Gallery C

It Was All About Money
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Is Opium Behind The Long Afghan War?

By James Donahue

America’s adventures in the Middle East began with an attack on Afghanistan in 2001, in apparent retaliation after the 9-11 attack. The nation was led to believe that Osama bin Laden and his Sunni militant Islamist organization known as al-Qaeda plotted the attack in Kabul, Afghanistan.
The attack stirred the nation to action. We behaved like a hive of angry hornets. The moment we thought we had a target, we swarmed off in support of President George W. Bush’s call to send military forces into Afghanistan to hunt down the al-Qaeda and take quick revenge.

But al-Qaeda turned out to be an Islamic guerrilla force that claimed no national home. As our troops swept into Afghanistan, bin Laden led his forces off into the mountains of nearby Pakistan where they literally disappeared. Yet we took command of Afghanistan, suddenly finding ourselves fighting the Taliban, the real militant Islamic organization that had its finger on the politics of that nation. Some said the Talaban was in league with al-Qaeda at that time and this was the reason we had no trouble battling against the Taliban.
As it turned out, the Taliban just wanted the United States troops to get out of Afghanistan, just as it wanted the Russian military to leave a decade earlier. Thus we may have been fighting the wrong people for the wrong reason. Next Mr. Bush and his administration convinced Americans that we also needed to attack Iraq because he claimed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was harboring “weapons of mass destruction” that could also be used against the United States. Of course we know now that Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction in his arsenal. Thus we were led into two Middle East wars against the wrong people for wrong reasons. 

President Barack Obama kept his promise and pulled troops out of Iraq after he got in office. But now, without the strong arm of the Hussein regime maintaining order, civil war has broken out between the three Islamic factions that once co-existed in Iraq. Thanks to us, Hussein is not there to keep order anymore. So it looks like our business in Iraq may not be over after all.

Also for some strange reason we seem to have a very hard time leaving Afghanistan. We are hearing all kinds of reasons why we can’t just pull out and bring our troops home, even though the Afghans have made it clear that we are not welcome.

Would our inability to bring our forces home from Afghanistan have anything to do with the fact that the country is the world’s major supplier of opium?

While the opium poppy also is grown in Pakistan, Northern India, Thailand, Turkey, Laos, Burma, Mexico, Colombia and Hungary, Afghanistan has traditionally been the world’s largest producer of the drug. We know the narcotic heroin is produced from the plant, but so are a lot of important pain-killing pharmaceuticals including morphine, codeine, thebaine, oxycodone and a variety of opiate-containing drugs that provide needed pain relief all over the world.

Thus the Afghanistan poppy flowers have remained an important and highly prized multi-billion dollar crop for both the pharmaceutical and organized crime industries. The war appears to be all about big business. It has little to do with 9-11 or bringing democracy to Afghanistan.

After the Taliban joined the Afghan tribes to drive the Russian troops out of Afghanistan in 1989, this radical Islamic group became entrenched in the area. It grew in power until forming a Taliban government, ruling as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and enforcing the dreaded sharia law from 1996 until December, 2001, when American and British forces invaded.

It was during the Taliban rule that Afghan farmers were banned from poppy production. And this had a major impact on world supplies. Some believe production was cut by 94 percent. But after 9-11 and American and British troops invaded, regular cultivation of opium poppies was not only restored but it more than doubled.

Granted this is a simplified version of a very complex situation that has been occurring in that part of the world. But we have to believe that little poppy flower is the real reason we can’t bring American troops home from Afghanistan. We also might ask if this plant wasnt a factor behind the attack that stirred America to invade Afghanistan in the first place.