Strategic Suicide: The Birth of the Modern American Drug War:
Prohibition is about economic and military power, not health. It was
the geopolitical utility of medical monopoly that saw it come to pass.
The Harrison Act was conceived in China, at the 1909 Shanghai Opium
Commission, the idea being that America should pass a model "no license"
law it could then ask other nations to adopt. President Roosevelt had
arbitrated the end of the Russo-Japanese War only to observe Russia
and Japan dividing Manchuria, Mongolia and Korea between them. With
China beginning to industrialize on a massive scale, all the imperial
powers were delighted to have a "pro-Chinese" issue they could sell
while competing for China.
America, with never more than 2500 troops in China, had the weakest
military position, and so led the fight for an "open door" and an end
to the opium trade. The Chinese leadership had grown to hate opium because
the British controlled the nationwide trade, and had used it as a lever
to control China. Industrialization, however, with its mills, mines
and railroads, had created different stakes. For America, Chinese cooperation
in the industrial competition was essential. The weaker the British
position, the stronger the U.S. The Chinese government encouraged groups
like the Foochow Anti-opium Society, below, to express their politically
correct feelings for the foreign press.
Current History, October, 1924
Wright criminalized "nonmedical" use of "opium or coca leaves or any
compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, or preparation thereof." Wiley's
unempirical equation of herbs and alkaloids had already achieved the
status of legal precedent. Lobbying Congress in 1910 for his new bill,
Wright fretted about cocaine's "encouragement among the humbler ranks
of the Negro population in the South....it has been authoritatively
stated that cocaine is often the direct incentive to the crime of rape
by the Negroes of the South and other sections of the country." Here
you have the geopolitical, the economic utility of racism. Wright wrote
the editor of the Louisville Journal Courier that "a strong editorial
from you on the abuse of cocaine in the South would do a great deal
of good - do not quote me or the Department of State."
The 1912 Hague Opium Convention, which grew out of the Shanghai Commission,
committed the U.S. by treaty to Wright’s law, the 1914 Harrison Act,
a domestic law controlling opium and coca products. Below, Hearst’s
Magazine revivifies the 1880’s pulp legend of the roué Clendenin,
in time to support Harrison. Domestic drug propaganda is still the tool
of imperial foreign policy. Today the operative treaties, also engineered
by the U.S., are the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the 1971
Convention on Psychotropic Substances and the 1988 Vienna Antitrafficking
Hearst’s Magazine, 1/1913
Wright wrote Bishop Brent, his fellow delegate to the Shanghai Opium
Commission, that the new Secretary of State Knox was "only now grasping
the fact that in this opium business he has the oil to smooth any troubled
waters he may meet with at Peking in his aggressive business enterprises
there." The other delegate, future President William Howard Taft, the
inventor of "dollar diplomacy," likewise worried about "one of the greatest
commercial prizes in the world....the trade with the 400,000,000 Chinese."
America's "aggressive business enterprises" were challenged head-on
by anti-prohibitionist Eugene Debs, leader of the powerful American
Railway Union. Debs' moderate, libertarian Socialist Party was the electoral
umbrella for scores of left-wing groups, including the industrial workers
in the Northeast; German and Scandinavian enclaves in the upper Midwest;
the radical populists of the Great Plains; Big Bill Haywood's tough
miners and lumberjacks in the Western Federation of Miners - core group
of the IWW; Margaret D. Robins' National Women's Trade Union League,
and Alice Paul's direct action National Woman's Party - the radical
spearhead that actually forced through woman suffrage.
It was their ideas of the minimum wage, social security and unemployment
insurance that helped stabilize capitalism during the Great Depression.
And it was Lippmann who warned that "the manufacture of consent" by
the corporate owners of the media was a deadly threat to real democracy.
As corporate hit-man Edward Bernays, "the father of public relations"
put it, in 1928, in Propaganda: "The conscious and intelligent
manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an
important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen
mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the
true ruling power of our country…it is the intelligent minorities which
need to make use of propaganda continuously and systemically."
Propaganda during these years meant William Randolph Hearst, who owned
the most powerful chain of yellow journals in the country. Hearst built
its core circulation, the Chicago Examiner, using Moe Annenberg's
gunsels to hijack delivery trucks, bomb newsstands and attack newsboys.
