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Monday, December 13, 2004



One more hard phenomenon for the purveyors of the "liberal-left-wing media" to explain to us.
This has been a bad year of suicides, first Iris Chang and now this.


I'm very sorry to hear about Gary Webb. It's at least a blessing that you're going to be doing an obit.

Michael J. Totten

Nice obit, Marc. What a sad story.

Steve, a man is dead. Show some class, willya? Try to get off your hobbyhorse for just ONE thread.


As a mental health professional I have worked with many, many family members who are left to deal with the results of a suicide. While it is true that a person's loss of will to live is a tragedy, it is equally devestating to the family. Often, when one is despondent they think their family will be better off without them, that is never the case.

That Mr. Webb was so despondent he took his own life is a tragedy for his family and those that knew and loved him, it is a tragedy for the mental health profession that couldn't reach out to him, and it is a tragedy because of the people pushing on him that allowed him to reach the conclusion that he was better off dead.

Marc, thanks for bringing this to our attention and for staying on it.


No hobbyhorse Michael, simply a comment on how Webb's career was an interesting challenge to a weak 'theory' that many out there have about the media. Sorry your disagreements with my views led you to see it otherwise.

Randy Paul

Good piece Marc. This is indeed a tragedy.

Michael, far be it for me to defend Steve with whom I often disagree, but I didn't really find anything wrong in his comments. It echoed a couple of Marc's comments and frankly, when you compare to the schadenfreude fest that the likes of Glenn Reynolds engaged in after the terrorist murder of Sérgio Vieira de Mello and Arthur Helton in Iraq last year, it was pretty mild.

"An American was murdered by an Iraqi because he "looked Jewish" and Professor Juan Cole (perhaps the most over-rated blogger in the world) blames, wait for it, Israel!" Michael Totten

A man is dead, Michael. Show some class. Get off your hobby horse !

Charles Rector

Ever since I first started reading this weblog back during the campaign, this is the first posting by Mr. Cooper (hopefully no relation to D.B.) that I take strong exception to. I read Webb's stuff on the Dark Alliance website that included both the original series and additional material and was quite frankly unimpressed. It was just a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. In Webb's dark and stormy nightmare world, there was very little actual evidence that the CIA was engaged in drug smuggling.

Having said that, I'm open to the idea that the U.S. Government is not the most honest organization and that the CIA in particular is prone to corruption. However, you need hard evidence and just because Webb came from a "conservative military family" does not mean that neither he or his editors are immune from the temptations of the Almighty Pulitzer.

Its true that the L.A. Times is an awful newspaper. However, just because the LAT denounces it, does not necessarily mean that either the deunuciation or the motives behind it are faulty.

Finally, if Marc Cooper or anyone else here wants to read a really good book about very real corruption involving drug smuggling with very possible CIA connections, then get yourselves a copy of The Boys on the Tracks by Mara Leveritt.


Add to anonymous' thoughts, the gloating across the board conservative and liberal alike when Arafat died...Ya'd have thought I was gloating about Webb's tragic choice to kill himself.


I've long heard of Webb's allegations but never really understood the core of them. If anyone can provide a) the gist of what he charged the CIA with and b) the gist of what the rebuttle was I'd be interested in seeing it. Thanks.

Mark Schubb

I'm sure someone else can post a more complete take on Webb's allegations, but the core of it was that CIA operatives were very comfortable (knowingly) funding operatives who were deeply involved in the cocaine trade, and that some of that money (buckets full) -- and a blind eye -- helped those drug operators to import cocaine.

Webb was eviscerated for not providing proof that "the CIA was dealing drugs" which, as I recall, was never his actual claim. Although some say there were some over-reaching conclusions in his work, what was mostly attacked and "disproved" was a charge that he never made.

The fury of the well-orchestrated media backlash was awesome -- and largley based on anon CIA sources -- while his reporting was largely accurate.

Very sad.


Very, very sad. Because a person's tragic death overrides my feelings about treatment by the media, I'll just limit my comments and say that I'm sorry for the emptiness or hurt that he must have felt.

I'm very sorry for the family. I'm also sorry for you, Marc, as you knew him. Webb deserved better than reaching such a low point that no one could save him.

Maybe there's a lesson in this to either not hurt others or maybe to extend a hand. I just hope that those who need the lesson will know it.

