The Kosovo Drug War

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The Kosovo Drug War

Heroin, weapons trade and geopolitical manipulation are the real causes behind the bombs in Belgrade.

The US government and its handmaidens in NATO have lied about the War on Drugs, and are also lying about the war in Yugoslavia. So says Dr Michel Chossudovsky, a professor of international development economics at the University of Ottawa. Chossudovsky is author of The Globalization of Poverty, speaks ten languages and is one of the leading voices in a small chorus of experts who say that the multi-billion dollar drug war is directly linked to the similarly expensive Yugoslav conflict.

In an exclusive interview with Cannabis Culture magazine, the controversial but highly-respected scholar gives us the story behind the Yugoslavia story, shows how it is linked to the international drug war, and sounds a warning about the long-term effects of such wars on our global and personal futures.

CANNABIS CULTURE- Our owners want us to believe that America and NATO are spending billions of dollars just to help people who are being victimized by the so-called new Hitler.

CHOSSUDOVSKY- The global media portrays Milosevic as a dictator, and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) as a nationalist defender of innocent Albanian civilians. The truth is a lot more complicated than that. In fact, the KLA is supported by crime syndicates that derive their money from marketing huge amounts of heroin in Western Europe. Last year, an American ambassador described the KLA as terrorists.

It is widely known in intelligence circles that the KLA has direct links to the drug trade. The DEA estimates that as much as six metric tons of Turkish heroin are smuggled through the Balkans every month, and a German intelligence agency says that ethnic Albanians are the biggest distributors of heroin in these Western countries.

Washington portrays the KLA as freedom fighters fighting for the victimized Albanians, but they do not represent the feelings of the civilian population, and indeed were selected by the West to replace the civilian organization that was negotiating with Milosevic to try to end the persecution of Kosovo Albanians.

CC- You seem very sure of what you are saying, but it clashes with the message delivered by mainstream media and most political leaders. How can you be sure that what you believe is true?

C- I am a member of the group Geopolitical Drug Watch (www.ogd.org), which is based in Paris. Its the most well-informed think tank on the geopolitics of drugs. It looks at the drug trades various aspects – trafficking, money laundering, politics, insurgencies. I’ve been working with them off and on for about ten years. We study reliable data from intelligence services, journalists, academia and observers.

CC- Does your organization oppose drug laws?

C- We don’t take a position. We might be prohibitionist with regard to heroin and not with regard to cannabis. What we do see is that the drug trade serves political, economic, and strategic interests. We realize that prohibition serves those interests as well. The illegality of the drug trade is what makes it attractive for criminal organizations. If the drug trade was decriminalized there wouldnt be money laundering, for example.

CC- How does that relate to the Yugoslav war?

C- I have written books on Yugoslavia and Albania. What you must remember is that drugs serve political interests in a concrete way. They help finance covert intelligence operations. There are many well-documented cases – the Vietnam war, the generals in Haiti, the Contras, Colombian paramilitaries; many groups are funded with drug money that serve geopolitical interests. And there is usually covert support provided by the CIA to these groups. With the globalization of the criminal economy, organized crime is meshed with businesses such as offshore banking, laundering of money, recycling drug money back to the legal economy.

It’s become a feature of the global financial system, and in the case of Yugoslavia, part of the political system. The Albanian mafias are linked to Italian and Turkish mafias, and are used in the multi-billion dollar Balkans drug trade, which has been estimated to be a $400 billion business. The KLA gets drug money and Western weapons, and then uses them in a war against Milosevic.

It isn’t a genuine civil war; it’s a sponsored war, just like we’ve seen many times in Latin America.

CC- It sounds so complicated.

C- It’s simple. The KLA are linked to drug traffickers and are involved in many facets of the drug trade. Some are carriers, smuggling the drugs into Germany, Switzerland, Italy. They are tied to criminal business syndicates and linked to the Albanian state. It is well-documented that the KLA is financed by the drug trade. It also has links to the CIA, German Intelligence, and Islamic terrorist organizations. So Islamic terrorist organizations that the West has labeled as its enemies are co-financing the KLA alongside NATO. It’s a totally absurd situation. There are tons of police files on this, but the global media have managed to ignore it.

CC- Have we seen these kind of strange alliances before?

C- Yes. It’s the covert Ollie North-style operation that helps support the KLA. This means that governments finance so-called freedom fighters using drug money. It’s a very well known ploy. We’ve seen it in Guatemala, Nicaragua, no big deal about it.

CC- Who does it benefit?

C- The West wants to destabilize the Balkans and carve it up into small states ruled by Western interests. There are important energy reserves, and strategic resources such as chrome and oil, much of it located on the mountain ridge between Albania and Kosovo. US and German companies are competing for the chrome reserves. But the drug trade is probably the largest business in that region.

Illicit drug money is recycled into the banking system in Turkey, Italy and other parts of Europe. It’s small bucks for the Albanian thugs who smuggle the dope but it’s big bucks for the people who oversee the trade. Most of it transits through Greece and Albania, and Albania is the hub. Albanian gangs take the dope into major European markets. The money is laundered and used to finance arms purchases.

