Return of the Phoenix

When hijacked airplanes hit the Pentagon and World Trade Center, the reverberations plunged us into a dangerous new world.
On that fateful day in September, we felt shock, horror, fear. Our concerns were for the victims; our anger was directed at the perpetrators.

Now, we realize that the events of September 11, 2001 were part of a vast geopolitical puzzle involving the same people, governments, organizations, and ideologies that have long been involved in the war against marijuana and freedom.

Our curiosity is aroused by revelations that US spy agencies, along with President Bush, had prior knowledge about the horrific events that gave the US government an excuse to launch a worldwide war and to take away the civil rights of its own citizens.

It is no longer adequate for us or our readers to believe a cartoonish, good versus evil version of history or September 11th. We want to understand the context and meaning of “terrorism,” and the motivations of the powerful people who wage wars and try to rule our bodies and minds.

Some of our long-time staff writers, along with other investigators, will be delving into topics relating to drug wars and other wars. They will be examining the actions of nations and their leaders, past and present, endeavoring to provide readers with facts and analysis that will reveal the truth about global and local realities.

We hope to discover who runs this world, what their agenda is, and how we can ensure the survival of the marijuana plant and those who love it.

We begin with an interview of Doug Valentine, a US-based author whose books and articles have courageously revealed hidden facts that shed light on current crises.

Valentine began writing in the early 1980’s, after he learned that his dad had been a prisoner of war in Japan, and that the US military had falsified his father’s military records.

Aside from providing Valentine with the basis for his first book, the widely-acclaimed Hotel Tacloban, the revelations caused Valentine to begin investigating other US government cover-ups.

Valentine has authored several respected books and articles about US spy agencies, the Vietnam War, the drug war, and the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

The 52-year-old investigator and author spoke to us from his Massachusetts home.

CC: Your book, The Phoenix Program, was described as the most credible reporting about the CIA’s activities in Vietnam.

Phoenix was a CIA-sponsored operation that ran from the mid-1960’s until 1974. Its goal was to fight communist insurgents, known as the Viet Cong, by terrorizing or killing civilians. These civilians should have been protected under the Geneva Convention. They were not combatants. They were not shooting Americans. Civilians such as students, college professors or businessmen ? if they believed the Viet Cong had a right to fight against the US-backed government of Vietnam, or if they lived near suspected Viet Cong sympathizers ? were Phoenix targets.

Initially, the program used proxy warriors, such as local police forces, paramilitaries, and informants, who were supervised, trained, and funded by American personnel and dollars.

The CIA built and supervised interrogation torture centers. A US agent named Bart Osborn testified in Congress in 1971 that Phoenix detainees were tortured to death or “thrown out of helicopters.”

Phoenix also employed mercenaries, ex-cons, prisoners, and hit teams to go into villages and wipe out anybody suspected of sympathizing with the Viet Cong. Near the end of the Vietnam War, Phoenix was being carried out by US soldiers who killed individuals they knew to be innocent, including children and women.

These operations were called “counter-terrorism,” which is a way of saying, “terrorism that we engage in.” Phoenix was a totally illegal program that violated the rules of war. It cost millions of dollars. According to the CIA, 25,000 people were assassinated. The Vietnamese say 40,000 were killed. My sources say the death toll was close to 250,000.

CC: Why did the US engage in these activities?

The US was losing the war, and the Viet Cong also engaged in brutalities, so it was an eye for an eye situation. The problem is, America was supposed to be the good guys, and instead, we were just as bad if not worse than the bad guys. Our government insisted we were in Vietnam to stop the evils of communism and the vicious Viet Cong, but we became more evil and vicious than they were, attacking people who had never attacked us, and never would have, if we hadn’t invaded their country. We traveled thousands of miles to take sides in their civil war, and killed hundreds of thousands of people who had never set foot on our soil.

CC: Has the United States ever apologized for Phoenix or punished the people involved?

Are you kidding? The US government is full of people who supported or engaged in programs like Phoenix.

