This morning Juan Cole pointed toward a Reuters report that rang a lot of bells.
Iraqi authorities blame a new drug trafficking route from Afghanistan through Iran, but anyone with a little historical memory has to wonder...
- In the 1950s, the CIA took over the drug business from departing French colonialists in Indochina. In return for siding with the Americans, upland drug lords were allowed to push opium with impunity. By the time the U.S. Army left Vietnam, the troops, mostly draftees, felt misused and abused by their own government. As a result, "about one third of the United States combat forces in Vietnam, conservatively estimated, were heroin addicts."
- During the 1980s the U.S. was challenged by popular revolutions in Central America. The counterrevolutionary forces supported by the U.S. in Nicaragua were riddled with traffickers. Soon the drug traffic from the war zones fed a crack cocaine epidemic in the ghetto neighborhoods of the U.S.
- In the same decade, the U.S. armed and encouraged Afghan war lords fighting the Soviet Union from bases in Pakistan. Pakistan paid a terrible price for the U.S. covert action: "In 1979 Pakistan had a small localized opium trade and produced no heroin whatsoever. Yet by 1981, according to U.S. Attorney General William French Smith, Pakistan had emerged as the world's leading supplier of heroin. It became the supplier of 60% of U.S. heroin supply and it captured a comparable section of the European market. ...In 1979 Pakistan had no heroin addicts, in 1980 Pakistan had 5,000 heroin addicts, and by 1985, according to official Pakistan government statistics, Pakistan had 1.2 million heroin addicts, the largest heroin addict population in the world."
- No sooner had the U.S. overthrown the Taliban in Afghanistan, but the country "retook its place as the world's leading producer of heroin."