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Afghan Poppy Trade Blurs All the Lines

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Posted on Oct 29, 2009

By Eugene Robinson

The opium poppy was introduced to Afghanistan more than 2,300 years ago by the armies of Alexander the Great. His forces were eventually driven out, like those of every would-be conqueror since. The poppy has proved more tenacious.

On Monday, three U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents—Forrest Leamon, Chad Michael and Michael Weston, all from the Washington area—were killed in a helicopter crash in western Afghanistan. U.S. officials have released few details about the incident. The Times of London reported that the aircraft was shot down following a raid on the compound of a prominent Afghan drug lord.

On Wednesday, The New York Times reported that the CIA has been making regular payments to a suspected major figure in the Afghan opium trade: Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of President Hamid Karzai. The newspaper quoted sources alleging that Ahmed Wali Karzai—who denies any involvement in the drug business—collects “huge” fees from traffickers for allowing trucks loaded with drugs to cross bridges he controls in the southern part of the country. 

So is it our policy to attack the Afghan drug trade while we also line the pockets of one of its reputed kingpins? Who is going to explain this to the families of agents Leamon, Michael and Weston?

Afghanistan’s status as a narco-superpower is another reason why President Obama would be wrong to deepen U.S. involvement. Opium is the one booming sector of the Afghan economy: Poppy fields in the south and west of the country produce the raw material for an estimated 90 percent of the world’s heroin. Money from the opium trade supports the resurgent Taliban, which is fighting to expel U.S. and NATO forces. Therefore, a blow against the drug business is a blow against the enemy.


Square, Site wide
Except when it isn’t. Except when the “good guys” who are supposed to be our allies—and many of the Afghan citizens a counterinsurgency strategy would try to protect—are dependent on the drug trade as well. Except when the corruption that is an intrinsic element of the drug business not only blurs the line between friend and foe, but also obscures the difference between right and wrong in a thick fog of moral ambiguity.

As The Washington Post’s South America correspondent during the administration of George Bush the Elder, I watched firsthand our government’s costly and futile crusade against the cocaine industry. We tried attacking the problem in the coca fields—I visited a U.S.-financed military base in Peru’s Upper Huallaga Valley, where at the time 60 percent of the world’s coca was grown. We tried going after the processors—in Colombia, police took me to a jungle camp where chemists had been hard at work just hours earlier. We tried breaking up the trafficking cartels—I was served lunch at a Medellin prison by three cocaine bosses whose comfortable incarceration was almost like an extended stay at a hotel.

Nothing worked. All the U.S. managed to do was shift the coca fields from one valley to the next and break the big cartels into smaller ones. Profits from the drug trade still sustain a guerrilla insurgency in Colombia that has controlled huge swaths of the countryside for more than four decades. Meanwhile, cocaine is readily available throughout the United States. The illegal drug industry is driven by demand: As long as some people want drugs, other people will find ways to supply them.

DEA officials have said they are sharply increasing the agency’s presence in Afghanistan. Wisely, the Obama administration is abandoning the George W. Bush-era strategy of trying to eradicate the poppy fields; eradication, which robs rural communities of their only livelihood, may be the quickest and surest way to turn apolitical farmers into anti-American insurgents. The focus now is on the middlemen who buy, transport and process the drugs—which creates a different kind of problem.

Those middlemen logically seek, and obtain, official protection. In Latin America, they approach police and government officials with an offer of plata o plomo—silver or lead—meaning the officials can choose to accept the bribes they are being offered, or they can choose to be shot. In a country as poor as Afghanistan, with such weak central authority, the U.S.-backed government is vulnerable to bribery at almost every level.

The inevitable future is one in which we attack and support the Afghan drug trade at the same time. Is this a policy for which we can ask DEA agents to give their lives?

Eugene Robinson’s e-mail address is eugenerobinson(at)

© 2009, Washington Post Writers Group

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By DaveZx3, November 4, 2009 at 9:37 am Link to this comment

RootJensen, November 3 at 5:36 pm #

“I must say though, the rich ‘crooks’ are exposing
themselves. So no-one has to choose. I guess you are a rich man then? How did you make your money, by being a devious crook or hard work and honesty?
I sincerely hope the latter”

Don’t actually have any money.  Had a little, but the economy took it away.  I am an old guy living on Social Securit and my wife’s income. 

