From "Cold War" to "Drug War;"
the lies continue

Cold War: the Fantasies

A staple of U.S. propaganda during Cold War was the "domino theory." The idea that if one country "fell to communism," the surrounding countries would fall and one day, the U.S. would be the only "free" country left.

The U.S. propaganda machine used "the bomber gap" during the 50s and "the missle gap" during the 60s to mobilize (or tranquilize) the public so that more and more bombers and missles could be built.

The building of the Berlin Wall made a huge impression on Americans. The Cold War was as plain as black and white; the states of absolute evil were on the East side of the wall, and the sublime and virtuous states were on the West side of the wall.

The U.S.'s acts of aggression were actually a "defense" against communists. During the invasions of North Korea and Vietnam, the media, the government and the military pled "defense".

The Cuban Missle crisis was used to stir up hysteria about "communism in our own hemisphere!" "Our hemisphere" meaning that the U.S. owns the entire Western Hemisphere; while true, the bloody consequences of this are something that does not reach the public through the corprate media.

Deconstructing Rhetoric; the Facts

Almost all rhetoric put out by the mass media is filled with inconsistentcies and outright lies. This is why the fundamentals of government policy are never seriously questioned. For the most part, there is only argument about the tactics used to achieve our high standards of "freedom and democracy."

Take the Domino Theory. After Cuba "fell" to communism, no other country in the Western Hemisphere did (except for Chile after Allende won an ELECTION, but the C.I.A. took care of him). After Vietnam "fell" to communism and United States murdered millions of Indochinese for it, all of Asia never "fell" to communism. The Domino Theory is something that the U.S. war machine used as a pretext for its real purpose; smashing independent nationalist grassroots movements (a.k.a. democracy).

There was never such a thing as the "bomber gap," or the "missile gap" in the sense that the propaganda machine meant it to be. In fact, the "bomber gap" and the "missile gap" did exist, but the truth was unmentionable because of the (false) idealogical constructs of the media; the truth was that the United States had always been far ahead in bomber and missile development, production and deployment.

A little known fact about the Cold War is that in 1952, the Kremlin offered to reunify Germany under the condition they be neutral. There were guarantees for "the rights of man and basic freedoms, including freedom of speech, press, religious persuasion, political conviction, and assembly" and the free activity of democratic parties and organization. There were no conditions on what kind of economy Germany would have. The U.S. and its western allies objected to the proposal because they did not recognize the Oder-Neisse frontier between Germany and Poland, and insisted that a reunified Germany be free to join N.A.T.O. This demand was something that no country accept, considering that a unified Germany had nearly destroyed Russia a few years earlier. Instead of negotiating with the U.S.S.R., the United States rejected the offer by making unreasonable demands. If the U.S. media had reported it, the entire idea of the "international communist conspiracy" as some sort of emminent threat to Western Europe would've been seen for what it was; a sham! If the West had accepted the Kremlin's proposal, there would've been no Berlin Wall, no blockade and no pretext for Third World intervention.{1}

The U.S. led U.N. forces invaded North Korea after they had repelled North Korea's invasion. 2 million Koreans were killed in that war. The U.S. invaded Vietnam, murdered millions of people, and has yet to apologize. President Jimmy Carter once said "the destruction was mutual" between the U.S. and Vietnam. Walking down the streets of Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Boston and New York, it is obvious that the B52s were indiscriminate about which city, which country, and which continent they carpet bombed! 58,000 American lives surely equal millions of South East Asian lives!

The Cuban Missle Crisis was portrayed as aggression against the benign hegemon, the United States. The Soviets decided that since the U.S. had nuclear missile bases in Germany, Turkey and a host of other countries in their "own backyard," maybe the U.S. should get a taste of its own medicine. The U.S.'s reasons for those bases was that "the U.S. bases [in Turkey]... was not to blackmail Russia but to strengthen the defense system of N.A.T.O., which had been created as a safeguard against Russian aggression."{2} I guess the fact that Cuba had been invaded at the Bay of Pigs with President Kennedy's support means absolutely nothing. The U.S. media never questioned why Cuba should not have "a safeguard" or a "defense system" against the very real threat of invasion, established by historical precedent.

Shifting Enemies

Now that the Cold War has ended, new enemies must be found (or rather, created). There is no longer the "Communist Threat," and the Domino Theory has lost its credibility as a pretext for foreign intervention. Enter the "War on Drugs."

