Opium in Afghanistan: situation normal…

06 Sep

I think you know what SNAFU means. It arose in the darkest days of World War II, and has been time and again appropriate in recent years in a war which, so far as the USA is concerned, has already been going on longer than World War II, if you date it from 9/11.

Let’s take Afghanistan. Now I have been quite deliberately minimising my comments on the War on Terror lately as I don’t feel I have anything original to say, and anyway you can read the links over there on the right under Current Affairs just as well as I can. However, there was an interesting happenstance tonight, and I haven’t had a good rant for a while.

First, The Poet referred me to Robert Scheer, who is pretty much recycling things he has been saying for a few years now, except that a recent UN report on opium production in Afghanistan provided the occasion this time. He or his editor have given it a cool headline — Afghanistan: High on Opium, Not Democracy — and the thrust of his article is that the Bush regime are incompetent fools who tend to feed us propaganda which they may just even believe themselves. Well, I wouldn’t dispute that.

…What the Bush administration will not confront in Afghanistan, or in Iraq, is that its ill-conceived and disastrously executed nation-building schemes are sinking into the swamp of local and historical realities. Enamored of American military might but having little understanding of the world beyond, Bush and his team have ignored Gen. Colin Powell’s reported “you break it, you own it” warnings, floundering after initial military victories and ultimately strengthening the hand of local and international terrorists. Rather than take care of business in Afghanistan after 9/11, Bush and clueless U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld allowed bin Laden to slip out of the Tora Bora caves to plan more attacks and the Taliban to regroup. Instead, Bush and Co. threw the bulk of our military and aid resources into a disastrous attempt to remake oil-rich Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11, into an American puppet state.

With U.S. midterm elections around the corner, embattled Republicans are now desperately claiming to be the only thing standing between us and a bogeyman they are calling “Islamo-fascism,” and ridiculously comparing the “war on terror” to the fight against the Nazis. Fortunately, if belatedly, two-thirds of the American electorate now recognize that our president is all hat and no cattle, as they say in Texas, a leader much better at starting wars than winning them.

There is however nothing new or original in this article, even if I can’t but agree with it. I could have read it, though, last week or last month or last year or four years ago… Sorry, it is getting cliched, even if true.

Young Ahmad Shuja, however, is perhaps better placed, being an Afghani living in Pakistan. The second happenstance was to visit his blog. He addresses the same UN report in his latest entry: “Staggering” Increase in Afghan Drug Cultivation. I think he focusses our attention on the human dimension and he is not quite so obsessed with George Bloody Bush, American politics, or the asinine Donald Rumsfeld.

Although the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime appears to be solely attributing the increase to corrupt officials and powerful warlords, there are other equally responsible factors at work as well. Currently, for example, almost half of the provinces in Afghanistan are in a critical condition due to a prevailing drought situation. Many overstretched farmers in the drought-stricken areas cannot earn a living because they cannot cultivate due to a lack of water for irrigation. And, according to a government report, a swarm of deadly insects has hit many of the southern and eastern parts of the country, depriving some farmers–who have managed somehow or the other to cultivate–of their due rewards.

This has resulted in more farmers becoming unemployed and has worsened the already pathetic unemployment rate–40%.

However, in this bleak situation, one thing comes to the rescue of the overstretched farmers: opium poppy. It is something that requires a comparatively lesser amount of water and fares very well in the weather conditions prevalent in the country. This causes many, many farmers to switch to this new and better alternative although their financial gains are not remarkably better. The current increase in the production of opium can primarily be attributed to these factors. Many more farmers may teem in if the condition is not improved.

Drug trade in Afghanistan currently accounts for 35% of the economy. It is the only source of income for thousands of farmers. And merely sending policemen with sticks in their hands to destroy opium fields won’t work in the least bit. In order to see a tangible difference, the government must design and efficiently execute projects which provide solid, practicable cultivation alternatives to opium poppy. A number of alternative cultivation projects have failed in past merely because of poor administration…

I really don’t think Robert Scheer gives a shit about Afghan farmers, but then neither, probably, does George W Bush, or almost any other journalist, pundit, or politician you’d like to name, left or right.

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2 responses to “Opium in Afghanistan: situation normal…

  1. The Poet

    September 7, 2006 at 2:25 am

    Osama bin Laden must be well down his wish list, probably much further than he had hoped. GWB has effectively ensured a glut of heroin, ensuring in turn a greater demand on budgets for health and law enforcement in the US, UK and elsewhere. ObL has long obsessed about doing economic damage to the Yew Ess of Ay.

    Impoverished Afghan farmers can hardly be blamed for growing opium. Their realities, however, go beyond feeding their families. Many are said to be in debt to the bad guys and face the need to repay or else. The government reportedly has links to drug barons, even perhaps the President’s brother.

    The central government barely controls the capital. The countryside makes Dodge City look tame. And the Pakis have renewed their dream of making Afghanistan a client state.

    Little Johnnie recently called Afghanistan ‘a fledgling democracy’. Yo, bro, you got it. ‘A failed narco-state’ would be a better description.

    Don’t be too harsh on Scheer, mon ami. He and others have been attempting to rebut The Big Lies for some time. Most mainstream journalists have been too timid to expose the Bushevites, lest the wrath of Rove bring a plague upon their house.

  2. Owner

    September 8, 2006 at 8:35 pm

    Well, I was nice about Robert Scheer at the beginning of August, and he is worth reading, even if (as do many) he tends to write the same article over and over a bit. But then repetition may be needed to counter the cascade of propaganda emanating from the Pentagon and the White House on… Take the recent comments of the US Ambassador about Guantanamo and the Hicks case, for example. Classic, they were. Community confused on Hicks case: McCallum.

    The new United States ambassador to Australia, Robert McCallum, says there is general confusion in the community about the detention of David Hicks. Federal Opposition Leader Kim Beazley met the new ambassador earlier this week and asked that Hicks be given a fair trial as a matter of urgency.

    Mr McCallum says it is an established rule of law that enemy combatants can be detained during the course of hostilities. He says Hicks will be tried for war crimes in addition to being an enemy combatant, in a process yet to be determined by the US Congress.

    “I’m extraordinarily comfortable with David Hicks receiving a fair trial in a military commission that’s established by the United States Congress,” he said. “[There will be] rules that take into account the differences in a civilian criminal law system and in a military commission that relates to war crimes, activities that occur during the fog of war.”

    Hicks has been detained at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp for more than four years. His original trial was aborted after a US court ruled the military commissions set up to try detainees were invalid.

    I guess they do “tell that to the Marines”! Major Michael Mori doesn’t seem to share his Ambassador’s confidence though:

    US President George W. Bush’s new proposal to prosecute Australian David Hicks and other Guantanamo Bay inmates appeared to be “a rubber stamp” of the old military commissions rejected by the US Supreme Court, Hicks’s military lawyer said.
    Major Michael Mori said the President’s new legislation still contained issues ruled illegal by America’s highest court in June.

    “It appears to be just a rubber stamp of the old illegal commission system,” Maj Mori said…

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