Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Wherever U.S. forces go,
the drugs seem to follow

This morning Juan Cole pointed toward a Reuters report that rang a lot of bells.

BAGHDAD, 27 March -- Officials at the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs are concerned about a noticeable increase in drug trafficking and drug addiction, especially following the seizure of large quantities of "class A" narcotics by police.

"We estimate that more than 5,000 Iraqis are consuming drugs in the south today, especially heroin, compared with 2004, when there were only around 1,500," said Dr Kamel Ali, a senior official in the health ministry's anti-narcotics program. "We fear the number could be as high as 10,000 countrywide."

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."
You have to wonder -- is the U.S. going to leave a failed state in Iraq, one from which warlords feed the habits of U.S. and European addicts? Will U.S. and European states again see a drug epidemic among their restive immigrants? These are outcomes that any rerun of the last 60 years would suggest.


Civic Center said...

It's the British making opium addicts out of the Chinese in the 19th century all over again, but since World War II it's essentially been the CIA, in connection with their partners in organized crime, running the world drug trade.

Which is Reason One why the so-called Drug War is grotesque, horrible and above all ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

"It's the British..." so true the more things change the more they stay the same.
The CIA is simply The Covert Arm of US Foreign Policy.

Opium and the British Indian Empire an extract

At its peak in the mid 1880's, opium was one of the most valuable commodities moving in international trade. Each year, export opium leaving Calcutta and Bombay averaged over 90,000 chests containing more than 5,400 metric tons. This staggering amount would meet the annual needs of between 13 and 14 million opium consumers in China and Southeast Asia who smoked opium on a daily basis-and many more if less intense use were assumed. Each year, opium revenues poured 93.5 million rupees (9.4 million pounds sterling) into Government of India coffers-approximately 16% of total official revenues.

Zak said...

Wow JT thats a great bit of info..the attempt to stem the flood of drugs in te west often makes me think of the opium wars and how the Chinese tried to do the same but were stopped by the British..I might post that link up on my blog btw..

Jan great post...I've actually witnessed some of the drug problems in Pakistan now...this article is citing old figures ..the situation has gotten worse now..
http://www.pcp.org.pk/certified_NPO/Dost/dost_home.htm is the organization I spent a bit of time around. The drug trade created a new generation of nouveau rich who basically corrupted what little was left of a system in the country. Much of Pakistan's political upheavals, crime and instability were a consequence of the military governments decision to back the proxy war against the USSR.

The taliban did crack down very harshly on the drug trade to the point that families closely involved in poppy harvest were on the point of borderline starvation. I think more critically ..if you research the Red Army one consequence of their Afghan invasion was a generation of soldiers who got into drugs..drugs became a very big problem in Russian society post Afghanistan..the same way the US suffered post vietnam..but I'd imagine it for a fact that US troops would definitely be exposed to drugs on a large scale..it is possible that the Golden crescent starts redirecting drugs on a large scale for the large foreign communities in Iraq..either way the long term consequence on an Army's ability to function is probably not pleasant.