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Drug War In Afghanistan
Poppies, Pot, and War Politics
by Christine Trudeau (26 May, 2005)
All You Need To Know A To Z About
Poppies, pot, and war politics
Will we ever suck from the hose of an Afghani desert opium hookah?
Will we again see the gooey-black sheen of traditional Afghani hashish, available as it used to be, in Dutch cannabis coffeeshops?
In Washington, DC and London, England, standard ideas about Middle East drug plants sound like anti-Islamic screeds authored by 21st century neoconservative supporter of the current "war on terror," also known as the war on Islamic "extremism." But this isn’t just a modern lie; it’s also an old story, always slanted against the Muslims and their plants.
According to famed explorer Marco Polo, hashish was chic a thousand years ago. In that era, a powerful Persian Muslim warlord named Al-Hassan ibin al-Sabbah commanded a group of Shi’ite terrorists in the Middle East. Western historians say these "terrorists" were fanatical young men, fearless and devout. The men were known as "Fida’is," a secretive martyr’s brigade staffed with warriors in the service of Allah.
The Fida’is were precursors to today’s suicide bombers, like the Iraqis who wire themselves and their cars with explosives, using their flesh as resistance devices against the multi-billion dollar firepower of US and British war machinery, of US helicopter gunships hurling thousands of rounds per minute into clay walls of houses where frightened Iraqi women and children die, along with the "insurgents."
European historians describe Sabbah’s Fida’is warriors as "assassins," which is a mistranslation of the root words "hashish" or "hashashin." The latter word means "hashish eater," but the "hashish" eaten by "hashashins" might not be in any way similar to cannabis-based hashish we consume today.
In the labyrinths of language and interpretation, scholars argue about what the original words for cannabis and hashish actually represent. Some experts say the Arabic words "khashish" and "hashish" could mean "dried plants, mushrooms, flowers, or herbs," not just cannabis.
The wild stories about the hashashins and their use of "hashish" certainly raise questions about whether hashish-eating warriors were ingesting cannabis resins, hallucinogenic mushrooms, or semi-poisonous intoxicating plants such as belladonna.
The European version of Middle East history says Sabbah initiated recruits by dosing them with huge amounts of "hashish," so much that they lost consciousness.
It is theoretically possible, but not likely, that a person could enter unconsciousness on cannabis hashish. More likely is that cannabis "unconsciousness" would not be like the comatose blackout caused by fatal drugs such as alcohol or barbiturates. It would more resemble a waking dream, similar to the visionary cannabis experiences described in the 1800’s by writers and scientists such as Victor Hugo, Lewis Caroll, Fitz Hugh Ludlow, Dr. Moreau DeTours and Alexandre Dumas, who shared stony membership in what they called "Le Club Des Haschischins."
Whatever it was they had ingested, the folklore says Sabbah’s Muslim initiates awoke from their drugged stupor and found they’d been transported to a lush garden inside a castle’s walls.
In the garden, Sabbah had created an elaborately dramatic educational show which included bloodied, apparently-decapitated actors masquerading as dead people, speaking as ghosts. These actors told recruits the noblest way to live was to die in the service of Islam.
Along with actors speaking as ghosts, the intoxicated recruits experienced unlimited sexual access to beautiful concubines. During marathon lovemaking sessions, the women promised the young men that a paradise consisting of hot, horny young virgins awaited them if they died while killing infidels in the name of Allah.
Satiated by "hashish" and sex, and educated by "ghosts," the young men swore eternal loyalty to Sabbah and Islam, looking forward to receiving their reward in heaven for warring against infidels on earth.
Hashashin deja vu
When America’s most-famous drug warrior, Harry Anslinger, embarked on his successful campaign to demonize marijuana in the early 1900’s, he made sure to tell the lurid tale of Sabbah and the Hashashins over and over. It fit so well with America’s inborn racism and long tradition of anti-orientalism, which had been expressed in Western US states in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, when Oriental immigrants to the US were persecuted like rats, often because of their medicinal use of opium.
Anslinger said the story of Hashashins proved that hashish (marijuana) had a unique ability to erase a person’s conscience, drive them insane… to turn a "normal" person into an addicted, murderous sex fiend. It only takes one puff, Anslinger warned, and you’re hooked.
That was in 1937. In 2005, George W. Bush, Zionists, Arab dictators, globalists, the United Nations, right-wing journalists, and other anti-Islamicists are reincarnations of Anslinger, linking cannabis hashish with evil Islamic terrorists.
