a collection of stories from the past 20 years

homeblogtourshome IIcontact

Award-winning investigative journalist (and dad) Peter Gorman has spent more than 20 years tracking down stories from the streets of Manhattan to the slums of Bombay. Specializing in Drug War issues, he is credited as a primary journalist in the medical marijuana and hemp movements, as well as in property forfeiture reform. His work has appeared in over 100 national and international magazines and newspapers.

Peter Gorman's love affair with the Amazon jungle is well-known to people in the field. Since 1984 Mr. Gorman has spent a minimum of three months annually there generally using Iquitos
Peru as his base. During that time he has studied ayahuasca the visionary healing vine of the jungle with his friend the curandero Julio Jerena. He has collected artifacts for the American Museum of Natural History botanical specimens for Shaman Pharmaceuticals and herpetological specimens for the FIDIA Research Institute of the University of Rome. His description of the indiginous Matses Indians’ use of the secretions of the phyllomedusa bicolor frog has opened an entire field devoted to the use of amphibian peptides as potential medicines in Western medicine.

Drug War Follies - Skunk Magazine Issue #1

by Peter Gorman

The news in November and early December, 2004, was as full of President George Bush as he is of himself. The clown prince of cowpokes, recently reelected—though at least half of the US population think its his first actual election—by a narrow margin to a second term in office immediately announced that he had a “mandate” to continue to push the “Bush Doctrine,” his boot heel, on the rest of us.

His initial post-election drug war madness began with a visit to Colombia’s gangster President Alvaro Uribe, during which he noted that "Our two nations share in the struggle against drugs…. The drug traffickers who practice violence and intimidation in this country

send their addictive and deadly products to the United States."

Bush either hadn’t noticed or didn’t care that Uribe, who grew up with Pablo Escobar, late leader of the defunct Medellin Cartel, and who was mayor of Medellin during the Cartel’s heyday, was publicly exposed as a cocaine player last August when a 1991 US Department of Defense list of people associated with the Medellin Cartel was declassified and his name was prominently on it. Following the demise of the cartel, Uribe was elected governor of the state of Antioquia, (the capital of which is Medellin). In one telling incident during his gubernatorial term, three Colombian-bound ships, enroute from China, carrying 50.000 kilos of potassium permanganate, a precursor chemical necessary to manufacture cocaine were seized by US Customs agents in California. The chemical—enough to process 500,000 kilos of coke—was found to belong to a chemical company owned by Pedro Juan Moreno Villa, Uribe’s Chief of Staff at the time of the seizure. Moreno’s company produced nothing which used the potassium permanganate and so it was forfeited. Uribe nonetheless kept Moreno on and later hired him to be campaign manager during his successful presidential bid. (narconews.com, Mar. 19, 2002)

            Bush and Uribe met in the beautiful but largely poverty-stricken coastal city of Cartegena under the protection of 15,000 US and Colombian troops, a US aircraft carrier and two submarines. Bush congratulated Uribe on the success of the continuing democracy in Colombia and called him a man "dedicated to the triumph of democracy and the rule of law against the forces of violence.” This is the same Uribe who last year announced that henceforth all human-rights workers and environmentalists would be considered and treated as terrorists. 

During their visit, Bush promised that when the $3.9 billion Plan Colombia/Andean Initiative monies run out in 2005 he would secure additional funding for Uribe to continue his fight against narcotraffickers. To date, Uribe has aimed nearly all the anti-narcotics funding received by the US at the FARC rebels, the left-wing peasants who live primarily in the (formerly) dense jungle regions of southern Colombia—displacing tens of thousand of people from the oil rich region—while aiming none of those monies at the vast regions controlled by the right-wing AUC paramilitaries. The AUC, who function as the primary cocaine exporters and guards for the major manufacturers in Colombia—according to the US State Department—have long been associated with Uribe, stemming from his days as Governor of Antioquia. Needless to say, while spraying the alkaloid-weak coca bushes that grow in the jungle with Monsanto’s glyphosate has devastated southern Colombia, it hasn’t made a dent in the cocaine trade. And rest-assured that with the additional monies Bush promised Uribe during their brief visit, the supply will remain plentiful while the price stays low. There is no proof, of course, that there are vast unsprayed alkaloid-rich coca fields being grown in the highlands, but there is a hint in that the US, the only country taking regular satellite photos of Colombia, will not release them for publication.

Will someone please tap Mr. Bush on the head with a spoon and spell it out to him that his number one ally in the War on Drugs is also the number one cocaine facilitator in the world? Nothing moves in Colombia without Uribe’s okay. He’s more than willing to give up the FARC peasants to look as though he’s anti-coke and generate those US funds. He’s also willing and eager to eliminate the jungle in southern Colombia so that the oil companies can feast without threat of violence. But the man is simultaneously growing rich on the vigorish from the real cocaine trade. Skeptics will point to the number of cocaine traffickers Uribe had allowed to be extradited to face justice in the US; I submit that the only cocaleros extradited are those who forgot to pay their tribute to Uribe through his right hand, Moreno.

