Pubdate: Thu, 03 May 2007
Source: NOW Magazine (CN ON)
Copyright: 2007 NOW Communications Inc.
Author: Gwynne Dyer
Bookmark: (Heroin)


Bush Can't Successfully Fight The "War On Terror" And The "War On
Drugs" At The Same Time

"Respected people of Helmand," the radio message began, "the soldiers
of the International Security Assistance Force and the Afghan National
Army do not destroy poppy fields. They know that many people of
Afghanistan have no choice but to grow poppy. ISAF and the ANA do not
want to stop people from earning their livelihoods."

Such a sensible message that it had to be a mistake, and of course it

The message, written by an ISAF officer and broadcast last week, was
immediately condemned by Afghan and American officials from President
Hamid Karzai on down. So does that mean that ISAF really is going to
destroy the farmers' poppy fields?

Well, not exactly. The latest plan is for civilians to spray farmers'
fields with herbicides, while the Western soldiers just stop the
farmers from retaliating. That should win lots of hearts and minds in
opium-producing provinces where the Taliban is making an armed comeback.

The soldiers of the ISAF don't want to be seen as destroyers of the
poppy crop, because that would get lots of them killed. (Farmers can
turn into Taliban fighters overnight.) It was allegedly an officer
from the Territorial Army (the UK's mostly part-time reserve forces),
newly arrived from Britain, who "got a bit carried away with the
language" and sent the offending message. But most other army officers
in Afghanistan, whatever their nationality, privately agree with him.

You cannot successfully fight a war against the Taliban and a "war on
drugs" at the same time.

That was clearly understood at the time of the invasion in 2001. The
Taliban, austere Islamist fanatics that they were, had eradicated
poppy-growing entirely by the simple expedient of hanging anybody they
caught growing it. The Taliban begged for Western aid for the
distressed farmers, who were only earning a quarter as much growing
grain and vegetables.

Then the Taliban's house guests, Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda
friends, carried out the 9/11 attacks imagining that it would result
in an invasion of Afghanistan, a long guerrilla war and ultimate
humiliation for the U.S.

The U.S. dodged that bullet by not really invading Afghanistan at all.
It simply contacted the various ethnic warlords who were already at
war with the Taliban, gave them better weapons and lots of money and
left the fighting on the ground to them.

However, the U.S. depended on those warlords to keep Afghanistan
quiet. The warlords needed cash flow, which meant poppies: opium and
refined heroin account for over one-third of Afghanistan's gross
domestic product and almost all of its exports. So the U.S. let its
warlord allies encourage farmers to replant poppies, and didn't object
when they were "elected" to Karzai's cabinet either.

Afghanistan now produces 92 per cent of the world's heroin. The U.S.
"war on drugs" lobby insists something be done, so the U.S. and allied
armies end up trying to destroy the crops. The Taliban swallow their
anti-drug principles and promise to protect the farmers. Guess who
wins the war.
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MAP posted-by: Steve Heath