Contra rebels, L.A. and Bay Area crack cocaine dealers, and the Central Intelligence Agency. For several years during the 1980s, Webb discovered, Contra elements shuttled thousands of tons of cocaine into the United States, with the profits going toward the funding of Contra rebels attempting a counterrevolution in their Nicaraguan homeland. Even more chilling, Webb quickly realized, was that the massive drug-dealing operation had the implicit approval--and occasional outright support--of the CIA, the very organization entrusted to prevent illegal drugs from being brought into the United States.

Within the pages of Dark Alliance, Webb produces a massive amount of evidence that suggests that such a scenario did take place, and more disturbing evidence that the powers that be that allowed such an alliance are still determined to ruthlessly guard their secrets. Webb's research is impeccable--names, dates, places, and dollar amounts gather and mount with every page, eventually building a towering wall of evidence in support of his theories. After the original series of articles ran in the Mercury-News in late 1996, both Webb and his paper were so severely criticized by political commentators, government officials, and other members of the press that his own newspaper decided it best not to stand behind the series, in effect apologizing for the assertions and disavowing his work. Webb quit the paper in disgust in November 1997. His book serves as both a complex memoir of the time of the Contras and an indictment of the current state of America's press; Dark Alliance is as necessary and valuable as it is horrifying and grim. --Tjames Madison


"…a densely researched, passionately argued, acronym-laden 548-page volume." —Michael Massing, The Los Angeles Times Sunday Book Review

"I find his argument to be very well documented, very careful and very convincing. In fact, the readability of the book suffers a bit from what seems to have been a fear that if he didn't include absolutely every bit of evidence he had unearthed, he would open himself up to new criticisms of inadequate reporting—but this editor's quibble shouldn't stop anyone from buying and reading Dark Alliance. Long-time followers of the contra tale are likely to find new revelations in the book…" —Jo Ann Kawell, The Nation

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Seven Stories Press; Seven Stories Press 1st ed edition (June 9, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1888363681
  • ISBN-13: 978-1888363685
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.7 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (120 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #796,500 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAME on June 9, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am probably the only reviewer who was a clandestine case officer (three back to back tours), who participated in the Central American follies as both a field officer and a desk officer at CIA HQS, who is also very broadly read.

With great sadness, I must conclude that this book is truthful, accurate, and explosive.

The book lacks some context, for example, the liberal Saudi funding for the Contras that was provided to the National Security Council (NSC) as a back-door courtesy.

There are three core lessons in this book, supported by many books, some of which I list at the end of this review:

1) The US Government cannot be trusted by the people. The White House, the NSC, the CIA, even the Justice Department, and the Members of Congress associated with the Administration's party, are all liars. They use "national security" as a pretext for dealing drugs and screwing over the American people.

2) CIA has come to the end of its useful life. I remain proud to have been a clandestine case officer, but I see now that I was part of the "fake" CIA going through the motions, while extremely evil deeds were taking place in more limited channels.

3) In the eyes of the Nicaraguan, Guatemalan, and Honduran people, among many others, the US Government, as represented by the CIA and the dark side Ambassadors who are partisan appointees rather than true diplomats, is evil. It consorts with dictators, condones torture, helps loot the commonwealths of others, runs drugs, launders money, and is generally the bully on the block.

I have numerous notes on the book, and will list just a few here that are important "nuggets" from this great work:

1) The CIA connection to the crack pandemic could be the crime of the century.
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Format: Paperback
I followed the "Dark Alliance" story from the time it was published in the San Jose Mercury News to the time it was ridiculed by the country's largest newspapers and Gary Webb was hung out to dry by his own paper. I picked up the book with an open mind but no expectation of being convinced.
I was not only convinced, I was stunned by the story from start to finish. Webb has assembled not shadowy sources leaking dark innuendos but a thorough reporting of facts taken from congressional testimony, court testimony, declassified documents and personal interviews. It's clear, at a minimum, that the US government was connected to the people responsible for a large piece of the cocaine trade. The only thing that remains uncertain is whether US officials actually participated in the drug trade directly with these people or simply forged a marriage of convenience and looked the other way. It's worth noting that a large amount of information comes from documents that are only partially declassified -- meaning that plenty of incriminating information remains to be disclosed. Years from now we'll finally see what is still being concealed, and I suspect we'll learn that the story goes beyond the basic verifiable information that Webb reports here.
For those who believed the NY Times' cursory dismissal of this story, please note the Times' record in the case of El Mozote as told in the book "The Massacre at El Mozote" by Mark Danner. The Times pulled its own Latin American correspondent off the story of a massacre by US-supported Salvadoran troops when the government went on the attack. Ten years later, the hundreds of bodies were found and the whole story was confirmed. The Times was left looking as if it had participated in the official coverup, and maybe it did. It would be no surprise to find out a similar story in this case.
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Format: Paperback
This is a remarkable book. My first inclination was to disregard it as another conspiracy theory. After reading it and checking some of the sources, however, I have concluded that it is accurate. Gary Webb traces the introduction of crack cocaine into Los Angeles in the early 1980's and followed its rise to a full blown epidemic by the mid to late 80's. Undoubtedly, agents of the CIA and DEA, and most certainly Oliver North and his Contra operation were aware of the source of the cocaine. Indeed, it is apparent that the White House knew and acted to protect the drug pipeline in order to keep the money flowing to the Contra organization. Ronald Reagan was clearly more interested in fighting the war on communism than the war on drugs. The hypocrisy of the Reagan administration is apparent when we realize that Reagan declared illicit drugs a national security issue and championed the most draconian drug laws written to that date. Would crack cocaine have become an epidemic without CIA support? Probably, Webb points out that the development of a similar drug in Latin America by the 1970's had been studied and scientists warned that a similar epidemic in the U.S. was imminent. Would it have happened as fast or been as bad without government protection? No one knows the answer to that question. Ultimately, there were two big losers. Inner city dwellers were hit hardest. Not only were they exposed to this incredibly addicting drug, but they bore the brunt of the government crack-down on illicit drugs. The other loser was Ronald Reagan, whose legacy of integrity and honor is destroyed in his ends justifies the means approach to government. Anyone who reads this book will never look at Ronald Reagan or Oliver North in quite the same way.
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