[back] Drugs
[back] Christopher Simpson

Christopher Simpson interview
Author, Professor
American University,
Washington, D.C.

Can you give us a more elaborate description of how the war on drugs is a form of psychological warfare.

The war on drugs is a form of psychological warfare on several different levels. The most basic level is as communication - the propaganda coming out of the White House, out of the television sets and so forth concerning drugs and not just concerning drugs but concerning particular policies about drugs and how things are supposed to be.

So you have that sort of communication side of it.

Meanwhile you have an extremely violent side of it and the violence comes down in terms of the arrest and prison policies. Hundreds of thousands of people now are in prison in the United States and going to prison is a very violent experience, there's no way to get around it. Meanwhile there are other types of violence involved. There's basically a war - a civil war going on in Columbia today that's being underwritten by the US government. Right now when we're having this interview, the president of the US has just signed a law that says it doesn't matter that the Colombian government is systematically murdering peasants and committing very serious human rights abuses - even by the American's own standards. We're going to give them almost two billion dollars worth of helicopters and new guns and so forth, so that they can pursue their particular faction's interest. For my two cents worth, the way I look at what's going on in South America as far as drugs are concerned is it's a factional struggles over who is going to control this extremely lucrative trade.

Is there a covert American militaristic strategy to control certain drug flow into this country?

The CIA's operational directorate, in other words that's their covert operations, para-military, dirty tricks - call it whatever you want - has for at least 40 years that we can document paid for a significant amount of its work through the sales of heroin and cocaine. It happened in Vietnam, it happened in Afghanistan, it happened in Pakistan, the wars with the Russians, it happens in South America, it happens in Columbia and so forth. In the Iran Contra affair, drug money has been integral to CIA covert operations practically from the beginning of this Agency.

With the war on drugs - we have quotes from US judges who say that the drug laws which put a person carrying a gram of crack cocaine in prison for life is a racist policy - is there an inherently racist element to the cocaine laws? And what is the nature of a government that on one hand legislates its people very harshly for drugs and yet, another arm of it has its own importation strategies?

Is there an inherently racist aspect of the cocaine policies in the United States? Well, duh! It's obvious that it's inherently racist. The drug of choice for inner city youth and for people who have less money to spend on drugs carries mandatory sentences. The drug of choice for the Hollywood types and the Washington types and the NY stockbrokers - you can skate on it if you have enough money to buy a good lawyer. So clearly there's a racial element there.

Are we being governed by people who are coming out of crime ridden networks? Is there a culture of lawlessness at the level of governance?

That's a very complicated question because it depends on what you mean by crime. One of the aspects of power and when an elite holds power is that they legalize what they do. So if you ask is Bill Clinton a product of a crime network, I would say probably not - because much of what Bill Clinton did, with the exception of some relative technicalities, had been legalized! And you see this both on the national level and you see it on an international level.

When you look at Iran Contra and that whole escapade and George Bush coming to the White House, was there a time when a certain group of people, or at least in George Bush's case, came to power? Was there a coup from the intelligence community, where there was once a political forum there - was there a change of power, or a paradigm shift?

I really don't buy a coup by the intelligence community in the sense that some people put it forward. I think the intelligence community is very influential in American politics both because it has the president's ear on important issues, and because it quite systematically pursues its own interests in terms of lobbying Congress, lobbying the media and so on. George Bush was particularly attuned to the intelligence community and its view of the world and so on. But for the most part, the CIA is the tool of the White House and not the other way around, at least in my opinion.

Are there groups that would benefit from a society addicted to heroin or a generation of kids who do a lot of drugs?

Yeah, I think so. I think that one of the characteristics of so-called globalization, one of the characteristics of capitalism's consumer-style capitalism in this present stage is a large so-called surplus population of people who don't buy enough stuff because they don't have the money to do it because they don't have the jobs. So it's a problem for the government as to what to do with these people. In terms of sheer numbers, most of them are so-called white people, but in terms of percentage of population, there's a large percentage of minorities. What is being done with these people? Well what's being done with a lot of them is they are being put in jail. And it's reached a point now where building jails is a growth industry that is almost moving as quickly as building computers is, for heaven's sakes. And they can't build the jails fast enough. So now the next step is different forms of monitoring devices. You know, you get a strap and there's a device that gets attached to your leg and the courts can monitor you and this is a substitute for prison. And the next step beyond that at least as I see things, is self-imposed prison.

If you go back and you study Joseph Goebel's work on propaganda during the 1930s, during the Hitler years, Goebels was the propaganda chief for Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. Vicious anti-Semite. Mass murderer. And a very clever SOB. And one of the things that he figured out was that the most effective means of repression is repression that a person puts on himself or herself. That even in a country like Nazi Germany - even in the country with that level of brutality and hatred and violence - that all of the SS men could not keep ordinary German people down unless ordinary German people took in this ideology of Nazism and believed it themselves. So Goebels worked out some ways to encourage this happening. That, I think, was not unique to Nazi Germany. I think that human beings do that in a lot of different circumstances and I think they do it in today's circumstance. I don't think that the United States today is the same as Nazi Germany. There are not gas chambers today - or not gas chambers in the sense that were used for mass murder in the Nazi sense. But let me give you an example of how we internalize our own repression and that's cell phones.

I have a cell phone. As a matter of fact, I wish I had brought it - I would have shown it to you. And occasionally I get business cards from people and they say the name of the guy or woman and their address and telephone and all this stuff and they'll say - there'll be a number and it'll say cell. You know? I mean it's like their cell number - it's like a cell in a prison.

It's because here's this device that follows you absolutely wherever you go, where you are on call absolutely 24 hours a day. And with really even the most minor technological adjustments that are in fact underway now, you can be tracked 24 hours a day on the basis of your cell phone. You get people who voluntarily get one of these darn things and they'll pay to be put in a cell and to be followed around and tracked like this! And it's logical to them. And in a certain weird sense, it's even in their interest to do it. It's because it can be used in ambitious ways to advance a person's career and that sort of thing. But this is how the internalization of the world-view works. It's how we come to believe that our repression is actually a benefit to us.