HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Patriots Don't Use Heroin
Pubdate: Fri, 28 Sep 2001
Source: Cincinnati Post (OH)
Copyright: 2001 The Cincinnati Post
Author: Michael Collins
Note: Michael Collins is The Post's Washington bureau chief


Calling all patriotic Americans: Now is the time to rise up in defense of 
your country.

Translation: Real Americans don't do drugs. It's no secret that terrorist 
groups around the world are often linked to illegal drugs. Government 
leaders believe Osama bin Laden, the main suspect in the recent deadly 
assault on New York and Washington, may have used drug money to finance 
some of his terrorist acts.

With that in mind, government leaders are trying to tap into the patriotic 
fervor sweeping the country and convince Americans that illegal drug use is 
not only dangerous behavior. It's un-American.

"By stopping these drug traffickers, we are stopping the flow of cash used 
to fuel these terrorist cells," said Ohio Congressman Rob Portman, the 
Terrace Park Republican.

Portman was named last week as one of three co-chairmen of an anti-drug 
task force appointed by House Speaker Dennis Hastert. The 48-member panel 
will meet regularly and advise the speaker on issues such as reducing the 
demand for illegal drugs and stemming their flow into the United States.

The timing is merely coincidence: The task force had been in the works 
before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

But Portman and other government leaders see an advantage to linking 
America's ongoing war on drugs to America's new war on terrorism.

"By going after the illegal drug trade, we reduce the ability of these 
terrorists to launch attacks against the United States," Hastert said.

Recent events underscore the connection.

Just this week, leaders of the Taliban government in Afghanistan threatened 
to inundate Western markets with heroin if the United States launches a 
military strike on their country. The Taliban reportedly told farmers they 
again will be allowed to grow opiate poppies used in the production of heroin.

Roughly 70 percent of the world's opium comes from Afghanistan, where 
farmers as poor as the dirt they tend cultivate and sell poppies to feed 
their families. Last year, Taliban leaders banned the farming of poppies, 
and anti-drug warriors reported a sharp decline in opium produced in areas 
under the Taliban's control.

Before the ban, the Taliban taxed the sale and production of poppies and 
used the proceeds to buy arms. Some of the money apparently ended up in the 
hands of bin Laden, who has been hiding out in Afghanistan. The U.S. 
government believes bin Laden hired out his followers to guard drug 
laboratories and transport the drugs, then used the proceeds to finance 
terrorist activities.

"By Americans spending money on their drug habits, we are helping to 
support the Taliban government, which protects terrorism," Portman said.

Portman has been actively fighting illegal drugs on the domestic front for 
several years. He authored the Drug-Free Communities Act, which provides 
grassroots anti-drug groups with federal matching funds. He also helped 
found and currently serves as president of the Coalition for a Drug-Free 
Greater Cincinnati, which brings together parents, teachers, religious 
leaders, the media and other community leaders to educate children about 
the dangers of drug abuse.

Portman will focus mainly on domestic drug abuse as a member of the 
speaker's task force. He wants to examine how anti-drug programs can reach 
deeper into poor and rural communities, look for more effective treatment 
programs in prisons and conduct more outreach through the Internet.

But the task force also plans to take a long hard look at the international 
drug trade, particularly in light of the terrorist attacks in America.

The long-term goal is to develop policies that get to the root of the 
problem. On the international front, that could mean figuring out ways to 
stop the heroin trade in Afghanistan or pressuring Turkey or Pakistan to 
cut off the flow of illegal drugs into the United States.

"This is not going to solve the problem we face," Portman said, "but it's 
one small piece of it."
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