The Politics of Heroine in Southeast Asia
by Alfred McCoy

A fascinating, eye-opening history that shows how important the opium industry has been in southeast Asia in the 20th century. Heroin is a brand name coined by the Bayer pharmaceutical company. Heroin is morphine bonded with acetic acid. Morphine is made from opium. The British forced Indian opium on the Chinese (that is what the Opium Wars were about). The CIA recruited Corsican gangsters in Marseille to break the communist unions. This put the gangsters in control of the port and in a good position to control the heroin business in Europe. In the mid-1960s the Turkish government cracked down on opium farming. So the Corsican gangsters turned to southeast Asia for opium. The CIA backed the anti-communist opium growers in Burma, which grows one third of the world's opium, and Laos (whose Meo tribesmen mercenaries sold heroin to GIs). The CIA and American diplomats have also been involved in transporting opium and covering up known heroin traffickers.

Organized crime was wiped out in Italy by Mussolini, but the Allied invasion returned the Sicilian Mafia to power. Vito Genovese was appointed an officer in American army headquarters. Luck Luciano invented the idea of getting prostitutes addicted to heroin to make them dependent on his brothels in NYC. When the French controlled Indo-China, opium was a government monopoly and it accounted for 15% to 54% of the government's income. The book traces the history of opium in each southeast Asian country. When the government did not monopolize it or officially regulate it, it took bribes from those who did. The KMT ("free: China) army controls the opium in northern Burma. Warlords in southeast Asia get most of their money by collecting opium taxes from the peasants. Ky in South Vietnam flew opium in USAF planes. The Golden Triangle is a major source of heroin, but the US narcotics agencies were slow to recognize this fact. The communists are anti-opium.

The only criticism I have of this book, besides the fact that it is repetitive, is that it says nothing about the motivation, organization, or history of the anti-imperialist forces in southeast Asia.

Year Read: 1985


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