America’s Awful Track Record for Supporting Drug Cartels, Terrorists and Oppressive Regimes
Before I’m attacked for coming off as an avid, anti-American isolationist, I will concede that the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” strategy has worked before. Shaking hands with Stalin was necessary to destroy the fascist regimes in Germany, Italy, Japan and Romania. Turkey has committed some human rights crimes, but they have also helped keep the outside world safer when working with the US in the past, particularly during the Cold War. However, those instances are in the small minority. The unquestionable reality is that the CIA, DIA and the American government in general have blood on their hands from Yugoslavia to Colombia in funding, helping and enabling evil individuals, regimes and organizations throughout history.
Osama Bin Laden
When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, President Carter opted to intervene in what became known as the Russo-Afghan war. By 1984, Bin Laden was head of the organization Maktab al-Khidamar, which funneled fighters, money and arms into Afghanistan for the war. What the government fails to acknowledge is that MAK was supported by the ISI, the primary channel for the CIA’s covert war against the USSR in the country. Bin Laden wasn’t the leader of the Mujahideen, but his wealth – partially acquired from American aid – made him a prominent warlord in the region, and it is doubtful whether the allies he made to later create Al-Qaeda would’ve been made if not for the CIA’s intervention on behalf of known radical organizations. It’s impossible to measure the exact amount that Uncle Sam dumped into organizations run by Bin Laden and his allies under Carter, Reagan and Bush Sr., but by 1984, funding had reached $60 million per year, a figure that Saudi Arabia had matched.
However, that doesn’t come even close to the scale of funding to Bin Laden and his allies. The current leader of Al-Qaeda is Ayman al-Zawahiri, a longtime member of Al-Qaeda and former member of the Egypt based Al-Jihad terrorist group. Zawahiri was responsible for training Middle Eastern soldiers during the Afghan War, and sources say a portion of the $500 million poured into Afghanistan by the US alone reached him. Further, other sources suggest $3 billion in total was provided by the US during the conflict funneled through Pakistan, and that figure excludes funding from Saudi Arabia, Britain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
In a recent book written by Pablo Escobar’s son, he confirmed that the drug kingpin of Latin America worked extensively with the CIA. It’s incredibly difficult to get an exact estimate, but his measured net worth reached $30 billion and he managed to smuggle an average of 15 tons of cocaine a day into the United States alone. Further, former Secretary of State and presidential nominee John Kerry (D-MA) confirmed that not only was there considerable evidence linking the contra effort with drug and weapon trafficking during the years when Escobar had a virtual monopoly on cocaine, but he admitted the government was fully aware of it. (The report doesn’t mention Pablo by name, but this is the closest we can hope to get to a confession as we will see.)
ISIS and Al Nusra
Like many of the other organizations on this list, these two terrorist organizations received American aid through a middleman: the Free Syrian Army. A British think tank called the Centre of Religion and Geopolitics concluded that approximately 60% of the Syrian rebels hold an Islamic extremist ideology. The CIA, with its nearly infinite set of financial assets should’ve known the connections between the Syrian rebels and terrorist organizations, the repercussions for further destabilizing Syria and the proneness for smuggled arms to be obtained by ISIS and Al Nusra. You would think. To what scope was America handing off weapons to ISIS and Al-Nusra? A declassified 2012 DIA report released the contents of a single arms shipment that used 10 shipping containers able to hold a combined 240 tons of payload shipped from Libya. The program to send arms to anti-Assad rebels lasted from mid-2012 to July 2017, approximately 5 years. If only one of these was sent to Syria every month (an extremely low estimate), the United States would’ve effectively sent out 14,440 tons of weaponry to the Free Syrian Army.
In addition, America’s partners in crime, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, also felt the need to fight the war to the last Syrian. Over a two year span, Qatar spent $3 billion and flew weapons and supplies into the warzone, while Saudi Arabia shipped weapons from Croatia as well. Finally, a groundbreaking UN report stated that the US under the Obama administration armed Syrian rebels with sarin gas and linked this to several chemical weapons attacks committed by Al Nusra on government forces and civilians. Thus, throughout a five-year span, America and its allies sent billions of dollars’ worth of rocket launchers, guns and even inhumane chemical weapons that are all responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands.
