Hashish, The Petroleum of Lebanon

By Ghassan Karam

This is the first installment of a summary of the banned book : The Lebanese Connection: corruption, civil wart and The International Drug Traffic. The following account is based on Chapter 1. The initial plan is to supply a precis of each of the next 7 chapters at the rate of one a week. If all goes as planned then this unofficial book summary should be completed by the end of the current year 2012. Was Lebanon a Narco State? Is it still a Narco State? Why is the book banned?

 

Charles Siragusa, an agent of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics in the US, visited Lebanon on Sept. 7, 1950 in order to instigate the illicit drug trade. He was utterly surprised by how easy it was to establish connections and learn about the drug trade in Lebanon.

Art Guedikian, the owner of the Victory Bar in Beirut proved to be full of information about the source of Hashish, where it is processed and who is in control of the trade. Mr. Guedikian takes Charles on a trip to the Bekaa where he learned that Sabri Hamade was the most influential marijuana farmer in Lebanon. Mr. Hamade was the Speaker of the Lebanese parliament, a feudal landlord and the unquestioned leader of the eight parliamentarians in the district of Hirmel. It became very clear also, that Ahmad Al Asad , the largest landlord in southern Lebanon was Mr. Hamades’ partner. Sabri Hamadeh arranges for Hashish to be produced in the Hirmel and Mr. Asad provides the sea outlets for their final journey to Egypt and then the United States. The most interesting about this relationship was the fact that both had the support of the president Beshara Khoury; whose son Khalil was implicated by the Egyptian police of trafficking in opium; and the Prime Minister Riad Solh in addition to Abdallah Yafi, another PM. I ronically Mr. Hamade sat on a parliamentary committee to eradicate hashish.

Hashish, the petroleum of Lebanon, was introduced as a crop in 1920 as a replacement for natural silk which could no longer compete with Japanese artificial silk and rayon. It is estimated that every 4000 square meters produces about a ton of Cannabis or 18-25 Kilograms of Hasheesh.The total yield of the Bekaa valley was estimated to be about 60 tons per annum as far back as 1928Some suggest that Mr. Ibrahim Haidar, the Agriculture Minister also played a major role in facilitating the drug trade.

Independence proved to be an opportunity to increase the production of hemp as a report to the US Secretary of State in 1948 makes clear:”Since the withdrawal of Allied troops in December of 1946, the cultivation of Indian hemp…has increased in alarming proportions”.

The various drug eradication campaigns can best be described as a farce. Farid Chehab, in charge of the narcotics enforcement, called the effort not well intentioned and was intended to be a hollow show. He went on to implicate both Camille Chamoun, the president of the republic and Sami Solh, the PM.

Yet in spite of all of this the administration of President Charles Helou had some limited success in encouraging about a 1000 farmers to switch from Cannabis to sun flower.  Ultimately though, the program failed to take hold since the yield from sunflower was less than that from Hashish and at a greater cost.

As the use of drugs gained wider use all over the world the value of Lebanese hashish increased substantially if for nothing else but the new global markets. The Bekaa valley became increasingly a drug user’s destination since a kilogram of hashish sold in Lebanon for only 1% of its street value in the US. The reputation of Lebanese “red” and Gold had spread all over the world, from Europe to the US and Australia.

The next President, Suleiman Frangieh, continued the Sun flower seed substitution program but with very limited success at best. Unfortunately Mr. Frangieh does not seem to fare much better than other presidents. In a US Senate testimony it was alleged by a witness that “private armies under the control of the pro-Syrian Frangieh family in the Bekaa Valley…rely on narcotics for as much as half of their treasury”. But it is also worth mentioning that the humiliating search for drugs that the whole entourage of President Frangieh was subjected to at JFK in 1974 did not result from either DEA or CIA operatives. It is suspected that Israeli intelligence was behind that affair.

  • Hannibal

    Thanks Ghassan,
    Looking forward for the piece about the 70s and 80s…

    • http://profiles.google.com/wp.karam Ghassan Karam

       Hannibal,
                    The civil war is the most fascinating of the chapters for a Lebanese national. Personally I think that the concluding chapter , although short, is academically the richest of the book.

  • Hannibal

    Thanks Ghassan,
    Looking forward for the piece about the 70s and 80s…

    • http://profiles.google.com/wp.karam Ghassan Karam

       Hannibal,
                    The civil war is the most fascinating of the chapters for a Lebanese national. Personally I think that the concluding chapter , although short, is academically the richest of the book.

  • ghzayel

     ghassan,
    it all makes sense cause a lot of lebanese unfortunately want to make quick fortunes right here right now and there is no quicker money than drug money and the system in lebanon presents the ideal setting for all sorts of illegal activities to flourish thanks to its bank secrecy laws and the failure of its government to enforce any control over civil servants shady incomes.
    looking forward to see your revelations concerning the 21st century lebanese drug lords so maybe lebanese people wont reelect them this time looooool!!!!!!

