The tall poppies

Let’s say you’re trying to rebuild a country shattered by 25 years of terrorism and brutal civil war. Corruption, political instability, and warlordism are daily sources of terror. Most of the country is completely dependent on foreign aid. Farmers cannot support themselves on traditional crops, and grinding poverty is the norm all throughout the countryside. But there is one glimmer of hope: a lucrative trade that now supplies 60% of the entire GDP and employs one out of every ten people in the country. What should you do?

Obviously, you should shoot the farmers and burn their fields until their only lucrative cash crop is eradicated!

Three years after the fall of the Taliban, the United Nations issued a dramatic plea for help yesterday, saying that Afghanistan’s opium crop is flourishing as never before and the country is well on the way to becoming a corrupt narco-state.

The UN’s annual opium survey reveals that poppy cultivation increased by two-thirds this year, a finding that will come as a deep embarrassment to Tony Blair, who pledged in 2001 to eradicate the scourge of opium along with the Taliban.

So alarmed is the UN that it is suggesting a remedy more radical than any that has been put forward before – bringing in US and British forces to fight a drugs war similar to the war on terror. It wants them to destroy farmers’ crops on a massive scale before they can be harvested.

— The Independent 2004/11/19: Afghanistan: a nation abandoned to drugs

Just what will they be destroying in this escalation of the drug war?

British officials point out that the Afghan economy is booming, that three million refugees have returned home and that four million children are in schools. But yesterday’s report reveals that the engine of economic growth is opium production. Last year Afghanistan exported 87 per cent of the world’s supplies. Opium is now the “main engine of economic growth and the strongest bond among previously quarrelsome peoples”, according to the UN.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know that the trade is also fueling many problems for Afghanistan. Narco-trade is helping to foster widespread corruption, political instability, gang violence, and possibly some hefty smuggling profits for Taleban militants in western Pakistan. So the answer is… to escalate a violent conflict to keep Afghanistan’s only cash crop traded completely on the black market?

There’s a lot to be disappointed in and outraged at in Afghanistan. While terrorist jihadis and murderous warlords have been using their US-supplied arms, and the Commisar’s eyes have been turned toward Arab targets, things have gotten pretty rotten–no matter how much the Prince President may piously declare that freedom is on the march. There’s a reason that the United Nations ranks Afghanistan as the worst country in the world to live in, with the exception of Sierra Leone. But that’s because of things like these:

UN voter registration teams did have female staff members, but, again, security of staff and attacks by anti-government groups meant that registering women in remote areas was difficult. Women were targeted including in an attack on a registration bus in June 2004 in Jalalabad when three female staff members were killed; reports of threats by the Taleban and warlords to deter women from registering; and targeted killings of Afghans holding voter registration cards.

Amnesty International (AI) noted a pervasive lack of security during its mission to Afghanistan in August and September 2004. Women felt unsafe outside their homes in the presence of warlords, guns and the absence of rule of law.

A large number of women in Afghanistan continue to be imprisoned for committing so-called “zina” crimes. A female can be detained and prosecuted for adultery, running away from home or having consensual sex outside marriage, which are all referred to as zina crimes. The major factor preventing victims of rape complaining to the authorities is the fear that instead of being treated as a victim, they themselves will be prosecuted for unlawful sexual activity.

During its recent visit, AI found that a large number of female inmates in prisons across Afghanistan are incarcerated for the crime of “running away” and for adultery, as well as for engaging in unlawful sexual activity. Amongst many judges and judicial officials, there was a prevailing lack of knowledge about the application of zina law.

— Amnesty International News 2004/10/28: Women failed by progress in Afghanistan

A little while ago when NPR was running a similar story on the radio, they quoted some functionary from the Karzai government, who piously intoned–without giving any reasons–that if the opium trade isn’t brought under control, the experiment in democracy has failed. I don’t know; it seems to me that that should be the least of their concerns. How has Drug War imperialism come to warp our priorities so far beyond recognition that burning two thirds of a desprately poor country’s economy to the ground seems to be the only option anyone considers viable? Have they lost themselves so thoroughly in the twisted labyrinth of statist policy goals that they can’t see that they are effectively proposing a terror famine for the sake of controlling the trade in pain-killers? Have they flown so far off the handle that they just don’t care anymore?

This is statist nation-building–with militant misogyny, warlordism, and grinding poverty dragging the country down into hell, the US, UN, and UK prepare to inflict a political economy straight out of Mao’s Great Leap Forward on a nation of millions so that they never have to question their domestic policy initiatives. Is that sound in the distance freedom on the march? Does freedom wear jackboots?

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8 replies to The tall poppies Use a feed to Follow replies to this article · TrackBack URI

  1. Sameul Haque

    Speaking of the war on drugs, I think people should remember that the Reagan administration allowed the trafficking crack cocaine by Nicaraguan Contras in south central LA to fund operations in Latin America.

    The Reagan administration also sold arms to Iran in order to raise money for Contras in Latin America.

    Much of this information was uncovered by John Kerry in 1986.

  2. Discussed at www.thestatrix.com

    The Statrix:

    “Liberated” from making a living

    The tall poppies: Geekery Today 2004/11/20 :: Rad Geek People’s Daily…

  3. American losertraian

    The ideas that make Americans different from others is gone. The Americans act just like the British in 1774 ! Shoot ’em in the back ! Kill more kids ! Kill more babies ! All farmers must die ! Lick my boot & obey ! That IS the new American way !

    Death slavery and the pursuit of saddness.

    I should know, I am an American.

  4. Martin Striz

    That was a great post. A supply-side war on drugs will never be won as long as the miserable, desperate conditions that lead people to use them in the first place are never addressed. People have to believe there’s something better to live for. How can they when they are mired in poverty?

— 2005 —

  1. Thoughtlaced

    Some good points here. But something to keep in mind is that the portion of opium profits that are actually received by poor farmers has declined dramatically in the past year, to the point where durg traffickers are making 80% of the profits associated with the trade (farmers used to get at least 40% last year). So the argument that poppy farming is propping up the desperately poor is less true than it was last year. For more on this:

— 2007 —

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Geekery Today:

    The tall poppies, part 2: food, drugs, and female sexual slavery in Afghanistan

    (Via Feminist Law Professors 2007-01-10 and The Dees Diversion 2007-01-08.) In the past, [Afghanistan experienced] a serious drought every couple of decades, but now there…

  2. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2007-01-13 – The tall poppies, part 2: food, drugs, and female sexual slavery in Afghanistan:

    […] Well. At least they’re not doing anything really awful, like growing opium poppies for willing customers. […]

— 2009 —

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2009-05-22 – Friday Lazy Linking:

    […] Jacob Sullum, Hit & Run (2009-04-30): U.S. Intensifies Campaign to Wipe Out Afghan Economy. Cf. GT 2004-11-20: The tall poppies and GT 2007-01-13: The tall poppies, part […]

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