War in Afghanistan, what is it good for?
The war in Afghanistan is principally about opium. That’s what we’re fighting for.
From “Drugs, guns & democracy abroad” by Ed Felien, published in Southside Pride, November 2008:
Afghanistan has grown opium certainly as long as recorded history. Opium grew throughout the Middle East. We have evidence of opium poppies worked into the design of headdresses for Greek goddesses long before there was a written record of Greek culture. The British began to control the exporting of the drug early in the 19th century. The Opium War in China in the middle of the 19th century was a result of the Chinese government trying to forbid the British importation of opium from Afghanistan and the Middle East. The British won the war and the Chinese were forced to allow the British to sell opium. Early in the 20th century Sicilians and Italians found the opium through contacts in Beirut and had it manufactured into heroin in laboratories in Marseilles. The heroin was then smuggled into Europe and the United States. The traditional route for smugglers was over the mountains from Afghanistan, through Pakistan, then through Iran, Iraq, Jordan and to Istanbul and Beirut. The Golden Route traveled the entire length of Iran through the northern mountainous region to Iraq.
When the U. S. wanted to open a second front in World War II, the Office of Secret Services (OSS—the early precursor to the CIA) came up with a plan. They made a deal with the Mafia. In exchange for releasing Lucky Luciano from prison the Mafia promised to use their Sicilian contacts to aid the Allied invasion. This was the beginning of a long and mutually beneficial relationship.
The Mafia in America has since always been a ready and willing patriot in any CIA off the shelf adventure. They were willing to try to assassinate Fidel Castro with an exploding cigar, and during the Contra war, when Ollie North brought cocaine and marijuana in from Colombia, the Mafia was ready to pay cash for it and distribute it, so that North could use the cash to buy guns from Iran to give to the Contras. Ollie North knew these contacts from when he was working with the Hmong and-Meo tribes in Laos during the Vietnam War.
As part of the golden triangle, these tribes produced large amounts of opium that CIA planes would then transport to Marseilles, continuing the colonial tradition begun by French forces in Vietnam. George H. W. Bush was a part of all this because he was director of the CIA when the golden triangle was active during the Vietnam War. He was Vice President during the Contra War, and he was in charge of special operations in the basement of the White House to aid the Contras. And he was probably in charge of the operation to fund the Contras through the illegal importation of cocaine and marijuana from Colombia. So, the CIA and the Bush family have a long history of working with international drug dealers and the Mafia to import opium, heroin and other drugs into the U.S.
It is true that Hamid Karzai and George W. Bush are doing their best to preserve local customs in Afghanistan, if you mean by that control of the country by opium warlords. Certainly for most of the last 3,000 years opium warlords have ruled Afghanistan. But it is not true that opium has always grown in Afghanistan. In 2002 Secretary of State Colin Powell awarded the Taliban government $43 million for eliminating opium production in Afghanistan. A few months later the U.S. invaded that country with the military and logistic support of the Afghan opium warlords.
The warlords became part of the government, re-established their territories and resumed production. Before the U.S. invasion, Afghanistan’s opium production made up 0% of the world supply. After the invasion, opium production returned to its pre-Taliban level and once again made up over 90% of the world supply.
And from “They lie to us: Plan Afghanistan and the war on drugs” by Ed Felien in Southside Pride, November 2007:
Perhaps the most thorough, scholarly and readable analysis of opium production and the drug trade in Afghanistan is by Tamara Makarenko, “Crime, Terror and the Central Asian Drug Trade,” published in the Harvard Asia Quarterly, volume 6, number 3 (summer 2002). She points out that the Northern Alliance increased its opium production in just one of its areas, from 2,458 hectares in 2000 to 13,000 hectares in 2002. She concludes: “It is, therefore, of great concern that members of the Northern Alliance constitute a considerable portion of the interim government due to its responsibility for increasing opium poppy cultivation by over 200% on their territories in 2001. Northern Alliance members in the Interior Ministry are now tasked with counter-narcotics initiatives. Furthermore, high-level officials in Kandahar, Helmand and the Defense Ministry are also allegedly tied to the drug trade. This situation is further exacerbated by numerous recent allegations that soldiers from the interim government’s security forces have been guarding drug markets.”