Former Democratic Senator and presidential hopeful Bob Kerrey led a team of Navy Seals into Thanh Phong village in 1969; they murdered a dozen women and children in cold blood during a CIA mission that was meant to kill an important official in that district.

Kerrey was awarded medals for Thanh Phong. The media and fellow politicians have covered for him, as they have covered for other Phoenix atrocities in Vietnam, and other CIA covert wars around the world. Our government has embraced the rotten underpinnings that created Phoenix, almost as if they are proud of them.

Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura claims to have been a Navy Seal and to have “hunted man.” Fanatical right-wing US Representative Bob Barr, a former CIA man, has introduced legislation to re-legalize assassinations. A military spokesperson defended Kerrey by saying “there were thousands of such atrocities,” and that in 1969 his own unit committed “at least a dozen such horrors.”

I do credit the courage of four members of Congress who investigated Phoenix. In 1970, they released a statement saying the program violated the Geneva Convention.

Douglas Valentine: investigative journalist documenting CIA manipulation and atrocities.Douglas Valentine: investigative journalist documenting CIA manipulation and atrocities.CC: What was the reaction to your book?

When I first started working on it, former CIA director William Colby and other CIA officials cooperated with me because they believed I was writing favorably about their exploits.

After a while, somebody figured out I was investigating them. I started getting phone calls at three in the morning, saying, “We are going to kill you and everybody in your family.” I got about 25 death threats.

It has been widely documented that the CIA has infiltrated the mainstream media, journalistically and in corporate media offices. Several people have noted that there was an unjustified hit piece on my book in a major newspaper shortly after my book was published. This review helped kill the book in its cradle. My sources tell me that this kind of review is typical of CIA attempts to discredit CIA’s critics.

Funny thing is, the book has been re-issued, and more people are buying it now than ever before.

CC: Given the CIA’s assassination history, and the current warmongering that has given increased power to the agency, aren’t you afraid?

I filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on CIA after Phoenix came out, to see if they had been surveilling me. They didn’t respond, so the ACLU took them to court, and we got hold of the file they had on me.

They released about 50 documents, but some of them were blacked out. There were other documents they refused to release. Most of what I saw was letters from people I had interviewed, reporting to the CIA what I was asking them. There were internal memos saying, “Valentine is bad news. Tell everybody not to talk to him.”

Three years ago, I filed another FOIA. They haven’t responded.

The idea that the CIA has a file on you is intimidating. They have no right to do anything to me; I don’t break laws. I know they hate me. If I was to die, they’d have a party and dance on my grave. But when you are in the business of exposing what the government does wrong, you bet you will be harassed.

CC: After Phoenix was published, other people told you about secret government operations they had been involved with. This resulted in your next book, TDY, which I just read. It’s a fantastic story.

I met a guy named Richard Finkle who’d been a military photographer during the Vietnam War. He was on a team that filmed, photographed and audiotaped CIA agents buying huge quantities of opium from tribespeople in Laos. He witnessed the buy, and was one of few team members who made it back to headquarters with precious film proving that the CIA was heavily involved in drug trafficking.

Richard was scared to tell me his story, but he did it anyway because he wanted people to know what really happened in Vietnam. I changed a few names, and published it as a first-person novel. He later decided to go public with his story using his real name. To me, he’s a hero.

CC: Why was the CIA in the drug business?

Their Phoenix operations were illegal and underfunded. They used the drug trade to finance their secret army and covert ops. It’s the same thing they did in Central America during the 1980’s.

CC: After writing these CIA books, you became a private investigator helping Martin Luther King’s family investigate King’s assassination.

The King family looked into allegations that his death resulted from a conspiracy involving a retired Memphis businessman and the government, rather than from a lone gunman called James Earl Ray.

I found that the FBI had used its COINTELPRO program against King. COINTELPRO was a domestic spying and infiltration operation used against progressives in the 1960’s and 70’s. The FBI tapped King’s phones, bugged his hotel rooms, and followed him everywhere.

They suggested he commit suicide because they were going to release surveillance evidence that showed he was having extramarital affairs.

