Beast of the Month - August 2000
Colonel James Hiett, Former "Drug War" Commander in Colombia
"I yam an anti-Christ..."
John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) of The Sex Pistols, "Anarchy in the UK"
Colonel James Hiett to Judge Edward R. Korman
On June 14, best-selling author Peter McWilliams died in Los Angeles. He was awaiting sentencing for the crime of conspiracy to sell marijuana. McWilliams had made the mistake of believing the federal government would obey the will of the people of California when they passed Proposition 215, which legalized the medical usage of marijuana. The judge in the case, George King, declared that McWilliams and his co-defendant, Todd McCormick, could not bring up 215 in their defense (they were growing it for marijuana cooperatives to distribute) or that McWilliams was suffering the effects of AIDS and cancer treatments, from which the usage of marijuana counteracts the effects of nausea. While awaiting sentencing, he was forced to stop taking all medical marijuana. He died by choking on his own vomit. In effect, he is a casualty of the so-called "War on Drugs."
His real crime appears to be speaking out against the war on marijuana and other persecutions of consensual crimes (besides the best-selling DO IT! series, he is the author of Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do, a brilliant manifesto against consensual laws.) He joined the Libertarian Party in 1998 following a nationally televised speech on July 4th at the Libertarian National Convention in Washington, DC, where he stated:
"Marijuana is the finest anti-nausea medication known to science, and our leaders have lied about this consistently. [Arresting people for] medical marijuana is the most hideous example of government interference in the private lives of individuals. It's an outrage within an outrage within an outrage."
Coincidentally, 19 days later, the DEA came to his house and arrested him.
Soon, the federal government may be able to overtly prosecute people who speak out against the "War on Drugs." The Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act, sponsored by senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), is a bipartisan attack on civil liberties disguised as protecting children from drugs. The bill would make it illegal for any "communications facility to post, publicize, transmit, publish, link to, broadcast or otherwise advertise" -- or even provide "indirect advertising for" -- Internet sites that sell drug paraphernalia, punishable by 3 years in prison. It would also be illegal to tell someone how to produce an illegal drug, punishable by 10 years in prison. Such laws are a chilling attack on basic First Amendment liberties. Magazines such as High Times, books such as Opium for the Masses, and websites such as www.bongs.com could be branded as criminal by such a sweeping act. The bill, incidentally, passed the Senate by a vote of 88 to 0.
With such hardline attacks on civil liberties, the curious case of Colonel James Hiett, The Konformist Beast of the Month, deserves another examination.
Who is James Hiett? The colonel was the former commander of 200-plus U.S. Army anti-drug advisors in Colombia, which is now point zero in the US government's international Drug War. At the time he was sent there to lead the "zero tolerance" campaign, his wife, Laurie, was addicted to cocaine, and had been snorting blow in front of Hiett himself. This shouldn't have been a major surprise, as she had previously been treated for coke addiction in an army hospital. The lack of ethics by Colonel Hiett in not disqualifying himself as compromised is matched by the lack of investigation of the Army, who apparently weren't suspicious at all of the dubious history behind Mrs. Hiett.
The lack of ethics and investigation quickly became worse. She began to buy cocaine through her Army-employed Colombian driver, and taking trips from Bogota to New York. There was a sudden explosion of cash in the family finances. It was due to her involvement in an international cocaine and heroin smuggling operation, shipping $700,000 worth of coke, wrapped in brown paper, to the United States in diplomatic mail. Colonel Hiett claims he was unaware of her illegal activities until after the fact.
Soon, even someone as connected as Mrs. Hiett couldn't hide the dubious activity. The Army began investigating her. Fortunately for the Hietts, the colonel was tipped off by lower level officials of the investigation. Laurie handed him a $25,000 roll of money to launder, which he did by paying down bills. They were constantly informed of the status of the investigation while they attempted to conceal their complicity.
Eventually, Laurie couldn't cover her tracks anymore. In May, Laurie Hiett plead guilty to charges of international drug smuggling. She was sentence to five years in prison. Originally, the colonel was cleared of any wrongdoing by Army investigators, but then U.S. Customs Service director Ray Kelly insisted that his agents were convinced of the officer's guilt.
Keep in mind, the version that has just been presented of events is based on the admissions of the Hietts themselves. In the few cases of reporting on this apparently unimportant scandal, the Hietts' version has been repeated uncritically as gospel. Why news agencies would take the word of confessed drug dealers and money launderers at face value is curious. In fact, the Hietts were both given sympathetic coverage in news reports by 60 Minutes and the New York Times, described as victims of drug addiction and family loyalties.
Is there more to this story? The tale of Jennifer Odom may reveal something. On July 23, 1999, Odom, a West Point graduate and US Army pilot serving in Colombia, took off on a nighttime electronic spying mission. She never landed. At that time, the military had sent out countless planes and ships to find and recover the crash of dim-bulbed Kennedy John-John. The Army could afford no planes to find Odom.
