The War on Drugs is a trade war being fought by multinational pharmaceuticals, who want to ban all natural herbs and monopolize all synthetic drugs. Their strategy is now being copied by multinationals in other arenas.
The war on drugs has repeatedly been a justification for countries with over-developed corporate sectors, like the United States and England, to prey upon weaker countries, like those in South America. Sometimes the enemy has been opium, sometimes it has been marijuana, but human beings have always been cut down alongside the plants? and multinational corporations have always benefited as a result. The newest phrase created to describe the benefits multinationals derive from such human suffering is “free trade.”
Historical Drug Wars
Historically, wars for control of enlightening plants have provided justification for violence and warfare. The same cultural domination and control achieved by Spanish prohibition of morning glory among Amerindians in thew 1600’s, and by British opium traders to China, is being sought today by multinational corporations, which seek to prohibit natural, unpatentable medicines and replace them with synthetic drugs which are patented and highly profitable.
In South America during the 1600’s, Spanish priests branded the psychedelic morning glory plant “evil” and soldiers set forth to burn “Satan” from villages and kill amerindian shamans. Spanish invaders were apparently only doing what they believed was right and good when they roasted a South American alive for eating morning glory seeds. Dispirited South American indians were rounded up and converted to Catholicism. Destabilized native societies were easy prey for further colonial expansion.
Natives were forced to give up ancient traditions and live the way the Europeans did ? or be killed. Ancient shamanistic cultures stopped going directly to the earth for what they needed, and started buying from European distributors. Once the old way of acquiring necessary, everyday goods was lost, Amerindians became wholly reliant upon European merchandise.
An almost opposite situation occured during the 1800’s, when China refused to take any more English opium. Britain retaliated by instigating the “Opium War”, destroying the Chinese navy and forcing China to accept the imported British opium. There were no English missionaries inspiring the troops with sermons on the “evils” of drugs during the Opium War. England’s moral majority was conspicuously silent.
Both the South American natives and the Chinese were forced to accept aspects of what we presently call “free trade”. In 17th century South America, an aggressively corporate country displaced the traditional non-corporate pattern of South American trade. A generally free market was eradicated in favour of a market of product control. Products were controlled by English manufacturers because the South American natives lacked the technology to reproduce products like metal kettles and guns.
In 19th century China, national trade restrictions were rolled back by the force of British naval superiority, allowing English drug producers unimpeded access to Asian markets.
A modern definition of “Free trade” would describe it as, essentially, a patent-oriented market of product control without national trade restrictions. The economic effects of the Opium War and the Spaniards’ colonization of South America are much the same as the economic effects of free trade on nations today.
Pharmaceutical companies monopolize drug trade
For 100 years after the Opium War, western pharmaceutical companies continued to export shiploads of opium and opium products (like morphine) to the east. While Britain slowed its drug exports to China, Swiss and Dutch pharmaceutical companies took up the slack.
The shipments to China continued even despite the fact that China had reasserted her sovereignty and made opium illegal again in the mid-1800’s. What had begun as military protection of English economic interests grew to become an embarrassment to most European governments. The Opium War mentality was not complimentary to their new stance that certain mood-altering drugs were “evil”.
Concern over massive amounts of illicit trafficking by western pharmaceutical firms led to the 1924 Geneva Conference, also known as the “Opium Conference”. The Chinese member of the Advisory Committee began the talks by pointing out that Germany, Great Britain, Japan, Switzerland and the United States were all turning out “…morphine by the ton, which was purchased by the smugglers by the ton.”
IFPMA takes over
As a result of the conference, pharmaceutical companies were encouraged to give up trade in illicit drugs in exchange for a strong international presence and governing capacity. The convention resulted in a system where countries estimated how much opium they would need for each citizen each year, and only that amount was permitted to enter the country. The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers’ Associations (IFPMA) was formed to fulfil the regulatory needs.
