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Afghanistan: International Prohibitionists Reject Proposal; Reporters Remain Stupid

Earlier this week, I mentioned the Senlis Council’s well-researched and eminently commonsense proposal to license opium production in Afghanistan for medical needs and turn the black-market problem into a legal crop that would support the farmers while reducing the power of the criminal black-market.
So far, there’s been very little response to the actual proposal, although this Australian article noted how quickly international prohibitionists rejected the idea without even adressing its merits.

Afghanistan’s anti-drugs establishment is showing a united front against the Senlis Council’s proposal. Minister of Counter Narcotics Habibullah Qaderi reportedly dismissed the plan as unworkable two months ago – before its feasibility study was even released. And the Afghanistan branch of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in September branded the council’s approach as simplistic, saying its message would be “disruptive and confusing”.

Right. And your message to your farmers is…?
Part of the Senlis proposal was based on a report from the International Narcotics Control Board…

In its 2004 annual report, the International Narcotics Control Board stated its alarm at the low consumption of painkillers in developing countries. In 2003, six countries used 79 per cent of the world’s morphine. Developing countries, which account for 80 per cent of the world’s population, consumed only 6 per cent.

The board’s president, Professor Hamid Ghodse, raised the issue in May at the 58th session of the World Health Assembly, describing it as a “chronic shortage”.

The Senlis Council proposed increasing supply to lower the cost and make it more available in developing countries. But after their report, the Interntaional Narcotics Control Board changed its tune and claimed there was actually a surplus, and that the lack of morphine availability in developing countries was a question of their countries being unwilling to spend the money, not the high price(!)
It’s almost comical watching these prohibitionists work. One of the arguments against the proposal (this was used by the spokesperson for the INCB) was that increasing the legal supply would increase the risk of diversion of opiates to the black market! Right. We don’t dare divert crops from the black market to the legitimate market because some of that might end up back in the black market!
“bullet” How’s the war going?
In the meantime, some articles have been touting a degree of success in Afghanistan as the number of acres planted with poppies has been reduced (although yield has increased). However, more balanced articles (like this one in the NY Times) report something different.

The director of the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, Antonio Maria Costa, said that despite the advances “the future doesn’t look so good.”

“The threat is definitely there that the country will become a narco state,” he said in an interview. “We need a stronger commitment to eradication and stronger support for farmers so that not only are they won over to the reality that law enforcement works, but that the alternative for them is not humanitarian disaster but jobs and income.”

According to the report, most of the profits go to a very few traffickers, warlords and militia leaders rather than to the impoverished farmers, who are often heavily in debt to the warlords.

Of course, nobody has any good alternatives for the farmers (except the Senlis Council, whose proposals get rejected out of hand). And the amount of development assistance available really only makes temporary differences…

He said, though, that cultivation went down only in those few areas where development assistance was available, and he feared the eradication effort was faltering. “There is a risk that opium cultivation will not decline further,” he said.

What was the problem with the Senlis proposal again?
“bullet” Stupid Reporters.
In a related story, a new UN survey came out regarding drug use in Afghanistan, and the press has been tripping over itself in its eagerness to appear illiterate.
Note this version from Canada.com:
The opening line:

KABUL (AP) – Almost a million Afghans use illegal drugs, the United Nations said Thursday …

The headline:

Afghanistan has almost a million drug abusers, UN survey says

Which is it? Users or Abusers? Do you need a dictionary?
Now take a look at the Reuters report (with information supplied by the United Nations Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)):

Results of Afghanistan’s first nationwide survey on drug use, released on Thursday, show high levels of abuse throughout the post-conflict country [emphasis added]

“Use” or “Abuse,” folks? Make up your mind.

The survey, conducted by the ministries of counter narcotics and public health over 2005, revealed that there were at least 920,000 drug users in Afghanistan, including about 150,000 who take opium, 50,000 using heroin and 520,000 taking hashish. […]

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) also expressed concern about the number of regular drug users in the country. “The survey shows a rather high number of drug addicts in a population of around 24 million,” Doris Buddenberg, UNODC representative in Afghanistan, said.

Oh, now we’re talking about addicts? Well, that was the UNODC spokesman talking. How is the reporter covering it?

One of the current problems is the lack of medical facilities for the treatment of drug users. There is only one hospital in the capital with facilities to treat addicts. [emphasis added]

Treatment of drug users??? What would that entail?
Drug User = Drug Abuser = Drug Addict. What kind of crap reporting is this?
“bullet” Prohibitionists adjust goal line
Over the years, prohibitionists have always wanted to hoodwink people into believing that prohibition actually works, so they have come up with some goal of “winning the war” by a certain year. Weren’t we supposed to be drug free America by 1994 or something? We’ve had several of those “goals” that we’ve completely passed. The truth is that prohibition doesn’t work, so any goal set by them is impossible to acheive.
But perhaps they’re getting smarter and moving the goalpost back. A counter-narcotics working group recently had a meeting in Germany…

The three-day conference was sponsored by the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies and the U.S. Central Command, and included more than 70 representatives from Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the U.S. State Department, the Germany Ministry of Foreign Affairs, NATO, the Drug Enforcement Agency and other agencies.

So were are the goal posts now?

“We are taking our first step on what I believe will be a very long road. I talk to people ( involved in counter-narcotics ) and they tell me counter-narcotics is a 50-year solution,” said Air Vice Marshall Michael Heath, Royal Air Force, Senior British Military Advisor to U.S. Central Command and Special Advisor to Commander on Counter-Narcotics.

Drug-free in Afghanistan by 2055. I can’t wait.

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