Richard Holbrooke, former ambassador to the United Nations, continues his strong criticism of the Bush Administration’s approach to dealing with Afghanistan’s opium problem:
“I’m a spray man myself,” President Bush told government leaders and American counter-narcotics officials during his 2006 trip to Afghanistan. He said it again when President Hamid Karzai visited Camp David in August. Bush meant, of course, that he favors aerial eradication of poppy fields in Afghanistan, which supplies over 90 percent of the world’s heroin. His remarks — which, despite their flippant nature, were definitely not meant as a joke — are part of the story behind the spectacularly unsuccessful U.S. counter-narcotics program in Afghanistan. Karzai and much of the international community in Kabul have warned Bush that aerial spraying would create a backlash against the government and the Americans, and serve as a recruitment device for the Taliban while doing nothing to reduce the drug trade. This is no side issue: If the program continues to fail, success in Afghanistan will be impossible.
The opium issue in Afghanistan has often been treated as a side issue, and Holbrooke deserves credit for strongly challenging that perspective. The way we’re dealing with the opium production is as central to the difficulties we’re having as anything else commonly cited for why we’re losing ground to the Taliban (targeting civilians in airstrikes, being distracted by the Iraq occupation).
Fortunately, Bush has not been able to convince other nations or Karzai that aerial spraying should be conducted, although he is vigorously supported by the American ambassador, William Wood, who was an enthusiastic proponent of aerial spraying in his previous assignment, in Colombia. Wood, often called “Chemical Bill” in Kabul, has even threatened senior Afghan officials with cuts in reconstruction funds if his policies are not carried out, according to two sources.
Aerial spraying in Colombia (under the plan initiated by Bill Clinton in 2000 and continued by the Bush Administration) has been a complete disaster. It has failed to achieve any of its intended objectives and has caused a significant amount of damage to America’s reputation in that region because aerial spraying has a number of additional consequences that affect far more than just those who grow the prohibited crops. In Afghanistan, unleashing a similar disaster would strengthen the Taliban at an even greater rate than what’s happening today.
The current approach of manual eradication, favored by the British and by the Karzai government, is only slightly less counterproductive. The Taliban provide security for the opium traffickers against the government’s eradication teams for a fee (often paid with weapons). In other words, it’s not the profits from the opium trade by itself that enrich the Taliban. It’s the need for protection from the government’s eradication teams that enriches them. If Chemical Bill and the Spray Man get their way, the need for protection will increase and the Taliban will get paid by the traffickers to shoot down low-flying aircraft (aerial eradication of crops has to be done from a very low altitude). It simply has no chance of working in such a poor security environment.
In a nation where roughly 50 percent of the national economy comes from the opium industry, there’s simply no way to uproot it, either by going after the farmers, the traffickers, or the high-ranking government officials who profit from it (including Hamid Karzai’s brother). As much as it may strike people as being irresponsible, simply doing nothing about the opium farming would actually be better than what we do now. Holbrooke doesn’t hold back in his assessment:
But even without aerial eradication, the program, which costs around $1 billion a year, may be the single most ineffective program in the history of American foreign policy. It’s not just a waste of money. It actually strengthens the Taliban and al-Qaeda, as well as criminal elements within Afghanistan.
According to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, the area under opium cultivation increased to 193,000 hectares in 2007 from 165,000 in 2006. The harvest also grew, to 8,200 tons from 6,100. Could any program be more unsuccessful?
Well, the one favored by Chemical Bill and the Spray Man would be. But otherwise, thank god we still have people like Holbrooke who are speaking up about this.
Proud To Be An Ass spews:
Perhaps we would be better off if the US bought up the entire crop at “well above market” and gave it away free to users. Considering the savings (including domestically re our failed ‘war on (black people) drugs”, we’d probably spend less overall.
coug fan schniedenfrudde-rock spews:
Drugs? See today’s paper–big black eye, EWEdub.
Ha, I don’t doubt it.
I assume you mean this:
When I was at the University of Michigan, it was well known that the athletes (in the major sports, that is) did not live by the same rules as everyone else.