Even the state-run news media in Saudi Arabia, which is as corrupt and propagandistic as the mainstream media in the US, routinely carries stories alleging that al-Qaeda is in the marijuana and opium poppy business, and that al-Qaeda members use cannabis and other illegal drugs.
Commentators allege that Islamic fundamentalists export "deadly marijuana, heroin and opium" to Western countries as a form of warfare.
"Like its ’90s counterparts in Afghanistan and Algeria, the Saudi terror movement depends heavily on smuggling, especially of drugs such as heroin and hashish, as a source of revenue," an "anti-terrorism" website claimed. "Such drugs are specifically banned under Islamic law, but the terror groups have used a [religious ruling] by their late spiritual guide Abdallah al-Rashoud, in which he provided an ‘exception.’ His argument was simple: hard drugs represent a form of weaponry that Muslim warriors are authorized to use against "infidel" nations: drugs will kill young people in the ‘infidel’ West while providing money for Islamist groups to buy arms with which to kill more "’infidels.’"
The assertion that al-Qaeda members use or sell hashish is questionable. Independent journalists who observed al-Qaeda training camps before al-Qaeda went totally underground after 9/11, say Islamic law and al-Qaeda leaders specifically prohibited the use of cannabis and other intoxicants, and that recruits were expected to be celibate as well.
No hashish or women? What would Hassan al Sabbah say about that?
Cannabis for guns and other fables
The charges that al-Qaeda is in the drug production and export business are impossible to verify, but there’s never been any evidence to back bizarre allegations made by British Columbia Solicitor General Rich Coleman, linking sale of BC bud to the purchase of guns for freedom fighters in Afghanistan.
In February, 2004, after a Canadian soldier died in Afghanistan, Coleman said, "We have just lost a soldier in Afghanistan. When we first arrived in Afghanistan, the weapons that were shipped to [insurgent] soldiers in Afghanistan, a lot of it could be traced to the marijuana drug trade in British Columbia."
The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) challenged Coleman’s statement, making an Information Act request seeking "all information supporting Coleman’s claims that the BC marijuana industry financed the purchase of guns used in Afghanistan."
The Ministry told BCCLA there was no evidence supporting Coleman’s claims: "Please be advised that the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General has no records within the scope of your request. The search for records included the Policing and Community Safety Branch, and the Office of the Solicitor General."
The United Nations is also in the drug war fable business. This organization claims not to have enough funding or personnel to stop genocides, illegal wars, famine, and environmental destruction. However, the UN is spending millions funding the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), a UN agency that is increasingly alleging that drug producers and traffickers are flourishing in Iraq and Afghanistan, and are linked to Islamic terrorists.
Wherever you find the drug war, you find INCB, destroying plant drugs like cannabis, coca and opium, trying to link illegal plants to indigenous freedom fighters branded as terrorists.
According to the UN and the US, wherever people grow plants that produce medicines, sacraments and intoxicants, that’s where you’ll find a terrorist insurgency. They’re everywhere, even in Nepal! The US, UN and the Indian government accuse Nepal’s Maoist rebels of selling heroin and hashish to fund their battle against the despotic Nepalese government
What do these "communist terrorists" use their drug money for? To buy guns, medicines, and rice cookers, an Indian report alleged, claiming that they are "used to make bombs."
The US Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (BINLEA) says Maoist "guerillas" are smuggling hashish and heroin, and growing lots of marijuana, in the southern section of Nepal on the border with India.
The hashish is sold in India, BINLEA says; Indian police are intercepting 600 pound shipments of hashish. The Maoists allegedly skim 40% of all cannabis profits, leaving the rest of the money to farmers, hashmakers, and smugglers.
From Nepal to the Middle East, the UN sees cannabis as a money-tree for terror.
Cannabis Culture readers are probably familiar with Hamid Ghodse, the INCB’s president. He’s the UN’s lead drug war attack dog, the point man for attacking Holland’s cannabis coffeeshops and North America’s medical cannabis movement.
He’s also raising alarms about heroin, opium, and hashish smuggled from Iraq and Afghanistan to Jordan, Pakistan and other neighboring countries, eventually ending up in Europe. According to Ghodse, Iraq has become a major trans-shipment point for Afghan hashish, heroin and opium. The solution: to combine the war on Iraq with the war on drugs.