Thus the “cleaning up” of multinational pharmaceutical companies amounted to nothing less than putting a pharmaceutical monopoly on opium dealing. The pharmaceutical companies had a monopoly, and the competition was ? and continues to be ? killed or imprisoned. In no other sector of industry has production been so closely controlled.
In a sense, this was the very first example of multinational free trade. Regardless of the country, the pharmaceutical companies followed the same rules, which were enforced by an international body. Also typical of present-day “free trade”, the corporation was given license to monitor itself. Delegates to the IFPMA were appointed solely by the pharmaceutical companies.
Over the following decades, the reaches of the IFPMA continued to expand as it insinuated itself into circles of international power. The IFPMA was admitted as a Non-Governmental Organization to the World Health Organization (WHO) in January of 1971. It was also accepted in a similar capacity to the UN Economic and Social Council (UNESCO) soon after.
Multinational corporations take over governments
The pharmaceutical companies were the first to take advantage of international governmental organizations to further their trade agenda. Their accomplishment of working their way into international institutions of power represented a shift in the paradigm of world trade.
Today, major multinationals have joined to further their own agendas in much the same way that the pharmaceuticals once did. Through the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) they are attempting to enact what is known as the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI). MAI would create an atmosphere of “free trade” in all of the OECD countries. Members of the OECD include Canada, the US, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and most of Europe.
MAI seeks to push back environmental protection laws, national job creation programs, etc in favour of multinational corporate development. If any national law restricts development, a corporation may sue the government for damages, regardless of public reaction. MAI is fundamentally undemocratic. Under the force of world-wide opposition, MAI faltered at recent meetings in the Netherlands in May, and the Dutch Chair recommended that no country presently sign the document. MAI will likely not be ratified for at least another year as a result.
David Rockefeller, a leading member of the Trilateralists* and president of the Chase Manhattan Bank in New York, commented on the change that has occurred since the 1960’s. “Back then business leaders like myself were more or less sitting on the sidelines watching the negotiations unfold. But now we’re sitting in the driver’s seat and writing many of the documents ourselves.”** And the documents they are writing are free-trade agreements.
Unfortunately, the trade will be anything but free. If the present regulatory tyranny of the pharmaceutical companies is any indication, we can look forward to an environment of harsh prohibitions, in which only the multinationals will be able to compete. Naturally grown products with synthetic alternatives will be increasingly restricted and prohibited. Only multi-national corporations will have the capital and political influence to push their synthetic, patentable products through the expensive and arbitrary food and drug approval processes.
Corporate Wealth vs National Wealth
Free trade seeks to create multinational, corporate wealth ? as opposed to the national wealth created by plant-drug production. Free trade seeks to undermine economies based on unpatentable items, like plant-based drugs and remedies, and create economies based on patents and market control. Free trade seeks to make it even easier for corporations to extract wealth from a country, and does away with national regulations on in-house investment and job creation.
This new paradigm already functions within smaller free trade units like NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement, including Canada, the US and Mexico). Should MAI fail for some reason, it is likely that smaller agreements like NAFTA and the Treaty of Maastricht (the founding treaty of the European Union) will continue to proliferate, to the advantage of multinational corporations.
The laws of individual countries are also directly under attack by lobby groups with free trade agendas. In 1995, The UN commissioned a report on global investment which found that between 1991 and 1994 there had been 374 pieces of legislation introduced world-wide to do away with regulations on the way corporations conduct their business. 369 of these 374 pieces of legislation were intended to give corporations the capacity to break free of national boundaries, paving the way for multinational free trade.
While less government control is generally an applaudable concept, the laws being repealled are those typically guaranteed to ensure the public welfare. Laws being rolled back typically include those designed to protect the environment, health, jobs and standards of living.
The UN, WHO and OECD are all in bed together
The Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the UN and the World Health Organization (WHO) are international organizations which exist, theoretically, as autonomous from one another. In practice however, the three organizations meet behind closed doors and plan how to package and distribute the drug war as an international commodity, while promoting free trade as a replacement for drug revenue.
