Peter Dale Scott: The President does not choose the mindset, it chooses the people who become President
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay, coming to you from Washington. Now joining us from Berkeley, California, is Peter Dale Scott. He’s a former Canadian diplomat, professor of English at the University of California Berkeley. He’s a poet, writer, and a researcher. His books include Drugs, Oil, and War; The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America; and The War Conspiracy: JFK, 9/11, and the Deep Politics of War. Thanks for joining us, Peter.
PETER DALE SCOTT: I’m glad to be here.
JAY: So, Peter, it’s been a year of Obama’s presidency. He promised in the election campaign a new mindset for American foreign policy. How has he done?
SCOTT: Well, I’m afraid that by my analysis of things it’s not in the power of a president to announce a new mindset out of Washington. The mindset in Washington chooses the people who become president.
JAY: You spoke to this or you wrote to this in a piece you did recently called “Obama in Afghanistan: America’s drug-corrupted war”. You wrote, “the war machine that co-opted Obama into his escalation of a drug-corrupted war is not just a bureaucratic cabal inside Washington. It’s solidly grounded in and supported by a wide coalition of forces in our society.” Further on you wrote, “the determining factor is less likely to be either the will of a reluctant president, or the reigning strategic doctrines of the Pentagon, but a third factor: the dominant mindset in Washington of a drug-corrupted war machine.” Explain what you mean by that, Peter.
SCOTT: What Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex has become so dominant now in our society that it overshadows not just Washington itself, but the media. The media are a very big part of this. A rather good book came out just at the time of the election called The Forty Years War, by Len Colodny, and he was blaming everything on the neocons, and he was saying that with the election of Obama we won’t have any more neocons. And so he was thinking that the problem had been solved. But by my analysis, it isn’t just the neocons. It started before them and is obviously still in place today. And the wisest observers of what Obama decided when he was asked to send more troops into Afghanistan, and one option was to send 10,000, and another option was to send 40,000. And those of us who watched the agonies of Lyndon Johnson in the Vietnam War could predict absolutely that he was going to pick something in between, which was what he did, and by so doing made it painfully evident, if it hadn’t been before, that in foreign policy the mindset is still there, and, as I call it, the war machine, is still dominant in Washington, and it’s going to be very hard to change that.
JAY: In your writing, you talk about something called the deep state, the public state, and the secret state. President Obama certainly hasn’t talked about it. The media doesn’t talk about it. Explain what you mean by its relationship to the Afghan war.
SCOTT: I think I have talked about the deep state. I prefer now just to talk about deep politics, that there are things which we just don’t face in our society, things we’re not willing to talk about. With respect to Afghanistan, one of the things that we don’t want to face and talk about is the presence of drug trafficking in the plans of the CIA for controlling remote areas of this world. And when you have a number of facts which are not being talked about, our politics becomes more and more like an iceberg, in which the visible part, the public politics, or, if you like, what goes on in the public state, is only a small percentage of the totality of what’s going on, a lot of this is not subject to the restraints of the Constitution at all. And that’s the part that I call deep politics. The phrase “deep state” is a bit dangerous, ’cause it might make people think that there’s a secret Pentagon and a secret White House, it’s nothing like that. It’s more this matter of the mindset that I’m talking about.
JAY: When you described the war machine, you use the words “drug-corrupted war machine,” and everyone knows that Afghanistan is now the manufacturer of the majority of the world’s heroin, but it doesn’t ever get talked about as a policy issue or as an underlying driving force in this struggle for all sides. So talk about this.
SCOTT: Well, I would say, actually, it has become talked about in the last year, with the beginning of Obama’s campaign. You know, when Bush first went in in 2001, they had a list of the main refineries, and they were never touched, because America’s coalition for developing local support in Afghanistan was made up very largely of warlords who were involved in the drug traffic. Our principal ally was going to be [Ahmad Shah] Massoud, and there was a big debate in Washington, before we went into Afghanistan, whether to make him an ally or not, because they knew he was involved in the drug traffic. Well, he was in fact assassinated, just a day or two before 9/11. But the Northern Alliance, which was the only faction in Afghanistan in that year that was growing poppy, they were our allies. And if you look at almost any newspaper story about drugs in Afghanistan, it’s going to be talking about the Taliban. But the Taliban are getting at most about a tenth of the revenues that are being raised by opium and heroin in Afghanistan, and the vast majority of it is going to the big warlords who essentially make up, to this day, the coalition that are supporting [Hamid] Karzai in Kabul.
JAY: Why is this important in terms of US role there? The American answer to that sort of unofficial answer would be, well, we just have to live with it because there’s bigger fish to fry than the drug business right now and we can always deal with that later.
SCOTT: Yes. We also wanted to make a democracy. We can’t make a democracy out of a drug-corrupted society. The big corruption of Afghanistan occurred in the 1980s when we put more than $1 billion of aid, filtered through the Pakistanis, and more than half of that aid went to drug traffickers, particularly a man called Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who was our top protege in the ’80s and is one of our top enemies today, and another man called [Jalaluddin] Haqqani, who was the one of—the only member of the Afghan resistance who was getting direct support from the Americans, and who today, he and his son, drug traffickers who are part of the resistance. So we corrupted that society. And another article, I was saying how it’s fashionable to call Afghanistan a failed state, and I said that makes it sound as if it’s [inaudible] from something that they did themselves that is wrong.
JAY: This is all in the name of winning the Cold War.
SCOTT: Yes. And, over 50 years in waging the Cold War, the CIA helped to build up this global drug traffic, which today is a real menace to America and has got out of hand.
JAY: Now, one of the things you’ve written about how for the CIA, when they would do off-the-books operations, so much of it was actually funded by drug operations. They saw a lot of the global drug trade as another revenue stream.
SCOTT: Well, you know, they would say in their defense that they were just dealing with the conditions on the ground. But if you look at actual examples:the CIA’s private war in Laos that began in 1959 and went on to 1975. And our two main assets there were the Royal Laotian Army and the Hmong forces of General Vang Pao, and both of those were supporting themselves by growing opium and shipping it out. And the CIA actually gave both the generals and Vang Pao their own airplanes so that the CIA could say, “We’re not involved with the drug trade.” But the financing of that war was drugs, yes, and it was a disaster. It was a complete disaster for Laos.and the other the only real winners in that whole war was the international drug trade, which grew even more powerful as a result.
JAY: Now, in this section, a paragraph I quoted from your writing, you talk about, in a present tense, a drug-corrupted military-industrial complex or military complex. How is that now affecting the American institutions?
SCOTT: Well, to prove it, I mean, I would just have to give examples. One example would be that when in 2001, after 9/11, it was clear we were going to go into Afghanistan, a conscious decision was made to go with drug traffickers. And it was a rerun of what we did in 1979-80, the Brzezinski [inaudible]
JAY: What’s the evidence for that?
SCOTT: Steve Coll’s book Ghost Wars talks about the debate that went on in the National Security Council about linking up with the Northern Alliance, because they argue that Massoud was a drug trafficker. It became very obvious with the UN statistics out of Afghanistan for the year 2001—that was the season when the Taliban banned the growth of poppy. And there are debates about why they did that, and cynics say, oh, well, they just did it to drive up the price; they had too much supply. But for whatever reason, they did ban it, and the only provinces that grew opium that year were up in the northeast because they were under the control of the Northern Alliance. This is not disputed.
JAY: In the next segment of our interview, let’s talk about what you believe to be the objectives of the war in Afghanistan. Please join us for the next segment of our interview with Peter Dale Scott.
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