Pubdate: Tue,  2 Oct 2001
Source: Slate (US Web)
Copyright: 2001 Microsoft Corporation
Author: Inigo Thomas


In Britain and elsewhere in a few weeks time, one will see people wearing 
red paper flowers in buttonholes or pinned to jackets and coats. The flower 
is a poppy, and it's worn in honor of Remembrance Day-Nov. 11th-in memory 
of soldiers who died in the wars of the 20th century. More specifically, 
Remembrance Day commemorates the soldiers who were cut down in World War I 
in the fields of Flanders where wild poppies grew. This year, I imagine, 
the act of commemoration will also honor those who died in Washington and 
New York on Sept. 11th.

In Afghanistan, the poppy represents something else altogether -- something 
so powerful that, upon taking over the country, the Taliban banned the 
flower's cultivation. Yet as in Britain, the poppy is also a symbol of wars 
fought. Afghanistan's poppy crop, of course, produces opium and heroin, and 
the history of Afghanistan and the history of heroin have in recent times 
been tightly bound together. (Lately, the Taliban regime appears to have 
developed a more relaxed stance toward the poppy because its religious 
objections to heroin production appear less important than its thirst for 
money. This map illustrates the two main areas of Afghanistan where opium 
poppies grow-around Kandahar and Jalalabad.) In the war against the Soviet 
Union in the 1980s, the Afghan mujahideen offered what one might describe 
as weapons-grade heroin to Soviet soldiers in the hopes of transforming the 
occupying Red Army into drug addicts; according to Jane's Security, the 
experiment was less than successful. Yet the chief object of heroin 
production was to fund mujahideen's purchase of weapons they needed to 
fight the Soviet enemy. This enterprise was evidently promoted by the CIA 
and by the CIA-trained Pakistan security force the ISI, who strongly 
encouraged the cultivation of poppies as a cash crop. As Jane's points out: 
"Opium cultivation and heroin production in Pakistan's northern tribal belt 
and neighboring Afghanistan was also a vital offshoot of the ISI-CIA 
co-operation. It succeeded . in boosting heroin sales in Europe and the US 
through an elaborate web of well-documented deceptions, transport networks, 
couriers and payoffs." While Nancy Reagan was asking everyone to just say 
no to drugs, over the horizon and out of sight other Americans sponsored a 
program of just say yes.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Stevens