"A large quantity of cannabis has been seized at the (Jordanian-Iraqi) border during the last 12 months," Ghodse says, adding that chemicals components used in the production of cocaine and heroin had also been seized, along with 800 pounds of hashish in Basra in southern Iraq that Ghodse says entered the country from Iran.
Instead of focusing on the stark fact that Iraq and Afghanistan were by all accounts safer, more peaceful countries before the US and UK invaded them, Ghodse worries about the two wars only because they have created "chaos" that is an "ideal situation for illegal drugs," with "drug criminals" working hand in hand with Islamic resistance movements and "terrorists."
"You cannot have peace, security and development without attending to drug control," Ghodse says. "Whether it is due to war or disaster, weakening of border controls and security infrastructure make countries into convenient logistic and transit points, not only for international terrorists and militants, but also for traffickers."
How many more years?
UN officials like Ghodse want the US and other countries to fund a massive drug war in the Middle East, "before the drug problem gets out of hand."
It’s probably too late. Five decades ago, the United Nations set up an elaborate Middle East anti-drug monitoring unit and asked that the region’s countries set up police states, criminal penalties and other infrastructure to squash the drug trade.
In 1959, the United Nations Middle East Narcotics Survey Mission proclaimed illegal drug warnings and strategies that are virtually identical to what the UN is saying today, nearly 50 years later.
"Year after year since the Commission on Narcotic Drugs was established after World War II," a 1960 UN report warned, "information has been forthcoming from governments participating in the international narcotics control system showing that there was heavy traffic in opium originating in the Middle East, and going from it to other parts of the world, especially through the Mediterranean towards North America. Since 1951, there were reports of increasing manufacture of opium into crude morphine and heroin within the region. There was also a constant picture of a heavy traffic in cannabis hashish directed to a large and growing market within the region itself. Increased co-operation amongst the enforcement authorities of countries within and outside the region was bringing to light the existence of organized international gangs of traffickers operating from bases in the Middle East. Typical examples were the Abou Sayia gang operating in Lebanon, Syria and Turkey, and the organization, headed by Samil Khoury, with extensive connections in Europe."
Half a century later, the UN warns that the Middle East drug trade is stronger than ever, with Middle Eastern countries growing poppies and cannabis, despite the heavy hand of American invaders and the many years of UN intervention.
Looks like half a century of UN anti-drug presence in the region has been a big, fat waste of time and money, eh?
Marijuana is a traditional crop in places like Afghanistan. Many botanists believe that a landrace variety of cannabis, called Afghani, is an archetypal cannabis genetic stock, from which Indica-influenced marijuana was introduced into a mostly-Sativa world during the 1960’s and 70’s. Afghani marijuana forms the basis for some of the world’s best modern cannabis strains, and is also used to manufacture tons of hashish that can be purchased in Dutch coffeeshops and elsewhere.
Afghani cannabis is grown in the Hindu Kush highlands and the plains of Mazar-e-Sharif (a mega-potent, compact strain of Afghani cannabis can be grown from Mazar-e-Sharif seeds purchased from Marc Emery).
The Afghan cannabis cultivation industry was hurt when Afghanistan was occupied by Russia during the 1980’s; Russia was able to decrease the amount of poppies and cannabis grown there.
During the 1990’s, the conservative Taliban government that defeated the Russians after a decade of guerrilla warfare waged a successful drug war against Afghani poppy and cannabis growers, sometimes using US money to do it.
"It is our decree that there will be no poppy cultivation. It is banned forever in this country," a Taliban official said in 2001. "Whether we get assistance or not, poppy growing will never be allowed again in our country.
The Taliban and others who fought against Russian occupation, including Osama bin Laden, were trained and funded by the CIA. Afghanistan’s Taliban government received $40 million in cash for its anti-drug efforts in the summer before 9/11.
A few weeks later, President Bush claimed the Taliban funded the terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attacks. If the Taliban was providing funding, which has never been proven, it probably did so with US drug war money!
Readers who are curious about the US’s role in facilitating the smuggling of hard drugs should study the books Whiteout, Dark Alliance, and The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade. It puts the history of hypocrisy into context.
Perhaps it’s not surprising that as soon as Afghanistan was occupied by the US, the UK and the UN, Afghani farmers and warlords revved up the country’s illegal drug agriculture sector.
"Fields of sturdy marijuana plants, some nearly seven feet tall, line part of the main road leading west from Mazar-e-Sharif, the biggest city in northern Afghanistan," a reporter said, soon after the US invaded Afghanistan three years ago.
"When we’re ready to sell, people in big cars will come from the bazaar in town," a cannabis farmer explained. "We don’t know who they are, we just want the money."
Since the US invaded Afghanistan, poppy and cannabis cultivation has increased dramatically. The country allegedly produces at least 80 percent of the world’s opium. Estimates say 50 tons of Afghan heroin is sold in Europe each year; allegedly, 20 tons of Afghan heroin are sold in the US per year.
Drug war hand-wringers are very upset.
"There is a danger that all the stabilization and reconstruction efforts will be neutralized unless the narcotrafficking problem is addressed," says Ursula Miller, a representative of the German government’s anti-drug force. "We have to fight this corruption. Those guys involved in the drug business are in all levels of Afghanistan’s government."
The president of Afghanistan is a be-robed US lackey, Hamid Karzai. He’s a former Taliban member who fought valiantly against Russia and has ties to the CIA and the US oil industry. The US installed him as president of Afghanistan after the US overthrew the Taliban government.
Karzai is making lots of money from the drug war, collecting nearly a billion dollars a year from countries like the US, UK and Germany to fight the growing of crops that are a traditional part of the Afghan landscape. Yet, it’s all but certain that Karzai is in bed with the illegal drug industry, which controls much of Afghanistan.
Drug money and drug lords are part of the landscape, permeating everything from political bureaucracy to village life.
Describing his journey into primo bud-growing territory near Mazar-i-Sharif, a journalist talked of spending the day "in fields as far as the eye can see of marijuana, it’s the hashish season up here, not the poppy season."
A senior police commander in the capital city, Kabul, reports, "Whatever number of police cars there are in Kabul, I can tell you that more than 50 percent of them are carrying drugs inside from one place to another. The problem is that Afghanistan is training police to stop drug smugglers, and when they go out into the field, their police commander tells them how to protect the drug smugglers."
Police and military commanders have become drug lords or they work for drug lords. The lords are powerful men who control land, trade, and justice.
Even when police enforce drug laws, it is usually a means of harming a competitor, rather than a bona fide attempt to enforce drug laws.
To make it appear that progress is being made, we have the daily tallies from the 6th Brigade Transitional Afghan Border Security Forces, who have stopped 644 kilos of opium and heroin at various border crossings this season. Officials say they only stop a fraction of what’s being smuggled.
Drug war propaganda in mainstream media portrays Afghanistan’s cannabis growers as part of a lawless network of greedy, vicious criminals.
One report described how villagers in Dalicharbolak are dying of thirst, allegedly because evil marijuana growers are stealing the community’s water to irrigate vast cannabis fields.
"They’re killing us here," a man says, referring to pot growers. "They’re taking all the water. I haven’t seen water in our ditches for four years. And all for hashish."
The report alleges that "dope growers in the mountains siphon off the streams that still flow, while hash farmers in the plains dig wells up to 100 meters deep to reach the water table. The combined effect of drought, reduced water from the hills and the cannabis cultivators’ new boreholes is catastrophic."
Bertrand Brequeville, a French aid worker, asserts: "It’s only the rich drug producers who can afford pumps to irrigate the land. They pump all day, and all the wells in the villages around them dry up."
Worse yet, the report says, nobody is really sure how much cannabis is being grown, and the drug war’s attention is on poppies, not pot. Not that it’s hard to find marijuana fields.
"Everybody’s farming chaars [cannabis] now," says former Taliban fighter Faizullah, 27, watering a verdant six-hectare oasis of hemp surrounded by desert. "It’s a free-for-all."
Predictably, reports from mainstream media say the cannabis growers brutally mistreat other Afghanis. In the village of Shakhshirale close to the Turkmenian border, hash farmers "shot dead a man who walked all day to demand two buckets of water."
In Dalicharbolak, villagers "gunned down two cannabis growers who were hoarding water upstream."
The real reasons for water shortages in Afghanistan are a drought caused by global warming, the ongoing war started by the US, and the lack of international investment in population control and water infrastructure. But, it’s more convenient to blame water problems on "hashish growers."
Meanwhile, in neighboring Pakistan (the country is a US ally in the war on Islam, a torturer of prisoners at the request of the US, and a possessor of nuclear weapons), UN drug warrior Antonio Maria Costa is mighty proud of the Anti-Narcotics Force Pakistan (ANF), which he says is doing a grand job in combating drug terrorism.