            Not to miss an opportunity to put down the leftist FARC rebels, shortly after Bush’s departure from Cartegena, Colombian Defense Minister Jorge Alberto Uribe—no relation—announced that a FARC plot to kill Bush during his visit had been stymied. The US State Department reiterated the story, which the FARC, in a communique, labeled “false and reckless” and the “product of minds driven insane by pride.”

Additional anti-drug monies from Bush’s Andean Initiative are pouring into Colombia’s neighbor, Peru, in an attempt to draw that country into line with Bush’s orders, er, doctrine. Some of those funds are going into the revamped program in which US aerial spotters identify suspected drug-carrying aircraft to Peruvian fighter jets, who then theoretically order the planes to land for inspection. The program needed revamping in the wake of the April, 20, 2001 shootdown of a missionary plane over the Peruvian Amazon, in which a missionary and her child were killed. The plane carried no drugs. But the revamping of the program now being run by US defense contractor ARINC, Inc, has the Peruvians having to fly next to the suspected planes and make eye-contact. Problematically, the Peruvians use Cessna A-37B fighter jets such interdictions, which stall at 140 mph, while the planes generally used for puddle jumping and drug-running, as well as by missionaries in the Amazon, generally are Piper Cubs or Cessnas that can’t fly faster than about 130 mph. The result is that during practice for the eye-to-eye contact at least two Peruvian A37B Cessna’s have thus far stalled and crashed. On August 23, 2001, Peruvian pilot Miguel Angel Lama Barreto, 28, died in the first crash (the body of his US instructor was never found), while a Feb. 4, 2004 stall-crash, produced no deaths. ARINC, Inc, was not apparently hurt.

The missionary shootdown, coincidentally, occurred on the eve of the Third Summit of the Americas, which took place in Quebec that year. It was Dubya’s first summit and looked to be potentially disastrous for him as Uruguay’s president Jorge Batlle Ibanez promised to propose worldwide drug legalization before the heads of every country in the Americas (with the exception of Fidel Castro) and the media. Fortunately, the shootdown allowed Bush to dominate the summit media discussing the problems of drugs in the Americas, while almost no one mentioned Ibanez’ call for drug legalization.

Canada was also in the news following the Bush/Uribe visit, as that was his next stop. He met in Ottowa with Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin to try to bring warmth to the relationship between the two countries, which has been cool ever since former US Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey, under the direction of Bill Clinton, threatened to close the US/Canadian border if Canada tried to push it’s hemp to the US. Talk about two hayseeds afraid of a hempseed!

Bush, is of course furious that Canada didn’t send its sons and daughters to serve as cannon fodder in Iraq. Though he didn’t say this, Martin was probably thinking, like all intelligent people, that Iraq was like a mouth and Hussein a bad tooth. Plain thinking suggests you surgically remove the bad tooth, whereas Bush’s doctrine has called for blowing up the whole mouth.  By all reports, Bush—who’s also angry that one of former PM Jean Cretien’s aides had called him a “moron” and that a member of Parliament had referred to him as a “bastard”— spent the two-day meet like someone carefully trying to not step on his dance partner’s toes. It would have been too much to hope for that the recent Canadian High Court decision to okay gay marriages had occurred while Bush was in town.

In a brilliant piece of web-hijacking, on Nov. 29, a CNN site reported that while in Canada PM Martin had had Bush arrested for war crimes. “On the first of his two-day planned visit to Canada,” the alleged front page story began, “George W. Bush was taken into custody by Canadian authorities citing war crime charges. The arrest claims that President Bush has been ‘party to the crime of torturing prisoners held in Guantánamo Bay and Abu Ghraib.’” If only he’d had the guts.

In the last of the stories in this Bush-bash, the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Nov. 29 in the medical marijuana case of Ashcroft vs Raich. The case revolves around whether the US federal government has the right to ban medical marijuana in states that have legalized its use. The government’s case is that medical marijuana is governed by the feds under the interstate commerce laws. An appeals court had ruled that since medical marijuana was neither crossing state lines nor being sold for a profit it was neither an interstate nor commerce matter. But the government’s attorney in the case, Solicitor General Paul D. Clement had an interesting take on things. He argued that if medical marijuana users were permitted to grow their own marijuana, less marijuana would be purchased on the black market. Purchasing less black market marijuana would mean there was more of it available. With more marijuana available on the black market the price would drop, thereby affecting black market interstate commerce in cannabis. Unbelieveably, the Supremes might actually buy that argument. Their decision is not expected until July, 2005.

It would all be funny if people weren’t dying and the prisons weren’t full.