DEALING WITH THE DEMON
Episode II: AN UNHOLY ALLIANCEPart I
| Part II
| Part III
| Part IV
| Part V
| Part VI
Directed by Chris Hilton and David Roberts
Written and produced by Chris Hilton
Researched by Lesley Holden
Edited by Kim Moodie
Photographed by Simon Smith and Tony Wilson
Original Music composed by Scott Sounders
With songs by Lou Reed and Billie Holiday.
An Aspire Films Production financed by the Australian Film Corporation.
This episode examines the relationship between the drug trade and war, detailing the involvement of the CIA in Vietnam and Afghanistan during the Cold War.
From almost zero production before the Afghan/Soviet war began in 1979, the Golden Crescent of Afghanistan and Pakistan has grown into the world's largest producer of heroin. This year it will produce 300 to 500 tons of pure white powder with a wholesale value in the United States of $50 billion. According to State Department figures, there is a current glut in supply, with worldwide production ten times the level it was in the 1970s. despite massive outlays on interdiction and other means to control it.
The government of the United States, through the CIA provided more than $2 billion in military aid to the Mujahideen of Afghanistan to fight the Soviet occupation of their country
In the United States it is now well documented that heroin is making a comeback. Until recently, it was sold at only 4% purity but now the average purity of street heroin is often as high as 65%. Smoking this purer heroin is catching on amongst the middle classes, but it's no less addictive than it was during the last heroin scare of the 1970s. Heroin related deaths are up 100% across most of North America. The US is not the only country to be affected, the toll for Pakistan has been devastating with 1.7 million heroin addicts, up from virtually zero before the war.
This film takes an in depth look at the current resurgence of heroin use in the United States. It reveals why, during the 1980s. when two presidential war's on drugs were declared to solve a domestic crisis at home, 17 DEA agents based in the US Embassy in Islamabad were powerless as they watched the heroin trade in the Golden Crescent grow and flourish. It investigates why from the beginning of the Afghan/ Soviet war to it's close in 1989, despite full knowledge of key figures and their drug trading operations no requests for arrests and extraditions were made. It will explore why suddenly in 1990, US Administration officials were forced to acknowledge the drug business sidelines of their allies and begin to seek arrests of some of the Pakistani heroin kingpins who had been on the DEA's list as far back as 1980.
This military sponsorship was directed at certain Afghan resistance leaders, those who were thought to be most effective on the battlefield. In effect the CIA (with advice from the ISI in Pakistan) made the current "kings" of Afghanistan, who now squander their country as they battle each other for control in a civil war. The anti-western Islamic politics of these "kings", especially Gulbuddin Hekmatyer and their involvement in the drug trade were not considered relevant issues for the period from 1979 to 1988.
"The Afghan drug connection is one of the biggest uncovered stories in the foreign policy arena. The scale and duration of the connection between drug trafficking, gun running and foreign policy are far larger even than the Central American affair".
- Jack Blum, Chief Counsel to the Kerry Senate subcommittee
Afghanistan, with its surplus of military hardware and covert operations training is now accused of being a training ground for international terrorists as well as a major source of drugs. Ex CIA operations chief for South Asia Charles Cogan describes the rise of terrorism and drugs as blowback - poisonous fallout drifting back home from faraway battlefields.
The first film opens with this years bumper opium harvest in Afghanistan and links this to the recent rise of heroin use in the United States.
The story that is revealed, follows the simple but expedient formula that drugs (and other long term problems like Islamic terrorism) took a back seat when the priority was winning a war against the evil Soviet Empire. At its more complex level, the story of heroin in the Golden Crescent involves connections between the CIA, the ISI, Mujahideen, the collapsed BCCI bank and Pakistan's nuclear weapons program.
The insights that this film provides into the contemporary US heroin problem have crucial implications for drug control policy and break a major foreign policy story that, because it ran counter to the required byline of "barefoot freedom fighters taking on a superpower", has been left mostly untouched by the media.