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A secret meeting of U.S. and Soviet military officials


Douglas Caddy
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Last night I saw the new hit movie, “American Gangster,” starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe.

Scenes in the movie brought back memories of conversations that I had 10 years ago with an acquaintance, a retired Military Policeman (MP).

The MP’s assignment during the Viet Nam war was to serve as bodyguard to the chief U.S. Air Force General there.

Among the startling revelations told me by the retired MP were:

(1) In the midst of the war in Viet Nam, his boss, the chief U.S. Air Force General, along with other key U.S. military leaders in Viet Nam, flew on a secret mission to Moscow. They stayed there for a week, conferring with the Soviet’s top military brass. The MP and the other bodyguards assigned to the U.S. military leaders were given their own quarters during the visit and were well taken care of by their Soviet hosts while the high level talks took place.

(2) During the war, LIFE magazine published a sensational photo story about a huge warehouse in South Viet Nam were siphoned U.S. military equipment was for sale to whoever wanted it. Anything and everything was for sale, no questions asked. The MP, in his role as bodyguard to the chief U.S. Air Force General, accompanied his boss on at least one visit to the warehouse for the latter’s purpose of making certain the operation was running smoothly.

(3) After the Viet Nam war, the MP was assigned to the Las Vegas area. There he developed a private security firm on the side that provided protection to celebrities when they were in Las Vegas. Without warning, he suddenly received new orders assigning him to Alaska, forcing him to cease the lucrative operation of his security firm. Apparently, someone wanted him out of Las Vegas and had enough Pentagon pull to have new orders cut for him.

In Alaska, his duty was to meet and search U.S. military air craft that landed at a military air base. One night, on what he thought would be a routine occasion, he approached a military air craft that had just landed from Viet Nam. He had with him two dogs trained to sniff out contraband. The plane had only one passenger: a high ranking U.S. General. The MP was shocked to find that the entire plane from one end to the other was filled with bales of marijuana. The MP immediately alerted his superiors at the base and filed a written report. However, the plane was soon allowed to take off with the passenger and illegal load aboard. For months thereafter the MP and his family received deadly threats and were subjected to physical harassment in a calculated campaign to keep the criminal incident covered up.

Back to why seeing “American Gangster” had an impact on me: The movie, based on a true story, provides scenes where U.S. Military air craft from Viet Nam bring into the U.S. loads of pure heroin in an operation orchestrated by a Harlem drug lord.

I had always thought that I would never live to see the day when what the MP told would come to public light. But with the release of the movie, a portion is told in a no-holds-barred form.

Now I wonder if I shall ever see the day when we find out why the top U.S. military leaders, from Viet Nam and the Pentagon, met for a week with their counterparts in Moscow in the midst of the war in Viet Nam.

Also, I wonder if I shall see the day when we find out about the shipments of heroin into the U.S. aboard military aircraft flown from Afghanistan. If our invasion of Iraq was about oil, our invasion of Afghanistan was about heroin. Under the Tabiban, the poppy crop was decimated. Under the U.S. military now running that country, with the Tabiban’s power greatly reduced, the poppy crop has never been larger.

Maybe 30 years from now a movie will be made about it.

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I doubt that the story Douglas shares, if true (and I have no reason to question his belief in its veracity), can be eclipsed in terms of its importance to the development of the deepest possible understanding of the forces that killed John Kennedy.

From whom was the Air Force officer's visit to Moscow kept secret? His own chain of command?

With whom did he meet while in the U.S.S. R.? "Rogue" military and intelligence operatives?

Again we must confront the notion of "a treasonous cabal of hard-line American and Soviet intelligence agents [and military officers] whose masters were above Cold War differences."

For these vile human beings, ending the conflict in Southeast Asia under any circumstances -- including ostensible "victory" -- could be construed only as defeat.

So too their heirs and the "war on terror."

Fascinating tale. And just one of many.

For example: There's the story of Nixon in Viet Nam, personally delivering a crate of gold bars to "Charlie" in exchange for captured civilian personnel.

Charles

Edited by Charles Drago
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Guest David Guyatt

Wasn't there a regular shipping route of heroin from Vietnam to the US, via US military cargo aircraft carrying bodies of servicemen who had been killed in combat? As I recall, this was set up by Bill Colby and was known as the "Long silver train" - (named after the colour of the metal containers of the cadavers, I believe?).

It is also very similar in stye to Operation Watch Tower, that saw large quantities of cocaine being flown into the US, thanks to the Pentagon.

