From Burma to Bush, a Heroin Trail

by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Tom Fitzpatric NEW TIMES, 11-11- 87

This is a story that makes Watergate seem like a petty crime blown out of proportion by a gaggle of hysterical Eastern journalists. Here is a shocking tale of corruption and deceit in the highest places. It reveals that evil in general has become so pervasive that one can believe it only if prepared by the imaginations of such novelists as Robert Ludlum or John Le Carre.

I am a reluctant convert. After resisti;ng; for several weeks, I am finally convinced that it is all true. Bits and pieces of what will be the most shocking news story of a generation are starting to be told in various parts of the country now. It appeared in the SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLElast week and in the Toronto Star previous to that. The United States government can't keep the lid on it much longer. I bring it to you as it unfolded last week during what was scheduled to be a routine lecture at Scottsdale Community College. Lieutenant Colonel Bo Gritz, his eyes wary and his shoulders squared, steps through a side door. The beefy man walking alongside him, obviously a bodyguard, stares out at the crowd. Gritz walks to a vacant seat in a rear row of the hall, where a lecture is already in progress.

Gritz is a sandy-haired man with a blonde mustache. He is 48 and wears a gray tweed sports coat with a Western cut. On the left lapel are five miniature battle decorations. Three are Silver Stars. He packs better than 200 pounds on a five-foot- nine-inch frame. He is the father of four and a devout Mormon who spent an entire career in the Army establishing a record for valor that approaches the swashbuckling. Gritz has reason to exhibit caution. For almost a year, he has been fighting against overwhelming odds, to expose some of the most powerful men in the world as being common drug dealers and thieves. His story is compelling and has the ring of truth, but he can't get anyone in Washington to act on it.

In the meantime, the men he is trying to expose keep working against him. They have already framed one of his closest associates, who was sentenced to serve five years in federal prison when he refused to help them frame Gritz. Gritz himself is currently being harassed on a federal charge of traveling on a false passport. There are two options these men in the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Defense have left. First, they can portray Gritz as a reckless adventurer seeking to attract attention. The second option is to eliminate him. But Gritz, one of the most successful combat Green Beret officers in Viet Nam, cannot be taken out without causing the furor these people must suppress to save themselves from exposure. Gritz's charges against high government officials reach all the way up to Vice President George Bush as well as President Reagan's newly appointed Secretary of Defense, Frank Carlucci. There are dozens of other generals and Central Intelligence Agency powerhouses who will fall if anyone takes Gritz's charges seriously. And if they fall, the Mafia kingpins they have been benefitting for all these years stand to lose billions of dollars a month in income. Gritz was in Scottsdale to share the speaker's platform with an unlikely ally. David McMichael, a former Central Intelligence Agency operative and now an investigator for the CHRISTIC INSTITUTE, was also on hand to lecture and try to raise funds for his group's suit against the government. It was a rare coming together of the left and right wings.

The CHRISTIC INSTITUTE is pursuing a civil suit against what they call the "secret team", the men behind the Iran-contra scandal. The institute's case is headed by Daniel Sheehan, once an attorney for the New York Times, who won the Karen Silkwood case. The thesis of the Christics is that for a quarter of a century, members of the U.S. military and the CIA have wagesd secret wars, trafficked in drugs, stolen from the government and subverted the will of Congress and the American people. The men behind the scheme , they assert in their affidavit filed in a Miami federal court, are Richard Secord, Theodore Shackley, Albert Hakim, and General J ohn Singlaub, chief fund raiser for the Contras in this country. The suit is scheduled to be heard next spring. "We did not name anyone who still had active role in the government. McMichael explains during his talk, "because we did not want them invoking government security as a defense."

McMichael is an Ivy Leaguer who uses a rapier wit to make his points. He clearly has command of his facts. But is it is not until Gritz, the populist who grew up in Arizona, steps to the lectern that the crowd comes alive. Gritz explains that he had come to Phoenix because he had been called by Governor Evan Mecham. "He's in trouble and he's a fellow Mormon, so I thought I'd come over because I know he's said he's against drugs." Gritz grins and shrugs his shoulders. "We weren't on the same wavelength," Gritz says. "It's like the lights were on but nobody was home."

Gritz is currently training Afghan freedom fighters at a site in Nevada about fifty miles west of Las Vegas at an EVERGREEN site. He is a soldier of fortune and his work as an American representative seeking Americans still missing in action became the original model for the movie RAMBO. His investigating in that field has been done for the White House and for H. Ross Perot, the Texas billionaire. "Recently, " Gritz began, "the White House asked me to go to Burma to see if I could arrange a meeting with General Khun Sa, who is the world overlord of heroin. "General Khun Sa controls everything that comes out of the so-called Golden Triangle. This year, the figure will be 900 tons of opium.

I went to see Khun Sa because he supposedly knew where some American prisoners were being held. "The CIA didn't think; I could penetrate the region and make it safely to a meeting with the general. But it wasn't as hard as they thought and I brought along recording equipment so I could videotape our meeting for the White House." Gritz is a natural storyteller. The room becomes hushed. Gritz allows his story to unfold naturally. "At our first meeting," Gritz says, "I learned there were no POWs in the vicinity. "I almost turned around and came home. At about 1:30 in the morning, I woke up, unable to sleep. I ran into one of m y assistants. Tell me I'm crazy," I said. "Our missions is finished. We should head back to Washington now. l But we're the first Americans ever to be in the headquarters of the world's biggest heroin overlord. Why don't I ask him about the drug trafficking?" "My associate looked at me with a glance that told me I was treading on dangerous ground. "I knew what he meant. We could bring the mob down on us. If there were corrupt government officials involved, they would have to destroy us for finding them out. "My assistant smiled. He knew me pretty well. "You're going to ask him, arent you?' he said." Another meeting with General Khun Sa was arranged. Video cameras were set up. Bo Gritz and his two assistants sat at one end of a low table. General Khun Sa sat eight feet away. The general was accompanied by an interpreter and ten aides. "The general told me that 12 years ago there was only 60 tons of heroin coming out of the Golden Triangle of Burma, Laos, and Cambodia every year. By last year, it was up to 700 tons and this year it will be 900. They have now even been able to build a modern highway coming out of Khun Sa's area and so next year it will be 1,200 tons.