Hotel Tacloban: the cover-up around Valentine`s POW father.Hotel Tacloban: the cover-up around Valentine`s POW father.CC: What investigative projects are you working on now?

I kept seeing how the drug war, drug smuggling by covert operatives, and human rights violations were part of the CIA model, so I began researching the Federal Bureau of Narcotics [FBN]. It was formed in 1930. It became the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs [BNDD], and later the Drug Enforcement Administration [DEA], during the Johnson and Nixon years.

I’ve been researching drug war agencies since 1994. I have original documents obtained through FOIA and through other means, and a lot of interviews with drug agents. I’m doing two books, one on the FBN, one on the DEA.

I’m lucky I did the FOIA requests before the Bush administration took power. Bush has locked down all presidential records from his daddy and Reagan; [US Attorney General] John Ashcroft told all government agencies they should assert national security concerns and automatically refuse to comply with FOIA requests, and that the Justice Department will be happy to defend the agencies in court. They have a lot of secrets, obviously!

CC: What are some interesting facets of what you have discovered about the anti-narcotics agencies?

I’ve studied Harry Anslinger, the first drug czar, the guy who first demonized marijuana, and kept FBN alive from 1930 until he retired in 1962.

You have to understand that what the mainstream media tells you about the purpose of government agencies is usually a cover story. For example, we’re supposed to believe that Anslinger and the FBN were dedicated to wiping drugs off the face of the earth for moral reasons and to protect Americans, right? Truth is, Anslinger was a private policeman for establishment interests who benefitted from making some drugs illegal.

When the Harrison Act in 1914 made heroin, morphine, opium, and other plant-derived medications illegal, it was primarily because America was becoming corporatized; the monied interests ? doctors, pharmaceutical manufacturers, pharmacists ? were becoming organized lobbies that manipulated public policy to achieve private gain.

Before 1914, poor people who couldn’t afford doctors got relief through legal opiates and cannabis medicines. The businesspeople realized these plant drugs were a big threat to their profits. They wanted commercial control of opium and its derivatives so you had to pay them to get these drugs.

Another agenda was to make sure FBN only busted drugs and drug traffickers who weren’t part of the corporate profit chain or serving other government interests.

For example, FBN had plenty of evidence that some Asian smugglers were the biggest drug smugglers in the world at the time, supplying dangerous drugs to the Mafia. But Anslinger had to prevent that information from coming out, because these particular smugglers were fighting the communists and the Japanese. If you were a poor Mexican or a black jazz musician smoking weed in Harlem, on the other hand, it was all out war against you.

That’s why the US government has protected drug smugglers in Central America, Asia, and Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance smugglers ? these people are America’s proxy warriors; smuggling money finances wars that are “in the US interest.”

Before the CIA was created shortly after World War II, the military, State Department and FBN were already doing what the CIA later did ? protecting drug smugglers because they were waging proxy wars on our behalf.

The Phoenix Program: US atrocities and cover-ups in Vietnam.The Phoenix Program: US atrocities and cover-ups in Vietnam.CC: Why did Anslinger focus on marijuana?

Anslinger had ideological, racial, bureaucratic and economic reasons to go after cannabis.

The Great Depression had put a lot of junkies out of business in the 1930’s, and Anslinger saw his FBN caseload dropping off. Congress was threatening to reduce his funding. He needed another group of drug users to bust. He looked for powerless people who used drugs, and he found blacks and Hispanics using weed. They were perfect for his purposes: already marginalized due to prejudice, without a political base. Contriving a bunch of lies, he convinced Congress to make marijuana a Class One narcotic that would come under the jurisdiction of FBN. That was job security for generations of bureaucrats.

Anslinger was also serving the interests of rich folks and their industries. Marijuana and hemp competed with a lot of industries that had powerful government allies.

The genius of the guy is that he kept this going for so many years. He kept changing his reefer madness theories to suit the times, first saying marijuana caused rape and violence, then that it was a communist plot, then that it made you weak and passive and dumb. None of it made sense; it all contradicted itself. But the media bought it, and the American people bought it. Some of them still believe it.