Whereas the old domestic enemies were "communists" (a.k.a. left-wing actvists), the new domestic enemies are primarily the poor and minorities; those most affected by the failures of the capitalist system and have become disenfranchised. Even before the "Drug War," blacks, hispanics and the poor were incarcerated at higher rates than the general population. But the "Drug War" provides an excellent cover for the barbarous and brutal racism of the rotten judicial system.

Drug War; the Lies

The centerpiece of the War on (certain) Drugs is the "tough on crime" stance of many of today's politicians. The "tough on crime" stance is an excellent political tool that forces other candidates to take a similar stance, so as not to look "soft on crime." The campaign to "make our streets safe" functions in a similar way.

The "tough on crime" stance produces such legislation as the "three strikes" and you're fuct law in California. There is a tacit assumption that no racism, sexism or classism exists in the criminal justice(?) system today. "Rodney King? Oh, those officers were just a few bad apples. Abner Louima? Oh, those officers were just a few bad apples. Amadu Diallo? Oh, those officers were just a few bad apples. Mumia Abu-Jamal? I hate that guilty nigger." This is part of the attitude that many people and politicians take today when it comes to those specific cases. Many people write those cases off as "a few bad apples" (and a few "guilty niggers") rather than realizing that repeated abuses by the system are systematic abuses. If the system weren't rotten, wouldn't the "few bad apples" have been found guilty of brutality and torture? Why is it when "a few bad apples" pop up, the system does little or nothing to punish them? Like I said, people must realize that the system is the "bad apple" and is rotten to the core.

The solution to the Cold War? More bombers, missles and weapons! The solution to the "Drug War?" More police, more prisons and less rights! Just as the increase in weapons helped alleviate the Cold War's tension, the increase in repression will alleviate the problem of crime!

Another very important aspect of the "War on Drugs" is that there are governments all over the world in places like Mexico and Colombia who are helping the U.S. in its moral crusade to rid the world of drugs.

Another Lesson in "Deconstructing Rhetoric"; Domestic Population Control

Over 1.8 MILLION people are behind bars in the United States, the highest per-capita incarceration rate in the history of the world! Today, over 5 million people are behind bars, on parole, on probation or under other supervision by the criminal "justice" system. In 1995 alone, 150 new prisons were built and filled. Yet, violence occurs in less than 14 percent of all reported crime, and injuries occur in just 3 percent. In California, the top three charges for those entering prison are: possession of a controlled substance; possession of a controlled substance for sale; and robbery. Violent crimes like murder, rape, manslaughter and kidnapping don't even make the top ten.{3}

Obviously, the system is rascist. Arrests of African Americans have been about five times higher than arrests of whites, although they both use drugs at about the same rate. It is estimated that in 1994, on any given day, one out of every 128 adults was incarcerated while one out of every 17 African American males was incarcerated. About 90 percent of crack arrests are African Americans, while 75 percent of powder cocaine arrests are white. Under federal law, it takes only five grams of crack cocaine to trigger a mandatory sentence; but it takes 500 grams of powder cocaine--100 times as much--to trigger the same sentence. The only difference between these two are the differences in delivery; one is snorted, the other is smoked. In 1996, a nationwide rebellion in federal prisons occurred in reaction to Congress' refusal to enact changes in sentencing laws that would equalize penalties.{3}

Another assumption made by propenents of the "tough on crime" (weak on thought) line believe that "well, if we made murder legal, of course the crime rate would drop." They apply this logic (or lack thereof) to illegal drugs, like marijuana, L.S.D., crack, cocaine and heroin.

In 1903, when Georgia and Oklahoma made the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors illegal state wide, the homicide rate in the United States was 1 person per 100,000 per year. By 1919--when the 18th amendment was passed, making alcohol use illegal nationwide, the homicide rate had grown to 8 per 100,000. The murder rate steadily climbed until its peak at 10 per 100,000 around 1933, when the U.S. repealed the amendment. By 1943, the homicide rate drastically shrank to 5 per 100,000 and stayed there until 1964.{4} In 1964, the U.S. began enforcing the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs which restricted narcotic drug use to medical and scientific purposes and internationally banned drug trade outside government monopolies.{5} Then, from 1964 to 1970 in the U.S., the number of state prisoners incarcerated for drug offenses more than doubled from 3,079 to 6,596 (it was 90,000 in 1989).{6} The new concentration on enforcing victimless crimes caused the homicide rate to skyrocket. Between 1964 and 1970 the homicide rate doubled from 5 per 100,000 to 10 per 100,000, where it has remained with minor fluctuations up until today.{4}

