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Posts tagged Opium

Friday Lazy Linking

  • Winter Soldier: Just Another Tuesday. From Ryan Endicott, formerly a United States government Marine stationed in Iraq.

    Via Clay Claibourne, L.A. I.M.C. (2009-05-13): Winter Soldier Southwest on YouTube #1

  • The regulatory State versus freed markets and the human future: A quote from Anne Robert Jacques Turgot, via B.K. Marcus at Mises Economics Blog:

    To expect the government to prevent such fraud from ever occurring would be like wanting it to provide cushions for all the children who might fall. To assume it to be possible to prevent successfully, by regulation, all possible malpractices of this kind, is to sacrifice to a chimerical perfection the whole progress of industry; it is to restrict the imagination of artificers to the narrow limits of the familiar; it is to forbid them all new experiments; it is to renounce even the hope of competing with the foreigners in the making of the new products which they invent daily, since, as they do not conform to our regulations, our workmen cannot imitate these articles without first having obtained permission from the government, that is to say, often after the foreign factories, having profited by the first eagerness of the consumer for this novelty, have already replaced it with something else. … Thus, with obvious injustice, commerce, and consequently the nation, are charged with a heavy burden to save a few idle people the trouble of instructing themselves or of making enquiries to avoid being cheated. To suppose all consumers to be dupes, and all merchants and manufacturers to be cheats, has the effect of authorizing them to be so, and of degrading all the working members of the community.

    –Turgot, Éloge de Gournay (1759), translated by P.D. Groenewegen




  • On dialectical jujitsu: Roderick Long, Austro-Athenian Empire (2009-05-19): How to annoy a conservative

  • Ownership failures, not market failures Chris Dillow, Stumbling and Mumbling (2009-05-01): Markets, the poor & the left. Dillow makes two really important distinctions: one of them the familiar left-libertarian distinction between freed markets, on the one hand, and actually-existing corporate capitalism, on the other; the other a less familiar, but very important, distinction between market processes and patterns of ownership. Quote: In many ways, what look like ways in which markets fail the poor are in fact merely ways in which a lack of assets fail the poor. Exactly; and the many cases where there are not really market failures, but rather ownership failures, have everything to do with feudal, mercantile, neoliberal, and other politically-driven seizures and reallocations of poor people’s land, livelihoods, and possessions — and nothing to do with genuine market exchange.




Refuge of Oppression #5: Twofer Tuesday edition

Here’s two pieces of correspondence that arrived within three hours of each other, on this past Tuesday. The first comes to us from Stasi [sic!] in reply to GT 2008-01-28: The tall poppies, part 3, my recent article on the spread of opium poppies as a cash crop for impoverished farmers in southern Iraq:

From: stasi
To: Rad Geek
Date: Tue, 12 Feb 2008 1:45 PM
Subject: You Must be High: Tall Poppies, III

How can you even think that raising opium plants is a suitable way of making money to raise your family out of poverty. The only to benefit from drug trade are the high powered, high financed drug cartels.

Additionally, drug use (opium, heroin, etc) has been proven to have detrimental effects on individuals, families, and SOCIETIES. Let’s ALL start raising drug inducing plants to make money.

You MUST be high to think in such terms.

Well, I’m convinced.

Remember, impoverished farmers who grow opium poppies may think that growing a lucrative cash-crop and trading pain-killers to willing customers benefits them more than would starving themselves to grow unprofitable crops that meet the approval of U.S. narcs. But whatever they may think, the Stasi knows that the only people to benefit from the drug trade are high powered, high financed drug cartels. How foolish of Iraqi farmers to think that the ability to provide for your family, rather than starving for the sake of U.S. government narco-diplomacy, would be a benefit worth counting. The Stasi certainly knows what their families want and need better than they do.

Later in the afternoon, I received this from the starr, in reply to one of my posts on the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in which over 200,000 Japanese civilians (about a third of the population of Nagasaki, and more than half of the population of Hiroshima) were burned alive, crushed to death, or otherwise killed, in a deliberate use of terror-bombing on heavily-populated city centers intended to force the unconditional surrender of the Japanese government. Apparently my objection to this deliberate act of nuclear terrorism — the first and the only two cases in the history of the world — is the result of historical ignorance.