What scares me the most about Saudi Arabia is how involved they are with everything else on this list. When America sent in arms to Syria, they shipped more from Croatia, and when we sent billions into Afghanistan in the 1980s, Saudi Arabia matched our numbers. Saudi Arabia has gotten their hands dirty in conflicts, coups, civil wars and everything in between from Libya to Israel to Afghanistan. The frightening part is how much we fund them. Just this year, President Trump agreed to a $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, and this deal isn’t an outlier, but rather the norm. Under Obama and previous presidents, numerous multi-billion dollar deals were passed and in 2016, President Obama offered a $115 billion dollar arms deal.
The latest atrocity committed by America’s Middle Eastern ally has involved Yemen. The United States has refueled Saudi Arabian planes, supplied intelligence and everything in between to bomb rebels and hypothetically “fight AQAP,” and we’re doing it the same way we fought Al-Nusra (bombing civilians, spending billions and distributing munitions). In 2015 alone, 785 children were killed, 60% as a result of Saudi Arabian airstrikes, and that doesn’t of course include adults.
Khmer Rouge (Cambodia)
During the later years of the Vietnam war, President Nixon began an illegal and secret bombing of Cambodia. The US dropped more bombs on Cambodia than we did on Japan during World War II by at least a million tons and directly killed 500,000 people. The bombing was exploited by the Khmer Rouge as propaganda and the group saw unprecedented tactical success in the country. After a deadly killing spree of 2 million people committed by the guerrilla group, the US Kampuchea Emergency group pressured the World Food Group to spend $12 million to feed up to 40,000 Khmer Rouge soldiers. For at least 10 more years, the DIA provided intelligence to the Khmer Rouge and then the US and UK trained them to place landmines in the western part of the country, which still kill hundreds to this day.
Long ago, before George Bush went into Iraq after 9/11, Bush’s own White House friend, Donald Rumsfeld, was working extensively with Saddam. Go back further, and the CIA was helping him assassinate the President of Iraq in 1958 under Eisenhower. While he failed to kill him, the CIA was friendly enough to provide housing in Lebanon and then in Egypt. However, things got particularly catastrophic when Hussein came to power in 1979.
Hussein almost immediately set his aim on Iran and went to war with his eastern neighbor. Donald Rumsfeld welcomed Iraq as an American ally, aided Saddam in obtaining and building up his chemical weapons arsenal and then defended the use of chemical weapons on Iran. Further, the DIA provided satellite intelligence to Iraq to aid him in his war effort. In one instance in 1989, the Bush administration sought to give Iraq $1 billion in financial aid 9 months before he invaded Kuwait.
Best (or worst) of the rest:
Pakistan: We’ve given $67 billion to this country from 1951-2011 alone and like Saudi Arabia, they’ve been involved in many violent affairs in the Middle East.
Los Zetas: Probably the most violent Mexican cartel, and like many violent cartels and organizations, they’ve worked with the CIA under multiple administrations. One specific instance was the brain child of President Obama and Eric Holder dubbed “Operation Fast and Furious.”
Nicaraguan Contra Rebels: The scandal that made Oliver North famous was a drug operation that armed and aided anti-communist death squads in the 1980s, and Reagan got off the hook.
One of the common criticisms of libertarians is our hands-off approach to foreign policy, our calls for troop withdrawals and cuts to military spending and the concern that the world will descend into chaos if we leave it alone. Seeing the record we have in just intelligence efforts and covert operations, war hawks from Tom Cotton to Hillary Clinton should be lucky the American public hasn’t completely disregarded their expensive and troublesome militaristic and interventionist views on the world. Perhaps we should end the mentality that shaking hands with the devil is the way to kill a demon and stop creating our own enemies in the world. The CIA and DIA are responsible for the deaths of millions across every continent and until they change, it might be a good idea to stop fear mongering over foreign threats, because the scoreboard indicates that we’re the arch-nemesis of peace in the world.