By Peter Dale Scott, Japan Focus
This Chapter 3 from my newly published American War Machine describes America's Operation Paper, a November 1950 program to arm and supply the Kuomintang remnant troops of General Li Mi in Burma. Operation Paper itself was relatively short-lived, but it had two long-term consequences that have not been adequately discussed.
The first is that the CIA was launched into its fifty-year history of indirectly facilitating and overseeing forces engaged in vastly expanding the production of opiates, in successive areas not previously major in the international traffic. This is a history that stretches, almost continuously, from Thailand and Burma through Laos until the 1970s, and then to present-day Afghanistan.
The second is that the resulting drug proceeds helped supplement the CIA's efforts to develop its own Asian proxy armies, initially defensive but increasingly offensive. This led in 1959 to the initiation of armed conflict in the previously neutral and Buddhist nation of Laos, an unwinnable hot war that soon spread to Vietnam.
The decision to launch Operation Paper was made by a small cabal inside the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC), notably Desmond Fitzgerald and Richard Stilwell in conjunction with former OSS Chief William Donovan, who favored the rollback of communism over the official State Department policy of containment. My book sees the expanding offensive efforts in Southeast Asia, after switching from Li Mi's forces to the CIA's Thai proxy army PARU, as a watershed in the conversion of America's post-war defense establishment, which was concerned above all with preserving the status quo in western Europe, into today's offensive American War Machine, with actions centered on Southeast and Central Asia.
The writing of American War Machine has given me a clearer picture of America's overall responsibility for the huge increases in global drug trafficking since World War II. This is exemplified by the more than doubling of Afghan opium drug production since the U.S. invaded that country in 2001. But the U.S. responsibility for the present dominant role of Afghanistan in the global heroin traffic has merely replicated what had happened earlier in Burma, Thailand, and Laos between the late 1940s and the 1970s. These countries also only became factors in the international drug traffic as a result of CIA assistance (after the French, in the case of Laos) to what would otherwise have been only local traffickers.
It is not too much to conclude that, for such larger reasons of policy, U.S. authorities actually suborned at times an increase of illicit heroin traffic.Thailand and Drugs: A Personal Preface
An understanding of this phenomenon must inform future scholarly work on drug trafficking in Asia.1
If opium could be useful in achieving victory, the pattern was clear. We would use opium.2
It is now clearly established that in November 1950, President Truman, faced with large numbers of Chinese communist troops pouring into Korea, approved an operation, code-named Operation Paper, to prepare remnant Kuomintang (KMT) forces in Burma for a countervailing invasion of Yunnan. It is clear also that these troops, the so-called 93rd Division under KMT General Li Mi, were already involved in drug trafficking. It is clear finally that, as we shall see, Truman belatedly approved a supply operation to drug traffickers that had already been in existence for some time.
~ more... ~