geopolitics of opium 2007
October 16, 2007 10:27 AM   Subscribe

The amount of Afghan land used for growing opium is now larger than the combined total under coca cultivation in Latin America - Colombia, Peru and Bolivia. No other country has produced narcotics on such a deadly scale since China in the 19 th century. Opium in Afghanistan: Eradicate or subsidize?

Previously.

Some interesting sponsors of the Afghanistan online site, scroll down.

India flanked [pdf] by opium production in Pakistan and Burma.

Maps from GeOpium.org, geopolitics of illicit drugs in Asia.

The Chief Constable of North Wales Police Richard Brunstorm, recommends in a report published today, that his Police Authority officially support his call for the legalisation and regulation of drugs. Mixed thoughts on that topic.

Afghanistan: Potential Opium Production 1990 to 2006, graphic.

Inside an Afghan opium market

Estimated world requirements of narcotic drugs [pdf] in grams for 2007
posted by nickyskye (34 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
If we're talking about 'deadly' scales, then China still leads the way, I reckon.
posted by topynate at 10:37 AM on October 16, 2007


The government legitametely buying the opium to curb heroin supplies is a truly bizarre idea.

Supply will simply increase to meet the newly increased demand, and enough poppies will be grown for both the government buyers AND heroin manufacturers.

Not that that's necessarily a bad thing.
posted by I like to eat meat at 10:40 AM on October 16, 2007


I seem to recall that we gave lare sums of money to Afghanistan when that place controlled by Taleban and growth pretty much stopped till we attacked that country. The Taleban happy to get money subsidy and did not like the crop. Now they like the crop for what it can buy them in the way of arms.
posted by Postroad at 10:52 AM on October 16, 2007


Opium Spirit laughed out loud. "See how I have domesticated the noisy two legs! Look at this land, once wild and owned by none! Now my seed covers it! Now they scrape and water and weed to serve my every need! Now the landscape is shaped by my needs - surely I am the greatest of all the plant spirits, for the very Earth is twisted to my fecundity!"

A wind rustled through the miles and miles and miles of corn. Where it grew neatly in rows farther than any eye could see; where cities shaped themselves around its comfort; where entire civilizations rose and fell with its seasons - all these places and more, the wind susurrated through the wide flat places of the world filled with the ranked armies of the Corn Spirit. And the wind sounded like laughter.
posted by freebird at 10:59 AM on October 16, 2007 [5 favorites]


Considering the recent fuss Turkey is kicking up over their genocide being recognized, I'm not sure why* the USA/NATO isn't turning to Afghanistan for their legal dope - there is enough of a global demand for the stuff that the current producers wouldn't be hurt financially by adding to their ranks, but the possibility that it could lose its status as a legit provider in favour of another country could be an incentive to ensure Turkey's continuing co-operation as a military way-station for the US. IMO, it would also be the best way to cut the legs out from under the Taliban and win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people by providing them with decent pay for their product. I know it's not news to anyone, but the only true way to win the war on terror is to win begin fighting in earnest the war on poverty and ignorance.

*Yeah, I know, $, and a complete lack common fucking sense.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:03 AM on October 16, 2007


To be fair, China wasn't the one producing the opium in the 19th century. They went to war to kick out the drug-dealing westerners. From the "China in the 19th century" wiki link:
The drug was produced in India under a British government monopoly (Bengal) and in the Princely states (Malwa) and was sold on the condition that it be shipped by British traders to China.
posted by mullingitover at 11:03 AM on October 16, 2007


the government of Hamid Karzai (sic) agreed on a strategy of offering power-sharing deals to Taliban commanders in southern Afghanistan
posted by acro at 11:04 AM on October 16, 2007


The cognitive dissonance of those advocating the drug war in Afghanistan is staggering. Spending millions of dollars destroying a few farmers' livelihoods, while the country continues to supply over 90% of the world's heroin, when there is actually a worldwide shortage of legitimate medical opiates, particularly in poorer countries. All because drugs are bad mmkay and we're tough on them to the point of perpetual war. Are politicians inherently incapable of thinking practically?
posted by kaspen at 11:11 AM on October 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


You're right PostRoad, "According to opioids.com, by February 2001, production had been reduced from 12,600 acres (51 km²) to only 17 acres. In July 2001, the United States gave the Taliban 48 million dollars for reducing 99.86% of the production...

However, with the 2001 US/Northern Alliance expulsion of the Taliban, opium cultivation has increased in the southern provinces liberated from the Taliban control, and by 2005 production was 87% of the world's opium supply, rising to 90% in 2006."

Yes, mullingitover, that was a fascinating thing I learned constructing this post. And posted that link specifically to illuminate that it was the British who were doing the producing, blaming it on the Chinese. By the end of the 1700's the British East India Company, which established a monopoly on the opium trade, exported "two thousand chests of opium per year" to China. The Chinese were bullied by wars the British waged against China (the Opium Wars) into buying the stuff in very large quantities.

