Terrorism & The War On Drugs
It is a bitter twist of irony that America's victory in Afghanistan -
the opening salvo in what promises to be a larger global war on terrorism - may also foretell a setback in another, ongoing war; the
war against drugs. As a result of our new war against terrorism, Afghanistan
will no longer be a leading exporter of terrorism. Tragically, it
may resume its former status as a leading exporter of a deadly addictive
Afghanistan is one of the poorest nations on earth. It is also one of
the world's leading producer of opium poppies. For all of its faults, the Taliban regime at least kept the lid on opium production;
according to the United Nations Drug Control Program, the production of raw opium fell from more than a million pounds in 1999 to about
40,600 pounds this year.
But now the Taliban is in retreat. An uneasy alliance of warlords and
rival tribes will make governing the mountainous nation all the more difficult. And already reeling from years of war, the people of
Afghanistan are facing starvation and unrelenting poverty.
Against that backdrop, the temptation to grow poppies to help feed the
habits of millions of addicts around the world, America included, is nearly irresistable. Last week, the New York Times cited the example
of one poor Afghan farmer who earned $13,000 by growing 2.5 acres of poppies. Growing wheat or vegetables might have earned that same
farmer $100, the Times said.
"This is my message to the world," Abdul Wakil, the Afghan farmer told
the Times. "Help us establish industries in Afghanistan. We are a tough people, hard workers, and we would happily quit the cultivation
of poppy. But here there are no industries, no factories, nothing, and we need to take the money from the one remaining source."
The case for rebuilding Afghanistan's ruined economy on sheer humanitarian grounds is compelling. But beyond that, pragmatism
and national self-interest dictate that the Bush Administration pay heed
to Wakil's "message to the world." If Afghanistan ceases to be a leading exporter of terrorism and resumes it former status as the
world's exporter of a deadly addictive drug, it would be a hollow American victory indeed.