If the U.S. military wanted to stop opium production and drug trafficking in Afghanistan, surely they could put an end to it overnight. Why hasn’t this happened? Makarenko says: “Despite an international military presence, it does not appear as though drug mafias have been deterred from their business. This predicament can be explained by considering five general points. First, despite intelligence indicating the locations of drug production laboratories and alleged stockpiles, the international coalition—led by the U.S.—did not destroy these targets. The failure to directly engage with drugs as an essential component of the ‘war against terrorism’ signaled to those engaged in the drug trade that the international community has no serious intentions of destroying their business.
Second, the involvement of high-ranking Afghani and Central Asian government and law enforcement officials in the trade ensures that drug dealers are able to participate in trade with relative impunity, although some risk will remain as governments make sporadic confiscations to appease Western observers. Third, given political sensitivity that Western troops are already facing on the ground, the international coalition does not appear willing to directly disrupt the drug trade with military force. Once again, this inactivity merely gives traders additional freedom of movement to continue with their illicit operations. Fourth, although the international coalition has officially voiced its concern over the drug trade, they have made a concerted effort to avoid direct involvement in counter-narcotics efforts. Attempting to appear as though they are simultaneously dedicated in the eventual destruction of the trade, however, the coalition forces have followed alternative actions. Supported by the United Kingdom and the U.S., the interim government has attempted to entice farmers into destroying their opium poppy crops in exchange for U.S. $350 per 2,500 square meters. However, this initiative has merely frustrated farmers from recovering their losses last year as a result of the Taliban’s opium ban because the monetary alternative does not even cover the expenses incurred by farmers to grow their crops. In most drug-producing regions of Afghanistan, farmers normally receive up to U.S. $3,500 per 2,500 square meters of opium poppy cultivated. Finally, because Afghan heroin does not supply the U.S. market, it is difficult for the U.S. government to commit its military forces to counter-narcotics operations. Considering that the U.S. has had a difficult historical record with counter-narcotics initiatives in Latin America, it is also unlikely that similar efforts could work in Afghanistan.”
From this analysis it is clear that U.S. efforts are directed against small farmers and not against the large growers. The coalition forces have to be careful in their policy of protecting large growers and restraining small growers because if they antagonize the small farmers too much they could drive them into the arms of the Taliban. Recent fighting in Helmand province suggests that the Taliban may be getting enough support from the small farmers to encourage them to begin an offensive against coalition forces and the Northern Alliance.
I disagree with two points in Marenko’s analysis. First, she seems to think the U.S. is unaware of the implications of its policies. I would argue the U.S. State Department, the U.S. military and the CIA know exactly what is happening. Plan Afghanistan has the same objective as Plan Colombia: to turn the country into a narco-terrorist state ruled by the local drug mafia and dependent on U.S. military aid. Second, she believes Afghan heroin does not reach the U.S. market.
Afghanistan has grown opium poppies for probably 3,000 years. The British forced Afghan opium on the Chinese in their successful Opium War in the 19th century, and it is true that Afghan opium has been and still is the principal source of opium and heroin for Europe. But it is also extremely probable that much of that opium also finds its way to European Mafias with American connections. Also, since the CIA is heavily involved in organizing the Afghan government and filling key ministerial positions with its drug-lord friends, it seems probable that the CIA would connect the Afghan Mafia to its longtime friends in the Sicilian and American Mafia. It is criminal negligence on the part of the U.S. government and the media to not present the facts of the Afghan opium production and U.S. complicity to the American public. Brave U.S. soldiers believe they are being sent to Afghanistan to defend freedom when, in reality, they are being used to protect gangsters and drug dealers.
This is a crime that cries out for justice.