Afghanistan has been put into an interesting quandary, no-win situation, about growing or not growing opium.
posted by nickyskye at 11:22 AM on October 16, 2007


Yeah, blaming China for 19th century opium is pretty odd.

Anyway, what's crazy is that the U.S. government wants to start spraying herbicide on opium fields, against the wishes of pretty much everyone involved in trying to stop the Taliban. It's quite stupid.
posted by delmoi at 11:37 AM on October 16, 2007


Huge (841 pdf pages) feasibility study by the Senlis Council. You can see the executive summary here.
posted by caddis at 11:50 AM on October 16, 2007


Letter from Afghanistan: The Taliban's Opium War
posted by dead_ at 11:51 AM on October 16, 2007


The "War on Drugs" has to be the most stupid thing the U.S. has involved itself in, during the latter part of the 20th and now the 21st century. I can at least understand why we support Israel, but some of the things we do in 'fighting' the WoD are so obviously counterproductive that they stretch the very limits of what can be characterized as rational behavior.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:54 AM on October 16, 2007


while I am in much agreement with Kadin, aboive, what is it exactly that he would suggest we do? lealize all drugs. Have govt dole them out? make them available with health care programs from Democrats? in sum, once we decide that the program is a failure what is it exactly that you would replace it with and by? simply calling it a failed policy is esy enough but does not address what needs to be done.
posted by Postroad at 11:58 AM on October 16, 2007


in sum, once we decide that the program is a failure what is it exactly that you would replace it with and by?

Do you have problems buying a case of beer and a carton of cigarettes from the gas station on the corner using local currency and identification? No?

Legalize.
Tax.
Profit.

Too bad that's not a fucking joke, otherwise it would be a lot more funny.
posted by prostyle at 12:01 PM on October 16, 2007


in my state I can not buy a case of beer at a gas station; I dislike funding health costs for those smoking legal smokes let alone what costs might be for heroin etc addiction...why should I have to because doing bad shit is bad for health but the citizens will pay for it. The smoke companies now are advertising to hook youngsters and we pay the price...so not so easy to legalize, tax, profit when it creates more health problems that someone has to pay for. Will you gladly pick up new tax bills so crack users can get crack and treatment and housing and subsidies because they can not keep jobs or work or eat right? Don';t want to be a goody two shoes but I have a few friends who had problems of this sort.

ps. and at least under your plan we can release all those jailed for drugs and keep prison expenses down.
posted by Postroad at 12:12 PM on October 16, 2007


Well noted delmoi, "US-financed, billion-dollar aerial coca fumigation campaign that is a cornerstone of America's war on drug" in Latin America, not only has done and is doing tremendous ecological damage but now the leader of the cocalero movement, "resisting the efforts of the United States government to eradicate coca in the province of Chapare in central Bolivia", Evo Morales, is president of Bolivia. So the US is generating political enemies with use of this herbicide.

And now, intriguingly, there is a genetically modified coca plant, "herbicide-resistant cocaine", resistant to Roundup, the herbicide used by the US. Some think this new strain of coca plant may have been modified in the US. Maybe there are herbicide resistant poppies in the offing?

The US government would make money spraying the plants, 'benefit' by manipulating the local government in Afghanistan in the Big Oil Business, is selling arms to terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan (who refines the opium grown in Afghanistan and is now armed with nuclear weapons of mass destruction), builds and maintains prisons for the dealers of opiates in the US with all the 'law enforcement' that entails and then 'treats' the addicts and the mayhem induced around the addicts with social work programs. All paid for by US taxpayers.
posted by nickyskye at 12:12 PM on October 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Using the drug trade you can make an end run around appropriations money from congress. Also trade it for counterfeit money to take that money out of circulation. And of course, destabilizing other governments economically.

The problem with legalization is bound up with production not morality (morality is just the show pony). You want your people ‘up,’ which is why nicotine and coffee are the good guys. Alcohol just sort of sneaked in the back (we tried prohabition, din we?) and really it’s dangerous enough to maintain it’s own stigma, unlike, say, marijuana.
The whole “let’s f up your country” game ran by the british was to shut down China’s manpower advantage. They suddenly had all these addicts to take care of and they didn’t have the poltical infrastructure in place to take care of them (just the social burden on families - sound familiar?).
Basic tenet of warfare, it’s better to wound someone in the field than it is to kill. Kill someone, they die, that’s it. Wound and you take out 3 men, the target and the two men who have to carry him, plus you give the medic more grief and maybe the enemy has to get more of those, so that’s less fighting men overall (given a limited pool, and all pools are limited in the long run, even China’s). They get stronger trading something essentially worthless (pleasure aside) for material gain, making you weaker.
The reason the drug war is going on so no one runs that game on us.
Of course, the efficacy of that is debatable. As is whether resources spent going out kicking over others’ stuff is better than a more measured internal social response.
(I gotta go with Don Corleone, it’s too dangerous. But y’know, Sonny’s not entirely wrong either, lot of money in that powder. But still, causes too much trouble going the other way (jail for people who are essentially harmless, lack of addition support, etc.).
posted by Smedleyman at 12:26 PM on October 16, 2007


Oh yes, forgot to mention, the arms that poverty stricken, terrorist riddled Afghanistan and Pakistan are buying from the US are paid for with the production and refinement of the opium-heroin sold to the US.
posted by nickyskye at 12:28 PM on October 16, 2007


in my state I can not buy a case of beer at a gas station

Ok, the location was tangential. The point is you can buy them legally with proper identification.

I dislike funding health costs for those smoking legal smokes let alone what costs might be for heroin etc addiction...why should I have to because doing bad shit is bad for health but the citizens will pay for it.

Will you gladly pick up new tax bills so crack users can get crack and treatment and housing and subsidies because they can not keep jobs or work or eat right?


People are going to incur these problems regardless of legality, the most promising outlook is rational and supportive policy - funny, the same thing proves effective for addiction treatment! Provide a safe environment, safe substance access and quality, clean paraphernalia, take out the street and criminal elements and all of the sudden you have a different ball game. Amazing!

Do you pay for Alcoholics Anonymous or Narc-Anon programs now? Do you pay out of your pocket to support dysfunctional alcoholics and subsidized living conditions for them and their families? Why would anything change?

I find this comparison disingenuous at best, history proves this much. Do recall that Morphine was prescribed as a solution to Alcohol addiction and Heroin was introduced as the non-narcotic form of Morphine, and was subsequently administered in their addiction treatment programs as well. Appropriately enough, both of these substances are derivative products of the Poppy! Appropriately enough, all of these substances occupy the top tier of addiction charts along with nicotine.

Our confusion and inability to appropriately handle substance abuse and addiction as a whole is not a justification for draconian ignorance enforced on arbitrary substances.

...at least under your plan we can release all those jailed for drugs and keep prison expenses down.

Not to mention the hundreds of billions of annual dollars waiting to be taken out of the black market and put into the national coffers... but it's cool, I fucking hate crackheads too, why don't you join me for a Schlitz
posted by prostyle at 12:32 PM on October 16, 2007


Let me be clear. I do not like the punishments we hand out--filling jails for use of pot, for example. I do not pay for AA--true. But AA is questionable treatment and there are no stats to show that it works. Why is that? I do pay for car crashes due to drunk driving and my insurance rates reflect this. I pay for smokers who use hospitals and for exams etc from passive smoke...it is simply not good for others and it reflects back on non-users.

What I do want: treatment programs that truly work and I believe that in most cases they do not work because they are short-term and not fully funded. Wealthy people often spend 3 or more months in rehab centers. Those less rich? in and out and in and out...(yes: relapse often part ofwhat is expected, I know).

I assume (and I think you imply this) that some 10 peercent of the public prone to addiction, and for that make useful choice, such as this
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/10/16/BA78SQEG7.DTL

But to let "gas stations" sell heroin is silly, for me.
College kids drink a lot (binges. I know. been there) but many grow up to learn sensible drinking and I would not deprive them because some drinkers addicted--note: I was serious drink but no longer drink but I do buy booze for my wife and she drinks at home too)...I imagine you would like to see heroin and coke prices tumble (coke way up these days), and that might create less crime etc but there are some folks who simply choose less expensive items when the price overly costly and they do not want to become crimminals (that is they are not yet addicted, which wluld drive them to sell their bodies etc for the stuff).

If I knew in advance that only ten percent of Aemrica would get addicted to drugs, then I might give serious consideration to it. But I am not convinced that the percentage would stay at that level if more and more pople tried what was now made legal. I am treading on murky grounds, here, I admit, but having some friends with serious problems I am a bit reticent to be jumping on a "make drugs legal" bandwagon. Why not all pharmaceutical drugs too? I used to love perks my dentist gave me.
posted by Postroad at 1:35 PM on October 16, 2007


If I knew in advance that only ten percent of Aemrica would get addicted to drugs, then I might give serious consideration to it. But I am not convinced that the percentage would stay at that level if more and more pople tried what was now made legal.

Postroad: Why are you talking about all this stuff as though it were completely untested theory with no available real-world information to draw on? Drugs have been decriminalized throughout much of Europe, and there was a long period in American history when drugs weren't illegal. Why not look at the hard numbers for how legalization worked out in those cases?
posted by saulgoodman at 1:43 PM on October 16, 2007


Drug War Draft
posted by homunculus at 1:43 PM on October 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


in my state I can not buy a case of beer at a gas station; I dislike funding health costs for those smoking legal smokes let alone what costs might be for heroin etc addiction...

