I told a little of my Saigon saga to Hippie No. 1 who lived in the milk house next to the road. He had spent the latter part of the sixties evading the draft by working logging camps in British Columbia and had returned a few years earlier under an assumed name. He got an early copy of “The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence,” read it and passed it on to me. It was published after a two-year court battle between the publisher and the CIA. The author, Victor Marchetti, was a former CIA employee who argued on first amendment grounds that he had the right to publish the story. It was eventually published with many obvious gaps where the CIA insisted on redactions and boldface type where they had withdrawn their objections. He lost the court battle over the redactions because he had signed a secrecy agreement when he was hired. I spent the summer carefully reading it.
That reading led to another book about the CIAs support of the drug trade that paid for clandestine Asian wars. “The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia” had been published two years before in 1972. Its Author, Alfred McCoy, had gone to the mat with the aid of his publisher and published over the objections of the CIA. As an independent scholar, he had not signed a secrecy agreement. The details of Marchetti’s and McCoy’s books fascinated me and explained much of what I had seen in Viet Nam. One thing Halftrack had told me was contradicted in McCoy’s book. The clandestine war wasn’t financed with a Coca Cola plant in Vientiane, it was Pepsi and the owner wasn’t Vang Pao but a Chinese named Huu Tim Heng who sold not Pepsi but heroin to General Ky, who flew it to Saigon in unmarked C-47s that passed over our Saigon warehouse daily. Pao didn’t get off the hook though; it turned out he just shipped opium to Vientiane from Long Tieng, a clandestine city and commercial airport established by the CIA in the early sixties. Either way, the drugs ended up being exported, either from Saigon or Bangkok. Halftrack was either mistaken or had been deliberately misinforming me. So now years later I begin to see the war as my college-bound classmates and my cousins had seen it years earlier.
Interest in clandestine government activities was on a boil; on the front burner of public interest after the publication of “The Pentagon Papers” in 1971. It was long and involved an not of much interest to hedonistic hippies. There were exceptions. It and my other reading confirmed to me that what I had seen and heard about in Viet Nam were not just aberrations and rogue operations but policy of long standing going back at least into the early 1950s. My disillusionment that began in Col. Bau’s office in Thieu’s presidential palace, was now being stitched up tight into a new worldview.
Most of what now had now become clear to me I kept to myself. What little I did comment on fueled my reputation as a conspiracy theorist. This was in the era of the Arab oil embargo and the congressional Watergate hearings.
The previous fall, I had cemented my reputation as a paranoid by buying four drums of gasoline in anticipation of the Arab Oil embargo. I fueled my motorcycle for six months while the nation waited in long lines at the pumps.
Agnes impatiently broke in to my story demanding to know, “But how could you know that. I never heard a whisper about that around Berkeley until it happened. And Tran was well connected in political science circles. Then when it happened the news blamed it as retaliation for the 1967 war with Israel.”
“I’m sure the war with Israel contributed but both my economics professor and the Martensen brothers believed that the Saudis and OPEC wouldn’t take devalued dollars for their oil for long, that they would want gold and that floating the dollar against gold effectively devalued the dollar. That actually happened in 72 when I was taking the class. But as my prof said, the oil producers were reluctant to lose market share by being the first to raise prices. Then in October, ’73 Egypt attacked the Southern Israeli border and I figured it was only a matter of time until the US began arming Israel and the Arabs retaliated. So I bought gasoline.”