I just think money is like sex.  It should be a personal thing and not flaunted.  If a person wants to make alot of money, in this country it is their right, if they do it legally.  If they “steal it” then they should be locked up.

It is really all about having sound law and good enforcement.  Maybe our laws are not totally bad, but our enforcement sucks.  Crooks simply go free all the time.  Crooks are not intimidated by our liberal justice system.  Many are requesting to stay in jail, because it is too tough on the outside.  Can you believe that?  Rich crooks go to prison country clubs in many cases. 

If doing the time does not scare the shit out of you, then crime will obviously flourish.  There has to be a way for society to flush the crooks out of the system (rich ones and poor ones)

My son worked his way up from a job pumping fuel into airplanes as a teenager.  He got his private pilots license, and flew the mail for many years in rain, hail, lightning, etc.  Had many near-tragic accidents.  Was hired by a small commercial commuter airlines and then was hired by Continental about 12 years ago.  He is now a captain and is earning about 150K.  Probably has assets approaching 1mil, 3 kids a wife and a real nice house.

Should I tell him to move the kids out of the house because you are coming for him? 

The key for America is to encourage a system where everyone has a job which meets their legitimate needs.  It is all about jobs and pay scales.  People should have enough to pay all their reasonable bills and own a home and send their kids to school.  If they do real well, they should be able to purchase a sailboat if they want. 

To me that is a right, and is really the American Dream.  It is why people still flock to this country by the thousands.  But it is dying because we are giving it away.  If only 10% of the citizens get there than it is a failure. 

It is all about decent jobs, decent pay scales, and honest, hard working people.  That is the American Dream, and I buy into it 100%.  Just how to get there after we have screwed it up so bad.

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By MarthaA, November 4, 2009 at 8:44 am Link to this comment

Folktruther, November 3 at 6:22pm,

Folktruther said: “The American plutocracy has become a plutocratic Mafia, using, as Chomsky says, Mafia intimidation, violence and fear to quell dissent.”

I agree with Noam Chomsky and you, as to the Right-Wing Republican EXTREME being a plutocratic mafia using intimidation, violence and fear to quell dissent. I hate to see any Right-Winger get back into office as I know the Right-Wing, as always, will be led by the EXTREME.

It is hard to be a brave patriot when faced with EXTREME government intimidation, violence and fear, which are oppression and tyranny, but one has to realize that, if one does nothing, the alternative is to condemn your progeny to a lifetime of oppression and tyranny; therefore, one must keep on doing all one can to make the public aware of the sophism and use of propaganda against the public by the Right-Wing Conservative EXTREMIST Republicans, so that the public and our progeny will be able to understand the difference between subjective propaganda and objective fact in the Right-Wing’s accusations, condemnations, and denunciations of the Left, the Liberals, without any actual facts, whatsoever, or if claiming anything as objective fact, claims will be minute shadows of facts taken out of context, put with subjective propaganda and subjectively presented as if actual objective fact, and there is no rebuttal for subjective claims, except in the subjective, which is how innocent people get sent to prison, because only a very smart attorney can defend against a District Attorney using subjectivity presented as actual fact to condemn the innocent as guilty without fact.

Freedom, the absence of government oppression—tyranny, in the United States is subjective and getting more subjective every day that the Right-Wing Conservative EXTREMISTS are allowed to have any form of their Hitleresque control.

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By Folktruther, November 3, 2009 at 2:22 pm Link to this comment

Qite right, Martha.  Condemn it in media rhetoric and practice operatively, imprisoning the victims to work at 64 cents an hour.  The American plutocracy has become a plutocratic Mafia, using, as Chomsky says, Mafia intimidation, violence and fear to quell dissent.

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By RootJensen, November 3, 2009 at 1:36 pm Link to this comment

Felicity, I think England is being built towards that
goal of dumping the slovenly ignorant, a few more
years of trashing the country and we’ll open our
doors lol..

I must say though, the rich ‘crooks’ are exposing
themselves. So no-one has to choose.
I guess you are a rich man then? How did you make
your money, by being a devious crook or hard work and
I sincerely hope the latter smile

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By felicity, November 3, 2009 at 1:01 pm Link to this comment

Scott - My bad.  Of course we’ve been trafficing in human beings since our inception - Chinese inports building our rairoads, Mexican peons harvesting out crops, starving immigrants toiling in our factories for sub-livable wages…prosperity on the backs of the desparate have made us this ‘city shining on a hill?

