Some answers, please!

September 18, 1996|By Carl T. Rowan

WASHINGTON -- A firestorm has erupted over some ` profoundly disturbing charges that operatives of the Central Intelligence Agency introduced crack cocaine into the black ghettos of America in the 1980s to raise money illegally to support the Nicaraguan contras.

If this is true, then millions of black lives have been ruined and America's jails and prisons are now clogged with young African Americans because of a cynical plot by a CIA that historically has operated in contempt of the law.

CIA Director John M. Deutch has issued a typical vague denial of CIA guilt, and Attorney General Janet Reno has said that a ''preliminary'' Justice Department investigation has not turned up evidence to support the allegations. Still, the Congressional Black Caucus, the NAACP and retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the national drug-policy director, have called for a formal investigation of the accusations.

Some media apologists for the CIA are saying that the accusers are a bunch of conspiracy nuts. What I want to say is that we do not need proof of a conspiracy at the very top of the CIA to determine that black Americans have been cruelly and criminally victimized.

I do not believe there was an official plot akin to the Mafia don's assertion in the movie ''The Godfather'' that ''black people have no souls'' and are prime targets for drug peddlers. But I do believe that that justification was adopted by some pro-contra zealots in their lawless network nurtured by the CIA, Col. Oliver North and others.

I never had a doubt during the contra hearings in Congress that some of the planes secretly contracted for by the CIA left the United States on clandestine flights loaded with arms for the contras, and returned from Nicaragua with illegal drugs.

The question now is whether the Congress, the Justice Department, General McCaffrey or anyone else can ever mount an investigation that can wring the truth out of the CIA, where cover-ups and ''plausible denials'' are standard operating procedures.

Last month the San Jose Mercury News ran a three-part series of articles called ''Dark Alliance: The Story Behind the Crack Explosion.'' These articles, written by Gary Webb, state that a longtime CIA operative in Nicaragua, Norwin Meneses, supplied the cocaine that contra supporters delivered to a Los Angeles street dealer who turned it into crack. This dealer then allegedly delivered it to the Crips and Bloods, two notorious street gangs, who peddled it and began a terrible crack epidemic in urban ghettos across the land.

These are serious charges about a grave American social crisis. Mr. Deutch must not be allowed to wipe them away by simply saying ''there's nothing to them.'' Was Mr. Meneses a CIA operative, or was he not? Was he the ''king of drugs'' in Nicaragua, or was he not? Did he provide cocaine to pro-contra agents, or did he not? Was cocaine hauled into the United States on CIA-chartered planes, or not? Was cocaine turned into crack and sold to street gangs, or was it not? All these questions are answerable, and we Americans need to know.

Mr. Webb has written responsible articles for a responsible newspaper. Mr. Deutch and the CIA must be responsible in responding to them. The Mercury News said, ''No action that we know of can compare to the [CIA's] complicity, however tacit, in the drug trade that has devastated whole communities in our own country.''

Many Americans got their reputations and their lives ruined by the pro-contra illegalities and the congressional hearings that followed. A lot of guilty people at high levels skated free. Now it appears that a lot of utterly innocent, uninvolved Americans were victimized beyond our imaginations.

Our government must give us the truth. Promptly.

Carl T. Rowan is a syndicated columnist.

Pub Date: 9/18/96

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.