Saturday, December 18

Two gunshot wounds to the head a Suicide?

Gary Webb, the reporter that broke the story about the CIA, and Contra-cocaine, being sold as crack in LA, has died, the result of two gunshot wounds to the head, in what is being reported a suicide. From Common dreams.
Webb's explosive San Jose Mercury News series documented that funders of the Contras included drug traffickers who played a role in the crack epidemic that hit Los Angeles and other cities. Webb's series focused heavily on Oscar Danilo Blandon, a cocaine importer and federal informant, who once testified in federal court that "whatever we were running in L.A., the profit was going to the Contra revolution." Blandon further testified that Colonel Enrique Bermudez, a CIA asset who led the Contra army against Nicaragua's leftwing Sandinista government, knew the funds were from drug running. (Bermudez was a colonel during the Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua.)

Webb reported that U.S. law enforcement agents complained that the CIA had squelched drug probes of Blandon and his partner Norwin Meneses in the name of "national security." Blandon's drugs flowed into L.A. and elsewhere thanks to the legendary "Freeway" Ricky Donnell Ross, a supplier of crack to the Crips and Bloods gangs.

While Webb's series could be faulted for some overstatement in presenting its powerful new evidence (a controversial graphic on the Mercury News website superimposed a person smoking crack over the CIA seal), the fresh documentation mightily moved forward the CIA-Contra-cocaine story that national media had been trying to bury for years. Any exaggeration in the Mercury News presentation was dwarfed by a mendacious, triple-barreled attack on Webb that came from the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times.

The Post and others criticized Webb for referring to the Contras of the so-called Nicaraguan Democratic Force as "the CIA's army" -- an absurd objection since by all accounts, including those of Contra leaders, the CIA set up the group, selected its leaders and paid their salaries, and directed its day-to-day battlefield strategies.
Stories like these are extrememly difficult to deal with, because most people would not like to know, in fact would rather avoid knowledge of what their government (and they by extension) might be capable of. Having come of age during the reagan administration, I have no such difficulties. While Webb may not have been able to completely expose the shadowy parties that signed off on the plan, the CIA was involved in the sale of cocaine in order to fund the Contras. This operation may have also had other strategic objectives, but that is a post for another day.

From the SacBee, the Coroner signs off on the death as a suicide.
Reporter's suicide confirmed by coroner
A flood of inquiries about Gary Webb's shooting death prompts statement.
By Sam Stanton -- Bee Staff Writer
Published 2:15 am PST Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Facing a barrage of calls from the media and the public, the Sacramento County Coroner's Office issued a statement Tuesday confirming that former investigative reporter Gary Webb committed suicide with two gunshots to the head.

"The cause of death was determined to be self-inflicted gunshot wounds to the head," the coroner's statement said.

"Information and evidence gathered at the scene of death, including a handwritten note indicating an intention on the part of the decedent to take his own life, resulted in 'suicide' as the determined manner of death.

"The investigation is continuing and will take an estimated additional six to eight weeks to complete."

The statement was issued because of the number of calls that had flooded the Coroner's Office since The Bee reported Sunday that Webb's death was caused by more than one wound.

Webb, a former San Jose Mercury News reporter, was found dead in his Carmichael home Friday morning.

Webb, who most recently had been writing for the Sacramento News & Review, is survived by his ex-wife and three children.

Such a case normally would have sparked little notice. But Webb gained notoriety in the 1990s after writing a series of stories for the Mercury News linking the CIA to Nicaraguan Contras seeking to overthrow the Sandinista government and to drug sales of crack cocaine flooding South Central Los Angeles in the 1980s.

His newspaper and others later questioned the conclusions in Webb's reporting, and he left the San Jose newspaper in 1997 after being moved to a suburban bureau.
So we are left with the image of a very determined person failing to kill himself with the first shot, and having the wherewithal to pull the trigger the second time, or we are looking at an execution. While the first image is possible, and while his ex-wife suggests is in deed the case, the cynic in me finds the latter more plausible. The coroner in question suggests "It's unusual in a suicide case to have two shots, but it has been done in the past, and it is in fact a distinct possibility." Of course a little more information on the nature of the first wound might clear things up considerably on all accounts, I won't be holding my breath.

Tip of the hat to Helga for bringing this to my attention.