However, I’m waiting for legislation which will export the old, sick, stupid and slovenly some place else - I figure it hasn’t happened yet only because we haven’t found any place that will take them.  I’m sure our economic royalists are working on it.

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By MarthaA, November 2, 2009 at 9:41 pm Link to this comment

Folktruther, November 2 at 7:19pm,

The Right-Wing Conservative EXTREME being the pusher and the condemner is a win-win capital endeavor from both directions——taxing drugs and making them legal would cut too deeply into their profit, so legal and taxed must be condemned.

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By Scott, November 2, 2009 at 9:34 pm Link to this comment

We’ve got the first two pretty well wrapped up, wonder how long it will be before we take up the third.

Again you mean?

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By Folktruther, November 2, 2009 at 3:19 pm Link to this comment

You are quite right, Felicity.  The biggest arms dealer and drug pusher in the world is the Amerian power structure.  The US now has two narco-states, Afghanistan and Colombia, which supplies it with most of the heroin and cocaine in the world.  and our bankers launder the money at exorbident rates, as has been documented many times.

The head of Paakistan that the US put in power, Zardari, is not only a convicted thief but an old time drug dealer, with long time CIA connections.  The addict population in Pakistan is increasing enormously and they are looking to infect India and China.  They have already infected Russia and Iran.

  US imperialism has inherited British imperialism’s place as the biggest drug dealer in the world.  And the US keeps the price of heroin and cocaine high by making grass illegal in the War on Drugs.  Which also targets opposing drug gangs.  There are a few sincere agents in the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) but they are tarumped by the CIA.  Several of them were killed recently in a plane crash in Afghanistan under suspicious circumstances.

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By RootJensen, November 2, 2009 at 1:11 pm Link to this comment

I know DaveZx3, I think you know what I mean smile

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By felicity, November 2, 2009 at 12:04 pm Link to this comment

The three most profitable businesses world-wide are drugs, weapons and human trafficing.  We’ve got the first two pretty well wrapped up, wonder how long it will be before we take up the third.

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By DaveZx3, November 2, 2009 at 9:49 am Link to this comment

melpol, November 1 at 3:37 pm #

“The growing craze for Heroin is making the farmlands of Afghanistan more valuable than the oil fields of the Middle-East. Oil might keep you on the road, but Heroin makes you fly.”

melpol,  You are well read on this subject.  Is the craze an international phenomenon, or is it still focused mainly in America?

RootJensen, November 1 at 2:44 pm #

“The solution? War on the Rich!!!
Less talk more carpet bombing their houses!!!

Who gets to define rich?  Just wondering whether I should move the kids to a safer haven before you let me have it.

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By joey, November 1, 2009 at 8:53 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Milton Friedman had many questionable ideas but he was always correct when he spoke about drugs.

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By melpol, November 1, 2009 at 11:37 am Link to this comment

Opium is rarely exported out of Afghanistan, it smells and is easily detected. Only
Heroin now leaves the country. Over 20 thousand small low cost labs scattered
throughout the nation make Afghanistan the undisputed producer of Heroin in
the world. Elimination of the poppy crop will not close the labs,hidden is enough
Opium to keep production going for 25 years.  The growing craze for Heroin is
making the farmlands of Afghanistan more valuable than the oil fields of the
Middle-East. Oil might keep you on the road, but Heroin makes you fly.

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By RootJensen, November 1, 2009 at 10:44 am Link to this comment

The solution? War on the Rich!!!
Less talk more carpet bombing their houses!!!

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By melpol, November 1, 2009 at 8:39 am Link to this comment

The new elite in Afghanistan are the 200 thousand heroin lab technicians. They
are happy to hear that Abdullah will not replace their warlord. Most of the elite
were once poor poppy farmers until Karzai taught them how to turn a few
poppies into a 3 dollar bag of heroin. They will fight to the death to keep their
benefactor in power.

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By melpol, November 1, 2009 at 6:05 am Link to this comment

The reason is clear why Abdullah stopped calling for a boycott of next weeks
election. He has been promised a share in the heroin produced by thousands of
labs in Afghanistan. The bribe can be worth over 50 billion dollars. Not a small
sum for a horse riding tribal leader. It is rumored that he will spend the rest of his
life in Switzerland returning only to check that he is not being robbed of his fair
share of heroin production.