David

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Wasn't there a regular shipping route of heroin from Vietnam to the US, via US military cargo aircraft carrying bodies of servicemen who had been killed in combat? As I recall, this was set up by Bill Colby and was known as the "Long silver train" - (named after the colour of the metal containers of the cadavers, I believe?).

It is also very similar in stye to Operation Watch Tower, that saw large quantities of cocaine being flown into the US, thanks to the Pentagon.

David

The movie, “American Gangster,” is based on a true story involving the use of military caskets to smuggle heroin into the U.S. from Viet Nam. It chronicles how many of the members of the N.Y. Police squad in charge of investigating narcotics went to jail for their corrupt participation in the scheme.

Today’s N.Y. Times headline below declares that “The War on Poppy Succeeds…” in one province but the article’s fourth paragraph states that “the Afghan and Western governments [have] focused on the problem of soaring Afghan opium production, which hit record levels this year and remains a booming industry…”

---------------

The War on Poppy Succeeds, but Cannabis Thrives in an Afghan Province

By KIRK SEMPLE

The New York Times

November 4, 2007

KHWAJA GHOLAK, Afghanistan — Amid the multiplying frustrations of the fight against narcotics in Afghanistan, the northern province of Balkh has been hailed as a rare and glowing success.

Two years ago the province, which abuts Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, was covered with opium poppies — about 27,000 acres of them, nearly enough to blanket Manhattan twice. This year, after an intense anti-poppy campaign led by the governor, Balkh’s farmers abandoned the crop. The province was declared poppy free, with 12 others, and the provincial government was promised a reward of millions of dollars in development aid.

But largely ignored in the celebration was the fact that many farmers in Balkh simply switched from opium poppies to another illegal crop: cannabis, the herb from which marijuana and hashish are derived.

As the Afghan and Western governments focused on the problem of soaring Afghan opium production, which hit record levels this year and remains a booming industry, cannabis cultivation increased 40 percent around the country, to about 173,000 acres this year — from about 123,500 acres last year, the United Nations said in an August report. And even though hashish is less expensive per weight than opium or heroin, the report said, cannabis can potentially earn a farmer more than opium poppies because it yields twice the quantity of drug per acre and is cheaper and less labor intensive to grow.

“As a consequence,” the United Nations report warned, “farmers who do not cultivate opium poppy may turn to cannabis cultivation.”

Many farmers in Balkh have done just that, officials and residents say, and the province now has one of the most bounteous cannabis crops in the country.

The plant is certainly not hard to find. It lines the main highways leading into Mazar-i-Sharif, the provincial capital, and is visible to passing drivers. The crop’s chief byproduct, hashish, is sold openly at many roadside fruit and grocery stands, particularly around Balkh, the ancient citadel town about 15 miles west of Mazar-i-Sharif.

Late on an October afternoon, Muhammad Ayud, 30, a kindly sharecropper, was finishing a day of work at the three-acre parcel he farms here in this poor village just outside the town of Balkh. His plot was covered by a forest of cannabis plants, some more than nine feet tall.

“This is nothing,” he said, gesturing toward the towering plants. “If you give it real fertilizer, you’d see how tall it grows!”

Last year Mr. Ayud’s parcel was mostly opium poppies. But his crop was wiped out by government officials during a campaign led by the provincial governor, Atta Mohammad Noor, who jailed dozens of growers for disobeying him and personally waded into several poppy fields swinging a stick at the flower stems.

Mr. Ayud, one of only two wage earners in his 16-member family, lost most of his expected earnings for the year, about $1,000, he said.

This year he planted cannabis instead, with some cotton as a fallback in case the government followed through on its promises to eradicate the illicit crop. It was a return to a family tradition, he said. His father and grandfather grew cannabis here.

Mr. Ayud said he knew it was illegal to grow cannabis, but that it was the only crop that would produce enough profit to feed his family. “I don’t have anything else to grow,” he said. The difference in potential earnings is vast: cannabis can earn about twice the profits of a legal crop like cotton, local officials say.

Farmers in this region have cultivated cannabis for more than 70 years and, by the estimates of several Balkh residents, at least half the adult male population smokes hashish. Resinous, pungent and black, the hashish is sold in thin, palm-size sheets that resemble large tire patches and sell for about a dollar each. Hashish from this area — called Shirak-i-Mazar, or Milk of Mazar — was once prized by smokers around the world, though its primacy has since been supplanted by varieties from other countries.

Many farmers here, as elsewhere in Afghanistan, process the cannabis into hashish in their homes, then sell it to traffickers who come to their doors to pick it up. The best hashish is exported, residents here say, while the inferior stuff is consumed nationally.

Mr. Atta says he has a plan to eradicate cannabis next growing season. Farmers have begun to harvest their current crop, and officials say they do not want to destroy the farmers’ livelihood without giving them time to plant an alternative.

