HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html U.S. Drug War Pays Afghans Who Aid Terrorists
Pubdate: Wed, 19 Sep 2001
Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal (NV)
Copyright: 2001 Las Vegas Review-Journal
Author: John L. Smith's


Shortly after Attorney General John Ashcroft issued a call to duty to 
America's federal law enforcement to assist in guarding the nation's 
commercial airlines, local investigators and agents wondered aloud whether 
they would get the nod.

One joked Tuesday about the possibility of frequent flier miles. Another 
wondered which agency would be used first.  Would it be the U.S. Marshals 
Service, which provided the original sky marshals three decades ago in 
response to a rash of hijackings?

Or would U.S. Customs agents be asked to step forward? They had taken over 
the sky security program before it was handed to the Federal Aviation 
Administration and eventually mothballed.

One federal veteran said he thought Drug Enforcement Administration agents 
would be quickly called in. Another thought IRS agents might be used. 
Although a local Marshals Service official confirmed that 300 deputies had 
been assigned nationwide to assist the FBI in investigating nearly 50,000 
tips that have surfaced since last week's terrorist attacks, as of Tuesday 
only one Southern Nevada deputy had been chosen.

While agents and deputies expressed uncertainty, a thick smoke began to 
cloud the air.

It was not the acrid stench of death in the wake of last Tuesday's 
nightmarish deadly terrorist attack on the World Trace Center and Pentagon. 
It was the foul smoke of irony that accompanies Ashcroft's request to pass 
new anti-terrorism measures by the end of this week and assigning hundreds 
of federal agents to act as undercover sky cops.

If you're following developments in the terrorist attack story, you're 
probably learning to hate irony. The more you know about Afghanistan's 
ruling Taliban militia, the more you're bound to be disgusted by the irony 
of the U.S. government's role in supporting it.

The United States doesn't officially recognize the Taliban as a government. 
Only three Islamic nations do that.

But who needs official status when this country in May was happy to cut a 
check for $43 million as a reward for the Taliban crushing opium poppy 
production by desperate Afghan farmers?

America's drug war marches on against all logic and even into the waiting 
arms of despots.

Make that despots with our money.

Afghanistan produced a majority of the world's opium. Secretary of State 
Colin Powell called the poppy eradication "a decision by the Taliban that 
we welcome."

But that $43 million didn't trickle down far.

In May, The Associated Press reported that human rights conditions in 
Afghanistan had grown worse since the eradication. One farmer called the 
move another example of the Afghan people being crushed under the foot of 
the world's political giants. He meant, of course, the United States.

"We accept the poppy ban because we know heroin is bad for humanity," 
Mohammed Rachmani told the AP's Steven Gutkin. "But the government and the 
world don't care if we live or die."

While drought, poor irrigation and even a shortage of seeds ruined the 
efforts of farmers attempting to grow "alternative crops," the Taliban 
continued its totalitarian squeeze on Afghanistan's beleaguered citizens.

In May, the Western press learned that the Taliban was outdoing itself by 
forcing religious minorities such as Hindus to wear patches on their 
clothes in a move reminiscent of the way Nazis labeled Jews and other 
undesirables under Hitler.

The Taliban gained further notoriety for arresting Christians whose crime 
was proselytizing.

This is the same Taliban that the Bush administration rewarded with $43 
million at a time it knew of shocking human rights violations.

This is the same Taliban that vows a "holy war" should the United States 
launch a retaliatory strike against Afghanistan, the home-away-from-home 
for Saudi exile Osama bin Laden -- the man thought responsible for 
masterminding the latest terrorist attacks.

On Tuesday, I spoke with a U.S. Customs official in Washington who said 
plans to staff the sky marshals remain in flux.

But they're coming.

In part, to guard against a deadly and elusive monster our country helped 
to create.
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