Hearst literally fought for circulation city by city.
In 1910 Annenberg branched out for himself in Milwaukee, although the
connection to Hearst remained. By the mid-twenties Annenberg owned Racing
Form and American Racing Record, the basic betting sheets,
and the General News Bureau, the wire service that provided up-to-the-minute
race results. Without Annenberg's wire, bookies were an easy target
for those who did have the latest results. Annenberg's full partner
was Al Capone, who had worked with Luciano in New York before going
As the official mob wire, Annenberg's Nationwide News Service, by the
mid-30's, enrolled more than 15,000 clients in 223 cities in 39 states.
Hearst tagged along, always able to count on mob goons for "circulation."
Hearst, in turn, always peddled the mob's "anti-communist" political
Hearst also owned Kimberly Clark-St.Regis, the paper and lumber conglomerate
that is still busy gobbling up the competition. A major Kimberly Clark-St.
Regis customer was DuPont, which converted Kimberly's wood pulp into
explosives and synthetic fiber. Dupont's major competition was the enormopus
Marijuana was one of America's most valuable crops in 1900. Much of
the country's textiles, canvas, sails, rope, paper, paints, industrial
solvents, lighting oil, machine oil, food oil and medicine was made
from it. Marijuana was the raw material for fire hoses, ships rigging,
fine linen, work clothes, good paper, candy, bread, bird seed and cheap
The products of a Michigan hemp mill; Scientific American, 6/4/1921
DuPont's major banker, Hoover's Secretary of the Treasury, Andrew Mellon,
engineered the legal destruction of the hemp industry. The first DEA,
the Narcotics Division of the Prohibition Unit of the Treasury Department,
was founded and funded by the Volstead Act of 1919, the ennabling act
of the 18th Amendment, Prohibition. The charter of the Narcotics Division,
of course, was the State Department's Harrison Act of 1914, an original
part of Prohibition's political package. The Harrison Anti-Narcotics
Act was originally the responsibility of Treasury's Alcohol Tax Division,
but went largely unenforced until the Volstead Act of 1919 funded the
Prohibition Unit and its subdivision, the Narcotics Division.
“The Transfer”; Ireland in Columbus Dispatch
The first chief of the Narcotics Division, Levi Nutt, held that job
for ten years. But in 1930, Treasury Secretary Mellon appointed an Assistant
Commissioner of Prohibition specializing in diplomacy, Harry Anslinger,
to head Treasury's reorganized Bureau of Narcotics. Treasury's hopelessly
corrupt Prohibition Unit was transferred to Justice. One of the straws
that forced this reorganization reveals the actual dynamics of the situation:
the indictment of Narcotics Chief Levi Nutt and most of his New York
division by a New York Grand Jury, for being on the Rothstein (center)/Lansky
(left)/Luciano (right) payroll. Nutt took over the Narcotics Division
in 1920 under exactly the same circumstances.
When the legendary gambler Arnold Rothstein was murdered by one of
Dutch Schultz' hitters in 1928, his dying body was found with a small
fortune in opium, morphine, heroin and cocaine - and all his carefully
kept legal books, including the history of his relationship with Nutt.
The rabid prohibitionist Nutt started his tenure as head of the Narcotics
Division in 1920 with his son listed as Rothstein's attorney of record
for tax matters with the Treasury Department, and his son-in-law operating
as Rothstein's New York accountant and attorney.
The criminal-governmental symbiosis is a two-way street, of course.
If gambling were legal, who'd need Annenberg's gambling wire? If marijuana
were legalized, the hood monopoly would be broken and marijuana would
lose 95% of its value. The great hoods, geniuses at organizing street
muscle, were for Prohibition, and Assistant Commissioner of Prohibition
Anslinger was one of their major allies, operating the side of the street
they couldn't independently run.
Alcohol and Drug Prohibitionist Anslinger, like his soul-mate J. Edgar
Hoover, was in bed with the Mellon-Hearst-Annenberg-Syndicate hoods
from the beginning. Anslinger always regarded Drug Prohibition as a
tool for "social reorganization," fearing "communist" unions far more
than Syndicate heroin gangs, who were, after all, Mellon's, DuPont's,
Hearst's and Annenberg's patriotic strike breakers. They were also J.
