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Who Killed Gary Webb?
The great Bob Dylan song “Who Killed Davey Moore?”, about a boxer killed in a corrupt and brutal match, points accusatory fingers everywhere while ultimately coming to the conclusion that it was America that killed Davey Moore. Likewise, it was America that killed a great soul, Gary Webb. It was the mainstream press that vindictively buried and hounded him to depression, but they wouldn’t a done that if not for the masses who, even with sources of alternate information, have not placed proper demand on the corporate media that wouldn’t exist without being—and this was worse under Clinton—a kiss-ass of the government, which wouldn’t exist without being a front for “free enterprise.”
I was a confused 20-year-old kid, sure of my politics, sure that was something was wrong, but felt powerless to do much about it when I came upon the stories of Gary Webb. Within a year, I was in journalism school. Webb was my inspiration for studying journalism. I had always been somewhat “into” some such conspiracy tales, but was skeptical much of the time, particularly about the political worth of idle speculation. A reader of the more discerning conspiracy writers such as the late great Jim Keith and others, I waited for someone to come along and actually prove that you could prove this stuff to the masses.
Reading Webb brought me to interest in more serious political matters, given that he placed the growth of the cocaine industry, not only within the context of intelligence agencies, but within the context of the terrorist war against the Sandanista government. I became aware of Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair’s book White-Out, and of course, Counterpunch, through which I became interested in said book because of an excellent section regarding Webb’s mistreatment. More importantly, in reading many accounts of the history of U.S. involvement in Latin America, I became far more aware not only that something was wrong, and that the CIA sells drugs—but that this was but a systemic component of a war against democracy that the U.S. had been involved in at least since the second world war. And just around that time, I became sympathetic with what was just developing, and was still called the anti-globalization movement.
As the saying goes “everybody knows”—the everybody with some political awareness—that the CIA and other government agencies and party organizations are actively involved in the drug trade. It may as well seem anti-climactic in the face of Abu Ghraib, a seeming restoration of Operation Condor and massacres by the truckful, to prove a simple point that the Central Intelligence Agency actively colluded in the drug trade. Yet what Webb had with Freeway Rickey Ross, Danilo Brandon and others, was that smoking gun that could turn out to be a mushroom cloud, so to speak. Like Karen Silkwood, they assassinated him; they assassinated his character. Every American should read his book Dark Alliance, not only for its information but for its sheer journalistic craftsmanship, a combination of lyrical prose and hot information.
It wasn’t only the right-wing nutjobs that went after Gary Webb. In fact, Webb was probably believed by many of the UN-fearing, gun-toting Rush Limbaugh listeners. After all, some creatively devious elements of the political right had brought up the story of Clinton’s culpability in CIA coke smuggling, at the Mena airfield in Arkansas as early as 1992. Naturally, these stories didn’t hit the mainstream, with Papa Bush’s hands being smeared far darker than Party Boy Billy’s. The main culprits of course were the big dailies, the Times, the Post, other papers, that seemed to any rational party to be bending over backwards to protect their sources/pals/bosses? ("the great Wurlitzer") at Langley. Of course, even the liberal and left-wing press accused Webb of being a conspiracy theorist, none so egregiously as CIA PR man David Corn of The Nation. I remember when Corn broke the Joe Wilson story I said to my friend “At least he’s getting something out of being such a CIA apologist.” In examining Corn’s recent polemics against another investigative journalistic giant, Gregory Palast, one detects a disturbing affinity with his treatment of Webb.
There is something tremendously distasteful about going to a funeral and taking a leak on the guy’s dead body. And David Corn is pissing away. At his Nation weblog, there is a reprinting of quite a few of his anti-Webb tirades. He is extra devious in that he acknowledges that Webb “opened a door” in regard to CIA involvement in the drug trade, and writes of how the CIA’s own inspector general admitted as much. Yet his writing, which one hopes is not sincere, reeks of allegiance if not admiration for the Central Intelligence Agency.
Corn quibbling away:
"This may seem like hairsplitting. But it’s
important when evaluating the CIA’s culpability. Webb demonstrates that
the Agency collaborated with contras and contra supporters suspected of smuggling
narcotics. But were Blandon and Meneses in cahoots with the Agency? The evidence
only shows they were part of a dark community with which the CIA was merrily
Basically, the only thing that Corn is saying here is that hairsplitting is important. Surely he can’t be serious when he attempts to differentiate between being in “cahoots” and being part of a “dark community with which the CIA was merrily doing business.”
Why would Corn, even if he was unimpressed—unlike
many others of greater stature than he could ever attain—with some of
Webb’s evidence, devote so much bandwidth to insulting the memory of
a guy who, unlike him, did not sell out, which had to be some factor in his
horrible suicide? David Corn and the Democratic establishment killed Gary
Webb. With friends like this, the Left needs an enema.