As clusterfucks go....
November 12, 2014 4:11 PM   Subscribe

The US has Spent $7.6 Billion to Crush the Afghan Opium Trade—and It's Doing Better Than Ever. In fact an area about the size of Rhode island is under cultivation and the US armed forces seem to have openly protected the Opium fields.
Opium is Keeping the US in Afghanistan.
Then there is also the unkown number of contractors, in excess of 108,000 last year.
A recent UNODC report estimated that about $220 billion of drug money is laundered annually through the financial system.
posted by adamvasco (43 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
Yes I know Global Research can be an iffy source at times but this is not an I/P thread.
Anyway it's your (American) Tax dollars at waste again.
posted by adamvasco at 4:11 PM on November 12, 2014


The laundered money is $220B while the US spent a meager $7.6B?

Clearly, we are not spending enough!
posted by savitarka at 4:30 PM on November 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


contractors, in excess of 108,000 last year

I wonder how many of those are combat?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 4:31 PM on November 12, 2014


We spend 1.4$ billion on over-the-counter teeth whitener.
Perhaps we could do more...
posted by clavdivs at 4:33 PM on November 12, 2014


There was a lovely study done, now disappeared from the sight of Google... Can't imagine why.

As I recall, the investigators were PhD candidate economics students.

The study showed that the marginal advantage to large financial institutions from lax oversight/active collusion leading to them handling drug money and laundering same was enough so they would inevitably outperform any similar institutions NOT abetting drug cartels and state intelligence organs involved in the drug trade.

The extrapolated that to point out that the advantage allows such dirty organizations to take over or drive out of the market any clean organization.

Somehow, this looks like the world I live in.
posted by bert2368 at 4:42 PM on November 12, 2014 [16 favorites]


I wish they wouldn't use the term "the size of Rhode Island" to express bigness.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 4:47 PM on November 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


If it's any consolation, Wales feels your pain.
posted by pipeski at 4:51 PM on November 12, 2014 [23 favorites]


I think something the size of Rhode Island covered in a monoculture of opium poppy is fucking huge. Thats 1,212 sq miles.
posted by adamvasco at 4:54 PM on November 12, 2014


Can we just give up the War on Drugs yet? Please?

Admit drugs won and move on, it isn't that hard. I know the USA has a thing about never admitting defeat, but seriously, Vietnam was more winnable than the War on Drugs. Hell, fighting another war in Iraq makes more sense than continuing to fight the War on Drugs.
posted by sotonohito at 5:33 PM on November 12, 2014 [16 favorites]


Is Rhode Island smaller than Delaware? Didn't I used to know these things..
posted by doctor_negative at 5:37 PM on November 12, 2014


This is so weird. I wish one of the soldiers charged with protecting opium fields would speak out and say how they felt about it.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:48 PM on November 12, 2014


Rhode Island is the smallest US state (unless you count DC/Samoa/Guam/etc).
posted by subdee at 5:55 PM on November 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


As always when it comes to drugs, look at what Portugal and Czechoslovakia have done. What did they focus on instead of "war"? Is it working?

The last I looked into it, Portugal was having quite good success. Teen use is down, fewer deaths, lower crime. And of course, it could be done better yet by our countries. Especially if the current drug war funding were re-allocated to solutions.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:59 PM on November 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


The war on drugs is a total success it's just that the actual aims have never been about stopping drug use.
posted by vuron at 6:01 PM on November 12, 2014 [15 favorites]


D.A.R.E. to make Afghanistan opium free.
posted by dirigibleman at 6:10 PM on November 12, 2014


The advantage of RI as a unit of measurement is that it's very flexible. If you draw a box around the state, it's about 1500 square miles. If you just count the land, it's about 1000 square miles. So anything from 800-1800 square miles is "about the size of RI."

Considering some of its legislative and voting decisions, RI being packed with opium is not out of the question, either.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:13 PM on November 12, 2014 [8 favorites]


Can we just give up the War on Drugs yet? Please?

