License to Kill: Drug war idiocy in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan, many predict, will become Barack Obama’s Viet Nam War. The situation in that land-locked country is becoming dire. The Taliban control ever more territory and have recently thrown a choke hold onto military supplies coming into the country with attacks on bridges and convoys.

The latest strategy for NATO as directed by the USA seems to redirect military efforts into a war on drugs. U.S. General John Craddock, the NATO Supreme Commander reasons that the $100 million dollar poppy and heroin industries finance the Taliban. He is proclaiming that military action will commence “within days” against a new target in Afghanistan, the opium, heroin and cannabis industries. Under new policy, civilians involved in the poppy trade will become military target coequal to Taliban fighters.

Does Craddock not know or recall that there was a recent model of success in eradicating opium production in Afghanistan, not ten years ago? The Taliban themselves accomplished this feat, for the first time in Afgan history, after a decree in July 2000. Opium acreage reportedly dropped to nearly zero.  And while the good news is the Taliban successfully banned opium production, the bad news in they also banned, pork, pig, pig oil, anything made from human hair, satellite dishes, cinematography, and equipment that produces the joy of music, pool tables, chess, masks, alcohol, tapes, computers, VCRs, television, anything that propagates sex and is full of music, wine, lobster, nail polish, firecrackers, statues, sewing catalogs, pictures, Christmas cards.

American anti-drug bureaucrast were so happy with the (apparent) eradication of the opium trade, the Bush administration actually awarded 43 million dollars to the Taliban theocrats ruling Afghanistan and playing host to Osama bin Laden less than 4 months before September 11, 2001. Less than 6 months after this payment, , the USA attacked Afghanistan, over seven long years ago. At first the American effort seemed to work out well,; the Taliban fled from cities into the countryside and into Pakistan. Much of the populace was glad to see them and their sharia law. But since then, Afghanistan, ignored once America attacked Iraq, has slid into deep peril.  Never in this seven years has the situation looked worse than currently, with the Taliban control closing in everyday on provincial capital and Kabul. The Karzai government is disliked. Wariness of, and weariness with, foreign military occupation are ripe.

Much of the population is unemployed and most civilians with jobs work in the profitable opium industry, the country’s cash crop. If the NATO commander, US General Craddock has his way, this broad swath of the Afghan population may soon come under fire from US (and other NATO) guns.In a bizarre leap of drug war logic, General Craddock proposes that no distinction is now to be made between customary NATO target -the Taliban fighters – and this new group of targets. These Afghans producing and trading opium comprise a good proportion of the populace. Such policy is, thankfully, illegal under international law. The German news magazine Der Spiegel brought this policy and its illegality to the world’s attention in January 2009. Entitled, NATO High Commander Issues Illegitimate Order to Kill, the article documents how General Craddock still argues that such policy is legal and correct. He is opposed by other NATO leaders and General McKiernan.

Barack Obama rightfully claimed that George Bush took his eye off the ball of Afghanistan and shorted the effort to nab or kill bin Laden. Now that he is president, he better put his eye on the ball and decide what America;s objectives in that poor, mountainous country, larger than Iraq. Hopefully his policy will not include gunning down agricultural workers from helicopter gunships.

There is some hope: Head of US Central Command,  David Petraeus recalled  the country’s long history. He was quoted by The Washington Post,  “Afghanistan has been known over the years as the graveyard of empires,” he said. “We cannot take that history lightly.” He concedes conditions have deterioated in the last two years but nonetheless encourages an surge-type sustained advance into the countryside to win hearts and minds.

Even such sensible policy may fail. But is is incompatible with Craddock’s license-to-kill the populace for performing the one activity that can help them make a living. Barack Obama stands on the precipice in Afghanistan. He should not be guided by more drug war idiocy. The drug war in the USA has become an enormous boondoggle serving only those in its employ. American drug warriors can not even keep drugs out their own prisons. Now the US military will solve the Afghanistan opium problem by killing Afghan civilians?