This is worth uncounted billions of dollars on the streets of New York City. "But Khun Sa himself hates drugs and doesn't allow any of his people to take them. Khun Sa has found a sure way to stop drug addiction. He orders drug addilcts beheaded. "Khun Sa told me he was willing to stop all the drug traffic. He wanted me to bring a message to the White House. All Khun Sa wanted was economic aid from Washington so he could legitimize his own economy and help in gaining national sovereignty. "I asked Khun Sa if he had been dealing with any American officials who bought drugs over the years. "Khun Sa looked at his books. He began reading names. The warlord read the name of Richard Armitage, now an Assistant Defense Secretary, who was once the CIA station chief in Saigon. Armitage is now an assistant secretary of defense. "Then Khun Sa read the name of Theodore Shackley, also a former CIA officer, who directed a drug operation with Santo Traficante of the Mafia. The money raised was used to finance the secret U.S. war in Laos from 1965 to 1979.

"I brought the tape back and saw that it was delivered to the White House. Two days later I got a telephone call from the White House. "Bo, what a fantastic job the man said, You actually got in there. The CIA told us that they had assassinated Khun Sa and there was a $5 million reward on his head.' "But what about the drugs?' I asked him. 'Isn't that terrific?' "Bo" the man at the White House said, 'there is no interest in any of that here." "I couldn't believe it.

For years we've been hearing how Nancy Reagan is against drugs and that George Bush has been appointed as the top cop in this area. 'Do you realize,' I asked, 'how important that tape with General Khun Sa is and how lserious the things he says are?

"'What can I ;tell you, Bo,' the man said. 'There is no interest in this matter here at the White House. Forget about it.'"

There is not a sound in the large classroom at Scottsdale Community College now. "It was a blockbuster to me," Gritz says.

"I'm not a politician, I'm a soldier. Sure I've got some college degrees. But I got those only when there were no wars to fight." Gritz looks over the room, which is made up largely of liberal-oriented supporters of the Christic Institute. "It seems the right wing and ; the left wing are now marching to the same drummer," Gritz says. "Hell, the thing is we're all Americans. "Here's how this ;thing shapes down. Much of this ;drug business began when George Bush was head of the C I A. You see, I ; worked for all these characters. Secord was in charge of air operations. Singlaub was in ; charge of ground operations. Shackley was a CIA station chief and a young Marine just out of Annapolis named Oliver North was with them.

This has been going on for twenty years as far as I can tell. "Congress wouldn't give the money to support covert operations so they used drug money to finance it all. "When the war ended, these guys didn't want to quit. They had been making their own parallel policy for so long they just weren't going to quit when a President changed the direction of that policy. "And so they took the model to Iran and to Central America and the Philippines. They move in any place they can de-stabilize a government. jThey sell arms. They have their dope connection with the mob, which began when they made a deal with Salvatore Trafficante to dispose of it in New York years ago. "My primary interest for years has been bringing home the prisoners of war that I'm still convinced are being held in the Far East. "But the reason they can't be allowed to come home is because one of the men in charge was Richard Armitage, the same man identified by Danny Sheehan of the Christic Institute in his suit and by General Khun Sa as the bagman in the dope deals through the years. "Armitage is now the assistant secretary of defense and the man who has been protecting him over the years is another former CIA man, Mr. Carlucci." {Last week Carlucci was appointed Secretary of Defense, replacing the retired Caspar Weinberger.} "These people can't let Sheehan and the Christic Institute move forward with their suit.

Once it gets into court, it will uncover what has been going on all over the world because of these characters. "I have always admired men like Singlaub and Oliver North as soldiers, "Bo Gritz says, "They were heroes, no doubt about it. But they allowed themselves to become corrupted." One of the first questions from the audience is the one ;you are likely asking at this point. "Why has no one reported this story before?" "We have told it time and again," Gritz says. "The reporters are always enthusiastic. But the story always gets killed by someone at the top. Everyone is afraid of the story. "But it's starting to leak out now. They can't stop it anymore. And when it does get out, it will shake America from top to bottom. We will be forced into becoming a participating democracy once again." The obvious weakness ;in Bo Gritz's story is that it relies on General Khun Sa, the world's largest drug dealer, to make charges against high American officials. This weakness is reduced when you view Gritz's two-hour videotaped interview with Khun Sa, who obviously has no real appreciation of the names he is using. Khun Sa is merely reading from his own records. What gives Griltz's story credibility is that it ; dove tails so exactly with the charges of the Christic Institute. Bo Gritz has nothing ;in common with the people of the Christic Institute other than an outraged sense of patriotism. The group has been granted broad legal authority under federal anti crime statutes to subpoena documents and witnesses to prove their charges that men in high power in Washington have waged secret wars, trafficked in drugs and assassinated political enemies.

Together, Bo Gritz and the Christic Institute are going against grim odds. They are pursuing, as the Christic Institute suit charges, "a secret team, guilty of subverting the will the the Constitution, the Congress and the American people.

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