What does prohibition's history have to do with today's "Drug War"? At the turn of this century, both heroin and aspirin were legally available and sold for approximately the same amount. Today aspirin can be purchased for 20 cents per gram; heroin costs $50 per gram {8}. The reason that the murder rate increased during prohibition and after narcotics were made illegal is because dealers are willing to kill eachother for the lucrative profits and addicts are eager to rob and kill to support their habit, a habit easily supportable by a job at McDonald's, if those drugs were legal. Eliminating the enormous profits that can be reaped from black market businesses eliminates the motive for violent crime, and therefore the violent crime.

Cutting the Crap; Foreign Population Control

Much of the military aid that the U.S. government sends Mexico for the "Drug War" is used for death squads who brutally suppress the Zapatista rebels (or in newspeak, "terrorists") in the province of Chiapas. In fact, in 1998 we gave Mexico roughly 26 MILLION TAXPAYER DOLLARS{10} for police/military use (not to mention the 22 million dollars in total arms sales) and yet 40% of their military is stationed in Chiapas, the home of the Zapatista rebellion.{11} The Zapatistas are asking for education, land reform and a host of other social reforms that the Mexican government not only refuses to enact, but exacerbates the problems by privatizing, deregulating and unregulating crucial sectors of the economy. Article 39 of the Mexican constitution states that "the people have, at all times, the inalienable right to alter or modify the form of their government."

Recently, the war in Colombia has escalated to the point that Colombia is now the third largest largest recepient of military aid from the U.S., about 290 million dollars worth of police and military aid (equipment and training){9}, right below Israel and Egypt. The victims of the war in Colombia have been lawyers, priests, nuns, political activists, labor leaders, peasant leaders, university professors, journalists, cooperative members, women leaders and anyone who dares to think for themselves. Some 4,300 Colombians are killed each year for political reasons out of a total annual death toll of 30,000. It has been estimated by the Colombian Commission of Jurists that only 2% of these political killings are drug related, while 28% of the deaths are at the hands of the guerrillas and 70% are caused by the paramilitary/military alliance.{12} In a 1998 report the Bogota office of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights observed that "witnesses frequently state that massacres were perpetrated by members of the armed forces passing themselves off as paramilitaries."{13}

In 1998, Congress appropriated an additional $690 million to a projected three-year authorization of $5 billion, for drug interdiction along the Pacific coast from Colombia to Southern California. The funds would largely be spent on the purchase and maintenance of aircraft, including six UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters for the Colombian police, eight helicopters for Mexico, and six surveillance airplanes for the U.S. Customs Service. Bill Clinton signed a spending bill which included the Western Hemisphere Drug Elimination Act (S. 2341). The act calls for an 80% reduction in the amount of illicit drugs smuggled into the U.S. by the end of 2001. Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who has set a goal of a 10% reduction in drug smuggling over three years in the National Drug Control Strategy, called the target of 80% "completely unrealistic."{14}


The expansion of the prison industrial complex can be in large part attributed to globalization. The Third World at home (urban ghettos) combined with increasing arrest rates and longer mandatory minimum sentences has created an unprecedented opportunity for cheap labor at home. Global capital is ruthlessly subjugating workers all over the globe with unprecedented ease.

American employees who used to make $8 an hour a day are "restructured" and their jobs sent overseas to places like Asia where wages can be around $2 a day. As manufacturing declined in America and wiped out the economic base of urban centers all across the country, more and more Americans turned to a very lucrative alternative for unskilled laborers; drug dealing. As I have already demonstrated, African Americans have been disproportionately arrested and incarcerated in the name of the "Drug War". This is the domestic source of cheap labor for those oh-so-important multinational corporations. Guess what the wages for prisoners are. 22 cents an hour! That's a huge step down from $8 an hour. More and more factories are being built within prisons, which will eliminate smaller business who do not have the connections necessary to exploit prison labor. Prisoners do data entry for Chevron, make telephone reservations for T.W.A., raise hogs, shovel manure and make limousines, waterbeds and lingerie for Victoria's Secret at that irresistable wage of 22 cents an hour. Prisoners can work for wages that low or even nothing at all because they have no rights. The 14th Amdendment, which outlawed "involuntary servitude" (slavery), does not protect inmates. Inmates at U.N.I.C.O.R. (the federal prison industry corporation) make furniture for 40 hours a week for $40 per month. U.N.I.C.O.R. can afford to pay its "employees" that low because they have the "inside track" on government contracts. U.S. technologies sold its electronics in Austin, Texas, leaving 150 workers unemployed. Six weeks later, U.S. technologies reopened the electronic plant--inside a nearby prison.{3}