    • http://profiles.google.com/wp.karam Ghassan Karam

       ghzayel,
                   I am going to find time to write a summary of the rest of the book. Some chapters are long and detailed  but Mr. Marshalls’ research does not go to the 21st century since the declassified material that was available to him covered only the 1990’s.

  • ghzayel

     ghassan,
    it all makes sense cause a lot of lebanese unfortunately want to make quick fortunes right here right now and there is no quicker money than drug money and the system in lebanon presents the ideal setting for all sorts of illegal activities to flourish thanks to its bank secrecy laws and the failure of its government to enforce any control over civil servants shady incomes.
    looking forward to see your revelations concerning the 21st century lebanese drug lords so maybe lebanese people wont reelect them this time looooool!!!!!!

    • http://profiles.google.com/wp.karam Ghassan Karam

       ghzayel,
                   I am going to find time to write a summary of the rest of the book. Some chapters are long and detailed  but Mr. Marshalls’ research does not go to the 21st century since the declassified material that was available to him covered only the 1990’s.

  • Sebouh80

    Thank you Mr.Karam for providing us summary brief for every chapter of the book “The Lebanese connection: corruption, civil war and the international drug traffic”
    Mr.Karam, for the past few years in a row we are constantly being bombarded by our most venerated and honest politicians in Lebanon that there is a great prospect of finding Natural Gas in the Eastern Mediterranean coast, and according to them once this materializes this would help transform Lebanon into a wealthy nation.
    In reality, however, this would be far from truth due to the corrupt nature of the Lebanese system of governance which is based on favoritism and power sharing of the spoils among the ruling sectarian political factions.

    Lastly, we can conclude that since inception of Lebanon in late 1943 the ruling elites and their client representatives in Lebanon have benefited great deal from drug trading, and this to a greater extent funded civil wars and those ruthless militia warlords who have taken part in it.

    Sadly speaking, the post hashih economy to another form of valuable commodity dependency will only fuel this political corruption in grand scale.

    • http://profiles.google.com/wp.karam Ghassan Karam

       Sebouh,
                   In Economic Development, many share the view that finding oil/natural gas is often tied to corruption and so the new resource does not aid the country. An excellent example is Nigeria.
                  I do hope that the Lebanese experience will be a positive one but I share your skepticism. Do you know of many places where the announcement after a lengthy period of negotiation will anounce the prospective members of an oil and Natural Gas Board not based on their knowledge, experience or background but based on which religious sect they belong to. What if the Board is to consist of only ,say eight members and it so happens that the best qualified in the country are eight protestant women. Would we appoint any of them? Hell no because they are not willing to sing the praises of Bkirki, the Mufti or the Shia imams. I think that corruption in Lebanon has been elevated to an Art. It has become the system itself.

  • Sebouh80

    Thank you Mr.Karam for providing us summary brief for every chapter of the book “The Lebanese connection: corruption, civil war and the international drug traffic”
    Mr.Karam, for the past few years in a row we are constantly being bombarded by our most venerated and honest politicians in Lebanon that there is a great prospect of finding Natural Gas in the Eastern Mediterranean coast, and according to them once this materializes this would help transform Lebanon into a wealthy nation.
    In reality, however, this would be far from truth due to the corrupt nature of the Lebanese system of governance which is based on favoritism and power sharing of the spoils among the ruling sectarian political factions.

    Lastly, we can conclude that since inception of Lebanon in late 1943 the ruling elites and their client representatives in Lebanon have benefited great deal from drug trading, and this to a greater extent funded civil wars and those ruthless militia warlords who have taken part in it.

    Sadly speaking, the post hashih economy to another form of valuable commodity dependency will only fuel this political corruption in grand scale.

    • http://profiles.google.com/wp.karam Ghassan Karam

       Sebouh,
                   In Economic Development, many share the view that finding oil/natural gas is often tied to corruption and so the new resource does not aid the country. An excellent example is Nigeria.
                  I do hope that the Lebanese experience will be a positive one but I share your skepticism. Do you know of many places where the announcement after a lengthy period of negotiation will anounce the prospective members of an oil and Natural Gas Board not based on their knowledge, experience or background but based on which religious sect they belong to. What if the Board is to consist of only ,say eight members and it so happens that the best qualified in the country are eight protestant women. Would we appoint any of them? Hell no because they are not willing to sing the praises of Bkirki, the Mufti or the Shia imams. I think that corruption in Lebanon has been elevated to an Art. It has become the system itself.

      • libnen10452

        wow man, you are losing your time on this blog; why dont you adress MIT or polytechnique or oxford? lol

      • haririlouti

        man, you are losing your time here; try harvard, MIT, polytechnique, ENA, oxford……

        • haririlouti

          oops i forgot: sa3sa3 or king faysal university