Thursday, December 13, 2007

The New Opium Wars

The French daily, Le Monde, reports today on the narco-State of Afghanistan. The most significant observation reported is that farmers in Afghanistan produce 93% of the world's supply of opium. This amounts to a stunning 8,200 tons!

Fighting hard and giving their lives to support the world's heroin addicts are the military forces of Europe, Australia, and the United States. This effort is costing the people in these developed nations billions of euros annually. Billions of euros spent to support and grow the population of heroin addicts in major metropolitan regions everywhere!

There is no evidence to support the claims of some ISAF commanders that "they are doing everything possible to eradicate drug production." Opium production is expected to increase nearly 50% in 2007! To support this noble cause, U.S. Congress just approved billions of additional euros of spending for the War in Afghanistan. There was no mention of any expenses towards drug eradication and farmer education programs.

Queenstown New Zealand 0035
Of course there are some efforts being made by the government of Afghanistan to persuade farmers to grow something other than the beautiful opium poppy. Some farmers have actually switched to growing cannabis in order to manufacture more hashish!

In other ways the U.S. and other wealthy countries are doing everything they can to convince Afghan farmers to grow even more opium. Farm subsidies given to EU and U.S. farmers make it impossible for farmers in poor nations to sell wheat, corn, or rice to the rich nations. So the poor farmers grow the crops that rich nations like to import. These are the most valuable cash crops in the world, they are: cocaine, cannabis, and opium.


Compared to war spending, the present government in the U.S. spends very little on drug rehabilitation. The big pharmaceutical firms like Merck, Eli Lilly, and Johnson & Johnson certainly profit from outdated, ineffective drug laws. There is no immediate profit in drug-law reform, no Blackwater or Halliburton to donate to political campaigns. It is true that governments spend huge amounts of money locking up drug dealers in prison. The recent change in the way judges issue prison terms is unlikely to achieve much besides increase the number of crack dealers. This makes the voters think that something is being done about the drug problem but in reality there is always another young person ready to make easy money selling on the street corner.

Directing money into programs that would create real jobs for inner-city youth would make sense. The promise of a job at Wal-Mart or Kentucky Fried Chicken seems unlikely to convince a crack or heroin dealer to switch professions.

Spending more money on primary and secondary education would certainly help. But schools are of little concern to politicians that prefer instead to torture and bomb people. School spending, like spending on public transportation, appears to buy few votes for the mostly corrupt political leaders in rich nations.


The result of all this war spending and torture is likely to be more widespread violence, growing drug addiction, including heroin addiction, and widespread poverty all over the world. The next time you hear about the elected officials in Brussels and Washington voting to give more subsidies to farmers and less money for schools remember this. In the end we get exactly what we deserve from every euro we spend.


BBC News

New York Times

BBC News

Le Monde

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