Tuesday, December 09, 2008

We All Failed Gary Webb

By Robert Parry
December 10, 2008

Since Gary Webb’s suicide four years ago, I have written annual retrospectives about the late journalist’s important contribution to the historical record -- he forced devastating admissions from the CIA about drug trafficking by the Nicaraguan contra rebels under the protection of the Reagan administration in the 1980s.

Read on.


LiberalChiroDoc said...

Perhaps the best piece you've ever written for consortiumnews. I have read "White Out" and it was the book that set me on my course for independent news outlets like consortiumnews, CounterPunch, and The Real News.

Thank you for all you do.

raymond said...

Thanks Robert, for a well deserved memorial and remembrance of who and what Gary Webb was. I also have read his 'Dark Alliance' and am disgusted by the betrayal from his contemporaries. He did us all a great service by reporting the story of drug running, corruption and deception from our government. That the story still remains basically unknown is a tragedy all over again.I also appreciate the need to support independent reporting and do so as I can. You perform great service, I sincerely hope you are able to continue. Thanks for all you do.

Stellar said...

Nice article!I enjoyed reading this article and people's comments.


Al Giordano said...

Thanks, Robert, for keeping the flame. We'll link to your essay.

Steve said...

I recall a talk I attended in Sacramento about ten years ago in which you, Gary Webb and former Houston Post reporter Pete Brewton explained quite convincingly how running afoul of the CIA and the media establishment is a great way to end a career in mainstream journalism. Thanks for keeping this story and the truth about Webb alive.

John G said...

Thanks, Bob. I don't know much about the finer points of Webb's reporting, but let me say that I relate to his experience.

After leaving mainstream newspaper journalism and breaking a front-page Rev. Moon Senate scandal for Salon.com, I spent years writing, researching and reporting a book on Moon. My belief was that this living, breathing political cartoon of conservative corruption--Moon, in 2004, received a mock coronation from members of Congress--would offer a colorful window into the history of the conservative movement and how the sausages are made.

I also believed that there was a liberal infrastructure that would support me when the book came out. Long story short: It was a disastrous and disillusioning experience. Forget the MSM: I'm talking about the netroots, the Left Web, and liberal radio, not to mention the publisher itself, which bungled the release with a ludicrously sinister tone. I received a tiny scattering of Web notices but made a total of $5,000 off the four-year experience.

Which reminds me: A while back I got in touch with Dr. Sara Diamond, who in a past life was a groundbreaking UC Berkeley researcher of right-wing movements ("Roads To Dominion"). She told me she no longer gave interviews about the Right; not finding much reward in original research on the Right, she left and went to law school.

I imagine she had a similar reaction to mine: "If y'all don't care, then I don't care."

Rodney said...

I agree with the writer's article on Gary Webb, the media cover-ups, and the obstacles to exposing the endemic graft and corruption by wild conspiraacy theorists who lack background information but have a wild imagination. More details on the tragic conseequences of these matters at www.defraudingamerica.com

Bob said...

It says a lot about America when an unvested interest is quashed by vested interests. A very sad story and I congratulate Robert for keeping it alive.
The ignorance that MSM spews may be the death of America but tragically money is #1 in this country.

brendanorrell@gmail.com said...

Thank you. This is one of the best articles I've read. Gary Webb opened the door for many of us to truth and US covert operations. At the same time, his life serves as an alarm to all of us who have been censored out of the mainstream news business. In life and death, Gary remains a true journalist and warrior for truth.
Brenda Norrell
Censored News and Censored Blog Radio:

Bill from Saginaw said...

Along with all the verboten third rail issues that Gary Webb's reporting touched upon as described in this fine account by Robert Parry, I always thought the straw that broke the camel's back was when inner city African Americans suddenly began to draw the connection between the crack epidemic sweeping through their neighborhoods and the policies of the white guys who ran the CIA.

Two quick questions:

Is the DOJ/CIA letter of understanding referred to in this article still in effect - specifically as it relates to the CIA's freedom to ally itself with Afghan heroin traffickers in fighting the war against the Taliban/GWOT and protect their national security assets from federal criminal charges?

