San Jose Mercury News (SJ) - Saturday, August 24, 1996 Edition: Morning Final Section: Editorial Page: 7B Word Count: 1,769


TEXT: Gary Webb and the San Jose Mercury News have performed a tremendous community service by publishing the excellent three-part series (Aug. 18-20) on how the CIA's Contra war in Nicaragua in the 1980s fueled the crack cocaine epidemic in U.S. inner cities.

I was one of thousands of U.S. activists who during the '80s tried with little success to publicize this connection. We didn't have all the details, but we knew it was going on.

How many tens of thousands of Nicaraguans were killed or maimed in that illegal and immoral war? How many tens of thousands of black youths in inner cities are either hooked on crack, facing long prison terms, or have had their lives ruined in other ways because of the crack cocaine that has flooded their neighborhoods thanks to the CIA and its band of terrorists and drug dealers?

I am profoundly grateful to Mr. Webb and the Mercury News for finally exposing the inglorious Contra-cocaine connection, even (or perhaps especially) a decade later. The people must know what our government is doing in our name.

- Joanne Heisel

Mountain View

I began chuckling Sunday, while reading the first installation of your special report, '''Dark Alliance.''' On Monday, I began to laugh out loud and by Tuesday, my eyes were wet with tears and my stomach knotted from too much laughing. Your revelations on U.S. government involvement with drug runners are so sick as to be funny. And the joke is on us.

In the mid-'80s, when Reagan's Contra war was raging (Carter actually began organizing the deposed National Guard well before Sandinista heels had cooled from the revolution), there were some who knew of Contra-cocaine trafficking. At my alma mater, Northwestern University, Prof. Barbara Foley interrupted a speech by Contra leader Adolfo Calero (pictured Sunday, shoulder to shoulder with known cocaine dealers) by shouting him down. She was denied tenure and forced to leave the university.

Remember the Iran-Contra hearings, when two men barged in, shouting '''What about the cocaine?''' They were hustled out by guards. Meanwhile, President Reagan attempted to portray the Sandinistas as devilish cocaine smugglers. Why the ruse? Why the secrecy? Why the muzzling of whistle blowers?

Surely, the Russians and Sandinistas knew cocaine money was flowing to the Contras. The only people who did not know were the American people. Covert activity by the CIA, and in this case, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the FBI and the Justice Department, guards against nothing less than democracy. There is no valid reason for secret files to be kept from the American people. They are classified to keep taxpayers and voters in the dark about obscene uses of our dollars, uses we would heartily and roundly condemn.

Because of covert CIA action, and '''national security''' justifications, it is 10 years later when we, the American people, discover that during the Just Say No era, cocaine rolled in massive waves into our cities while U.S. government agencies looked the other way.

This is not an aberration: We learned after the Vietnam War that the CIA assisted heroin dealers in Southeast Asia's Golden Triangle.

The Mercury News did an excellent job exposing the CIA-Contra-cocaine connection. However, as long as the CIA budget remains black (we do not know how much money the CIA gets; we do know that Clinton has increased the black budget since Bush) and agencies like the CIA and the DEA are allowed to close files based on Orwellian arguments of '''privacy''' and '''national security,''' our real national security - safer streets, decreased drug use, sound foreign policy - will remain threatened from within. And the joke is on us.

- Ami Chen Mills


Thank you for publishing Gary Webb's excellent series of articles documenting the links between the Contras and the creation of the crack cocaine problem. I had begun to think that investigative journalism was going out of fashion. To see such issues discussed on the front page of a major daily newspaper is very refreshing.

- Gerry Morgan


I can't believe the naked cowardice and treachery of Reagan/Bush, the DEA, CIA, FBI, etc. against their own people. We've all heard the politicians dehumanize Saddam Hussein by telling us he gassed his own Kurdish minorities. Well now, Gary Webb has just told us about how the U.S. government used chemical warfare against its own people too. Credit the Rev. Louis Farrakhan and others who have been telling us for a long time about this and other instances of government aggression and domestic imperialism.

I and my relatives went to Dorsey High School just like Freeway Ron Ross did. I dropped out in 1972 and went into the Marines.

Webb's article exposed treason. But it leaves me with far more questions than answers. How many thousands of our kids have gone astray because of this? How many innocent bystanders, police officers, corrections personnel, you name it, have been destroyed as a consequence of this government policy? How could the government betray the people of South-Central L.A. in such a horrendous and disgusting manner, by poisoning innocent children?