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By DaveZx3, November 1, 2009 at 3:04 am Link to this comment

de profundis clamavi, November 1 at 3:55 am

I would like to add to that list.  You can’t even let your kids play in the neighborhood anymore.

But as the blame is being shoveled out across this thread, I keep thinking that a republic cannot survive if the people become the among the worlds leading consumers of:  narcotics, cigarettes, alcohol, gambling, prostitution, pornography, and lesser things like junk food, sugar, tv, sedentary life styles, gasoline, etc. 

George Bush, the CIA, Dick Cheney, Oliver North, the Taliban, AFghan warloards, Mexcian drug cartels, coroprations, are not our problem. 

If a people cannot be disciplined enough to make mostly good choices, then republics and democracies cannot succeed, and we are all going to remain enslaved by these things and people we blame for our enslavement. 

Reminds me of the old Pogo comic strip line “We have met the enemy, and he is us” 

You need personal responsibility, integrity, honesty, honor and all those things, otherwise you get to live in perpetual bondage and revolution.

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By de profundis clamavi, November 1, 2009 at 12:55 am Link to this comment

Has it ever occurred to anybody in the US government that the reason so many Americans want to take drugs is so they can temporarily escape from the reality of living in a corporatist society that gives them no security in their homes, their jobs or their communities? Where they can no longer afford to go to a concert or a baseball game? Where they can no longer walk down the street and meet people they know? Where they are forced to work longer and longer hours for less?

Maybe if we had parks and community concerts and populated town centers and public holidays where everybody really got the day off, and people could reasonably assume that they would be able to continue living and find work opportunities in the communities they grew up in, instead of us all migrating periodically like homeless gypsies from one temporary bubble of corporate franchised media induced isolation to another just like the one we left behind, maybe then so many people wouldn’t find themselves simultaneously and chronically full of fear and bored to death, and therefore craving medication for the spiritual disease of a sick society.

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By marriea, October 31, 2009 at 8:59 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The United States never ever send troops into areas that are unproductive financially.  In Iraq it was the oil, in Afghanistan it is the poppy plant. The Russians fought with these people for years and lost miserably, with the help of our government of course.
We will never be able to stamp out things that are grown naturally. Mother Nature has been at this longer than this country’s existance.  Since nature can’t controlled, just break down and legalize the stuff.  This country can control the tax revenue that would be generated.  People who do drugs are going to do them anyway, one way or another.  I’m all for helping someone who wants to helps themselves and get off the stuff.  I’m not saying it will be easy, but it can be doable. But for those who are bound and determined to do the stuff regardless, fine, you can’t save everybody from themselves. Harry Hippy

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By johannes, October 31, 2009 at 1:20 pm Link to this comment

When I made my travalling tru India, Pakistan, Afganistan and round tru Perzie, this wash in the 60ties, their wash not much popy growing in this whole area, it started to geth bigger an bigger with the growing demand.

In the Netherland have they more or less liberated the commerce of soft drugs, or hemp, this has helped a lot to push back the hard drug trade, with all its criminal behavior around it.

This very very poor people are living in a real hell, nothing to geth them a bether or happyer live, and with that came this real satanic religion to put them in a not understood war with eats other.

And now the super power is killing them like a god out of the heaven, try to think if you sit with your famelie in the garden and drink something to gether and out of the air their comes an rocket and kills you all, if you where not dead wash it possible yuo understood why, no, so you start fighting this barbarians.

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By scotttpot, October 31, 2009 at 10:28 am Link to this comment

We blame opium farmers when it is our own policies and domestic demand that keep drugs profitable.Legalize drugs.It can*t destroy more American lives than beer and television already has.

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By melpol, October 31, 2009 at 8:34 am Link to this comment

Once those that voiced their opinion against what was politically correct were
called communists. Now in Afpak they are called Al-Quada or Taliban and have
their assets or poppy fields stolen. If we left the labels off, the U.S. would be
fighting an eternal battle against dissent.

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By Thong-girl, October 31, 2009 at 8:06 am Link to this comment

It’s hard to imagine that Eugene Robinson is as stupid as this article makes him look.  He is really as stupid as this makes him look, or too scared to write an actual honest column on the topic.  Now, Scheer put it out there so he must buy into it also.  Folktruther and Diamond lay it out and you can always go to Google and type in Eugene Hasenfus and you can read how folks like Ollie North, who worked for Gates, and is now an American hero, were convicted of drug smuggling.  Or you can be as stupid as those mentioned and actually believe that their excuses merit any consideration at all.  It is hard for a nation so in love with their military to accept that is precisely those people who are trying to hook your children on drugs for their stupid lies.

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By Thong-girl, October 31, 2009 at 7:52 am Link to this comment

The only bigger hard drug smugglers, other than the Afghan leaders, are the likes of Bob Gates, who was the head of Reagan’s CIA and in charge of importing huge amounts of cocaine into the U.S.A.  Now this is a fact and you can check it out but to go after the Afghans is simply a joke and everyone hear should know it.  The Pentagon and CIA are the biggest smugglers and they make sure it is delivered to your doorstep so your children can get an early start.

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By melpol, October 31, 2009 at 6:59 am Link to this comment

Not more troops, but a better and fairer distribution of poppy fields is needed.
Playing favorites must end in Afghanistan. ALL poppy farmers must be allowed to
grow their crops unmolested. The Karzai bros have been exposed as C.I.A. pawns.
A fair minded leader must be found. He will help turn Afghanistan into one large
field of poppies owned by all the people.  When that happens poverty no longer
will exist in one of the poorest nations in the world.

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By melpol, October 31, 2009 at 6:10 am Link to this comment

Americans must make the choice between continuing the war against illegal drugs
, or having a nation where all drugs are legally available. In terms of cost it will be
far less expensive for the nation if drug use were decriminalized. The war on
drugs is now costing the taxpayers countless billions.  Building new treatment
centers instead of prisons would be a practical and more humane way to solve the

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By RAE, October 31, 2009 at 5:13 am Link to this comment

gerard hit the nail: “The reason the drug trade isn’t stopped is the same reason the war trade isn’t stopped—money, lots of it.”

To which I add… the “crime” trade in general. There are hundreds of thousands employed in the “justice” industry. These folk DEPEND on a steady flow of “criminals” for their incomes. The wiping out of crime (by some magic combination of education, fair opportunities and respectful upbringing and treatment by society) is simply out of the question. The USA has ONE MILLION citizens behind bars. The estimation is that it costs $100,000 to build each cell, and another $100,000 PER YEAR to keep each one occupied. You do the math.

And what do we, your average citizen, get from this obscene expenditure of our money? Diddly-squat. Crime continues just the same as the drugs continue to flow and wars are declared one after another.

As someone once said, if God didn’t exist we’d have to invent Him. If there was no crime, or illegal drugs, or war… we’d invent them. All for the dollar.

Now don’t you feel really good about being part of this hypocritical con game we call “society?” Don’t you just love to watch the crocodile solemnity that surrounds the ceremony as the mangled bodies of brainwashed youngsters are off-loaded by the transport plane load? Those “at the top” - those “in authority” cannot possibly give a rat’s ass about these casualties of their fabulously wealthy con game.


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By Ol_Mike, October 30, 2009 at 8:32 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This whole bit is a lot of, er, poppycock!
  Seriously, opium has been around a long time, and will probably last longer than the U.S. does.
  If our government were serious about ending poppy-growing, we could help poppy farmers grow industrial hemp for paper-making (or other plants that can be made into paper), ending the logging industry’s stranglehold on that and cutting down seriously on pollutions. 
  Hemp can be grown cheaply with two crops a year, it’s a weed, and doesn’t take years to mature as trees do.  And forests left standing give us cleaner air, with valuable eco-systems and saving endangered unique animal and plant life.
  If the filthy-rich logging industry doesn’t like it, well, surely by now they should have saved enough money to get them through the lean times, as we lesser folk are supposed to do.

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By Bucky5, October 30, 2009 at 4:18 pm Link to this comment

Odd observation… Starting around 6 a.m., Oct. 30, this string touched a nerve that has resonated with incredible insight, common sense and clarity rather than the imbecilic finger-pointing and name-calling that often characterizes such threads. I, for one, am amazed and impressed to see so many thoughtful, objective comments posted. I, admittedly, am a scornful curmudgeon who doesn’t suffer fools gladly. This discussion has significantly increased my appreciation for the often unheard voices of reason, no matter what the opinion expressed is. Everyone from Folktruther to Ridley, Tshirt, melpol et al, please, post more often and widely. It’s so bloody refreshing. Thank you all! Anyone considering a run for office, LOL?