CC: What else did you find out about the FBN and its agents.

I interviewed a lot of narcotics agents who had been undercover on the street “making cases,” working the scene. Many of them confessed to me that they planted heroin on people, sometimes for political hits. There was a lot of personal corruption among these guys. Some of them had to shoot heroin themselves to make cases.

Most of the agents are true believers; they don’t feel any remorse for what they did. But I talked to one famous agent who has done undercover work all over the world. He told me: “I haven’t slept a good night in my life. What I did as an undercover agent was a career of immorality. The first case I ever made was when I set up this guy who was only thinking about getting into the narcotics business. I encouraged him to get into it ? then I busted him. Everything I did was trickery, chicanery, and lies.”

These agents were tough as nails, tougher than the people they dealt with. They were like Green Berets, except they were on city streets in long black overcoats with a hat pulled down over their eyes with a .38 in their pocket.

I’m calling my FBN book “The Strength of the Wolf.” An FBN agent explained to me that narcotics agents consider themselves “wolves” who can go away from the pack and rove around busting people.

CC: What did these “wolves” think about marijuana?

They knew it wasn’t harmful. They thought it was a joke. Some of them probably smoked it. A lot of them, if they saw somebody smoking a joint, wouldn’t even tell them to put it out. I never had a FBN guy telling me he spent his career busting marijuana.

DEA guys are different. If they want to move up the career ladder, they have to make busts. The easiest people to bust are marijuana people. They’re everywhere, they’re harmless. Go get ?em.

CC: Are there connections between the FBM, DEA and CIA?

You bet. The FBN was the first truly covert government agency. It was the first to secretly open mail. It was the first agency to implement large-scale domestic spying, informants, and blackmail. They gathered sexual and drug use information on famous people ? movie stars, politicians, wealthy business people.

The FBN’s actions were in an area that even FBI director J Edgar Hoover was afraid of. You take an agent and send him undercover in narcotics enforcement and he can get corrupted by perverts and junkies; he can become an addict himself. It turned government agents into ruined people.

The FBN was a training and development agency for clandestine operations. FBN agents learned about smuggling, undercover ops, using news, information, and blackmail as weapons. The methods they developed, and some of their agents, found their way into the Office of Strategic Services [OSS], which later developed into the CIA.

Today’s spy agencies, the military, and federal law enforcement agencies are like a revolving door, with cross-contamination of methods, ideologies, and agents. There have been a few times when the DEA, FBI, and CIA opposed each other, but their tactics and personnel profiles converge a lot more than they diverge. You’ll often find that a guy working for the DEA started in military intelligence or the CIA, or vice versa. They all work together, and after 9-11, they’ll be joined with the Office of Homeland Security to form a domestic and international blanket of covert operations and databases. It will be one big agency!

Vietnam memorial: remembering those who died for the US`s military-industrial complex.Vietnam memorial: remembering those who died for the US`s military-industrial complex.CC: How could the CIA not have known about 9-11 before it happened?

There are a lot of unanswered questions, aren’t there? The CIA funded and backed the Taliban, bin Laden, and the Northern Alliance. The Bush administration called off investigation of Saudi links to terrorism, and bin Laden, just before 9-11. They actually told the FBI to stop looking into these people. Why?

What we need to realize is the geopolitical context in which these events occur. America is not a truly democratic nation. It is run by an oligarchy, a wealthy elite consisting of business and government. This oligarchy is now joining with a global oligarchy and multi-national corporations that seek to control all resources and all wealth.

The acronym “CIA” is supposed to stand for “Central Intelligence Agency,” but I call it “Capitalism’s Invisible Army.” Along with the military, the CIA is a tool of the wealthy. They use the CIA to obtain strategic economic advantage under the guise of humanitarianism, of fighting terrorism, drugs, or communism.

