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Review of Alexander Cockburn and
Jeffrey St. Clair's Whiteout

While the U.S. continues its nightmarish decline towards barbarism a few journalists are writing their fingers off trying to tell the public some of what is going on.

One such individual that MediaWise readers are probably familiar with is Gary Webb.

Webb based his three-part “Dark Alliance” series in the San Jose Mercury News (1996) on court transcripts, Congressional testimony and at least one newspaper article published by the LA Times. In “Dark Alliance” Webb provided evidence (which was posted on the Internet) that the CIA knowingly did business with drug dealers who both supported the Contra cause and were shipping crack to South Central LA.

In retaliation, the Washington Post, New York Times and LA Times published vicious and mendacious commentary against Webb and “Dark Alliance” that, while not successfully refuting any of his core allegations, ultimately succeeded in driving Webb from journalism.

This chilling chapter in U.S. history is documented in Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair’s new book, Whiteout (1998, Verso).

Whiteout is an incredible compilation of stories that the mainstream media has ignored over the years. Besides the Webb chapter, it discusses the many similarities between our government and the Nazis, particularly since WWII began.

Whiteout spells out some of the numerous nuclear, chemical (e.g., LSD) and biological (e.g., the Tuskegee experiments) testing that has been done over the years on unsuspecting U.S. citizens.

There is also a chapter on what the media frequently terms ‘Black paranoia’ which readers of the Sun’s Gregory Kane should review. In it, Whiteout reminds us that the FBI’s COINTELPRO program, enacted in 1956, vigorously persecuted prominent Blacks.

This program was responsible for or abetted the deaths of at least six leaders of the Black Panthers, the most famous being the assassinations of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark by the Chicago police while they were sleeping in their beds (after being drugged).

There is also a hair-raising chapter on Operation Paperclip. It began in 1944 when several prominent intelligence officers (Bill Donovan and Allen Dulles) sought to persuade FDR to provide a safe haven for Nazi industrialists, intelligence officers and scientists in this country--with all of their wealth, too.

Despite FDR’s official objections, Operation Overcast was launched in 1945. The goal was to bring 350 German scientists and SS officers here to safety away from the war crimes tribunals to come.

Among those that the U.S. kept from the gallows were Werner Von Braun and his V2 rocket team, Dr. Herbert Axster, Dr. Arthur Rudolph and Georg Richkey.

Von Braun had used slave labor at the Dora concentration camp and had worked prisoners to death in the Mittelwerk complex. Richkey not only supervised the slavery at Mittelwerk, but also was known to instruct SS guards to club children to death at Dora.

The U.S. Army would later classify for 40 years evidence that would have implicated Von Braun and the rocket team for their war crimes.

From these sordid beginnings Operation Paperclip, inspired by Dulles and approved by Harry Truman, began. Its mission was to bring 1,000 Nazi scientists into the United States. As Cockburn and St. Clair put it: “Among [the scientists offered safe haven] were many of the vilest criminals of the war: there were doctors from Dachau concentration camp who had killed prisoners by putting them through high altitude tests, who had freezed their victims and given them massive doses of salt water to research the process of drowning. There were the chemical weapons engineers such as Kurt Blome, who had tested Sarin nerve gas on prisoners at Auschwitz. There were doctors who instigated battlefield traumas by taking women prisoners at Ravensbruck and filling their wounds with gangrene cultures, sawdust, mustard gas, and glass, then sewing them up and treating some with doses of sulfa drugs while timing others to see how long it took for them to develop lethal cases of gangrene.”

Disbelieving readers should consider that Alexander Cockburn is one of the most formidable political scribes in the country. The revelations--old and new--in Whiteout are nothing like what you’re used to reading in the mainstream media.

Whiteout also chronicles how the CIA, during WWII and afterwards, teamed up with kingpins of the U.S. Mafia, such as Lucky Luciano. The official reason was to get the Mob’s help in preventing sabotage of US ships from fascist elements. After the war, the CIA was so grateful that it assisted in the gangsters’ creation of a Corsican drug syndicate. This later became the French Connection, where 80% of the heroin entering the U.S. came from Marseilles.

Whiteout also reiterates the shocking revelations that U.S. governmental agencies actively assisted in the smuggling of heroin from Laos into Vietnam. Much of this powder eventually ended up in the veins of U.S. servicemen.

In researching this chapter Cockburn and St. Clair cite Alfred McCoy’s legendary Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia (1991, Lawrence Hill). McCoy’s book is one of the most significant on U.S. foreign policy this decade. Needless to say, the mainstream media has almost completely ignored what McCoy says in it.

Whiteout informs us the CIA and its frequent cover, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funded the creation of over 150 short landing strips in the mountains near the opium fields in Laos during the Vietnam conflict. These landing strips were used by CIA planes to deliver opium to Vang Pao, leader of the CIA-sponsored Hmong faction in Laos. In addition to ferrying heroin on their planes, both the CIA and USAID would eventually buy planes for Pao’s upstart company, Xieng Khouang Air, which was known to one and all as Air Opium. From Pao’s control the heroin eventually wound up in Vietnam. An estimated 30% of U.S. GIs became addicted to smack during the Vietnam conflict.

This is an enormous story and one that would be on the front pages of every newspaper in a free society.

Whiteout is a book that readers ignore at their own peril.

Scott Loughrey

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