“Marijuana is not difficult to control, like poppy,” the governor said in an interview in October in his vast, opulent office in Mazar-i-Sharif. “It’s very easy to eradicate. It’s a very simple issue.”

But Mr. Atta said he was still waiting for the development money that the central government and international community had promised Balkh in return for ridding itself of opium poppies. The money — he puts it at more than $5 million; officials in the central government say it is closer to $3 million — is earmarked for a range of projects including rural development programs to promote farming alternatives to poppies and cannabis.

Mr. Atta cautioned that unless the money arrived promptly, he could not guarantee that the farmers would eschew poppies.

“It’s the responsibility of the central government and international community to improve the lives of farmers, which they aren’t doing,” he said. “Well, we’ll try our best to not let them grow poppy, but it’s going to cause problems.”

Many farmers around the town of Balkh suggested that forswearing cannabis might be harder than poppies. Not only are cannabis and hashish a more integral part of their customs, they said, but beyond cannabis there are no profitable alternatives.

The farmers said they would not grow cannabis only if the government provided an alternative source of livelihood, or improved the market for their legal crops.

“If, in the future, the government helps the farmers — and really helps — we will destroy all the poppy and cannabis,” said Hoshdel, 40, a well-weathered farmer in Khwaja Gholak who has nine children. “If they don’t help us, I swear I’ll grow it.”

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I doubt that the story Douglas shares, if true (and I have no reason to question his belief in its veracity), can be eclipsed in terms of its importance to the development of the deepest possible understanding of the forces that killed John Kennedy.

From whom was the Air Force officer's visit to Moscow kept secret? His own chain of command?

With whom did he meet while in the U.S.S. R.? "Rogue" military and intelligence operatives?

Again we must confront the notion of "a treasonous cabal of hard-line American and Soviet intelligence agents [and military officers] whose masters were above Cold War differences."

For these vile human beings, ending the conflict in Southeast Asia under any circumstances -- including ostensible "victory" -- could be construed only as defeat.

So too their heirs and the "war on terror."

Fascinating tale. And just one of many.

For example: There's the story of Nixon in Viet Nam, personally delivering a crate of gold bars to "Charlie" in exchange for captured civilian personnel.

Charles

My impression from the source who told me this story is that the secret meeting in Moscow in the midst of the Viet Nam War was not a rogue operation but a well-planned meeting of the top military leaders of the U.S. and the Soviet Union. It lasted a full week, which showed that

the subjects discussed were of great significance to all concerned.

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I doubt that the story Douglas shares, if true (and I have no reason to question his belief in its veracity), can be eclipsed in terms of its importance to the development of the deepest possible understanding of the forces that killed John Kennedy.

From whom was the Air Force officer's visit to Moscow kept secret? His own chain of command?

With whom did he meet while in the U.S.S. R.? "Rogue" military and intelligence operatives?

Again we must confront the notion of "a treasonous cabal of hard-line American and Soviet intelligence agents [and military officers] whose masters were above Cold War differences."

For these vile human beings, ending the conflict in Southeast Asia under any circumstances -- including ostensible "victory" -- could be construed only as defeat.

So too their heirs and the "war on terror."

Fascinating tale. And just one of many.

For example: There's the story of Nixon in Viet Nam, personally delivering a crate of gold bars to "Charlie" in exchange for captured civilian personnel.

Charles

My impression from the source who told me this story is that the secret meeting in Moscow in the midst of the Viet Nam War was not a rogue operation but a well-planned meeting of the top military leaders of the U.S. and the Soviet Union. It lasted a full week, which showed that

the subjects discussed were of great significance to all concerned.

Understood, Douglas.

And I don't want to get mired in semantics, but within my key area of study and interest definitions are begged.

One may argue, for instance, that the true "rogue" element of the U.S.G. was represented in Dealey Plaza on 11/22/63 not by JFK's assassins, but rather by their target. If, that is, by "rogue" one means a disenfranchised, politically ineffective group attempting to make policy inimical to the interests of the entrenched powers.

So for the sake of the exercise, let's take your source at his/her literal, superficial word. The definitions now begged are of "top," "leaders," "U.S." and "Soviet Union."

Would a member of the JCS who was loyal to the Constitution be considered a "top" "leader" in comparison to an officer of lesser rank and appointed position who was deeply entrenched in the deep political system?

Were/are the "U.S." and "Soviet Union" expendable socio-political constructs functioning, as far as the deep political system was/is concerned, as prison camps enclosed by the barbed wire of nationalism and patriotism?

Charles

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