Edgar Hoover's most dangerous COINTELPRO operatives - right from the
murderous Palmer raids of 1919, which Hoover organized.
A major target of those raids was Eugene V. Debs. The popular Debs
stumped the country in opposition to the war, insisting that if industry
supported the war it was only because it was to its tactical advantage
to do so. This happens to have been the case. Corporate profits shot
up 300% between 1914 and 1919, and leveled off at a spectacular 30%
after the war. Inflation, on the other hand, doubled between 1913 and
1920, completely wiping out the modest wartime wage increases. In 1919
a bushel of corn bought five gallons of gas; two years later it bought
a half gallon. Family farms went up for sale all across the country,
gobbled up by gas companies. Eugene Debs, a farm boy, understood this.
Debs makes a whistle-stop campaign speech
The wartime head of the Committee on Public Information, America's
first official Propaganda Minister, was Harper's answer to Good Housekeeping's
Harvey Wiley, George Creel, just before the war the most famous anti-patent
medicine screamer in the country. Creel's 1915-16 series in Harper's
is full of dragons, snakes and dead babies boiled in soothing syrup.
Incredibly, on Germany's surrender in 1918, Wilson and the Allies immediately
rushed massive amounts of armaments to the Prussian militarists they
had just defeated. The Spartacists had risen in Germany, taking Berlin,
Munich, Dresden, Essen, Bremen and Dusseldorf, and the Allies knew they
couldn't negotiate a reliable contract of reparations with them, so
they backed the Prussians.
The revolt took the Prussians months to crush, and it is open to question
whether they could have done it without Allied arms. Margaret Sanger's
inspiration, Rosa Luxemberg, the birth strike advocate, died leading
this revolt. Had we heeded the socialists and taken the opportunity
to crush the Prussians once and for all, we would have saved ourselves
the last great battle of World War I, World War II, as predicted in
writing by Rosa Luxemberg on the eve of her execution by firing squad.
Chortled The New York Times, á la George Creel, December 12,
1918: "...in a few years more Germany would have been irresistable in
war, for she would have made drug fiends of all the other nations of
the world. Into well-known German brands of tooth paste and patent medicines
- naturally for export only - habit-forming drugs were to be introduced;
at first a little, then more, as the habit grew on the non-German victim
and his system craved ever greater quantities."
NYT, 2/22/1919 and 2/27/1921
"But although the tale of this Teuton-all-too-Teuton scheme is probably
a mere invention, Germany did concoct and spread through the world a
habit-forming drug, and her leaders in this war have made good use of
its ravages in other countries. More than half a century ago socialism
was invented in Germany; and the rulers of the empire, forseeing its
vast possiblities in breaking down national morale, fostered its propagation
abroad while they did their best to stamp out the habit at home....Just
as workmen in the tooth paste factories might have surreptitiously sampled
the brands made for export only and found attractions not present in
the products for the home market, so the Germans took to socialism and
neosocialism. It is a rare poison that will not act on the system of
its own inventor."
That is almost exactly what Harry Anslinger told a Senate committee
and the United Nations Narcotics Commission in 1951 about the Chinese
Reds, holding up a bag of "Lions Globe" heroin he said they were shipping
to our boys in Korea. This assertion was the basis of a major propaganda
campaign that lasted for years. Anslinger handled the press with the
finesse of Creel himself. Lions Globe was actually the brand manufactured
by our own Kuomintang allies, Chiang's boys, and the more entrepreneurial
of the natives, also our allies, in the Golden Triangle, as our boys
in Nam discovered, and as our own Bureau of Narcotics confirmed in 1972.
In a famous 1959 case, Anslinger's top international agent, George
White, an OSS/CIA operative, made a major heroin bust. It was Burmese
Kuomintang heroin funnelled through Hong Kong, bound for distribution
by the American Syndicate. But by allowing the ringleader, a well-known
member of San Francisco's KMT-organized Chinese Anti-Communist League
to escape, White was enabled to claim that it was Red Chinese dope,
"most of it from a vast poppy field near Chungking." The Kuomintang
is for Prohibition. Today we still arm the KMT, Burmese, Thai
and Indonesian warlords, the Sicilian and Chinese gangs still own the
docks, and the Lions Globe just keeps on comin', like toothpaste out
of a tube.