Free trade, in particular, is the focus of the OECD. The UN finds its focus in encouraging international support for the war on drugs, through the United Nations Drug Control Program (UNDCP) and the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), two organizations which cooperate closely in the international war on drugs. The WHO finds its focus in the legitimization of the drug war and free trade, by preparing various “health reports”.
The relationship between WHO and the UNDCP manifests itself as a joint venture called the “UNDCP/WHO Global Initiative on the Primary Prevention of Substance Abuse”, which promotes the worldwide drug war as being beneficial to world health.
A 1994 report by the Secretary General of the UN’s Environmental Scientific and Cultural Organization encapsulates the UN’s general position on drugs: “Development is hampered by? mounting barriers to market access.” Exactly the kind of market barriers which worldwide free trade (in the form of MAI) would tear down.
The Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC) is dedicated to pimping industrial development worldwide. It should be no surprise that the UN’s Economic and Social Council is exclusively responsible for electing the 13 members of the UN Drug Control Program? or that the Economic and Social Council administers, receives reports and advisories from and generally cooperates with the International Narcotics Control Board. The Economic and Social Council also cooperates with the OECD, which is responsible for the worldwide free-trade agreement known as MAI.
The public is left to speculate as to whether the relationship between the Economic and Social Council (free trade agenda) and the Drug Control Program (war on drugs agenda) has anything to do with the long-standing role of the International Pharmaceutical Manufacturers’ Associations as an advising non-governmental organization to the Economic and Social Council. It seems that the multinational pharmaceutical companies have always been hiding in the shadows, pushing magic “free-trade” pills to third-world countries.
WHO suppresses the truth about cannabis
The UN/OECD/WHO team also justifies its murderous drug-war policies by suppressing truth.
The branch of WHO responsible for determining which substances should be placed under international control is the Expert Committee on Addiction-Producing Drugs. The members of the Expert Committee are appointed by the health ministries of the various countries that fund the WHO, including the US and Canada, and they are not appointed as the result of any electoral process.
The Expert Committee has a long history of truth distortion. Back in 1955, in the wake of US drug-war activity, the Expert Committee claimed that cannabis should definitely be defined as an addiction-producing drug, without any real evidence to back up their claims. By 1957, the committee distinguished between habituation and addiction, and was forced to admit that cannabis was not an addictive drug at all, but no changes were ever made to international controls of the harmless herb.
More recently, in 1995, WHO suppressed a report comparing cannabis, tobacco and alcohol. The report found that tobacco and alcohol were both far more harmful than marijuana. Sources within WHO leaked the document to mainstream media after being told to bury it. WHO sources also indicated that the US National Institute on Drug Abuse and the UN International Drug Control Programme had pressured WHO to suppress the report. Additionally, the WHO has repeatedly stalled on carrying through with a planned study and report on the highly successful Swiss harm-reduction experiment.
Because of WHO’s manipulations, cannabis has remained prohibited by international treaties, a prime target in the worldwide war on drugs. Further showing the duplicity of their organization, many of the delegates to WHO (and other UN drug war institutions) go on to management positions in multinational pharmaceutical companies.
Former Chief of the WHO Drug Dependence Unit, Hans Halbach, was hired by the Swiss pharmaceutical company Hoffman La Roche. Former Director of the UN Division of Narcotic Drugs, Gilbert Yates, became the Director of the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industries. Former Secretary of the International Narcotics Control Board, Adolf Lande, was taken in by the American Pharmaceutical Manufacturers’ Association.
The prohibitionist multinational corporate agenda
The war on drugs is a trade war, but it is also more than that. Trade wars are restricted to military or economic aggressions to open up markets. The drug war attacks not only countries and organizations that produce drugs, it also goes after consumers. Millions have been imprisoned or executed because they have no place in the prohibitionist multinational corporate agenda.
? The Council of Canadians: tel 1-800-387-7177; website: www.web.net/coc
? The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives: tel (613) 563-1341; wesite: www.policyalternatives.ca
? Citizens Concerned About Free Trade webite: