This past weekend, the New York Times ran an article entitled "Could Afghan Poppies Be Painkillers for the Poor?" Those crazy potheads... what will they think of next? An excerpt:
[R]ather than trying to eradicate Afghanistan's poppies, why not instead buy them and make morphine? Given that the World Health Organization estimates that over 6.2 million of the world's poor are dying of cancer, AIDS, burns and wounds without adequate pain relief, the argument goes, wouldn't it make sense?
Hmmm.... OK, that's doesn't sound cuckoo for cocoa puffs crazy to me. And the Senlis Council, which is taking the lead on advocating the "poppies to medicine" approach, notes that the U.S. and Britain already spend more than $800 million a year - and soldier's lives - trying to eradicate the poppy crops in Afghanistan. And history shows that that never, ever works. So why not spend that money to buy the crops, and convert them to medicine? There's actually a precedent in the U.S. for doing it:
In the late 1960's, the Nixon administration, fighting a heroin epidemic, pressured Turkey, then the world's chief grower, to eradicate its poppy crops.
Unable to do that (both because of corruption and because peasant farmers vote) Turkey in 1974 started licensing farmers to grow for the morphine trade, and the United States in 1981 gave protected-market status to Turkey and India, obligating itself to buy 80 percent of the raw material for American painkillers from them. Why not, the Senlis Council and others argue, let Afghanistan join the legitimate supply chain?
Here's why: because there's money to be made in eradication, and it let's politicians look like they're tough on crime:
[W]ith a $600 million annual budget for eradication, the field attracts paramilitary contractors with deep connections to the Bush administration, including Blackwater USA and DynCorp International, both of whom train Afghan anti-narcotics police.
Sweet jiminy, these Blackwater monkeys are everywhere! Of course, this is the tragic problem with the drug war - the billions and billions we spend every year has done almost nothing to reduce drug use or trafficking, but it funds a lot of police departments, sheriff's offices, and apparently, military contractors, too. They've got a lot of budget dollars in the game, and have no intention of letting it go. Plus, there's the prison industry to think of. If we don't continue to incarcerate drug users, how can the prison industry continue the mutant-like growth it's seen since the Reagan administration?