As the title suggests, Potash is mainly interested in the CIA’s use of LSD (with the help of British intelligence, which ran a parallel MKUltra program at the Tavistock Clinic) to “neutralize” leftists and activist pop stars, such as Paul Robeson, Mick Jagger, Abbie Hoffman, Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix.*Like many activists, I am well aware of the CIA’s historic role in heroin trafficking in Southeast Asia and in cocaine trafficking in Latin America. However prior to reading Drugs as Weapons, I was totally unaware they were also responsible for most of the LSD produced between 1955 and 1973 – for the specific purpose of “neutralizing” the New Left in Berkeley, at Columbia University and elsewhere. This particular MKUltra project was conceived in response to a 1962 Rand Corporation study recommending that getting left wing leaders hooked on LSD could “cause them to resign or become inactive.”
The Haight Ashbury was a CIA InventionI was particularly horrified to learn about the LSD distribution network MKUltra agents set up in the Haight Ashbury to lure Berkeley students away from the nationally influential Free Speech movement. The latter, originally formed in 1957 to protest the anti-democratic activities of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s House on Un-American Activities Committee, went on to inspire the national anti-Vietnam War Movement.
Potash begins his book with important historical background on the origins of the global drug trade, which he traces back to 1500 and which European elites relied on heavily to finance imperial expansion and colonization. He also recounts the history of important Wall Street families – the Cabots, Cushings, Bushes, Astors, Russells, Pierponts (JP Morgan’s family) – who all owe their immense wealth to the opium trade the British involuntarily forced on China via the Opium Wars. The investment of these families in illegal drug trafficking continues to the present day, as evidenced by the involvement of all major US banks in multibillion dollar drug money laundering.