“If we had met five years ago, you wouldn’t have found a more staunch defender of the newspaper industry than me … And then I wrote some stories that made me realize how sadly misplaced my bliss had been. The reason I’d enjoyed such smooth sailing for so long hadn’t been, as I’d assumed, because I was careful and diligent and good at my job … The truth was that, in all those years, I hadn’t written anything important enough to suppress.” —Gary Webb
Gary Webb never wanted to be anything but an honest investigative journalist and after Watergate exploded in the national news, he dropped out of college three credits short of a degree to take a job as a cub reporter. He spent two decades working his way up the reporter ranks through a half dozen papers, and even participated in a Pulitzer, but then the story of the century dropped in his lap, courtesy of Coral Baca, who would much later be revealed as the wife of Carlos Lehder, founder of the Medellin Cartel.
Baca became aware of Gary after he’d written an expose on forfeiture abuse for a San Jose newspaper. Drug war forfeiture began in the early 1980s and quickly became a major source of law enforcement funding. Baca used Gary as a ploy to help get a drug smuggler friend of hers released from custody. She was working as a manager for the insurance giant AIG when she contacted Gary. Most people are unaware of the deep political connections between AIG and the CIA and their possible involvement in drug money laundering, but if you trace the history of AIG, you’ll find opium funded-anti-communist efforts at its origins. And 80 years later, that was the op Gary bumped into, only this time around it was cocaine funding an illegal Contra war on a Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua.
HBO just added the wonderful and explosive feature, Kill the Messenger, based on the biography by Nick Schou of the same name as well as Gary’s book Dark Alliance. Although produced on a relatively low budget, the film has some big names and provides a riveting account of Gary’s spiral of doom down a CIA-infested rabbit hole. The film leaves Gary’s suicide in 2004 as an open question, although I believe Gary took his own life in a moment of despair. However, the CIA had already destroyed his career and played numerous dirty tricks to break him down emotionally. The last straw seemed to be the theft of his prized cafe racer motorcycle combined with the sale of his home, as he could no longer afford the mortgage payments. He was about to downsize into his mother’s apartment and decided he’d endured enough abuse.
I was editor of a national magazine when Gary lost his newspaper job and immediately offered him a monthly column. But Gary had a lot of pride and demanded $5 a word, which is more than I could afford. I ended up hiring Mike Ruppert (and eventually regretting that decision).
Had Gary lived, he’d be a rock star journalist today since history has completely vindicated his work. And anyone famous can self-publish with ease these days. Seven corporations with ties to the military-industrial complex no longer have a monopoly stranglehold on publishing like they did two decades ago. At the highest level, these corporations work hand-in-glove to assist the CIA, not investigate it, and that’s the fallacy and myth created by Watergate. When you see investigative reporters getting giant book and film deals and being lionized by the national media, like what happened with Woodward and Bernstein, you are looking at CIA ops in progress, which is why I don’t trust Wikileaks or Snowdon. Gary, on the other hand, was the real deal, a truly honest reporter who just wanted to get to the truth, no matter the consequences. He was not lionized, he was crucified.
Funny when this movie came out in the theaters, it disappeared almost instantly before it could find an audience. Not exactly what happened with All the President’s Men, eh? But now you can watch Kill the Messenger on demand on HBO, at least for this month, so please check it out because it may help open some eyes. And if you want to keep following the rabbit hole even deeper, just subscribe to this blog, because it’s one of the few places that peers into the dark corners.
One thing I’ve learned after 30 years hanging around the marijuana industry: it’s stuffed with spooks and scam artists. When the CIA wanted to use drug profits to prop up a Contra army, they were able to double and triple dip profits along the way. First they fronted a mountain of cocaine to street dealers while arming those dealers with advanced automatic weapons, something that forced the police to militarize in order to combat the street gangs. The military-industrial complex was cashing in on weapons sales on both sides of that divide. Then, after a decade of insane profits, they began taking down the street dealers and having the government seize their assets. They only built them up so they could take it all away later. And only the spooks walk free to dance through the raindrops and nary a drop lands on them.
You’ll find similar games played in world of cannabis.
If you want to check out a recent documentary that covers Gary’s story, I suggest Freeway: Crack in the System by Marc Levin.
4 Replies to “Kill the Messenger reveals uncomfortable truths”
We just saw “Kill the Messenger” last week. I’ve been familiar with Webb’s story for awhile, but haven’t read “Dark Alliance”. He had the misfortune, as you say, to be living in a media transition period. Netflix says it offers “Freeway Rick: Crack in the System”, but every time we check, they say it isn’t available as yet.
I’d be curious to know why Mike Ruppert turned out to be a disappointment.
Instead of reporting on CIA drug running, Ruppert led us down two rabbit holes, one called Vreeland and the other called Peak Oil. Sadly, Mike also took his life after the wheels feel off those rabbit holes.
I wondered what happened to him. You say that Gary Webb did the same, even as he was pushed to the brink by relentless CIA harassment. You don’t buy into the refrain that suicide victims don’t shoot themselves in the head twice? I hear that one every time his sorry demise comes up.
The first shot went through his cheek and his revolver did not need to be re-cocked. Two shot suicides are not all that rare, as often the hand jerks back in self defense at the last second and the first shot is glancing and not always fatal.