Mark Schubb

Robert Parry on Gary Webb...


John Moore (Useful Fools)

Almost any suicide is a tragedy, and this is one. Not having read his material or known him, I won't otherwise comment on his death.

The side thread on CIA/narcos kicks off some related issue.

Right now, Afghanistan is producing huge amounts of opium/heroin. It always has.

We have a situation where if we let the drug war set our policy, we destroy all the social and geopolitical progress we have made there, as the place would rapidly return to worst-case warlordism and then probably the Taliban would regain power if we tried to eradicate the trade.

So at the very moment, the CIA is working with people who are supplying, ultimately, much of the heroin in Europe and to a lesser extent in the US. And I'm glad they are doing it, because the alternative is worse.

Note also that after the rules from the Clinton administration on dealing with shady characters, usingthese folks by the CIA became bureaucratically impossible (technically possible, but only a fool would try). That meant a potential significant loss of intelligence on happenings in Afghanistan at a very critical time.

I don't want to say that this is equivalent to the Contra/Cocaine issue nor start an argument on that. Not on a topic about the death of a human being. I just want to point out that sometimes real choices are very hard.

I also am quite uncomfortable with the "war on drugs" but the citizenry wants it with a huge majority. I think the war on drugs is dangerous to our national security by creating totally amoral, rich, powerful and well structured underground operations which can be used by terrorists; also, it complicates our relations with producing countries and often really screws up those countries. Finally, as far as I can tell, it is futile.

As a side not on the Contra-Cocaine affair, I recently went to an interesting speech by Felix Rodriguez on that and other subjects. I wonder where he fits in the pantheoon of villains on that issue.

Marc Cooper

Very high, John.


Steve Glass and Jayson Blair were protected by their colleagues and superiors while irrefutable evidence they were utter frauds kept mounting, and even in exile they still enjoy a certain celebrity.

The moment that mere allegations were made about Gary Webb's CIA-contra story, his peers INSTANTLY threw him under the bus.

Marc Cooper

Excellent point Andrew.

Josh Legere

What about Judith Miller? She still has a job for fucks sake.

John Moore (Useful Fools)

One question for Marc - why did he get attacked by the MSM?

The story sounded like just the kind of thing they would have loved to use againt Reagan and then Bush I (I don't remember exactly when it came out).

Most of the MSM is not exactly friendly with CIA covert action folks.

So I don't understand it.

This is NOT an argument by the way, I'm just curious.


Most of the MSM is, at most, critical of technical violations of norms or laws that the CIA might commit. They have little interest in going much deeper than that. Webb did. He paid a price. The reality of the MSM is it is owned and run by the same class of people that the CIA protects around the world, that they should resent, then, a devestating account of how the CIA did that in a manner that revealed the dirty reality of the CIA is really of no great surprise at all.
And that they should find events like the Scott Peterson trial so much more interesting than such topics is even less of surprising in nature.

Michael Turmon

I had two theories on that one. First is basically what Steve is saying above: the MSM did not want to confront how deep the lies and double-dealing might go.

Second is that the LA Times did not want to start another riot.

Michael Crosby

Marc, I think you were being kind in your characterization of the LA Times obituary. It virtually ignored the numerous awards he had received, noted his Pulitzer Prize in about the 14th paragraph, and felt compelled to include a morsel about his being fired from his position on the CA State Assembly oversight committee for not showing up to work. Btw, on the last point, I seriously doubt that Webb, who was an intense worker, would ever be seen as a slacker on the state dole. It is bad journalism, I think, and I know it is seriously heartless to do a hit piece in an obituary of a man who committed suicide.

While I do not know the children, I was friends at one time with Sue Bell and certainly with Webb. There are many things about this event that upset me. Like many who knew a suicide, I think that, well, if I had spoken to him sometime in the last 4 years, maybe I could have....This is pretty silly if not narcissistic, but it's something one thinks. I have talked to a couple of others who knew him and Sue in their teens and early 20s in Indiana, where we all lived, and even the rightist friend agreed that there was no way in hell that Gary Webb was ever less than 100% honest. I realize that the criticism is that he was not as rigorous in his standard of proof as he should have been, but my feeling is that if you are dealing with shadowy entities like the contra militarists and CIA agents who consult with, direct and, yes, fund such entities secretly, you sometimes have to go with your gut. If the editor doesn't want to back you, that's a different matter.

