The Guardian 17 August, 2005

Culture and Life

by Rob Gowland

A business connection

Organised crime and big business have always had a close connection. Both are driven by the profit motive, both believe themselves to be above (or outside) the law, both are anti-social.

The two have always worked closely together, aiding and abetting each other, whether using labour racketeers and their strong-arm goons to prevent the growth of militant unions or using the vast sums produced by the drug trade, prostitution, gambling, etc to finance takeovers, enhance an already lavish lifestyle or bribe politicians.

In the United States, the connection with organised crime has even become a recognised part of government policy, the intelligence services in particular frequently "co-operating" with crime leaders for their mutual advantage.

Big business has always utilised the underworld to suppress progressive movements, terrorise or eliminate workers’ leaders who were deemed a threat to the smooth running of business, to break strikes or just to rough up left-wing unionists.

In the 1930s, the Ford company employed an army of goons with criminal records to keep their workers in line. These criminal thugs with clubs and guns were backed up by police with clubs and guns (the capitalist state also has close connections with organised crime and big business).

In the 1940s, during WW2, US Intelligence used its connections with the Mafia on the New York water­front to organise the destruction of the anti-fascist, communist-led guerrillas in Sicily prior to the US invasion, so that the US authorities would not be faced with having to co-operate with a communist-led local government.

The Mafia’s domination of Sicily could have been smashed with the overthrow of Mussolini, but instead the Mafia’s position was reinforced by the US military.

Back in the US, in the ’40s, organised crime had an island of its own, called Cuba. There, a dictator named Batista — with the full co-operation of the US government — kept the population under control while US-organised crime figures used the country as a permanently-anchored, off-shore casino and brothel.

Lots of lovely money flowed (illicitly) into the US from the many criminal enterprises operating in pre-Castro Cuba, and many US businesses and well-connected families shared in the action.

One of those families was named Bush. As commentator William Bowles notes: "The Bush-Cuban connection is central to an understanding of the later [US] involvement with the Nicaraguan Contras, for both involved organised crime and the use of mercenary armies.

"In Cuba, it was the protection of gambling and prostitution (in the pre-Castro days), and [in Nicaragua] it was the drugs that paid for the illegal supply of weapons to the Nicaraguan Contras."

In both countries, the connections to organised crime proved useful, "the first in the attempts to overthrow the Castro government, the second, to remove the Sandinistas. In both instances, it meant breaking the law in order to pursue a foreign policy…

"The network extends in many directions, but with the Bush family at the centre of the web. The common links are: the CIA, drugs, anti-Castro Cubans, money-laundering operations, gun-running and a plethora of ‘front’ organizations, many of which are still in operation today but now operating in the ‘war on terror’."

Bowles’ comments are contained in an article contributed to the book Devastating Society: The Neo-conservative Assault on Democracy and Justice (edited by Bernd Hamm and published earlier this year by Pluto Press in London).

Bowles’ article carries the significant title The Bush Family Saga — Airbrushed Out of History. How much money was laid out over the years to ensure that that happened, eh?

But then, airbrushing embarrassing moments, actions and even people out of the US historical record has become commonplace. Look at how quickly the revelations about the CIA’s involvement in the 1980s in launching the crack cocaine epidemic in South Central Los Angeles were swept under the carpet and have now disappeared.

The US government’s premier intelligence agency was assisting in opening up a new market for the Nicaraguan Contras, whose continued co-operation against the Sandanistas was dependent on their being able to extend their drug trafficking operations into the US.

Bringing crack into black areas of the US was also part of the government’s strategy for combating the spread of black militancy in the ghettoes. The willful spreading of the drug trade was of minor consequence for US strategists.

"In the 1980s cocaine from Colombia was helping to finance nearly all of the competing factions of the CIA-supported Contras in Central America", writes Peter Dale Scott in Drugs, Oil and War: The United States in Afghanistan, Colombia, and Indochina [Rowman & Littlefield, 2003].

Once again, the intimate connections between organised crime, big business and the various parts of the US Administration were evident. As Scott notes: "The US government did not merely condone the drug trafficking of most Contra factions, it favored known drug traffickers with government contracts and intervened to prevent incipient drug cases from being prosecuted.

"Active in the latter role was a Chief Assistant US Attorney in Miami by the name of Richard Gregorie, the man later responsible for the indictment of Manuel Noriega."

As dictator of Panama, Noriega had been a US intelligence "asset", but he fell out with this bosses and had to be removed and quarantined. Self-righteously charging him as a "drug trafficker" — as though the US had not been intimately involved in everything he did — was [the] means used to put Noriega "out of circulation".

"Gregorie was backed in his efforts by the number three Justice [Department] official in Washington, Mark Richard. In the crucial year 1986, Richard was given an award by the CIA for ‘protection of national security during criminal prosecutions’."

In other words, he made sure US involvement in criminal activities was hushed up. What a country! What a system!

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