From: the starr
To: Rad Geek
Date: Tue, 12 Feb 2008, 4:23 PM
Subject: Atomic Bomb

I read your article on the Atomic Bomb, and I must say, you don’t understand World War II at all. The use of the bomb was ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY. The Japanese were a brutal and evil empire and it had to be stopped. They slaughtered countless innocent people, not to mention Pearl Harbor. We urged them to surrender, but they wouldn’t. And they wouldn’t stop killing. The war would have continued for who knows how long and thousands upon thousands of more people would have died. The bomb was our only choice. You said that it killed thousands of innocent people. That’s true. But were the Japanese not doing the same? Did they not slaughter thousands of innocent people by invading other countries, including the completely un-called for attack on Pearl Harbor? There is no morality in warfare. It is foolish to try and equate them. You may want to do a little more research before you criticize the government’s carefully calculated decision.

If only I had understood World War II better before I wrote that post. I would have seen that, even though the Japanese military had already long been stopped from any further expansion, and indeed broken, long before August 1945, absolute geopolitical triumph over the Japanese government, and the territorial conquest of Japan, was far more important than the irreplaceable lives of 200,000 or more innocent non-combatants. Indeed, it was important enough to justify or excuse deliberately targeting those 200,000 or more innocent non-combatants in order to force somebody else (the dictatorial clique tyrannizing Japan) to make the necessary political concessions. And little did I know that the Japanese were all invading other countries and killing thousands of innocent people and refusing to surrender. I had foolishly thought that it was a small and unaccountable minority of the population of Japan who were extorting and tyrannizing the rest through the armed power of a military dictatorship. But since more research would have revealed that those 200,000 dead civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki (not to mention the hundreds of thousands of dead civilians from the over 100 Japanese cities that the U.S. Army attacked with low-altitude firebombing and conventional high explosives) weren’t actually non-combatants after all, but were all running around with The Japanese as a whole, invading other countries and killing thousands of innocent people, well, I guess that’s that.

Normally, I would also have thought that if you have a true statement of the form There’s no morality in that, that’s as good a reason as you could possibly find to draw the conclusion that you have an unconditional moral obligation to forswear ever engaging in that. This is another sure sign of my folly, ignorance or vice. One man’s reductio and all that; no doubt had I carefully calculated like the Masters of War in the U.S. government, when the antecedent of that is War, it would become clear that what you actually have is a military obligation to sometimes forswear engaging in morality.

My bad.

Further reading:

The tall poppies, part 3: prosperity threatens to spread into southern Iraq

Third verse, same as the first.

Let’s say that you are trying to rebuild a once-prosperous country racked by years of tyranny, desperate poverty and near-constant violence. Corruption, terrorism, and warlordism are daily sources of terror. Most of the country is completely dependent on foreign aid. Grinding poverty is the norm all throughout the countryside, and farmers cannot support themselves on their usual crops. But there is one glimmer of hope: lucrative new opportunities to grow a traditional cash crop, which promises to lift many small farmers, currently on the edge of penury or starvation, into a much more comfortable standard of living. How should you react?

Well, according to the United States government, the best thing to do is to portray this lucrative cash crop as a fundamental menace to civil society, to shoot the farmers who grow it, and to poison or burn the fields they grow it in. We know this because they already did it in Afghanistan, in spite of the obviously hurtful consequences for Afghan farmers. Meanwhile, in southern Iraq, the same thing is likely to happen again soon:

The cultivation of opium poppies whose product is turned into heroin is spreading rapidly across Iraq as farmers find they can no longer make a living through growing traditional crops.

Afghan with experience in planting poppies have been helping farmers switch to producing opium in fertile parts of Diyala province, once famous for its oranges and pomegranates, north-east of Baghdad.

At a heavily guarded farm near the town of Buhriz, south of the provincial capital Baquba, poppies are grown between the orange trees in order to hide them, according to a local source.

