Friday, May 14, 2010

Uncle Sam: Drug Lord

From the 17 May 2010 Greater Niagara Newspapers

By Bob Confer

Many people were shocked when last week it was announced that US Army personnel have enrolled in substance abuse counseling for the use of opiates at record rates. This family of drugs, which includes morphine and heroin, has caused the number of counseled personnel to rise from 89 in 2004 to 529 in 2009.

According to the US Army the rise in counseling may be attributable to painkillers related to previous deployments or maybe even increased admission of abuse. Both claims are implausible, especially the latter, as it’s foolish to believe that in 5 years soldiers have become nearly 500 percent more likely to report an addiction to just one type of drug.

The truth of the matter is the Army spin doctors won’t tell us that use/abuse is up because of where the soldiers are and what they are being directed to do.

The spike in counseling coincides with the threefold increase in the number of personnel deployed to Afghanistan. It just so happens that Afghanistan is the world’s Garden of Eden for opium. In 2007, over 93 percent of all cultivated opiates originated in Afghanistan. A quarter of all farmland in the Helmand province alone is dedicated to opium poppies and the trade – controlled by the Taliban - supports 1.4 million households in Afghanistan. By Afghan standards the financial yield per acre is impressive: An opium farmer can earn $500 to $1,500 per acre and that’s after he has paid back his seed loan to the Taliban and paid the Taliban a 10 percent cut of his profits. If he were to grow wheat (which requires more work and more water unlike the drought-resistant poppy) his earnings would be about $320 per acre.

In their occupation of Afghanistan our forces have taken a hands-off approach to the opium farms. Whereas they would destroy them in the Western Hemisphere, they leave them alone in the East. The catch-phrase in the military is that they “tolerate” opium production. They say they do so because it’s the main livelihood for a majority of the Afghan farmers and were they to take away their cash crop and force them to take down their standard of living a few notches the Afghans would rebel and turn on all attempts to free (read “Westernize”) their society. Things are so out of whack that our soldiers have even been directed to guard numerous poppy fields with their lives. They are, in essence, fighting to keep heroin flowing to the United States or, as the statistics show, into their veins. These are things that our young soldiers definitely didn’t sign-up to do. To many of them, the guarding of the plants is morally and/or logically reprehensible. But, they must do as they are told.

This protection of the poppies proves that if anyone needs counseling it’s Uncle Sam as he seems to be suffering not from drug problems but rather from schizophrenia. On one hand, while abroad, our government enables and empowers the growth and distribution of opiates from the world’s Number One source. And then back home, it turns on its own people and incarcerates recreational drug users in droves, people who use the very drugs that were grown before our soldier’s eyes.

What could account for this hypocrisy, this dedicated effort to play both side of the fence in regard to the drug trade? It’s definitely not national security. Are overseas terror regimes so dangerous to Americans that we’re better off by sacrificing our citizens through a drug war that arrests 1.9 million of them per year? No. It’s probably money driving this whole thing. It’s blatantly obvious someone is profiting from this two-sided affair, and it’s not the American taxpayers who are funding the wars on terror and drugs. It’s the opium farmers and traders in Afghanistan who export $64 billion of the substance every year. It’s our own government (and the industrial complex and contractors that feed it) which spends an average of $34.9 billion per year on the Afghan occupation. It’s our federal and state governments who combined blow $50 billion annually on the drug war.

You can’t help but look at this mess through the eyes of a conspiracy theorist because it just doesn’t add up. By doing what it’s doing in the Middle East and in Middle America, the federal government is both drug lord and drug buster, fashioning a self-perpetuating war on drugs.

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