So I'd like to thank Webb and the San Jose Mercury News for exposing this sick and depraved act by the government that slavishly preaches respect for human rights all over the world.

- Randy Miyazaki

San Jose

The Mercury News has told a tragic tale of government protection of drug smuggling into South-Central Los Angeles. Now it is time for the public to demand answers. Did the CIA permit the importation of cocaine into this country under government protection? If so, how much was brought in, and for how long? Who knew about it, and who covered up for it after the fact?

The CIA employees who were involved with these smugglers must be brought to justice. If the statute of limitations has expired, then we must hear the full story so that we know how it happened. Police officers were killed. Children died and are still dying. Was our government to blame for the war that broke out on our city streets?

Everyone who is outraged by this story must call or write Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and congressional representatives to demand that they find out the answers to these questions.

- David Wiesner

San Francisco

Usually the CIA's activities have harmful effects on innocent civilians in foreign countries. In this case, the CIA's activities led to the crack epidemic in America's inner cities, which caused American citizens much pain and misery.

It has long been known that the CIA has illegally toppled foreign governments. Now, the agency is toppling the American government. Our government relies on the American people. Therefore, the CIA has made a good attempt, although unintentional, at toppling our own government.

Americans should put an end to this nonsense. The CIA should be punished for its actions, just as all the small-time crack dealers are punished for theirs. Why should the CIA get away with murder? It is clear that supporting the Contras' selling drugs in order to support clandestine operations was not in America's best interest. In fact, the long-term effects of their actions may be even worse than the present effects.

Republicans often blame everyone else and take little responsibility for the drug explosion. How are they going to answer to Gary Webb's articles?

- Issa N. Nazzal


It's almost beyond belief! Who protected the biggest supplier of crack cocaine to inner city America? The same federal government that claimed to be waging a ''war on drugs!''

We are absolutely revolted at the monstrous cynicism and corruption of those government officials who used the most vulnerable part of our population - impoverished inner-city African-Americans - to buy guns for a war Congress refused to declare.

Not only did this policy wreak havoc on Nicaragua, it invited a generation of young inner-city Americans into a hell of addiction, murderous gang rivalry, crime and ultimately, prison. The human, social and tax-dollar costs to all of us are astronomical.

We owe a debt of gratitude to Gary Webb, Georg Hodel, Leonore Delgado and the Mercury News for powerful - and expensive - investigative reporting. But much more needs to be done. We hope the Mercury News will discover who authorized this massive racial hate crime.

Citizens must help. Clip part or all of this series and send it to our senators and members of Congress. (See the blue pages at the very front of your Pac Bell phone book for their names and addresses.) Demand an investigation!

- John H. McManus

and Laura Stuchinsky

Mountain View

I fervently hope that Congress and the Clinton administration will develop procedures that will keep the CIA under air-tight controls. Unfortunately, spying and covert actions didn't cease with the end of the Cold War. We don't want a KGB or Gestapo-type CIA to arise in our country.

Please ensure that key Congress members are exposed to your series, including the facts on disparate sentencing between sellers and users of ''crack'' cocaine vs. powdered cocaine.

- William A. Dixon

San Jose

I spent a number of years in El Salvador and it was common knowledge that both the Salvadoran military as well as the Nicaraguan Contras were deeply involved in the U.S. drug trade. I concede that a great deal of the information was based on conjecture and guesswork, but the connection seemed so obvious to just about everyone that I doubt the story could have been too far below the surface.

I find myself thinking of Susan Molinari's speech at the Republican National Convention where she criticized President Clinton for ''not being able to say no'' to drugs. Nancy Reagan made a name for herself ''just saying no'' while her husband's administration ushered in the greatest drug scourge in this nation's history, all in the name of national security.

I am sure that Mr. Reagan's dogged supporters will claim that ''he didn't know,'' just as they did during the Iran-Contra debacle. It seems that there is very little that he did know during his tenure as president. However, I find it difficult that the president of the United States with his considerable security apparatus would not be aware of what the common man or woman in the streets of Central America knew to be true: The moral equivalents of our founding fathers are also the prime movers of the gang-related drug trade.

- Leslie Bar-Ness

Sunnyvale N

Copyright 1996, San Jose Mercury News