Why didn't John Kerry himself (or his presidential campaign advisors) tap into this legislative Committee history when he ran against George W. Bush in 2004?

Much like mention of Kerry's antiwar efforts in the Vietnam era, and the whole issue of US torture policy in that frustrating, ill-fated election contest, there was almost complete silence about any significant accomplishments achieved by John Kerry in his long Senatorial career. In many ways, Kerry's dogged pursuit of the CIA/contra/cocaine smuggling connection could have been showcased a signature issue and biographical credential. Instead, there was virtually total silence about that phase of Kerry's career.

Alas, I fear the answers to these two questions may be self-evident, and may be interrelated.

Touch publicly upon the relationship between our patriotic spooks and organized crime, and you're stepping upon a very lethal third rail of the American political system indeed. Even if you do your homework and tread as carefully as Gary Webb, you can still wind up getting burned.

Bill from Saginaw

US Dumdonutz said...

While Webb's work was silenced to protect Reagan's image, it seems the real motivation is maintaining public perception that cocaine is a criminal enterprise with no ties to govt. The billions in this trade go somewhere up the trade chain. In that case, Webb turned over a rock and found it, but it always goes on somehow somewhere. It would be so much less violent to have legal govt control, and yet, the blood still flows. Look at how out of hand it is in Mexico. People mass murdering over the product of a plant. Ludicrous. But if the public ever makes the connection that drugs ARENT worth Gold, and that entrenched white collar and govt interests benefit from its illgality, then the slush funds are closed, to authority, to arms dealers, to smugglers, to politicians. The world is dirtier from the illegality than the substance. Prohibition and the mob prove this.

Dale Warner said...

Just posted brief remarks and the link to your piece on Webb on a well-known San Jose blog. May not be up just yet.


Anonymous said...

Power to you, Robert (although it's all too often the nonrenumerative kind).

I'm a 20-year honest reporter with national coverage experience, and I've seen the reaction you're talking about with the competitors (NYT, LAT, etc.) trying to discredit great reporting when they get scooped.

Even an investigative reporter on my former statewide newspaper immediately resorted to trash-talking and downplaying any need for catching up when he got scooped on the Oklahoma City bombing.

Keep up the great work.

Antifascist Calling said...

Excellent piece on a courageous journalist, Bob.

And what passes for a "progressive" movement in the U.S. still doesn't get it. While some may cheer for Obama after the darkness of the Bush years, the same patterns (if with different players) persist.

Has the covert alliance amongst intelligence agencies, organized crime and terrorism ended? Hardly. One need only explore today's headlines in South Asia for an answer.

Thanks for keeping them honest with Consortium News, an invaluable resource if ever there were one!

Lloyd G. said...

A casual reader might get the impression that the US Government's/CIA's working with/aiding drug dealers began and ended with Iran-Contra.
I am guessing that what drove Webb over the edge was having to observe a media and political establishment fawn over the KLA in Kosovo, the drug-dealing death squad government in Colombia and the 'Northern Alliance' in Afghanistan.
The bastards won. And they'll keep winning.

perverse inverse said...

I just want to add that the same kind of pressures exist for govt. lawyers... How many great attorneys and prosecutors have been snuffed out under the Bush years?? Where do they all go??
And at what cost to Justice in the U.S.??

As a member of the legal profession, I began hearing about serious problems and gross violations of the Hatch Act at DOJ long before Gonzales/Bush abruptly fired over a half dozen outstanding U.S. Attys....

I have felt the career-detrimental pressure myself. I have been tailed by agents and threatened at govt. work all because of my integrity and my commitment to the oath I took to uphold the Constitution...

I know others who did the right thing as attorneys, in contrast to their illegal DOJ "orders," and then had their law license suspended on false allegations. Like Webb, they suffered the destruction of their career, finances, health, and external reputation... Why? Because they upheld the law and protected the public interest. Not only is it wrong and sad, it creates the loss of some of the the best, most qualified lawyers to be found.

It is terrible what is happening to the watchdogs of Democracy on many levels... and it sets the stage for fascism and anarchy in America.

Please keep bringing this travesty to light. The perpetrators are banal cowards. Webb certainly deserves further tributes to his courage and ethics.