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By melpol, October 30, 2009 at 2:39 pm Link to this comment

Tests have proven that when the strength and purity of Heroin remains constant
the weening process is easy.  F.D.A. purity monitoring would make it a safe drug.
When distributed it would never reach the constant usage level of alcohol. But
even among heavy users it is not a drug that produces bad behavior. Obtaining
the drug through the underworld causes the problems.

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By diamond, October 30, 2009 at 2:35 pm Link to this comment

For heaven’s sake Mr. Robinson. I expect you to know more about the drug trade than this. The CIA’s involvement in the drug trade goes back to the sixties. It’s common knowledge that the CIA smuggled drugs out of vietnam in the coffins of dead soldiers and you could say that metaphorically speaking they’re doing the same in Afghanistan. Haven’t you noticed that wherever the CIA takes its wars, the drug trade soon follows?

When Richard Brenneke gave evidence to a joint investigation of the United States Congress and the office of the Arkansas State Attorney General on the 21st June 1991, he described his dual role as a contract pilot and money launderer for the CIA. Brenneke said he had flown weapons from Mena airport in the southern state of Arkansas to Panama, a staging post on their journey to the Contra rebels in Nicaragua between 1984 and 1986. On return flights, Brenneke said he carried cocaine and marijuana for delivery to representatives of the Gambino crime family and its then head, John Gotti. Brenneke made this deposition on the 21st June 1991 in the presence of Congressman William Alexander Junior and Chad Farris, Chief Deputy Attorney General for the state of Arkansas. He said the Gotti organization paid the CIA $50 million for the drugs. Brenneke confirmed that the CIA was in the business of bringing drugs into the United States and that there was a close alliance between the agency and Gotti’s organization. Brenneke told investigators that he had begun laundering drug money for the New York crime families on the CIA’s instructions in 1969, putting the money in nice safe accounts in places such as Swiss banks. To do this he created a network of offshore companies and bank accounts that covered the globe. At this time illicit drugs were flooding into the USA from Central America and Sicily under the watchful eye of Cosa Nostra. All of this and more is described in Philip Willan’s book The Last Supper: The Mafia, the Masons and the Killing of Roberto Calvi. Power corrupts but drug money corrupts absolutely. Which is probably why you have the situation Sibel Edmonds described to a journalist in ‘The American Conservative’

‘So we have a pattern of corruption starting with government officials providing information to foreigners and helping them make contact with other Americans who had valuable information. Some of these officials, like Marc Grossman, were receiving money directly. Others were receiving business favors: Pentagon associates like Doug Feith and Richard Perle had interests in Israel and Turkey. The stolen information was being sold, and the money that was being generated was used to corrupt certain congressmen to influence policy and provide still more information—in many cases information related to nuclear technology’.

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By JimM, October 30, 2009 at 1:19 pm Link to this comment

Legalizing, regulating and fairly taxing coke, etc.,(not so much as to drive it underground again)certainly is not the entire answer, but much needed income would be generated for the fed and states (not to build more Wackenhut Establishments, please). And, it would decriminalize millions of otherwise innocent people worldwide, and drive a few druglords and dealers out of business as they’d no longer be needed.

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By Bucky5, October 30, 2009 at 12:50 pm Link to this comment

Thanks for the stats. I have no specific knowledge about what’s grown where. But from my former experience in the floral business, I know that opium poppies are grown all over eastern Europe and the Netherlands for both decorative dried pods and the pharmaceutical industry. My point being only that papaver somniferum grows readily in any temperate climate. Quashing the growth in Afghanistan will only lead to it being grown elsewhere.

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By gerard, October 30, 2009 at 12:28 pm Link to this comment

The reason the drug trade isn’t stopped is the same reason the war trade isn’t stopped—money, lots of it.  Most of that money goes to the top operators in both industries, but some is allowed to filter down in the form of jobs to keep the “earners” quiet. Both drugs and war are “addictive” insofar as the majority of people tolerate their existence and/or don’t work to eliminate them, or believe they are a “necessary evil” “inevitable” etc. etc.