Two days passed before Odom's plane was located by a Colombian pilot, and four more days before the bodies were retrieve. Odom and her crew of six were all dead, crashing on the side of a steep mountain near the border with Ecuador. The Army classified her death as a "mishap," claiming she flew the plane into the uncharted mountain: Odom was an experienced pilot flying in good weather conditions, in a plane equipped with state-of-the-art, forward-looking radar and navigational aides. The Odom family suspects she was shot down.
That's not the only suspicion. Here's some of the curious circumstances surrounding the case:
* The recon missions were regularly flown in groups of three aircraft: Odom's plane was sent out alone, supposedly because the unit's two other planes were in maintenance.
* According to the Army report, neither the aircraft's voice cockpit or flight data recorder were working that night, eliminating any chance of gathering objective evidence on what caused the crash.
* A U.S. Special Forces team was dispatched to blow up the remains of the aircraft. Supposedly, this was to destroy classified electronic intelligence gear that had been on board, but photographs show it had already been smashed to bits. According to an eyewitness, the purpose of the obliteration was to bury the trace evidence of a missile hit.
* Much of the Army's report on the Odom's crash was blacked out by censors. Her husband, retired Army Lt. Col. Charles Odom, has asked, "Why is that blacked out? Does that have something to do with national security?"
The suppressed evidence seems to suggest that Odom was shot down, and that the Army has done all it can to conceal this fact. Even worse, the fact Odom and her crew were sent out alone hints that this was a suicide mission, and that those in the army collaborated to kill her.
But who would do such a thing, and why? Curiously, Odom reported to Colonel James Hiett himself. Perhaps this all sounds like paranoid conspiracy theory rambling. It has a powerful proponent: according to Salon Magazine, Odom's mother, Janie Shafer, stated in court that "she suspects Hiett caused the death of her daughter by sharing information about the Army's operations with drug traffickers."
The truth is, Colombia is a corrupt narcocracy propped up by the U.S. government thanks to servitude of the American korporate structure. Among the more notorious partnerships is with Occidental Petroleum, who, courtesy of a sweetheart deal arranged by the Colombian government, now control ancestral land of the U'wa Indians for oil drilling. Oxy is a major backer of Al Gore, and their headquarters are based in Los Angeles (not far from the 2000 Democratic convention.) The U'wa tribe are holding a peaceful occupation of the proposed drill site. So far, it is a standoff, and Oxy and the US government are well aware that this could blow into a full rebellion, like a similar revolt in Bolivia over the swindling of public water resources by the engineering giant Bechtel.
Both the Colombian military and the country's paramilitary right-wing death squads have been heavily involved with drug dealing. According to Human Rights Watch, there is "detailed, abundant, and compelling evidence of continuing close ties" to "paramilitary groups responsible for gross human rights violations." As Salon Magazine noted, "Human Rights Watch estimates that half of all Colombian battalions are involved with the notorious paramilitaries -- a partnership, despite the real crimes of the country's guerrilla movement, responsible for most of country's 37,000 civilian killings since 1985." This partnership has been aided by the training courtesy of Colonel Hiett.
The US government has pretended as though the Colombian military and paramilitary force are blushing innocents, and the real monster of the Colombian drug menace is the left wing guerrilla outfit FARC. Whatever the faults of the FARC movement, their real sin appears to be an unwillingness to serve American business interest.
Deja vu? It all sounds similar to both Vietnam and Nicaragua, where supposed communist groups were demonized while the Pentagon backed and trained thuggish death squads. Many believe Colombia is being set up to be the next Vietnam or Nicaragua, where covert operations linked to the military and the CIA set up huge drug smuggling operations for insider profit. Unsurprisingly, besides the Special Forces located in Colombia, the CIA has "hundreds" of officers in Colombia, according to Adam Isacson, who follows the drug war for the Center for International Policy.
Whatever the case on the macro level, the end result on the micro level of this tale is telling. In July, James Hiett received his sentence for his admitted abuse of power and involvement in drug laundering. His sentence: five months prison time. Between Colonel Hiett and his wife, their combined prison time is less than that of the Colombian-born New York courier who worked for Mrs. Hiett.
Incredibly, the hand-slap of Colonel Hiett was actually more than the Army requested: they recommended he receive probation and no jail.
Even more incredible is that Barry McCaffrey, the Czar of the Drug War who bravely criticizes rappers and entertainers for "sending the wrong message" by advocating marijuana use (not to mention being heavily involved in the persecution of Peter McWilliams and Todd McCormick), is notably wimpy and silent about James Hiett and this scandal. (General McCaffrey, incidentally, is a lifelong US Army man.) Also silent are the numerous Congressmen who regularly talk "tough" about fighting the War on Drugs, a war that has become so violent that the First Amendment is in danger. The Drug War continues, and so does the hypocrisy.
In any case, we salute Colonel James Hiett as Beast of the Month. Congratulations, and keep up the great work, Jimmy!!!
"Bestselling Author Peter McWilliams Was Murdered by the War on Drugs"
"Warning: This Press Release Could Be Illegal Under New Anti-drug Legislation"
"YOUR FREEDOM TO READ IS IN JEOPARDY!"
"The Corruption of Col. James Hiett," Bruce Shapiro
"Nobody Questions the Colonel," Bruce Shapiro
"The Unquiet Death of Jennifer Odom," Jeff Stein
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