Monday, November 12, 2007

i learned something yesterday.

yesterday i saw "american gangster," starring denzel washington, a film about a harlem crime lord, frank lucas, who in the late 1960s-early 1970s, figured out how to buy uncut heroin from the jungles of southeast asia and import it directly to the united states without using a middle man. this scheme made him filthy stinking rich.

in any event, his product was twice as pure and half as expensive as anything on the market, which caused, among other things, an epidemic of overdosing all up and down the eastern seaboard.

one scene had me scratching my head, however. in the film, when frank lucas makes it to the border of vietnam burma (or laos) and thailand, his corrupt army buddy, who had agreed to help him smuggle the heroin, pointed to a bunch of soldiers manning the roadway and stated "this is the remnants of general chiang kai-shek's kuomintang army."

at this point, i'm thinking that the screenwriters were marginally illiterate. we all know that, after losing the chinese civil war to mao tse-tung and the communists, general chiang-kai shek's kuotmintang army ended up in TAIWAN, not THAILAND. thailand is a country in southeast asia that is known for its vice trade. taiwan is a self-governing island off the coast of china and is known for its electronic parts trade and extreme political stunts. the kuomintang, in fact, ended up instituting martial law in taiwan and ruled the island in a one-party system (i.e. dictatorship) until 1987. the kuomintang remains a political force in taiwan, and kuomintang supporters still hold most of the wealth in taiwan.

so what the hell was the kuomintang doing operating the heroin trade in a friggin' rainforest in thailand in the movie?

turns out the screenwriters weren't illiterate. in 1949, when most of the kuomintang surrendered to the communists and fled to taiwan, two renegade armies, the 3rd and 5th armies of the 93rd division of the kuomintang, refused to surrender and decided to keep on fighting. they eventually camped out in the jungles of southeast asia, engaging in guerrilla warfare with the chinese communists and burmese communists. how did they fund this war? you guessed it - operating the opium and heroin trade. these soldiers, after being repelled by the communists from the north, stumbled into the opium poppy fields, saw dollar signs, and declared themselves in charge.

so there lies one of the greatest but mostly unknown ironies of the 20th century: two kuomintang armies declared themselves the grand poobahs of the heroin trade in southeast asia and were the producers of a highly potent form of heroin that brought a wave of addiction and death that disturbed the social fabric of america's inner cities in the late 1960s. however, these two kuomintang armies were also fighting on our side of the cold war and the u.s. had given them aid. so the u.s. dropped benjamins to aid the KMT in southeast asia, and then the KMT turned around and sold some potent dope to the u.s., and the u.s. ended up spending even more benjamins to clean its streets of their product.

this isn't blowback. this is "smack" back. LOL!

i'm not sure if this is wickedly awesome or awesomely wicked.


upyernoz said...

it turns out, the screenwriters were illiterate after all:

there is no border between thailand and vietnam. you have to get through cambodia, laos or china to pass between those two countries.

upyernoz said...

oof, strike china from the last line of my prior comment. now i'm illiterate

FM said...

whoops, that might have been my own stupidity. the film depicted u.s. soldiers serving in the vietnam war, so i assumed they were traipsing around vietnam. then the film cut to a scene in "thailand."

anyway, the general opium-growing area in southeast asia is called the "golden triangle" - and it encompasses an area comprising several countries.

FM said...

another source

yep, it was the area where burma (myanmar), laos and thailand came together.

Earthperegrin said...

if any of you can read Chinese, check out Bo Yang (or Buo Yang) - one of the most famous writers in China and Taiwan. He wrote a book called "Yi Yu" (means alien realm) about the remnant KMT forces, and was made into a movie that was quite popular in Taiwan