Pubdate: Wed, 30 May 2001
Source: Marysville Globe, The (WA)
Copyright: 2001 Marysville Globe/Arlington Times
Contact:  Letters to the Editor, Marysville Globe, PO Box 145, 
Marysville, WA 98270
Author: Robert Scheer
Bookmark: (Bush, George)


Enslave your girls and women, harbor anti-U.S. terrorists and destroy 
every vestige of civilization in your homeland, and the Bush 
administration will embrace you. All that matters is that you line up 
as an ally in the drug war, the only international cause that this 
nation still takes seriously.

That's the message sent with the recent gift of $43 million to the 
Taliban rulers of Afghanistan, the most virulent anti-American 
violators of human rights in the world today. The gift, announced 
last Thursday by Secretary of State Colin Powell, in addition to 
other recent aid, makes the United States the main sponsor of the 
Taliban and rewards that "rogue regime" for declaring that opium 
growing is against the will of God. So, too, by the Taliban's 
estimation, are most human activities, but it's the ban on drugs that 
catches this administration's attention.

Never mind that Osama bin Laden still operates the leading 
anti-American terror operation from his base in Afghanistan, from 
which, among other crimes, he launched two bloody attacks on American 
embassies in Africa in 1998.

Sadly, the Bush administration is cozying up to the Taliban regime at 
a time when the United Nations, at U.S. insistence, imposes sanctions 
on Afghanistan because the Kabul government will not turn over Bin 

The war on drugs has become our own fanatics' obsession and easily 
trumps all other concerns. How else could we come to reward the 
Taliban, who has subjected the female half of the Afghan population 
to a continual reign of terror in a country once considered 
enlightened in its treatment of women?

At no point in modern history have women and girls been more 
systematically abused than in Afghanistan, where in the name of 
madness masquerading as Islam, the government in Kabul obliterates 
their fundamental human rights. Women may not appear in public 
without being covered from head to toe with the oppressive shroud 
called the burkha, and they may not leave the house without being 
accompanied by a male family member. They've not been permitted to 
attend school or be treated by male doctors, yet women have been 
banned from practicing medicine or any profession for that matter.

The lot of males is better if they blindly accept the laws of an 
extreme religious theocracy that prescribes strict rules governing 
all behavior, from a ban on shaving to what crops may be grown. It is 
this last power that has captured the enthusiasm of the Bush White 

The Taliban fanatics, economically and diplomatically isolated, are 
at the breaking point, and so, in return for a pittance of legitimacy 
and cash from the Bush administration, they have been willing to 
appear to reverse themselves on the growing of opium. That a 
totalitarian country can effectively crack down on its farmers is not 
surprising. But it is grotesque for a U.S. official, James P. 
Callahan, director of the State Department's Asian anti-drug program, 
to describe the Taliban's special methods in the language of 
representative democracy: "The Taliban used a system of 
consensus-building," Callahan said after a visit with the Taliban, 
adding that the Taliban justified the ban on drugs "in very religious 

Of course, Callahan also reported, those who didn't obey the 
theocratic edict would be sent to prison.

In a country where those who break minor rules are simply beaten on 
the spot by religious police and others are stoned to death, it's 
understandable that the government's "religious" argument might be 
compelling. Even if it means, as Callahan concedes, that most of the 
farmers who grew the poppies will now confront starvation. That's 
because the Afghan economy has been ruined by the religious extremism 
of the Taliban, making the attraction of opium as a previously 
tolerated quick cash crop overwhelming.

For that reason, the opium ban will not last unless the United States 
is willing to pour far larger amounts of money into underwriting the 
Afghan economy.

As the Drug Enforcement Administration's Steven Casteel admitted, 
"The bad side of the ban is that it's bringing their country -- or 
certain regions of their country -- to economic ruin." Nor did he 
hold out much hope for Afghan farmers growing other crops such as 
wheat, which require a vast infrastructure to supply water and 
fertilizer that no longer exists in that devastated country. There's 
little doubt that the Taliban will turn once again to the easily 
taxed cash crop of opium in order to stay in power.

The Taliban may suddenly be the dream regime of our own drug-war 
zealots, but in the end this alliance will prove a costly failure. 
Our long sad history of signing up dictators in the war on drugs 
demonstrates the futility of building a foreign policy on a domestic 
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