May 13, 2002
U.S. government officials expect a high level of opium production in Afghanistan this year, which in turn will flood the world’s opium and heroin markets with cheap drugs. This marks a reversal from the previous year when opium production in Afghanistan fell almost to zero as the result of a Taliban program to eradicate the growing of poppies and the production of opium.
Does this mean that the U.S. government is losing its declared “war on drugs” in Afghanistan? And, who is it that produces and sells the opium there? Who are these “bad guys,” to use a phrase that’s popular these days with U.S. officials?
The problem is that “the bad guys” in the “war on drugs” happen to be “the good guys” in another war the U.S. claims to be fighting, the “war on terrorism.” The local opium bosses are the same warlords on which the current government of Afghanistan rests.
The Afghan government of Hamid Karzai formally banned the cultivation of poppies, from which opium is made, but it did nothing to enforce the ban. This would have required Karzai to confront his own allies. The U.S. and Britain announced that they have started paying local chiefs and farmers to destroy their crops. But U.S. officials themselves admit that this doesn’t stop opium production – it just gives the opium-producing warlords more money.
But why don’t the U.S. and Britain do something about this? Don’t they have all those troops in Afghanistan? That’s because, a British official answered, “the fight against terrorism takes priority; the fight against narcotics comes in second.” In other words, they pretend that we have to rely on drug dealers to defend ourselves against terrorist attacks!
The Bush administration, just like administrations before it, has declared a number of wars against a variety of “evils,” all in the name of protecting us. But its actions only endanger us further.
This is not at all surprising. Throughout the 1980s, Osama bin Laden himself was one of the “good guys.” He was no less a religious fanatic, and certainly no less a terrorist then, when the U.S. government actively supported him and helped him train his followers, than he is now. Today’s “good guys,” the drug-dealing warlords, are no different than bin Laden. They are the same warlords who, fighting each other for power, attacked, plundered and oppressed the population of Afghanistan in the early 1990s. And, sure enough, they have started to fight each other again, while resuming their major source of income, the opium trade – all under U.S. supervision, and with U.S. money.