Saturday 11 October 2008

When Criminals Rule: The missing opium mountain

CairnsBlog columnist Syd Walker wonders who is trying to drug who over the missing Afghani opium.

Remember the saga about Iraq's missing WMDs?

They were ‘weapons of mass destruction’ that the American, British, Australian Governments and others, told us were in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. They presented ‘an immediate threat’. Fear of WMDs was the key rationale for attacking and invading Iraq in 2003.

But when we got there…ooops, they didn't exist! A mystery!

Now the same nutters want to attack Iran, again because of the threat of WMDs. That is even though, last year, an irate US ‘intelligence community’, in an unprecedented act of independence from the American Administration, went public stating that Iran has no current nuclear weapons program – whatever Bush, Cheney, the Israelis (and Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers and TV channels) may say.

Further East is Afghanistan. It has many mysteries too. For instance, just where is Ossama Bin Laden? Where is his video production department located?

Australians, along with our ‘allies’, invaded this mountainous nation back in late 2001. Our Governments explained that we were out to get Bin Laden and his evil gang. But seven years on, Ossama is supposedly still at large. Despite numerous reports of his demise, he still releases occasional videos, often nicely in sync with US/Israeli war plans. Perhaps he’ll show up just before the forthcoming US election, just like he did in 2004?

Innocents in Australia - which if one is to take their words at face value, means almost everyone in both major political parties, the mainstream media and the pundits they regularly employ - imagine that in some way our troops’ ‘involvement’ in Afghanistan is not only about Bin Laden.

It is also, they believe, partly about reducing opium production in the country. If so, the policy hasn’t worked out. Had that been our real goal, we should have left well alone.

Here’s a reality check. By 2001, after a sticks and carrots approach by the UN (and the US State Department), the Taliban Government had really got a grip on Afghanistan’s opium production. Doubtless the methods they used were sometimes brutal. But the Taliban had general support from the world's governments to get rid of the poppy fields. They were proving highly effective in cracking down on local drug lords.

Here’s a graph that shows what happened.

By 2000, opium production in Afghanistan began to drop. In 2001 it plummeted. At that rate, the Taliban might have wiped it out entirely the following year. But they never got the chance...

Afghanistan's Government was toppled in late 2001 – by Australian troops, among others. Within 12 months, the country's opium production was nearly ‘back to normal’. In recent years it has grown to unprecedented heights.

Which brings me to the latest mystery about Afghanistan and the west’s remarkable policies in the post 9-11 Terror Wars. Apparently, there’s a missing mountain of Afghani opium.

The BBC explains...
  • "For the past three years [Afghanistan’s opium] production has been running at almost twice the level of global demand. The numbers just don't add up.”
Even more puzzling, the same article explains that the street price of heroin in the west remains high. The Beeb’s article then considers a couple of what it calls ‘credible theories’ about this mystery. If the BBC itself had any credibility left, these theories might be persuasive. As it is, we should probably keep an open mind…

The BBC article now includes an update. The British Serious Organised Crime Agency got in touch. They are busy at work in Afghanistan. SOCA said “Whilst the cultivation and production of opium in Afghanistan is in decline, intelligence suggests there is considerable stockpiling of narcotics by Afghan criminal networks in order to control prices in the growing markets in Russia, China and within the local region.”

In decline? Really? Does SOCA bother to talk to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime? Does it know about the graph that you just saw?

The Beeb further reports:

“Nato's top operations commander is calling for more aggressive tactics against the opium trade in Afghanistan…troops should focus on "high-end" targets like drug dealers and laboratories. Some Nato ministers, however, are concerned that any crackdown would prompt a violent backlash against allied troops.”

The Ministers may well be right. Indeed, “our man in Kabul” President Hamid Karzai could have serious concerns about such a policy

Who wants to risk their own brother being banged up?

Meanwhile, what is the Australian Government doing about controlling the world’s illicit heroin supply?

When we supported UN negotiations with the Taliban Government, up to 2001, our official policy was faring quite well. Now, thanks to willfully-ignorant support for the polices of the USA and its controllers, it’s a shambles.

Australia could well be in for a flood of cheap heroin sometime soon. Does Kevin Rudd care?
Or would he prefer to blame Iran, Putin, Hezbollah, Syria, Hamas, the Taliban – anyone as long as they’re not the real culprits?

I guess so. When it comes to support for crazy neocon polices, it’s much easier for an Australian Prime Minister to be a conformist.

Critics aren't welcome.

Mr Murdoch makes sure of that.

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