Growing poppies is a sin
By Mark Harrison, TNC staff writer
The Bush Administration didn't reward the ruling Taliban
in Afghanistan $43 million for destroying ancient Buddhist statues,
or because the Taliban requires Hindus to wear identification
tags. They weren't rewarded with U.S. tax dollars because they
forbid education and medical attention to women, or because Afghanistan
women are whipped if they accidentally expose their face. None
of these hideous laws of the Taliban are enough to compromise
the compassion of President Bush. They were rewarded with forty-three
million dollars, ceremoniously granted for "drought relief"
only after the Taliban declared poppy cultivation a sin.
Mullah Mohammad Omar, the "supreme leader of the faithful"
of the extreme Islamic faction that has occupied most of Yugoslavia
since 1996, issued the edict in July 2000. One year later, the
heroin breadbasket of the world lay barren--and in its place,
acres of drought-withered wheat stubble, the alternative "cash
crop" that would not grow. The country's drought is in its
fourth year and previously the poppy, which is relatively drought-resistant,
had provided needed wages for hundreds of thousands who worked
in the opium fields. According to the United Nations, more than
one million people will now experience an "unbridgeable"
food shortage before the end of summer. Sadly, U.S.-driven drug
policies have intensified the suffering. Steven Casteel of the
DEA was quoted by the Los Angeles Times: "The bad side of
the ban is that it's bringing their country--or certain regions
of their country--to economic ruin."
Taliban officials are not
blind to the drug habits of the U.S. government, nor to the financial
aid awarded to drug-producing countries that have said "yes"
to deadly U.S. drug policies. And as sure as the opium trade
continues today despite the Taliban poppy ban, the U.S. government
was sure to provide drug money to the Taliban government packaged
as compassion. If Afghanistan continued to produce most of the
world's opium poppies, as the DEA claims, it's unlikely that
the Taliban government would have received U.S. aid. Secretary
of State Colin Powell welcomed the poppy ban and stipulated that
the aid package is to be used primarily for emergency food and
shelter. Though needed, the aid package does little to bolster
the stagnant Afghani economy now deprived of its primary agricultural
Possession and sale of opium is still permitted in the country;
the Taliban see God on the drug war supply side. The Taliban
government no longer benefits from tax revenues from its number-one
cash crop; so, as drug war history teaches, the country will
become hopelessly addicted to U.S. drug money, courtesy of U.S.
taxpayers. If not, growing poppies may become god's will again