The CIA goes into places where the oligarchy wants profits from strategic resources. The military can’t do it all because they are governed by the rules of war, and because military operations can’t always be kept secret. The CIA does the dirty work because it is accountable to nobody. It doesn’t follow any rules, and the American people never know what it’s doing. It’s a rogue agency.

Afghanistan is a perfect example of this game. The world’s biggest oil companies, including those affiliated with President Bush, want to build a pipeline across Afghanistan. The Taliban wouldn’t play ball. The US tried to destabilize them. 9-11 happens. It was very convenient provocation for the US government, which already had plans for military actions against Afghanistan before 9-11.

Under the umbrella of “fighting terrorism,” the CIA and the US military go in and start an updated Phoenix program ? imprisoning, interrogating and killing civilian supporters of Al Qaida, along with innocent civilians who just happen to live in places where “terrorists” might be.

Now, the CIA is flying pilotless drone planes equipped with missiles and video cameras around Afghanistan. The CIA watches civilians through its cameras. They see guys standing in an area that might have strategic economic resources, in this case mineral deposits. The guys have mining equipment. The CIA’s handlers want the emeralds for themselves. The CIA’s drone plane blows the guys up with a missile. The CIA doesn’t even really know who the guys are, but they float propaganda in the compliant press saying it could have been bin Laden. They send a team to seal the scene. They threaten to shoot a Washington Post reporter who wants to see who they killed.

It was the same in Yugoslavia. Disguised as a humanitarian operation against the bad guy Milosevic, we dropped uranium bombs on the country, assisted the Kosovo Liberation Army heroin smugglers, and then our troops quickly moved to secure a strategic chromium mine that was coveted by US and German companies (CC#19, Kosovo drug war).

My book predicted that the Phoenix that flew in Vietnam would one day come home to roost. Many actions of the Bush administration around the world, and in America, echo facets of Phoenix. Dissent itself is being labeled terrorism. In the original Phoenix program, people were targeted for being “disturbers of domestic tranquility.” In today’s world, people who protest the WTO, the Bush administration, and other establishment interests are also labeled “disturbers.” It’s very disturbing.

CC: It’s a blatant grab for money and power.

Absolutely. Phoenix was the model for many operations around the world. Vietnam is where this kind of secret warfare was first tested and perfected. You didn’t have to commit a crime to be detained and tortured in a Phoenix interrogation center. The Arabs being held now at Guantanamo haven’t been charged with crimes either. And they are considered non-combatants, so the US doesn’t follow rules for prisoners of war; these people have no rights at all.

Israel’s version of the CIA, the Mossad, has implemented a Phoenix program against Palestinians, and the CIA features prominently in the so-called Mideast peace plan put forward by the Bush administration.

US National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice says there are terrorists in 60 nations, and the US is going to lock them all up. The government and the oligarchy get to designate who is a terrorist; that definition includes anybody who disagrees with them. The CIA and its allies are embarking on a worldwide Phoenix program.

CC: Some people have accused you of being an unpatriotic left-wing conspiracy theorist.

I am a professional investigator and writer, not an ideologue or theorist. Documentary evidence and interviews back me up. If people examine all the facts, they’ll see the same things I have reported.

A conspiracy is simply a group of people working together to achieve a common goal. People try to make it seem like you’re a lunatic if you suspect that governments, corporations and rich people work with military, police and spy agencies to implement their agendas. Of course they work together, and they do it very well. They run the media, and increasingly they run our lives.

I am very patriotic. I care about what happens to people. I care if my tax dollars are funding liars, drug wars, and murderers. I care if I am exercising my rights as a journalist, and some jerks affiliated with a spy agency call me in the middle of the night to threaten my family.

The people who carry out and support Phoenix-like operations are not patriots. They subvert and disgrace America’s democratic institutions. I believe in freedom and democracy. The most important thing I can do is expose these people and their crimes. The most important thing your readers can do is look at the evidence and rein in the politicians, the oligarchy, the military and the agencies that implement their agendas.Vietnam memorial: remembering those who died for the US`s military-industrial complex.

? Dougles Valentine: email [email protected]; web