In yesterday’s LA Times
Deferring to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the Bush administration has backed off its plans to use aerial spraying to destroy Afghanistan’s poppy crop, at least for the time being, administration officials and lawmakers said.
Instead, the United States will help develop alternative livelihoods for poor farmers, build up the police and counter-narcotics forces and pay teams of Afghans to cut and burn poppy fields by hand this spring to demonstrate that opium production will be a risky business in the new Afghanistan.
Yeah, it’s that pesky little problem of how do you win the hearts and minds of the people when you bomb their crops with toxic chemicals, or burn their fields and drive them into abject poverty? If only there was some other solution?
“Everybody supports an aggressive program on drugs including manual eradication, interdiction and alternative livelihoods,” said a congressional source who asked to remain anonymous.
Well I don’t. And I don’t need to remain anonymous.
You’ve got a profitable crop that just needs to be made legitimate so that the criminals don’t profit from it. And the only solution that comes to mind is spending huge amounts of our taxpayer dollars to destroy it, and then more huge amounts of our taxpayer dollars to provide food since their livelihood has been destroyed.
Oh, and we actually do buy lots of Turkey’s poppy crop for legitimate medical purposes. So why can’t we buy it from Afghanistan instead?
Update: The Senlis Council is advising President Karzai to explore new policy initiatives and urges the International Narcotics Control Board to give special license to Afghanistan for opium production for morphine.
“The medical use of heroin, would take a very large part of the market out of the hands of war lords and drug traffickers–the people who are threatening the newly formed democracy in Afghanistan,” said Reinert. “A pilot project for heroin prescription is being launched at the moment in Canada. More initiatives like this are needed.”
Colombian Strategy Failed: The Council said that recent experiences in Colombia, where enormous sums of money have been put into military action to little effect should not be repeated in Afghanistan, saying that this money could be spent on the organization and implementation of schemes like those in Canada for heroin prescription.
“We have seen in Colombia that even military power is not enough to defeat the force of the extremely lucrative illegal drugs economy,” said Reinert. “We must learn from the mistakes made in Colombia and under no circumstances repeat them. For the moment, the same policies that failed in Colombia are being proposed by the United States. It has not worked in Colombia, where drugs represent 2.5% of the GDP, so why would it work in Afghanistan, where they represent 60%?”
Read the whole thing.