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Losing the War on Drugs again in Afghanistan

Posted By Uncle Jimbo • [October 09, 2007]

I am a veteran of a war that we still fight although we lost it as soon as we began. It has been a fools errand that has cost us trillions of dollars and put us on the wrong side of a simple equation, supply v. demand. Junkies demand drugs and we decided that rather than deal with that fact, we would destroy all the drugs on the planet. There is some solid thinking for you. Well just like Paraquat spraying wiped out weed in the 70s and 80s, and the devils brew of chemicals we have sprayed all over a number of Andean nations wiped out cocaine, now the same collection of strategerists are  going to pacify Afghanistan by, you guessed it aerial spraying the poppies.

KABUL, Afghanistan, Oct. 7 — After the biggest opium harvest in Afghanistan’s history, American officials have renewed efforts to persuade the government here to begin spraying herbicide on opium poppies, and they have found some supporters within President Hamid Karzai’s administration, officials of both countries said.

Just for the record, we lost the War on Drugs and now in an eerily similar naming problem we fight a War on Terror. In the first case the drugs aren't the problem it's the damn junkies, they really, really want the drugs. My best friend died after a long love/hate relationship with pain pills and I saw just how far humans will go to feed an addiction. But instead of facing the difficult reality that our friends and family are the real problem we declare war on the substances themselves. as if somehow we could rid the planet of any substances people would choose to abuse. We can't, and our efforts have done huge and lasting damage to our relations with far too many countries and the millions of poor people who always catch the brunt. We would buy the cooperation of the local government with satchels full of drug war money and then we could salve our consciences by spraying and burning the nasty stuff that was corrupting our kids. My saddest realization was that if we had simply taken the billions we have wasted with our global interdiction efforts, we could have bought each junkie 24/7 bodyguard coverage. Whenever they would reach for the pipe, or the needle they would catch a crack to the skull. Simple  yet brilliant.

This same logic leads us to hold a war on terror rather than the radical Islamists themselves. But now these two semantically-challenged endeavors collide as we take failed tactics from a war we lost badly and use them to try and lose the current one. The reasons to stop this insane policy are many, but can't we just start out with the fact that it doesn't even work for the bad idea it is supposed to enact. We never stop the growing of drug crops, we simply make large numbers of poor farmers poorer and the bad guys richer.  The reason given to justify this is that some of the proceeds from the drug trade support the Taliban. No kidding. Are we incapable of sublimating our Puritanical revulsion to drugs long enough to maybe buy the crop and make as much medicine as we need? We can burn the rest if that makes it any better, but the second we spray their lifeblood, they will donate their actual blood to the Taliban and AQ.

We have plenty enough challenges in Afghanistan without turning a large chunk of the populace against us. Our long and storied record of failing to make wise choices about drug policy cannot be allowed to wreck our efforts in the actual fight of our times. Maybe there is a perverse logic in this and when we lose and the Caliphate is restored, the Islamists will certainly stop opium production and we will have won, right? Let's not rest our hopes on that and we should start by not alienating potential allies in the forlorn quest to rid the planet of drugs.


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