CC- Drugs are sold and the profits are laundered to buy arms?

C- Of course. The war business and the post-war reconstruction business are very much involved in this. These NATO military operations use very expensive equipment, billions of dollars worth. Globally, the arms industry is broken into three different sectors. One sector supplies NATO with the high tech top-of-the-line equipment. Another supplies intermediate high tech equipment that is obsolete in NATO, but still considered to be quite good for use in Indonesia or Saudi Arabia or India. It’s like buying a five year old jet instead of the top of the line newest jet with all the bells and whistles.

The third market is for small weapons, which are usually sold to freedom fighter insurgent groups – surface to air missiles, machine guns, armored vehicles, electronics. This ends up in places like the Congo. Those weapons are meant for third world people. They are not going to be used by NATO, and they are not going to be used against NATO. They are designed and sold to market to third world nations so they can fight amongst themselves. It’s like sending bows and arrows to insurgent groups to use amongst themselves but which can’t be used to harm those higher up the food chain.

Recycling drug money to finance some of these weapons transfers is part of what this is all about. And some weapons purchases are financed by World Bank loans, which are not supposed to be used for weapons, but make it easier for money to be diverted into buying weapons.

CC- Isn’t the world bank itself a tool of huge global corporations and governments owned by them?

C- It’s all business. The banks make money off the loans, and the loans come with a hidden pricetag called structural adjustments programs in which the IMF or the World Bank imposes so-called reforms on smaller nations. This leads to the dislocation of national economies, and can result in the standard of living virtually collapsing overnight like it did in the Asian financial crisis.

Yugoslavia went through these imposed reforms and the growth of the illicit drug trade happened because the legitimate economy was dislocated by the reforms. The goal of these operations is always to benefit conglomerates of business, government and banking that exist at the top of the food chain. The citizens of a country almost always suffer.

CC- It’s a web of power and deceit.

C- It is a very deep set of arrangements. For example, the costs of military operations and the rebuilding for the Iraqi conflict are being billed to Iraq. A unit in the UN security council based in Geneva is billing every cent Iraq owes to creditors, so every time we send a million dollar bomb in to Iraq, which is happening even as we speak, the cost is added to Iraq’s debt and its children are already starving. When there is an end to embargo, then Iraq will have to pay war debt. Lots of people benefit from these things. George Bush’s sons got multi-million construction contracts to rebuild Kuwait after the Gulf War.

CC- You’ve written a book, called The Globalization of Poverty. Can you explain what the books title means?

C- The whole world has been affected by the rise of multi-national corporations acting in concert with world banking and governments. Poverty creates ethnic tensions which lead to wars, and this benefits the arms dealers and the reconstructionists. Destablization allows Western businesses to plunder weak country’s natural resources. Drug trafficking and prostitution fill the void when global economic policies cause localized collapse. Even North America itself has been hit by this globalization of poverty. There are rising levels of poverty, even in the United States. In Canada, the welfare state is being dismantled. People look at the US stock market and think that the economy is booming, but it is the kind of boom that produces rising inequalities.

Wages have fallen since the 1980s. There’s a rise in part-time employment and temporary employment, and the apparently healthy unemployment statistics are misleading as to the quality of jobs.

A study from Statistics Canada says that the standard of living today is lower than it was in the 60s. The Canadian government is moving away from free health care and education. We had one of the most advanced welfare states – medical care, unemployment insurance, care for the elderly – these are literally being phased out, and Canada has high rates of unemployment.

There is an underlying instability that people sense without being able to quite explain it. These are the results of global policies and decisions about the use of capital.

CC- Do you have any feelings about the war on drugs, and the war on cannabis in particular?

C- The war on drugs facilitates the black market, which drives drug prices up at the retail level and results in tremendous profits. These profits fuel everything we have talked about – from military adventurism to money laundering to arms sales. As far as cannabis, I don’t think it’s a particularly harmful drug.

CC- It seems so overwhelming. That’s what those of us in the cannabis reform movement are trying to tell everyone – the war against cannabis is a sign of how hard it is to get governments to behave with morality and honor.

C- It’s true that we are prevented from airing alternative viewpoints and that the press has a party line. The global media doesn’t tell us what’s going on – they talk about ethnic cleansing but this war has nothing to do with Milosevic or ethnic cleansing. And do we resolve a country’s internal conflict by bombing the hell out of its people? The depleted uranium bombs are killing the people we are supposed to be saving.

CC- Well, do you have any advice?

C- People have to organize against these systems which are impoverishing us and are not set up to raise our standard of living. Join coalitions. Question the legitimacy of policies. Contact your politicians. Pay attention to what is being done with your money and in your name.

CC- Is it too late?

C- I admit that we seem to be powerless in making major changes in the system. I dont know how it will end. I am not optimistic. I see society collapsing around me, but people are not moving. They’re not in the streets, they’re not doing anything to protest. I wonder what will have to happen before people are motivated to stand against this madness.

The Hotpot is part of Cannabis Culture’s resource archive. If you have a submission for The Hotpot, send it to [email protected].

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