Your logic is circular. It's also irrational and unfounded.

As a smoker, I'm tired of paying extra taxes (in excess of 200% in some cases) and funding other, non-medical programs - or medical programs unrelated to smoking.

But, no. It's ok. People who choose to pollute themselves must be inferior, right? Who cares about our rights? We don't have a leg to stand on, I know.

Because we're all just worthless, broken addicts that are a drain on society. Y'know, people like Mark Twain. Or Watterson and Crick- who recently admitted that LSD was the key that enabled them to discover DNA. Or Miles Davis, or Pollock, or Dali.

I mean, it's not like modern, agrarian civilization wasn't founded on beer or anything - nor were European explorers looking for faster access to the "spices" of the East, which brought the West to the Americas.

That would be preposterous. Utterly. Such balderdash.

It must just be a figment of my smokey imagination.
posted by loquacious at 2:16 PM on October 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


I do pay for car crashes due to drunk driving and my insurance rates reflect this. I pay for smokers who use hospitals and for exams etc from passive smoke...it is simply not good for others and it reflects back on non-users.

what about sports? sporting injuries cost the country millions all for the silly pleasure people get out of them.

what about extreme adventure seeking? people who climb mountains and get stuck and need to be rescued? people who break ribs skiing?

what about people who don't eat correctly? people who are becoming so obese that they are a weight (har har) on the system.

what about people who don't live healthy lifestyles with exercise and who don't subscribe to a mentally healthy lifestyle? they cost us countless dollars by not caring about themselves.

what about people who get injured by being knowingly unsafe in their life? they take risks they know they shouldn't be taking and we pay for it and their hospital costs.

i appreciate the sentiment that you think it's unfair for people to pay for other people's problems with taking care of themselves but where does it end? it's impossible to condemn drug users for being a drain on the system without doing the same for everyone else who's draining it.
posted by dflemingdotorg at 2:53 PM on October 16, 2007


If I went out and did a dangerous sport, I would be insured or a team would be. Most sports are not dangerous although there are from time to time accidents. Obesity, yes, smoking, yes, drunk driving, yes--those are choices made by many many people that impact many more people. I would be careful about outlawing choices but I see no reason why I should, say, have to be subjected to drunk drivers on the road or smokers in the work place. I
posted by Postroad at 3:43 PM on October 16, 2007


Postroad: It's hard to imagine that the cost to our countries of policing, prosecuting and incarcerating the domestic economy in illicit drugs (and ancillary criminal activity), plus the cost of pursuing the War on Drugs militarily, plus the additional social costs of the criminal, unregulated market and consumption of these drugs, is less than any extra health and social costs that might be experienced given a likely marginal increase in consumption after legalization.
posted by kowalski at 4:39 PM on October 16, 2007


Jeebus Postroad. Do you prefer the current "war on drugs" and the incipient organized crime that goes with it? All the war on drugs does is create a greater profit margin for violent people to gain power from. Do you think maybe if we spent 1/10th of what we do for the war on drugs on something like education, research, and treatment that we might be better off? Not to mention the lower crime rates we'd have.

Since driving under the influence is already illegal, what you have is an enforcement issue. People are apparently OK with the current drunk driving levels since there doesn't seem to be a an increasing amount of money in enforcement. Really, until some pissed off people formed MADD, drunk driving didn't really concern a lot of people. Do you have some statistics that drunk driving was lower during prohibition, for example?

kowalski puts it much better than I.
posted by Eekacat at 5:00 PM on October 16, 2007


Destroy Afghanistan's opium? But... what would the CIA do for funding? They need their drug distribution networks!
posted by five fresh fish at 6:35 PM on October 16, 2007


If you have time (it's an interesting watch), there's an hour-long video of a talk with Q&A that Lt Col Stuart Tootal, the commander of the UK's now returned 3rd Paratroop Regiment Battle Group, gives concerning his rotation in Afghanistan (helmand). He's asked about the eradication issue. Overall, he seems about as frank as can be hoped at such an event.
posted by Abiezer at 7:10 PM on October 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


I like the idea of setting up the producers/farmers with the equipment to produce morphine themselves, and use the profit to rebuild their sad broken raped plundered land. Let them compete with Bayer and Wellcome with superior Afghan morphine.
posted by hortense at 7:32 PM on October 16, 2007


Legalize.
Tax.
Profit. Fund healthcare, education.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:58 AM on October 17, 2007


Mission Accomplished!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:13 AM on October 17, 2007


Destroy Afghanistan's opium? But... what would the CIA do for funding? They need their drug distribution networks!

Indeed

posted by caddis at 8:46 AM on October 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


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