Many politicians and the properly indoctrinated think that prison life is paradise; cable t.v. free food, etc. They come to the conclusion that inmates should pay "room and board". When inmates become a labor force, they cannot form unions. They cannot go on strike. They cannot abstain from working. While prison labor is not yet mandatory (I'm not talking about community service), workers who refuse to work, be it from laziness or protest, can be beaten or put into solitary confinement or into "control units". Control units were a development of maximum security institutions like Alcatraz. Prisoners who were the most violent and extreme were put into control units, which are a permanent form of lockdown. Today, more than 30 state prison systems, as well as the federal system, have some form of control unit. Prisoners inside control units are forced to endure idleness, long term isolation, sensory deprivation, toxic environments and excessive restraint (similar to "excessive force"). Yet the creation of control units has not reduced the level of violence within general prison populations. In fact, assaults on prison staff nationwide rose from 175 in 1991 to 906 to 1993. American Indian Movement organizer Leonard Peltier and Black Liberation Army member Sekou Odinga, were sent to Control Units directly from trial, disproving the claim that prisoners in Control Units have earned their punishment by their own behavior once in prison.{15}

The U.S. government put itself into a permanent war economy after WWII in order to maintain U.S. military and economic supremacy and to give the military industrial complex a guaranteed subsidy. The public footed the bill for that subsidy, which ran into the billions, possibly trillions of dollars. Today, that war economy has extended to the domestic arena, with the "War on Crime" and the "War on Drugs." The prison industrial complex is a new way to funnel taxpayer money to the rich, while the guaranteed subsidy for the military industrial complex has remained intact, despite the lack of the "Soviet Threat" and the "International Communist Conspiracy".

The day the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect, the peasant rebels (the Zapatistas), protesting the imminent influx of cheap corn from the United States that would put them out of business and into poverty, took over four towns and 500 ranches in southern Mexico. The government sent in troops, and at least 145 people died in the ensuing battle. The Mexican army has surrounded the Zapatista enclave, and paramilitary groups who call themselves the Peace and Justice Party and the Red Masks have aligned themselves with the government (which denies their existence) and terrorized the Indians, driving 2,000 of them from their villages.{16}

In Colombia, a war rages between the U.S. supported totalitarian "narco-government" and the "narco-guerilla" groups F.A.R.C. and E.L.N. One of the reasons that Colombia is in such terrible shape is because of globalization; Colombia is rich in oil and mineral wealth and the military and paramilitary forces kill union organizers, human rights workers, Indians, grassroots activists, or anyone else who gets in the way of global capital. In fact, more labor leaders are assassinated in Colombia than anywhere else in the world.{12} Often times, the paramilitaries who are actually military men in disguise, cut people alive into pieces with chainsaws.{9} In a report from the front in Colombia, Cecilia Zarate-Laun reveals that before the paramilitaries assassinated a local store owner in El Aro, "they tied him to a tree in the plaza, tortured him, pulled out his eyes and heart and rubbed salt all over his body. His wife and children were forcefully taken to see his remains." When the paramilitaries left El Aro, 51 of the 68 town houses destroyed and 10 small farms looted and burned. Another 5 peasants were killed and the paras tookwith them 1,300 heads of cattle and 130 mules and horses.{12} These are just a few of the tactics of terror used to displace Colombia's 1.5 million internal refugees.{9}


Why would the government and the media lie to the public during the Cold War? Why do they lie today about the "Drug War?" What's their problem? What's on their agenda?

During and after the Great Depression, the elites in America realized something very important, essential to the preservation of the system; capitalism cannot survive without significant government "interference" through taxpayer subsidies and centralized control of financial institutions. If not for WWII, it's doubtful that America's economy would recover, let alone completely dominate the post-war world. Since that time, the U.S. economy has been a permanent war economy, guaranteeing America's military supremacy with the development of extremely sophisticated and powerful ballistic missle, multiple delivery platforms, and all kinds of glorious war machines. This trend continues today, and extends to the prison industrial complex. Increasingly, the police are being militarized via S.W.A.T. teams. Also, new "non-lethal" devices for torture and therefore, control are being developed.

