Saturday, March 04, 2006

Alfred McCoy is the author of one of the classic works on covert history, The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia, reissued in an updated and expanded edition as The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade. He is also the author of a new work, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation from the Cold War to the War on Terror. Although a scholar, McCoy has never been afraid to go where the story is. Here is an an excerpt from a recent interview:

Alfred McCoy: When I was researching that book [The Politics of Heroin] in the mountains of Laos, hiking from village to village, interviewing Laotian farmers about their opium harvest, and they were telling me that they took it down to the local helicopter pad where Air America helicopters would land, Air America being a subsidiary of the C.I.A., and officers, tribal officers in the C.I.A.'s secret army would buy the opium and fly it off to the C.I.A.'s secret compound, where it would be transformed into heroin and ultimately wind up in South Vietnam.

While I was doing that research, we were ambushed by a group of C.I.A. mercenaries. Fortunately, I had five militiamen from the village with me, and we shot our way out of there, but they came quite close. Then later on, a C.I.A. operative threatened to murder my interpreter unless I stopped doing that research.


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