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Helping The Jihad



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The only possible, if rather half-hearted, ‘defense’ of the Bush administration’s pursuit of the boneheaded and destructive ‘war on drugs’ is that it has not been any dumber than its predecessors. No more. When a nation finds itself fighting a (real) war, in this case the war against Islamic extremism, its priorities may well need to change. Unfortunately, this message has not sunk home with America’s drug prohibitionists, or the president who supports them. Not content with doing their best to wreck both this nation’s core freedoms and its social fabric, they are now set on helping fund the terrorists who are this country’s most dangerous enemy. In some ways this is obvious (prohibition creates a highly profitable black market), but the latest campaign–eradicating opium poppies in Afghanistan–sets new standards for stupidity. I’ve mentioned this topic before in the Corner, but what Christopher Hitchens has (with typical eloquence) to say in a recent piece in Slate needs repeating here.

…picture something that you do not have to imagine–a determined effort by the liberators of Afghanistan to force the country back into warlordism and anarchy. Every day, soldiers acting in our name are burning or spraying Afghanistan’s only viable crop.Like many stories in the mainstream media, this dramatic piece of news can appear on the front page only if it is printed upside down. Thus we learned from the New York Times of Dec. 11, in a front-page article bylined by Eric Schmitt, that a secret “assessment” by Lt. Gen. David Barno, the senior American officer in the country, has concluded that poppy cultivation is the main threat to the creation of a decent society, and the main avenue by which former Taliban and al-Qaida forces can hope to return from their crushing defeat. Any attentive reading of the report, however, shows that it is the campaign against poppy cultivation that constitutes the threat. This point was underlined, perhaps coincidentally, by an op-ed essay in the same edition of the Times, written by Afghanistan’s tireless and talented finance minister, Ashraf Ghani. “Today,” he wrote, “many Afghans believe that it is not drugs, but an ill-conceived war on drugs that threatens their economy and nascent democracy” [my italics]. Ghani went on to point out that a third of Afghanistan’s GDP depends on the crop and that “destroying that trade without offering our farmers a genuine alternative livelihood has the potential to undo the embryonic economic gains of the past three years.” As he further emphasized, these highly undesirable consequences arise from the control of the trade by a “mafia” with links to Islamic nihilism. Ghani’s meticulous analysis promptly broke down with a non-sequitur: a call for more money and force to be spent in combating a “mafia” that, as he has already admitted, commands a decisive part of the rural economy. Nowhere is it even asked what would happen if the trade was legalized and taxed: a measure that would immediately remove it from mafia control and immediately enrich a vast number of Afghan cultivators who currently exist on the margin of survival…

War on terror or war on drugs? Choose one. You can’t fight both.

Via Reason.



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