We hear a lot about Iraq in our daily newspapers (we read the San Francisco Chronicle and the Wall St. Journal) and on the radio and online, but we rarely hear about the war in Afghanistan (apart from the continuing scandal over the cover-up of celebrity soldier Pat Tillman's death. RIP, Pat Tillman). The latest New Yorker partially remedies that with an article by the intrepid Jon Lee Anderson.
It turns out that our main focus in Afghanistan right now is stamping out the opium poppy harvest. Our allies do not all concur. The Dutch, who have resolved their drug problems by legalizing and controlling most drugs (I believe that is a superior approach to our misguided "war on drugs." Drug-related crime is down in the Netherlands, but where I live, it's raging), do not agree. The Dutch believe that instead we should be offering alternatives and developing that poor country. Not much reconstruction and development have happened so far, and the eradication efforts aren't doing much.
Why am I so worked up about this eradication? Because it is so blatantly, clearly idiotic when you hear the details. First, it's very expensive. It requires a lot of labor to physically destroy the acres of poppies, and the men destroying the beautiful flowers must be protected by sufficient armed guards. (On an eradication strike Anderson went on, there was an attack. An Afghani policeman died, and others were wounded. The operation was aborted with very little accomplished. Score one for the Taliban). Secondly, it turns the poor Afghanis against us. As one farmer tells Anderson, he can make $33 per acre with wheat but $500-700 per acre with poppies. The farmers Anderson talked to were desperately poor and said they had no choice but to grow the poppies.
The very worst part of this idiotic policy is that it directly hurts and alienates those Afghanis who are actually in favor of us and the regime we installed. It's not safe enough to conduct the poppy eradication in the areas where there's Taliban support, so we are ONLY destroying the crops in the areas which support us. Way to go, Bush administration! Go into a poor, beleaguered foreign country and economically ruin only the people who are for us! Need I mention that we aren't offering any kind of compensation to the people whose fields we ruin, and as Anderson noted, when we kill the fields of poppies, we incidentally damage other crops. A farmer whose poppies were destroyed showed how his wheat patch and watermelons had also been ruined. "Now I will have nothing left."
there's so much idiotic and wrong about this war, it's hard to even pinpoint one thing. you'd think taking the time, manpower and money to destroy poppies (whiich will just be grown elsewhere) would be the least of our worries there. i also fail to see how groing poppies is illegal. maybe making heroin, yes. by that stretch, making cough syrup (sometimes used in the making of crystal meth) would be illegal as well.
i am choosing to protest Bush's policies by buying more heroin this month.
Sad. I wished we'd focused on rebuilding Afghanistan instead of destroying Iraq.
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