Now we get to the issue of “legalization.”  War is already “legalized” and has been for centuries,  yet it continues and expands.  Drugs are “illegal” in some places, “legal” in others, and the drug industry continues and expands.  It would appear that real answers lie elsewhere rather than in “legalization.”  Take the money out, one way or another?  Might help.  But there’s also a troublesome psychological issue in both cases.

It’s known that rehab from drugs can and does work. Rehap from war?  That concept is just over the horizon.

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By melpol, October 30, 2009 at 12:16 pm Link to this comment

It has been estimated by the U.N. council on drug addiction that 10% of the
worlds population is addicted to some sort of drug which excludes alcohol. That
adds up to 500 million addicts. Many are users of heroin. It is also estimated that
90% of the worlds heroin comes from Afghanistan. The annual retail value of all
illegal drugs is over 5 trillion dollars. American interference with the coco leave
and poppy crops in Columbia and Afghanistan is not out of compassion for drug
addicts. But only to get a piece of the action.

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By MarthaA, October 30, 2009 at 11:54 am Link to this comment

“The inevitable future is one in which we attack and support the Afghan drug trade at the same time.”

This “attack and support” in the Drug Wars by the CIA and FBI has been being reported for a long time, which is why all drugs must be legalized and taxed.

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By Bucky5, October 30, 2009 at 11:20 am Link to this comment

Kudos to JimM’s response and a quizzical stare at Eugene Robinson, normally the voice of reason and rationality.

Until we develop effective treatments to block the genetic basis of addition, be it nicotine, caffeine, food, alcohol or heroin, no battle against drugs can be effective. We spend more on useless so-called “wars against” than we do on education and rehab, known to be more effective than burning fields or slaughtering growers who have no other source of income. Everyone applauds the use of force against the supply lines for substances that ruin lives. So why aren’t we at war against wheat and potato farmers? Why is our government not bombing every McDonald’s or Pizza Hut? Why is Ben & Jerry’s not available by prescription only? The whole thing is irrational, ineffective and a waste of limited resources.

JimM is right. Legalize all of it—pot, opium, cocain, etc. Tax the bejeebers out of it; control it like alcohol. A century ago, heroin and cocaine were readily available at your local pharmacy. We had better control and fewer addicts than under the current system where supply will always meet demand. Taxing drugs would raise substantial sums of money that could be directed toward rehabilitation and research to stop the problem at its root—before, not after, the fact.

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By Spiritgirl, October 30, 2009 at 10:53 am Link to this comment

Maybe legalization would stop all of this.  And just maybe encouragement to grow other crops that could be sold by the farmers on the world market for a descent profit would discourage them from growing poppies in the first place!

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By JimM, October 30, 2009 at 10:28 am Link to this comment

Of course being human sometimes the simplest of truths evade us.
Legalize the crap and much of the tragedy that is associated with it will dissolve. Duh.

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By PaulMagillSmith, October 30, 2009 at 9:55 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Folktruther, October 30 at 6:12 am

You said it very well, and I’ve been saying the same on other drug articles. “Follow the money”, and this includes DEA, CIA, ONDCP, etc. also.

For political & financial advantage, as well as to fearmonger the public about the dreaded US funded Taliban, it’s rarely reported the Taliban had eradicated 91% of the opium crop before we invaded, and the past 4 years have produced ever increasing record crops…despite tens of thousands of foreign troops in Afghanistan.

The US went to Afghanistan, and opium production soared. Expect to see addiction rates in the US & world spike upward also since even the DEA admits they only seize about 1% of illegal drugs in the US…and these people are getting a $92 million increase in the next budget?

What for, and why? Nixon started the DEA in 1973, and it’s been failing in the “War On Drugs” ever since, including investigating Elder Bush, the CIA involvement in the cocaine trade during the Iran/Contra Scandal, and other events.

Repeating errant behavior, and expecting a different outcome, still defines insanity, doesn’t it?

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By Papafox, October 30, 2009 at 8:49 am Link to this comment

One “inconvenient” truth that is usually overlooked about the “Taliban” is that when in power, they were actively eradicating the drug trade as drug usage is anti-Islamic.  It is no wonder that they were declared to be the “bad guys.”

