“Drugs are menacing our society. They are threatening our values and undercutting our institutions. They are killing our children. From the beginning of our administration we’ve taken strong steps to do something about this horror.” ~ Ronald Reagan, 1986 speech, with Nancy Reagan by his side
The CIA was flooding L.A. with drugs, even as Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush were declaring a war on drugs? It’s hard to believe that such salt-of-the-earth politicians would be capable of such subterfuge. Can’t be. It’s too…dirty. That’s what I thought, anyway, several years back when I first started reading about the CIA’s role in the drug epidemic. I felt like I was entering the territory of cooks and conspiracy. It’s almost a form of Orwellian “double speak.”
Ronald Reagan sits on the couch in the White House, holding Nancy Reagan’s hand, with a look of concern, like a benevolent grandfather. He reassures us that action will be taken, that the government will respond and protect the citizens of the nation. At the same time, the government under Reagan’s care was giving drug lords a free hand in flooding the inner cities with drugs.
Only a decade or so, most in white America would have dismissed such a thing as a cooky conspiracy, probably cooked up by liberals looking for any excuse to “play the race card” but times are changing and awareness of racism is growing. America is cracking and we want to know why, to hear the stories that led us here.
When shit hit the fan and the Iran-Contra scandal became public, Reagan was under fire. He pled ignorance. He didn’t know what the CIA was doing.
Reporters like Gary Webb cried conspiracy. The CIA admitted their guilt but claimed there was no “conspiracy.” It was an ugly thing, yes they said, but it just sort of happened, by way of political expediency, a triangulation between Nicaragua, Iran, and Los Angeles. Things got out of control. Money and drugs were flowing back and forth. They had our best at heart, it was all for the greater good of “U.S. interests.” Money came in from the sales of black market drugs and arms, and that money funded freedom fighters.
No conspiracy. No godfather pulling the strings. No Wizard behind the curtain.
Sound like a semantics game?
It’s the difference between the CIA “conspiring” versus being “complicit.” The CIA admits to being complicit in this sordid arrangement but not to any kind of conspiracy. They didn’t conspire to destroy the inner city black communities. And that may very well be true.
It is certainly true of racism more generally, in the United States. It always has been. White Americans today are probably not intentionally conspiring to create a racist society, but that doesn’t mean we are not complicit, not culpable for our actions, passive or active, intentional or ignorant.
Even so, how would you feel if you were caught up in it? Such is the material for the Netflix documentary film on “Freeway,” a humble inner city kid with ambition who is in the right place at the right time and becomes one of the biggest drug lords in the nation. His story is on the level of Shakespearean tragedy, taking us into the eye of the storm that destroyed inner city communities across America, and once we find ourselves in the midst of this story we can’t help but wonder about the semantics of conspiracy versus complicity, because for the victims of Reagan and the war on drugs this is probably a distinction without any kind of real difference.
Video of Reagan discussing the war on drugs with America, Nancy Reagan at his side: