chapter  4
23 Pages

The French Connection

A brief critical history
WithRyan Gingeras

It is now relatively clear that the roots of the modern day narcotics epidemic in North America first took shape in the two decades that followed the Second World War. While scholars of narcotics and organized crime have fixed particular interest upon the rise of heroin in the 1950s, there have been few rigorous empirical studies on the routes, trade volume and individuals associated with heroin trafficking during this period. This chapter presents a general survey of recently declassified American documents from 1950 to 1967 detailing investigations into one of the most dominant heroin trading networks of the post-war era, the so-called French Connection. In particular, this survey pays attention to the role of Middle Eastern trafficking groups, particularly those comprising Lebanese and Turkish nationals, who formed the core hub of opium and morphine production and transshipment operations in the Mediterranean. An understanding of these groups, through the eyes of American counter-narcotics agents, give us a much clearer picture of how the heroin trade, and resulting epidemic, developed from a principal source of production. A closer look at the individuals and networks involved also helps to unpack the political impact of narcotics traffickers over the development of post-war states in the Middle East.