September 2, 2006
George and the dragon
The Bush administration, your friendly
local global drug pusher:
Afghanistan’s world-leading opium cultivation rose a “staggering” 60 percent this year, the U.N. anti-drugs chief announced Saturday in urging the government to crack down on big traffickers and remove corrupt officials and police.
The record crop yielded 6,100 tons of opium, or enough to make 610 tons of heroin — outstripping the demand of the world’s heroin users by a third, according to U.N. figures.
Officials warned that the illicit trade is undermining the Afghan government, which is under attack by Islamic militants that a U.S.-led offensive helped drive from power in late 2001 for harboring Osama
bin Laden and al-Qaida bases.
… With the economy struggling, there are not enough jobs and many Afghans say they have to grow opium poppies to feed their families. The trade accounts for at least 35 percent of Afghanistan’s economy, financing warlords and insurgents.
… The top U.S. narcotics official here said the opium trade is a threat to the country’s fledgling democracy.
“This country could be taken down by this whole drugs problem,” Doug Wankel told reporters. “We have seen what can come from Afghanistan, if you go back to 9/11. Obviously the U.S. does not want to see that again.”
Even though it helped cause the problem in the first place.
The bulk of the opium increase was in lawless Helmand province, where cultivation rose 162 percent and accounted for 42 percent of the Afghan crop. The province has been wracked by the surge in attacks by Taliban-led militants that has produced the worst fighting in five years.
Opium-growing increased despite the injection of hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid to fight the drug over the past two years. [Antonio Maria Costa, chief of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime,] criticized the international effort and said foreign aid was “plagued by huge overhead costs” in its administration.
… “It’s going to take possibly 20 years to get rid of the problem,” he said, citing the experience of former opium producers like Thailand, Turkey and Pakistan.
And let’s not forget one other little side-effect of Bush’s Afghanistan adventure:
A Western counternarcotics official […] said the Taliban — which managed to nearly eradicate Afghanistan’s poppy crop in 2001, just before their ouster for giving refuge to Osama bin Laden — now profit from the trade.
Next, a makeover for Iran.
TrackBack URL for this entry:
Oh, I don't know. Ask the Afghani gals how they feel about being allowed to go back to school again.
But more to the point, check out Maia Szalavitz's "Let a Thousand Licensed Poppies Bloom" op ed in this week's NYT:
"The United States wants Afghanistan to destroy its potentially merciful crop, which has increased sevenfold since 2002 and now constitutes 60 percent of the country's gross domestic product. But why not bolster the country's stability and end both the pain and the trafficking problems by licensing Afghanistan with the International Narcotics Control Board to sell its opium legally?
Posted by: Sissy Willis at September 16, 2006 6:51 AM