Cocaine and Murder

Gary Webb

In 1998, Seven Stories Press published Gary Webb’s Dark Alliance: The CIA, The Contras, and The Crack Cocaine Explosion. The book was based on Webb’s “Dark Alliance” investigative reporting of the crack epidemic for the San Jose Mercury News.  Military aircraft were used to ferry drugs from South and Central America into the U.S. El Salvador’s Ilopango Air Force Base was a major base of operations for flights carrying weapons and supplies from the US and cocaine into the US.

Webb wrote about the use of military aircraft to ferry drugs from South and Central America into the U.S., “The only air force base near Fort Worth at the time of the alleged drug flights from Ilopango was the now closed Carswell Air Force Base, the home of a Strategic Air Command squadron.” Webb reported that Allen Paul Rudd, a Colombian drug trafficker turned undercover government informant, described to federal officials a supply chain that ferried guns to the Colombian cartel, “off-loaded the guns, put cocaine abroad the planes and the cocaine was taken to United States military bases.”[i]

Webb went on to report about a 1988 memo from U.S. Attorney Walter E. Furr of testimony from Allen Raul Rudd who said that the Medellin cartel’s Pablo Escobar told him “[he] had made a deal with Vice President George Bush to supply American weapons to the Contras in exchange for free passage for their cocaine deliveries into the U.S.”[ii]

Could Webb’s reporting put him a hit list? Was he writing a follow-up book to Dark Alliance? Be prepared to be labeled a ‘conspiracy nut’ if you tell others that Gary Webb was murdered and forced to write a suicide note before another pulled the trigger.

Alex Jones reported that Ricky Ross, a major cocaine dealer in LA with connections to the Contras, had spoken to Gary in the days before his death: “Gary told Ricky that he had seen men scaling down the pipes outside his home and that they were obviously not burglars but ‘government people’. Gary also told Ricky that he had been receiving death threats and was being regularly followed. It was also mentioned that Gary was working on a new story concerning the CIA and drug trafficking.” [iii]

Webb was an experienced reporter with 19 years of working for the print media, including 9 nine years with the San Jose Mercury News. He won the Pulitzer Prize for reporting on the 1989 California earthquake.

Webb’s reporting cost him his job, his family and may have cost him his life. Despite the negative press from the national media, Webb stuck to his guns.

Our government’s War on Drugs was a joke; we were supporting cocaine trafficking to fund the Contra War. His reporting was thoroughly documented; his sources included the CIA, DEA, FBI and papers from the Iran-Contra investigation.

This all came to an end when a Southern Air Transport C-123K aircraft (a CIA proprietary aircraft) was shot down on a resupply mission in Nicaragua in October 1986. The flight logs found in this aircraft showed a ‘history of involvement with cocaine, the Medellin cartel, and the CIA.

The Iran-Contra hearings never covered the sale of cocaine to fund the Contra War. The donations from private parties, solicitations from friendly countries and profits from the sales of weapons to Iranians were headings during the Iran-Contra hearings; the star witness was Lt. Colonel Ollie North.

Even during the Iran/Contra hearings, the cocaine shipments kept coming into the US. The Contra War ended in June 1990 and still the aircraft kept ferrying cocaine into the US. Cocaine was just too good of a deal to walk away from. But, somebody tipped off the Marine Corps Inspector General and a three star general with his entourage arrived at El Toro in January 1991 to shut the operation down. If the media discovered that El Toro and other military bases were used to ship narcotics into the US, the public reaction and Congressional hearings would have been explosive.

Colonel Joseph Underwood, the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing’s Chief of Staff was removed from his position and later forced to accept an Article 15 non-judicial punishment and retirement from the Corps. The same year, Brigadier General Wayne Adams was transferred to Quantico and forced to accept an early retirement.

The one man who didn’t know about the cocaine shipments and refused to plead guilty to phony charges of misuse of government aircraft and retire from the Corps was Colonel James E. Sabow. He refused to ‘roll over’ without a fight. It would cost him his life. The Corps called his death on the base a suicide before the body was even autopsied by a civilian pathologist and the death certificate signed by the local Sheriff/Corner. He had stepped on some really big toes and was murdered by a government hit team.

Colonel Sabow was an innocent party caught up in the intrigue of an illegal covert operation that the Marine Corps wanted to shut down. The use of El Toro and other military installations for gun running and narcotrafficking was political dynamite. In comparison, Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal was is literally child’s play. Thousands of Americans are killed from the use of crack cocaine in the 1980s. All this is done to support a covert operation to overthrow the government in Nicaragua in direct violation of the wishes of Congress and the public.

This was more than a scandal involving the Corps. The NSC knew about the gun running and drugs. Lt. Col. Oliver North’s notebooks support his knowledge of drug trafficking by the Contras. In 1980s, George H. Bush was the Vice President and a member of the NSC; Bush insisted that he was out of the loop on Iran-Contra. On December 24, 1991, President Bush pardons former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and five others for their conduct related to Iran-Contra. Colonel Sabow’s threat to blow the whistle and insistence on a court martial to fight the false charges of misuse of government aircraft could lead to major media coverage, embarrassment to the Marine Corps, indictments of those involved in narcotrafficking, a trail to the NSC and a scandal leading to President George H. Bush and possible impeachment charges. People have been killed for less.

[1] Webb wrote about the use of military aircraft to ferry drugs from South and Central America: Gary Webb, Dark Alliance: The CIA, The Contras and The Crack Cocaine Explosion, Seven Stories Press, New York, 1998, pg. 250-251.

[i]Webb wrote about the use of military aircraft to ferry drugs from South and Central America: Gary Webb, Dark Alliance: The CIA, The Contras and The Crack Cocaine Explosion, Seven Stories Press, New York, 1998, pg. 250-251.

[ii]Ibid, pg. 253.

[iii]Alex Jones reported that Ricky Ross:



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Robert O’Dowd served in the 1st, 3rd and 4th Marine Aircraft Wings during 52 months of active duty in the 1960s. While at MCAS El Toro for two years, O'Dowd worked and slept in a Radium 226 contaminated work space in Hangar 296 in MWSG-37, the most industrialized and contaminated acreage on the base. Robert is a two time cancer survivor and disabled veteran. Robert graduated from Temple University in 1973 with a bachelor’s of business administration, majoring in accounting, and worked with a number of federal agencies, including the EPA Office of Inspector General and the Defense Logistics Agency. After retiring from the Department of Defense, he teamed up with Tim King of to write about the environmental contamination at two Marine Corps bases (MCAS El Toro and MCB Camp Lejeune), the use of El Toro to ship weapons to the Contras and cocaine into the US on CIA proprietary aircraft, and the murder of Marine Colonel James E. Sabow and others who were a threat to blow the whistle on the illegal narcotrafficking activity. O'Dowd and King co-authored BETRAYAL: Toxic Exposure of U.S. Marines, Murder and Government Cover-Up. The book is available as a soft cover copy and eBook from See: