This is the latest song and dance out of Afghanistan that fools few people, except those in the West. The official American policy has been to destroy the evil poppy grown by these farmers before it gets to the streets of New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, London, Paris and many other Western metropolises.
Heroin wasn't always the evil we associate it with today. In fact, according to Wikipedia, in the late 1800s, Bayer would name the substance "heroin", probably from the word heroisch, German for heroic, because in field studies people using the medicine felt "heroic". Bayer even marketed it from 1898 to 1910, first as a cure for Morphine addiction. But the bad effects soon became too common to ignore, and The Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914 restricted it to prescription only, and in 1924, it was banned altogether.
WWII saw a near 100% end of the drug, due to wars in China and other heroin producing (not growing) regions. However, the end of the war helped spark a new and excitingly adventurous career for many in the illegal heroin manufacturing, transportation and sales industry. This industry had been set up by the mafia in Sicily, the French in various regions in the south, and by the CIA in Laos and other areas inhabited by "anti-Communist" tribesmen and former Chinese nationals. The exact questionnaire they used to ensure that one qualified as an anti-Communist and therefore was worthy of American taxpayer money in the heroin industry, which supplied illegal drugs to criminals in the United States, has never been fully disclosed.
Wikipedia also gives us a few insights in the more recent scaled-up production of opium in Afghanistan. For many decades, the rugged, mountainous area of the country made eradication difficult, the climate made growing a snap, and the obscurity within international policy programs gave the nation a unique status as the 'Who the f*** cares" capital of Asia. Opium grew aplenty, Western governments concentrated on stopping the mafia manufacturing centers in Sicily (yeah, right), the French connection centers in southern France (not until Popeye Doyle showed up) and the CIA-run centers in Southeast Asia. We had great success in stopping the CIA-run centers in Southeast Asia according to every American politician who ever spoke on the subject.
When the government/political/military meltdown of Afghanistan was initiated by NSA Director Zbigniew Kazimierz Brzezinski and signed into executive order on July 3, 1979 by President Carter, also known as the Soviet-Afghan War, the great opium farmers got a new, unexpected boost in production as well as demand. Life was more or less great, give or take the occasional Soviet Mi 4 Hind and Mi 24 Assault helicopters bellicose interventions. But soon, American-supplied stinger missiles evened the ante, and the Soviets became even less visible. Opium poppies grew, manufacturing centers around the world enjoyed banner years, Afghanistan became Poppy Central in the industry and addicts in all the major usage areas smiled.
But then came the down years. The evil, radical, horrible, diabolic Taliban decided that opium, and its assorted legal and illegal medicinal productions, were anti Islam and started banning the stuff. Heroin addicts across the world complained, well sorta. Wikipedia tells us that, "The cultivation of opium in Afghanistan reached its peak in 1999, when 225,000 acres - 350 square miles - of poppies were sown. The following year the Taliban banned poppy cultivation, a move which cut production by 94 percent. By 2001 only 30 square miles of land were in use for growing opium poppies."
Ah, but it gets worse. The ACSA 2001 South Asia Analysis Group paper entitled, "Heroin, Taliban and Pakistan," states, "In the 1980s, at the instance of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the US, the Internal Political Division of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), headed by Brig (retd). Imtiaz, who worked directly under Lt.Gen.Hamid Gul, the DG of the ISI during the later years of Zia-ul-Haq and during the first few months of Mrs. Benazir Bhutto's first tenure as the Prime Minister (1988-90), started a special cell for the use of heroin for covert actions." This wonderful relationship would just get better with age. "After the withdrawal of the Soviet troops, the ISI's heroin cell started using its network of refineries and smugglers for smuggling heroin to the Western countries and using the money as a supplement to its legitimate economy. But for these heroin dollars, Pakistan's legitimate economy must have collapsed many years ago."
In other words, American taxpayer dollars have been instrumental in keeping the Pakistan economy afloat through the maintenance of their heroin industry, whose products were enjoyed by millions of criminals and addicts all across the Western world. And you thought you were just trying to help the budget deficit. But things turn sour. The pressure from the international community is great, and starting in 1999, Pakistan and Taliban-controlled Afghanistan start dismantling their heroin refineries and switching their agricultural endeavors to nonpoppy crops.
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