The shift by Iraqi farmers to producing opium is a very recent development. The first poppy fields, funded by drug smugglers who previously supplied Saudi Arabia and the Gulf with heroin from Afghanistan, were close to the city of Diwaniyah in southern Iraq. The growing of poppies has now spread to Diyala, which is one of the places in Iraq where al-Qa’ida is still resisting US and Iraqi government forces. It is also deeply divided between Sunni, Shia and Kurd and the extreme violence means that local security men have little time to deal with the drugs trade. The speed with which farmers are turning to poppies is confirmed by the Iraqi news agency al-Malaf Press, which says that opium is now being produced around the towns of Khalis, Sa’adiya, Dain’ya and south of Baladruz, pointing out that these are all areas where al-Qa’ida is strong.

The agency cites a local agricultural engineer identified as M S al-Azawi as saying that local farmers got no support from the government and could not compete with cheap imports of fruit and vegetables. The price of fertilizer and fuel has also risen sharply. Mr Azawi says: The cultivation of opium is the likely solution [to these problems].

Initial planting in fertile land west and south of Diwaniya around the towns of Ash Shamiyah, al-Ghammas and Shinafiyah were said to have faced problems because of the extreme heat and humidity. Al-Malaf Press says that it has learnt that the experiments with opium poppy-growing in Diyala have been successful.

Although opium has not been grown in many of these areas in Iraq in recent history, some of the earliest written references to opium come from ancient Iraq.

It was known to the ancient Sumerians as early as 3400BC as the Hul Gil or joy plant and there are mentions of it on clay tablets found in excavations at the city of Nippur just east of Diwaniyah.

— Patrick Cockburn, CounterPunch (2008-01-24): http://www.counterpunch.org/patrick01242008.html

Cockburn, buying into the basic mythology of the United States government’s warped narco-diplomacy, bizarrely describes this rare chance for Iraqi farmers to lift themselves out of poverty with a traditional Mesopotamian crop, now extremely lucrative, as a menacing development, and immediately links it with warlordism and terrorism, rather than with the small farmers who are now able to get by on their new source of income. In fact, as far as I can tell, the upshot of the story is, in some parts of Iraq, because the government’s prohibitionist apparatus has more or less entirely broken down, many currently impoverished farmers are now menaced by the prospect of once again being able to make enough money to support themselves, and the only genuine dangers involved anywhere are the dangers that directly or indirectly result from the bullheaded commitment of the United States government and its client government in Iraq to destroying the opium farmers’ chance at a viable new source of income.

Just as it happened in Afghanistan, what will happen from here in Iraq is that U.S. officials will scream their heads off about the horrible menace of pain-killers being sold to willing customers, and then funnel money and military resources to the Iraqi government in order to launch chemical and paramilitary eradication programs–the primary effects of which will be to dramatically reinforce the power of terrorists and local warlords over the opium trade, and meanwhile to destroy the livelihoods of desperately poor farmers. Eradication, after all, forces illegal opium farmers to deal with whoever has the political juice necessary to do the smuggling, and in southern Iraq that mainly means gangsters, militia warlords, and influential jihadis. The farmers, on the other hand, will be forced to choose between living with the constant danger of having their lives and livelihoods ruined by government eradicators, or else going back to more-or-less guaranteed penury while they try to grow more of the same old unprofitable crops that they failed to make any money from before.

Meanwhile, this violent campaign on behalf of political corruption and mass starvation will be passed off by sanctimonious U.S. and U.N. narco-bureaucrats as a make-or-break struggle for democracy and freedom in Iraq, which, among those who have lost themselves in the twisted labyrinth of statist policy goals, have somehow become immediately and unquestioningly equated with adopting a particular set of policy outcomes in support of the United States government’s hyper-aggressive commitment to domestic drug prohibitionism.

This is statist nation-building on the march — with warlordism and grinding poverty dragging the country down into hell, the U.S., U.N., and U.K. gear up to enforce 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. The United States government’s rabid pursuit of international narcotics prohibition, no matter what the predictable human consequences of their belligerence, reflects an absolutely deranged set of priorities.

Further reading:

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