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The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade
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The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade

4.38 of 5 stars 4.38  ·  rating details  ·  173 ratings  ·  18 reviews
The first book to prove CIA and U.S. government complicity in global drug trafficking, The Politics of Heroin includes meticulous documentation of dishonesty and dirty dealings at the highest levels from the Cold War until today. Maintaining a global perspective, this groundbreaking study details the mechanics of drug trafficking in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and South ...more
Paperback, 634 pages
Published July 31st 1991 by Lawrence Hill Books (Chicago) (first published 1991)
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I was a Teaching Assistant for Dr. McCoy while in graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. We taught his highly regarded class on "The Vietnam Wars" together, with him as lecturer and me and another graduate assistant as teachers of the breakout sessions. These were some of my fondest memories of my college career.

Dr. McCoy is an outstanding and rigorous scholar, though this work walks the fine line between journalism and history in a similar way to how Michel Foucault walks the l
Erik Graff
Sep 03, 2011 Erik Graff rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: all citizens
Recommended to Erik by: reading McCoy's work
This book constitutes a summary of McCoy's 1972 Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia (see review) and an update leading into the nineties. While the prior book was primarily focused on Southeast Asia, this one points towards Afghanistan, where the opiate trade has retreated since the American retreat from Vietnam.

There is no debate on the simple fact that while once most world heroin production occurred in Southeast Asia, now almost all of it occurs in Afghanistan. Nor is there any question that
Odd book. McCoy is a historian but the main part of this book, which was intially published as "The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia" was written based on work he did while following the trail of heroin during the war in Vietnam, generally the kind of stuff done by a journalist or ethnographer. McCoy himself is an accomplished scholar of the area with several important books on the history of the Philippines. The front and back sections of the book, on the history of the drug trade in the ea ...more
This is a meticulously researched*, densely written, fascinating analysis of the covert wars waged by the CIA and its effects--intended or otherwise--on the global drug trade. It's not a quick read, but it's worth the time if you're interested in geopolitics and the drug trade. The book was published in 1972, and this is a revised and expanded edition published in 2003. The analysis of the 30 years since the first edition seems to confirm the book's original premise, that the CIA's focus on cont ...more
Shea Mastison
To begin with, this book is not exactly a page turner. It hasn't been thoroughly edited for readability; and I suspect a lack of editing is responsible for a considerable part of this book's length.

With that said, McCoy does a fantastic job analyzing the global drug trade up to the early '90s; and pointing out instances in which the CIA was complicit in shipping drugs, or aiding in the drug trade in general. He analyzes the drug trade and CIA complicity beginning in America, moving to Southeast
This book is more like an encyclopedia. I believe the author has certainly shown that he can document a subject "forgotten" by the mainstream media. It's difficult to read because of its density. But it does a good job explaining the issue.

Relatedly, if anyone wants a good argument why legalizing drugs is a bad idea, just read this book to learn how several SE Asian countries legalized narcotics to reap massive tax revenues. However, the countries became so "addicted" -how ironic- to the tax inc
Occasionally a tad repetitive (reciting events and claims/sources throughout various sections) and suffering from some wonky editing (why analyse the impact of the contra affair AFTER detailing the rise of the rise of the heroin trade in Pakistan/Afghanistan...) McCoy's work is well written, documented, and manages to (despite my gripes) hold its reader for its fairly substantial length.
the flipside to michael taussig is this visionary thinker who saw through the surface world of the 1970's and pieced together a more complete picture of capitalism's necessary underbellies. eastern/western transparencies/opacities are evident in both the players (the overlords legal/illegal and quasi) and the law.
Jan 18, 2009 Caty marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
To-read: One of my fellow activist did a presentation at Hampshire based mostly on this book. Since then I've seen it referenced thousands of times. The style promises to be dry, and the ideological bent is very drug hysteria ridden, but the material is still fascinating, soooo...I need to get a copy.
Justin Podur
I learned a lot from this excellent and thoroughly researched book, which shows that covert operations and the drug trade are inextricably linked. The case he takes on is Southeast Asia during the Vietnam war, but the same thing happened in Latin America and in Afghanistan. Terrific book.
Jamin Batman
Absolutely stunning in its assertions, impeccably documented in its research, and irrefutably damning as a result. The CIA is the most lawless organization in a government that has no peer when it comes to disregarding the law.
Everyone should read this book...maybe their perspective on our government and military would be very different. There are plenty of books just like it, well documented. Just saying!
Dense but informative, I especially like the section on the relationship between the United States government and the Italian mob during WWII.
Alfred McCoy, hipster of narcotics trafficking. He knew the CIA was funding gangsters and terrorists before anyone else, man.
Jun 05, 2008 Christopher is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
i'll have as review for this when i finally finish it in ten years. the first 10 pages have been awesome and highly revelatory.
Many moons ago, I got a heads up that the War on Drugs was a hypocritical farse.
Peter Lance
A landmark book on the explosion of smack during the Vietnam War
McCoy : Raisin' Hell again....
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A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation from the Cold War to the War on Terror (American Empire Project) The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia An Anarchy of Families: State & Family in the Philippines Policing America's Empire: The United States, the Philippines & the Rise of the Surveillance State (New Perspectives in SE Asian Studies) Closer Than Brothers: Manhood at the Philippine Military Academy

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