Thursday, September 23, 2004

Afghanistan, America and Poppies

When the USA invaded Afghanistan in 2001 there were virtualy no poppies growing. Under the Taliban, poppy growing had been outlawed and was all but eliminated. Opium supplies all over the world were drying up. (Before the Taliban took over, approximately 75% of all opium in the world was derived from poppies grown in that nation.) Afghan farmers who had once lived comfortably off their poppy crops had started growing other crops, like wheat, instead. Unfortunately, wheat is far less profitable than poppies. The farmers were making quite a bit less than they had and were reportedly quite unhappy with this change.

So here we are , three years after the invasion, and guess what? Poppies are again the main cash crop of Afghanistan. As I understand it, today, opium poppies account for over 50% of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product (GNP).

The question in my mind is - why has this happened. Doesn’t the US have a war on drugs on the go? Don’t drugs pose one of the main social problems in America? Isn’t every president and presidential wanna-be vehemently against drugs?

As I understand it, there are currently around 1.2 million Americans in prison as a result of being convicted on drug charges. Many of them are from America's inner cities. I have read that the average sentence for a first time, non-violent drug offender in America is longer than the average sentence for rape, child molestation, bank robbery or manslaughter.

So what about Afghanistan? Why did America take control of a nation, that had formerly produced a huge amount of drugs but had cleaned up its act, and then promptly allow them to resume production of the plant that produces one of the most harmful narcotics in the world?

Lets look at the facts. In Afghanistan, a fundamentalist government had outlawed the cultivation of poppies. Poppies are necessary for the production of opium and heroin. Poppies have no other practical use. Afghan poppies represented 75% of the world's supply. Under the Taliban, growth of poppies was outlawed and supplies of opium around the world dwindled to almost nothing. America takes control of Afghanistan. Within a few years poppy production is restored. Today it is the main cash crop in Afghanistan and opium is produced and exported all around the world.

I will not venture to provide a conclusion to this piece. I will leave that up to you.


Blogger Mitch said...

"I will not venture to provide a conclusion to this piece. I will leave that up to you."

Coward! Say it! Go on! "George W has a vested interest in heroin distribution."

4:42 PM  

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