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By jim downing, October 30, 2009 at 7:42 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

is there any solution to this kind of problem? Afghanistan seems unconquerable, and opium incurable. It’s as if evil found a biological manifestation and concentrated itself in one place. We let pharmaceutical companies control substances that are illegal otherwise. One must wonder about the business model behind this.
Maybe opium was part of the reason to begin with; there has been much to link the Bush family with the crack cocaine explosion of the eighties.
Maybe the US should just buy all the opium.
Eugene, it is about demand. who would wqant to be a junkie if they knew you only get high the first few times, then you just have to do it to keep from feeling awful? Honest drug education would help.

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By Hal J. Ridley, Jr., October 30, 2009 at 7:42 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The drug war on every continent has been going on for millennia. It’s a war against our own genetic biology. Some believe our habit of taking hallucinogens was instrumental in evolving the human brain. To legalize and decriminalize the drug trade would kill several birds with one stone. The criminal gang and terrorist networks around the globe would be deprived of funds.  The Law Enforcement Community would spend their time and energy on serious crime. The Judicial and Prison System would have true criminals to deal with instead of Medical Criminals. Addiction is a Medical Problem of Ortho-Molecular Biology, brain chemistry with a dose of environment. The Government could have a new sin-tax like Tobacco and Alcohol.  The Government is already in the Drug Business not just the CIA but with the Methadone Program where addicts go and get their dose of Methadone (highly addictive
and just as deadly, Anna N. Smith and Son)to help them with their Heroin Habit.  The vast amount of personal family pain that every addict brings to his or her surroundings could be alleviated and the crime associated with addiction would be mostly solved. Clinical Studies some 50 years old some recent show the benefit of hallucinogens and heroin to help alleviate serious pain better than other pain medications in use today. Hallucinogens have been shone to help alcoholics and other drug additions, schizophrenics,OCD, and other mental disorders.  The reasons to change our view on the Drug War are numerous, the reasons for continuing down this path we are on are only one stupidity.

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By the tshirt doctor, October 30, 2009 at 5:02 am Link to this comment

if we being to raid and bomb their opium fields and their drug laboratories you can expect in increase of the death of our troops.  they wouldn’t have any support from the local warlords.

and the insurgents relying on the opium poppy crop to make their money, they have other areas to make money, like the american government.

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By melpol, October 30, 2009 at 4:07 am Link to this comment

The Poppy grows in many colors but it has turned into the color of blood as the
U.S. attempts to seize control of the poppy fields of Afghanistan. Farmers once
believed the poppy was a gift from Allah but it now being turned into a tool of
Satan. There are many that say that the U.S. should leave Afghanistan and its
fields of poppies. Countless heroin addicts in every nation of the world agree.

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By Folktruther, October 30, 2009 at 3:12 am Link to this comment

Robinson talks abut Alexander the Great introducing opium; he does not talk aboaut the CIA introducing opium and heroin in the Vietnam war because this is an Unmentionable by the hack-based mainstream truth. He does not talk about 20% of the US soldiers using heroin, or the British infestation in China where 26% of the Chinese were addicts when the communists came to power.  He does not talk about the Taliban eliminating the production of opiom and it now being produced in 8000 tons under US rule.

This iIS talked about in, among other places, WHITEOUT, by Cockburn and St. Clare.  The US regime in Afghanistan, the Northern Alliance, is a regime of drug lords, who fight anyone, including each other, to control the opium fields.  this is not merely Karzai’s CIA brother, Karzai himself being a CIA asset before the US put him on the Afghan throne.  the US is now running two narco-states, Afghanistan and Colombia, to promote Freedom&Democracy;.  It does destroy the drugs grown by opposition farmers taxed by the insurgents, which increases the price of the drugs of their own leaders.

American imprisons the most prisoners of any country in the world, nearly half of them directly or indirectly for drugs.  but the War on Drugs is highly profitable, and the banks get their huge rakeoff by laundering the money.  Their are soldiers from aabout 50 Western countries in the Afpak war, making the Western tradition complicit in poisoning the American and European peoples and the rest of the peoples of the world, notably the Russians.

But Robinson and truthdig don’t say so, repeating the standard mantra that the drugs are used to fund the insurgents.  He does not say what Americans it funds, or how many Nato soldiers are using the drugs.

Unless the American people develop their own media, they will never know what crimes are being committed in their name.

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