Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Teach a man to fish...

"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."
Chinese Proverb
David Seaton's News Links
Once when writing about Afghan opium I quoted Billie Holiday singing, ""Papa may have and mama may have, but God bless the child that's got his own." Self-sufficiency: being able to "earn" your own living, is an essential ingredient for freedom, independence and legitimate self-esteem. What is certainly true of individuals may also be true of peoples.

Sometimes the most difficult thing to see is what is right in front of your nose. And looking at Afghanistan and trying unsentimentally to imagine any future for that country one thing stands out: The only thing of value the Afghans can grow themselves that is in great demand all over the world, both legally and illegally is opium. The key to Afghan self-sufficiency, autonomy and prosperity is opium.

Opium, is the essential ingredient in the medical control of pain. Even opium's dark daughter, heroin, under the name "Diamorphine," is a perfectly legal prescription drug in the UK, routinely used in treating severe pain. Diamorphine is especially useful as a palliative for the agonies of the terminally ill, where the danger of addiction is obviously irrelevant. Relieving pain is humane, noble and good and opium is essential in relieving pain. Therefore opium, when properly controlled and regulated, (like the printing of money), is a good, valuable, legitimate commodity and its production a useful activity.

So there we have it, Afghanistan, with traditional technology, and little foreign investment, is able to supply the entire world's needs of a valuable commodity, that although dangerous when misused, is essential to modern medicine. A clear opportunity for a traditional society to attain prosperity. It stands to reason then, that any solution to Afghanistan's unhappy situation will, of necessity, pass through legalizing, regulating and channeling what "comes naturally" to Afghans, which is growing the opium poppy. That would certainly be a project to "win hearts and minds".

Of course, there are many good reasons and practical arguments why this cannot ever be done, however they are all good reasons why the "west" will "fail" in Afghanistan. DS

UN fears Afghan opium 'explosion' - BBC News
The United Nations says it fears that Afghanistan may grow even more poppies in 2007 - at a time when current levels are already running at record output.

Poppy production rose 25% in 2006, according to the US State Department.

The UN says although production of poppies, used to make heroin, has fallen in the north and centre, a sharp rise is likely in the lawless south.

It also cites a dramatic increase in cannabis growing, which it describes as a new and disturbing trend.

In a report published on Monday, the UN office on drugs and crime said it was clear that the increased production in the south was a security issue.

Many southern regions have no government presence, while opium farmers were protected by the Taleban which uses drugs money to fund its insurgency, it said.

"It is clear that the insurgents are deriving an income, which they use to pay salaries for their foot soldiers (and) to buy weapons," said Antonio Maria Costa, the UN department's executive director.

"All of this has created quite a cancer of insurgency and illicit drug cultivation that has to be cut through in the years to come," he said.

He said the eradication effort needed to be increased to be effective. Last year, about 10% of the crop was eradicated, but Mr Costa said the figure should rise to 30%.

Four years after the US and its British allies began combating poppy production, Afghanistan still accounts for 90% of the world's opium trade.

1 comment:

RLaing said...

Drugs are more profitable while illegal: higher prices, no taxes.

When not denying involvement altogether, apologists for the CIA claim it is in the drug trade to fund covert operations; but I suspect myself that it's the other way around: the CIA funds covert operations to stay in the drug trade.