The sharper edge to traveling in Asia

WoWasis book review: ‘The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Drug Trade’ by Alfred W. McCoy

Written By: herbrunbridge - Jul• 15•14

McCoyHeroinThe first edition of Alfred McCoy’s The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Drug Trade was written in 1972 and was updated in 1991 and 2013. It has an amazing longevity, and has been cited numerous times in other works. As a plethora of researchers have discovered, the book, although nearly 50 years old now, remains an important work that documents much of the history of the narcotics business in Southeast Asia. That’s a simplification, however, as it touches on areas as disparate as Turkey, Iran, Corsica, Marseille, the United States, Afghanistan, and Australia. And it makes for fascinating reading. Anyone interested in the global business of narcotics will find the book to be valuable and its index is superb. It better be, because there are so many players.

Every page is full of well-researched information and every chapter is fascinating enough that readers may very well find themselves launched into their own trails of investigation. We here at WoWasis took copious notes and found the following subjects among the most interesting: Lucky Luciano’s prostitution and heroin racket, Corsican crime syndicates, the ongoing battle between the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) and the CIA, the Burmese-Shan-KMT dynamic in the Golden Triangle, and Thai military, police, and political corruption.

AsiaPromoBannerBeing veteran Thailand watchers, we found he most compelling chapters to be those chronicling the story of narcotics movement in the Land of Smiles. What with Thailand’s coups, flirtations with democracy, and constantly changing political vistas, it’s not an easy task for a researcher to keep the names and dates straight, so McCoy’s book becomes something of a constant reference that doesn’t gather much dust. During the time when Thaksin Shinawatra’s administration was noted for extra-judicial killings of drug traffickers, westerners often wondered how Thailand got involved in the narcotics business in the first place. As McCoy’s work points out, erasing the business of drugs in the Golden Triangle area is far more complicated than killing a few drug runners.

At 734 pages, it’s not an overnight read. Aside from readers interested in the world of narcotics, we’d recommend this book for anyone with a desire to know more about a major element in the business world of every country that touches the Golden Triangle area of Southeast Asia. Buy this book now at the WoWasis eStore.

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