Roger Rabbit spews:
Are These People Republicans?
Hey, just askin’ …
“Jurors’ name-calling prompts new trial
“By Karen Dorn Steele
“A Spokane County Superior Court judge has ordered a new trial in a medical malpractice case where a Spokane attorney of Japanese descent was repeatedly referred to as ‘Mr. Kamikaze’ and other racially charged names during jury deliberations.
“Judge Robert D. Austin said … he could not be confident the jury verdict that went against Kamitomo’s client … was not a result of juror misconduct. … The trial verdict was read on Dec. 7 — the 66th anniversary of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.
“According to … two jurors who approached Kamitomo after the verdict, five other jurors — three women and two men — mocked Kamitomo during their closed-door proceedings. They called him names …. One juror also said that because the verdict was going to be read on Pearl Harbor day, the remarks made about Kamitomo were ‘almost appropriate’ ….
Kamitomo grew up in southern Alberta and graduated from Gonzaga Law School in 1989. … His father, Doug Kamitomo, was 8 when his family was seized in Vancouver, B.C., and relocated to a Canadian internment camp after the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor.”
Quoted under fair use; for complete story and/or copyright info see http://seattletimes.nwsource.c.....ors27.html
Roger Rabbit Commentary: This seems like a good time to remind our patriotic friends in Spokane that the most highly decorated combat unit in American history was the 442nd Regimental Combat Team made up of Nisei volunteers (many of whom enlisted from relocation camps) who fought the Nazis’ toughest troops in Italy, France, and Germany.
The 442nd’s 3,800 volunteers, who became known as “the Purple Heart battalion,” won over 18,000 combat awards, including 7 Presidential Unit Citations, 21 Medals of Honor, 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, 560 Silver Stars,
4,000 Bronze Stars, and 9,486 Purple Hearts (about 2.5 Purple Hearts for every member of the battalion).
when were you at UM?
The most important aspect of the UW story is not that athletes get away with (almost) murder. Shocker!
Its the direct involvement of Norm Maleng and Dan Satterberg in covering up for the UW and refusing to charge these athletes who were an obvious threat to public safety.
GEE ALL THOSE PEOPLE LOCKED UP BY A DEMOCRATIC PRES.WHO OF THOUGHT
“klake says: Your comment is awaiting moderation. ”
WOW something new at HA it’s nice to be love. Moderation n. 1 a moderating 2 avoidance of extremes 3 calmness.
Now I’m really impressed the far left censoring the moderate conservative on subject matter. So Lee you seem to think Roger Rabbit doesn’t need moderation because of his compulsive sexual behavior. Maybe you might check out the symptoms on bulling he might fit that mental problem.
Now it’s wouldn’t be appropriate for anyone to post on this web site while under the influence of drugs. By the way does your friends still do LSD?
Please see a therapist, Ken.
Proud to be an Ass spews:
@7: Couldn’t agree more.
@4: Now those men are real example of American patriotism. They put their butts on the line even as their families were being jailed without charge in prison camps.
@1: Don’t even need to give it away, as there is lots of medical need for opiate painkillers. Sometimes (as with the case of aspirin) the old folk remedies remain the best. There is a market with pharmas big and little; even now not all opiate painkillers are designer derivatives like oxy-contin, some are still old-fashioned poppy extracts, like codeine. I still don’t think anything beats codeine as a cough suppressant.
Please see a therapist, Ken.
01/27/2008 at 4:17 pm
Nice try maybe you should make an appointment for yourself, please include the rabbit that drinks with you on Tuesday nights. Remember to take your meds’ you been running AC/DC lately. Love the moderate Democrat you like to censor.
Tom Foss spews:
@4- Got me musing tonight. I know the Kamitomo family, and Mark Kamitomo is one of the classiest and smartest people you will ever meet- also humble, decent, generous, and never, ever pulls the race card even when its warranted. And if anyone has the right, its the families whose lives were ripped asunder by our “enlightened” policies towards Japanese- Americans in WW II. Also, I am familiar with this case and the evidence of fault by the doctor was overwhelming and practically admitted. Yet, I talked with Mark, and I can say, all Mark wants is justice for his client and the family, and cares nothing about what happened to him. He is so much bigger than all this. And us “enlightened” King Co. folks should not act like it can’t happen here.