Gary was a different guy. The last time we spoke (at a funeral in Indianapolis we both flew to attend from California for my aunt, his high school guidance counselor and in loco parent), we argued about guns. We all used to go to a place in Southern Indiana and "whale away", but he retained more of a fondness than I did. He used to say, "I'm with the Greenpeace Liberation Army...we shoot hunters." He was a fierce, aggressive guy, not the sort of passive-aggressive sort that many journalists are. In my experience Gary Webb was not the kind of guy who was easy to pigeonhole.

Finally, I am finding this difficult. I cannot guess how the family is dealing with it. I feel very bad for them, and I feel bad for a lot of us because it sure feels like the CIA and what you call MSM have defeated yet another challenger.

Marc Cooper

Michael: Thanks for your passionate and heartfelt rememberance of Gary. I can't say that he was a friend, but I did meet with him several times and found him to be the genuine article. I'm sorry for your loss as well. He came by the L.A. Weekly back in the Spring and there was some back and forth about the Weekly hiring him... so Im plagued with a bit of the same guilt you are experiencing.

You are absolutely correct about the L.A. Times obit. I reached the same conclusion yesterday and I spent today writing my formal obit for Gary based completely on countering that miserable piece from the Times. I wrote 1500 words on it that are currently being edited. They will be posted Wednesday early evening.

Thanks again for your contribution. MARC

Michael Crosby

Thank you for the nice response. A couple of things I see missing in even the positive internet comments about Gary and his death concern the diversity of the topics of investigate reports and, for people like me commenting on Webb the person, his sense of humor. I suppose if there is one generality one may make about suicides, they are having trouble summoning their sense of humor...so it is not surprising that people meeting him in the last few months or even years (post-97) wouldn't see it. Still, he was a funny guy and generally sustained sufficient distance from his subject matter to laugh at the scammers and pols and such he skewered.

On the former subject, he won his first awards for his investigations of organized crime in the Kentucky coalfields in his first real job on the Kentucky Post. He later gained greater notice for his investigation into organized crime in Cleveland for the Plain-Dealer. I know we tapped him for a source when my cousins and I were looking to go into the "video jukebox" business in about 80 or 81. I gave him the name of the Cleveland guy we were going to meet, and he told me immediately he was in charge of org. crime supported bingo games, providing the cards. So we weren't so surprised when a gun was brandished in the negotiating give-and-take that day.

This stuff took a lot of courage to pursue. Think about the Dark Alliance research in its entirety--shadowy Central American rightist militia, the CIA's shadowiest spooks, and the young gentlemen who conducted the rather free-wheeling drug trade among the Crips, Bloods and their suppliers. No aspect of this story came without serious risk attached. It may be fair to infer that Webb felt that he was living on borrowed time. One can only imagine what it would be like to be married to that, or to be the child of that. And then for the tight coil that Gary was to lose the tautness on a long wide slow spiral down....I am very sad. And I am remembering what a great couple Gary and Sue were. True and enduring childhood sweethearts.

Well, I've ruined my morning's work...hard to get back to the business of writing yet another motion to compel yet another corporate defendant to conform to the rules of civil discovery.

Once when I was suing Willie Brown and the CA Assembly in a sexual harassment and retaliation case, Gary was sort of looking over my shoulder throughout. He told me no lawyer could lose this case. But I did (I swear there is an explanation). I don't think he ever really respected me as a lawyer so much after that. He was not easy on people and surely not on himself.


It is pathetic that the smear job by "journalists" against Gary Webb continues even after his death. For example, that "fired for not showing up for work" crack was an utter lie. Webb worked in the Office of Constituent Services of Herb Wesson, Speaker of the House. Wesson was term-limited out of office. The new speaker, Fabian Nunez, cleaned house when he took office in February and fired all of Wesson's staffers in favor of his own staffers loyal to himself. Webb certainly didn't show up for work -- but AFTER he was fired, not BEFORE he was fired!

But then, what can we expect from the same suspects who trashed Webb in the first place other than yet more lies and libels against a good man?

- Badtux the Freedom-loving Penguin

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