Periodic wars helped to justify over-inflated military budgets. At government agencies like the Pentagon, Congress, the C.I.A., the N.S.A. (National Security Agency), the State Department and at private corporations like Boeing and Lockheed Martin, there is a revolving door insuring that "the good 'ol boys club" of the super-rich elites and the government thugs who work for them stick together. These institutions are exempt from public scrutiny under the guise of "national security", which can mean anything from the International Communist Conspiracy to no good towel headed gun toting A-Rab scum (who the U.S. trained to make bombs in Afganistan). Since those "godawful reds" are gone, new excuses for raining death and destruction down upon those who dare seek freedom must be found. The "Drug War", "Humanitarian Intervention" and "protection the American way of life" come to mind.

YOUR TAXPAYER DOLLAR$ go into the pockets of the super rich who own or head corporations, who in turn funnel that money into campaign contributions and "gifts" (or perhaps bribes would be a better word). The rest of that money goes into buying weapons that kill people, developing weapons to kill people, training people to kill people, and paying people to kill people. Now, more and more money is going to jail people as well.

Fight Back!!

Though this diatribe leaves much to be discussed, the important thing is to FIGHT BACK!!!!!!! Gallup polls have consistently shown that the majority of people favor funding for Medicare, Medicaid and education over the military. Perhaps this helps explain why less than 50% of the registered voters actually voted during last year's Presidential "election" (or maybe auction would be a better word).

What we (the people) need to fight this is a mass movement; not just protests, but civil disobedience, sit-ins, boycotts and strikes. Hitting the bosses and elites in their pocket books is the best way to fight the prison-industrial and military-industrial complexes.

Join a union, start a discussion group, do SOMETHING to organize. There has been a lot of unreported resistance to globalization and the party for the rich. Recently, longshore workers in Denmark, Spain, Sweden and several other countries closed down ports around the world in solidarity with striking Liverpool dockers. When Renault closed its plant in Belgium, 100,000 people demonstrated in Brussels, pressuring the French and Belgian governments to condemn the plant closure and compel its repopening. In 1996, the people Bougainville, a small Papua New Guinea island, organized a small secessionist rebellion, protesting the dislocations and ecological destruction caused by corprate mining on the island. When the government hired South African mercenaries to train local troops in counterinsurgency warfare, the troops rebelled, threw out the mercenaries and deposed the Prime Minister. A one day general strike shut down Haiti in January of 1997. Strikers demanded the suspension of negotiations between the Prime Minister and the I.M.F./World Bank. They protested austerity measures imposed by the I.M.F. & the W.B., which would mean the layoff of 7,000 government workers and the privatization of the electric and telephone companies. In France, a month-long general strike united millions of workers who protested privatization, a government worker pay-freeze and cutbacks in social services. Telephone, airline, power, postal, education, health care and metal workers all joined together, bringing businesses (and the elites who own them) to their knees. The right-wing Chirac government was forced to make minor concessions before being voted out for a new "socialist" administration.{3}

We, the people, the workers, have the power to fight back. All we have to do is join forces and flex our muscle


1. Noam Chomsky, Deterring Democracy (Verso, 1991), pg 25.
2. Time magazine, November 2nd, 1962.
3. "the Prison Industrial Complex and the Global Economy." Nexus magazine, June-July 1999.
4. "the Crime Scene." Forbes, 14 September 1992, 308.
5. "Pharmacology." Britannica Book of the Year 1966, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 605-607.
6. World Almanac and Book of Facts 1993. New York: Pharos Books, 950.
7. "Crime and the Drug War." Claustrophobia, August 1994.
8. "Drugs in America", Rolling Stone, 5 May 1994.
9. "Globalization and Instability", Z Magazine, September 1999.
10. Washington Office on Latin American Affairs. I called them and asked them for these figures.
11. "Violence in Chipas Continues", Chiapas Committee of Cleaveland.
12. "The War on Drugs From the Supply Side", Z Magazine, July-August 1998.
13. "DANGER: US Could Go to War on the Wrong Side." Miami Herald, August 27
14. "Measure to Reduce Drug Smuggling into U.S. by 80% in Three Years Passes Congress. National Drug Strategy Network, September-October 1998.
15. Prison Issues Desk: Control Units.
16. LatinoLink: 'A Place Called Chiapas'.

About the author: Pham Binh is a junior attending Wilson Magnet High School. He studies politics in his spare time, and is a member of the International Socialist Organization.

Article completed 10/3/99 1 1