This does remind me of something. I am not an Obama supporter (right now) but am amazed and appalled that the attacks on his as a Muslim could actually be regularly repeated in MSM, like Brian Williams did. Blatant lies, and yet they get repeated. If I said Mitt Romney has multiple wives, or Mike Huckabee is a Ku klukker, would that get repeated? Somehow, i doubt it. Racism is subtle but real, and it still infects our politics. Reaganism was built on it.
So, ask yourself a more important question, as Leonard Pitts pointed out. Why should it even matter if he was a Muslim? Obama is a bright articulate light in our landscape, regardless of his faith. So, it shouldn’t matter one wit, and yet it does. That is how far we have fallen.
I like to hope and work for justice. But some days, it seems a long ways away.
RR at 4: I used to work with a gentlman of Japanese descent (2nd generation). I asked him what he did during the war. He said he tried to volunteer twice, but “flunked the eye test” (i.e., they were too slanted). I asked if his family was sent to the internment camps. He replied: “No, we were already in Spokane. They couldn’t think of anyplace worse to send us to”.
Back on topic (i.e., the “drug war”).
Has anybody noticed that the standard solution to the drug problem – trying to interdict supply – is completely contrary to capitalist theory? According to Adam Smith, if the only thing the government intereferes with is supply, the only effect it will have is to raise the prices, which will encourage others to make even more efforts to fill the void. It’s a losing battle – or, to use a more appropriate analogy, it’s like trying to battle the tide with a teaspoon.
Until around 1970, the preferred method of battling the drug problem was to arrest the user, using “possession of a controlled substance” laws. But around that time, the emphasis changed, to “going after the dealer”. After a while that changed again, with the dealers being given immunity in exchange for information in order to “go after the importer”.
But why did it change? Simple. Nobody cared much when the blacks, hispanics, and “white trash” were put in jail, sometimes for long terms, for simple possession. But when white teenagers from the wealthy and upper-middle-class homes started getting caught, there was a lot of pressure on the system to find a loophole for them. Nixon was happy to oblige, and the “war on drugs” changed its focus, leaving the children of the priviledged alone. As long as you could afford to go through a private treatment program, you would get a deferred sentence, or the charge would just be dropped. If you couldn’t afford a private treatment program, you woul go to jail until there was room at a public treatment facility, sometime in the next few decades (due to underfunding), or until your sentence was up, whichever came first.
The cocaine epidemic of the 1980’s and early 1990’s created a call for action, but again there was a two-tiered system. If you could afford cocaine powder, you got a much lighter sentence than the mandatory minimums imposed for crack cocaine (more prevelent in use among blacks than whites).
So, we have demand on the U.S. streets and VIP party clubs pretty much untouched as long as it doesn’t unduly inconvenience the power structure. Overseas, we have peasants in S. America or Afganistan making only a hundred bucks or so per year in legal farming, but able to make a couple of thousand bucks farming opium poppies in Afganistan or smuggling cocaine into the U.S. as a drug mule.
Instead of putting the Paris Hiltons or the sons or daughters of CEOs or doctors or lawyers in jail for long stretches for drug possession, or fully funding treatment programs for all who need it, we instead spend even more money trying destroy the incomes of those poor farmers in Afganistan or S. America, sometimes ruining the land for legal farming as well. And we act as though the drug problem in our country is their fault, not ours. We are willing to see our drug problems destroy their countries, rather than curb our own petty indulgences, or pay to clean up the problem in our own backyard.
Is it any wonder that they hate us?
Fay Driscoll spews:
And exactly which global, chemical-spray-producing company is profiting from this wonderful scheme?
Could it be none other than….let me guess…the one that underwrites “This Week with G.S.” (a show I usually watch, if I can stand it…). Ugh.
Good, ol’, GWB, going about the globe, championing yet another compromised corporate conglomerate and failed, disgraceful strategy.