Carried away by the weight of his job, Costa has appealed to the entire planet to come to the Middle East to personally cut down all the "evil and vociferous" poppy plants, adding that he’s been terrified of poppies ever since as a child he saw the poppy scene during which innocent Dorothy falls asleep in the Wizard of Oz.
Costa says there are four million drug addicts in Pakistan, and poppies are to blame for all of them.
The head of the ANF recently reported that from January 1, 2005 to May 9, 2005, his department seized 4,798 kilograms of heroin, 1,878 kilograms of opium and 1671 kilograms of hashish.
This is about one tenth of one percent of the amount that did not get interdicted.
The drug war reveals the fault lines in capitalist alliances that are all about the US and England controlling strategic territory in the world’s primary petroleum region.
It’s gotten so bad that Afghan President Karzai, while on a May trip to Washington during which he inked a long-term deal to make his country a US client state, had to promise to kill all Afghanistan’s opium poppies in 5 years. Karzai was sandbagged by leaked documents reported in the press on the eve of his US visit. He was especially stung by a State Department assertion that Afghanistan is a "narco-state."
The US alleged that when it sent an elite team of agents to wipe out Afghan poppy fields and encountered fierce resistance from growers, Karzai’s government in Kabul did absolutely nothing to provide backup for the unit. Some US officials whisper that Karzai, described in diplomatic circles as a US oil puppet, is involved in the drug trade.
But the US also blames its ally, England.
American officials have accused Britain of being "substantially responsible" for failing to eradicate heroin production in Afghanistan. A leaked, classified US document alleges the Brits made massive tactical errors in their targeting of drug dealers and producers.
Observers say the US’s criticism of Karzai and the British is meant to deflect complaints from Karzai and human rights organizations about US soldiers torturing and killing prisoners in US-run Afghan jails.
There have been persistent reports of US torture, massacres, and other human rights abuses ever since the country was invaded three years ago; even the UN has condemned as "utterly unacceptable" the US handling of human rights in the Afghan war, and its refusal to let the Red Cross and the UN inspect its prison facilities.
Karzai wants the US to transfer all Afghani prisoners to Afghani custody.
The news is almost all bad for Karzai. In March, the State Department report said the area in Afghanistan devoted to poppy cultivation was triple the area used in 2003.
The Afghan narcotics situation "represents an enormous threat to world stability," the State Department said, claiming that Karzai "has been unwilling to assert strong leadership" to stop the country’s thriving poppy and pot industries.
Karzai’s defenders say Karzai called for a "jihad" against drugs after his "election" last November. They say the US, the UK, and the UN have not followed through on promises to fund crop replacement programs so farmers can be paid to grow something other than poppies and reefer, which are the world’s most lucrative plants.
Another reason that Karzai might be a bit deferential to the drug trade is because growers in Afghanistan aren’t scared to fight back. When the government’s new anti-plant patrol tried to invade the Maiwand district of Kandahar Province, the eradication force encountered armed farmers blocking the fields.
The US and allied drug warriors in Afghanistan are using drug war tricks perfected in Mexico, Bolivia, Peru, Columbia and the United States. In April, US forces kidnapped alleged Afghan "drug lord" Haji Bashir Noorzai. U.S. and European money is helping Karzai’s government build special drug courts and train paramilitary interdiction teams. Pentagon and State Department officials openly discuss the militarization and para-militarization of the Afghan drug war, citing the "success we’ve had in Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia."
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is having a ton of fun in Afghanistan. It has deployed special hit teams into the country, flying souped-up helicopters, using military tactics and sophisticated intelligence gathering, and wreaking havoc without making even the slightest dent in the flood of opium and cannabis flowing out of the country.
The agency is combining with the US military to make the drug war a homegrown employment opportunity in Afghanistan. The chance to be a drug warrior is presented as a liberating opportunity for oppressed women who have signed up to be narcotics cops.
"I like President Karzai because now I can carry a Kalashnikov. This is the new Afghanistan," explains a jubilant drug warrior woman named Malalai, one of six women trained to be a drug warrior at a British and American camp in bombed-out Kabul.
She’s part of mobile hunter-killer teams that raid people before any real investigation has been done to ensure that the people are actually drug criminals. It’s the Wild Wild West drug war, Afghani style.
In the "new Afghanistan," the woman’s handlers promise, she can defy Muslim patriarchal tradition while earning good money helping her country’s invaders destroy her country’s main cash crops.