29 December 2016

The Labyrinth of Drugs and Weapons Smuggling: The Balkans, Latin America and the Strategy of Tension


Due to the inconclusive nature of the story I'm not sure why The Intercept chose to publish it. Perhaps it's for the same reasons that I'm passing it on. It provides an opportunity to expose readers to the confusing mess and double-dealing that's going on in government agencies and in the back alleys. I think we all know these things go on, but sometimes it's helpful to read something like this that fleshes it out a bit.

While this might seem like a case of Keystone Cops, it's not unusual to discover elements connected to the Deep State attempting to outmaneuver official channels. This is the fascinating aspect to modern democratic government. In reality all the same forces and powers of previous ages are at work and yet there's this facade that must be maintained. The real power players know it's all a sham and while official channels are corrupt and manipulated a lot of activities have to be conducted in the shadows and off the books.

The Balkans and Montenegro in particular are a centre of intrigue at present. Weapons and drugs are flowing in and out of the Middle East and the Balkans are often at the centre of these operations, a transit and transaction point along the way. Western intelligence agencies are running weapons for sure. If past is precedent, drugs are also part of the equation. The profit margins are too big and easily made. If you're funding a guerilla wars and off-the-books black ops the appeal of drugs is just too tempting. And indeed it's fairly well documented at this point that the CIA and its affiliates have engaged in the trade for decades.

In addition to weapons and drugs, there are also people, in this case fighters. Again if past is precedent, Western intelligence agencies like the CIA and Germany's BND are funding and supporting networks of underground cells tied in with their projects in the Middle East and Eurasia.

In this case the Romanian dealer didn't properly safeguard his position. He may be a fraud but it's also just as likely that he's telling the truth. Was he investigating or running? That line gets pretty blurry. He left himself exposed and expendable and may find himself joining a rather large group of assets (not agents) abandoned and left to rot. To tell his story, he breaks the law and is silenced. To not tell it relegates him to the category of common criminal.

Does the story of investigating FARC smuggling networks seem plausible? Yes and no.

He may have been exploited, running drugs under false pretense and unwittingly putting himself at risk in order to generate funds for his handlers.

Is it also possible that a group like the CIA may have been backing the FARC from time to time? It's very possible.

Isn't that absolutely contradictory? Hasn't the US been backing the Colombian government in its war against the FARC? Yes, the US has been backing Bogota for many years with US Special Forces as well as US and corporate backed paramilitary groups who have been engaged in a vicious and terrible guerilla war.

And yet the US has often supported politically extreme groups in order to drive policy. At opportune moments, an ascendant FARC drives the Colombian public to support the installation of Right-wing governments and those same governments will then have a mandate to implement police state measures and an enhanced security apparatus. It's not altogether clear everyone in Washington really wants the Colombian peace plan to be implemented. If so, instigating the FARC into action could be a useful tactic.

This 'Strategy of Tension' was the game the US played for many years in Europe. Communist groups like Italy's Red Brigades were infiltrated and backed by the CIA. Their terror kept the Italian public from swinging to the Left and kept NATO-friendly administrations in power. That's just one example of many from the Cold War. During the post- Cold War period the strategy has survived but has shifted.

Today the threat is no longer Communism but Islamic terrorism, and the US in particular has a long history of collaboration and manipulation of Islamic paramilitaries. This has overlapped with the Cold War just as the FARC is something of a holdover from a now obsolete geopolitical paradigm.

An earlier version of this story from the Spring:

Some additional reading:

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