I really wish -- no snark here -- that it weren't so taboo to use opiates to feel good.
posted by jayder at 6:14 PM on November 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'm generally in favor of decriminalization of most drugs and the implementation of a reasonable open market but honestly I am not entirely certain that allowing an open market for opiates would be entirely advantageous for society. However transferring the cost of drug enforcement to drug education and treatment seems like it would have a better return on investment.
posted by vuron at 6:58 PM on November 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


Didn't read all the links, but worth mentioning that opium production plummeted under the Taliban. Their war on drugs worked very well indeed.

Of course that changed when the country was invaded and the insurgents needed some fast cash.
posted by IndigoJones at 7:25 PM on November 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's "The Czech Republic" now and has been for a good long time, not "Czechoslovakia" any more.

Interestingly, they grow shit-tons of opium poppies too, for non-drug-related reasons. They love the seeds for one, and edible poppy seeds come from the same species as your heroin, morphine, and codeine -- mmm, kolache with poppy filling.

Local officials deny that they are psychoactive and for the most part they aren't problematic, in part because they require effort and processing and the citizens are plenty occupied with methamphetamine and alcohol, but local heroin fans do have an annual morphine binge [vice video] that involves camping out in the wilderness and harvesting and cooking down these poppies.

None of this is meant to be negative and is just a matter-of-fact "hey I know some stuff about CR related to drugs," but the Czech Republic isn't a great leader on this decriminalization front. It is interesting (and cool to me) that they are 37% atheist.

More back on topic, this is an interesting exploration of the heroin trade as it flows from cultivation to manufacture and distribution [vice video].
posted by aydeejones at 7:26 PM on November 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


$220 billion is all drug money, not just Afghanistan. Afghanistan is on track to produce about 6400 tons of opium which will genarate 200-700 million dollars for Afghan farmers. Estimates vary because it is difficult to get pricing data.
posted by humanfont at 7:28 PM on November 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


Actually that last video I linked is just a "debrief" as I believe the full thing was on HBO rather than their YouTube channel, but basically it followed the opium from dirt-poor cultivator, to warlord, to Iran for production, immersing you in the hostility of border skirmishes and the like. I'll keep lookin' for it though...
posted by aydeejones at 7:30 PM on November 12, 2014


I read on Wiki that Afghanistan produces the most cannabis, primarily for hash. Gotta figure that is at least the size of Colorado.
posted by clavdivs at 7:49 PM on November 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think something the size of Rhode Island covered in a monoculture of opium poppy is fucking huge. Thats 1,212 sq miles.

What is that in football fields?
posted by Reyturner at 9:20 PM on November 12, 2014


586,608 football fields
posted by thebotanyofsouls at 9:56 PM on November 12, 2014


Think about it. More than half a million football fields crowded with fat, heavy, morphine-sludge-dripping papaver somniferum pods.
posted by telstar at 10:28 PM on November 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


I bet a lot of you scoffed when the US government said that the drug trade finances terrorism. Doesn't look so funny now, does it?
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:44 PM on November 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


The war on drugs is a total success it's just that the actual aims have never been about stopping drug use.
See also; every other war.
posted by fullerine at 1:40 AM on November 13, 2014


so. so far we've got crack, and dope. can they just do 'em all and then open a retail outlet?
posted by j_curiouser at 1:48 AM on November 13, 2014


I hope the druggies win the war against Neo-Liberalism. To quote the Dude in "The Big Lebowski", it's about time the bums started winning again.
posted by Narrative_Historian at 2:04 AM on November 13, 2014


How much of that Afghani opium is diverted to legitimate drug production (i.e. morphine and all the other legitimate opiate pain-killers)?
posted by Thorzdad at 4:18 AM on November 13, 2014


Those pictures of fully armed soldiers in fields of pink flowers are great, never mind the flower.

I've heard GIs were used to protect poppy fields in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War period, but have never seen any proof, anybody have any more information on that?
posted by koebelin at 4:34 AM on November 13, 2014


koebelin - the opium in Indochina was grown by the Hmong in Laos, many of whom were part of the CIA's secret army against the Vietnamese communists, so you could say that not only were the crops protected by the US military, but they were also harvested by people under the pay of the US, and US aircraft were used to transport the crop.
posted by grubby at 5:01 AM on November 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think it is far more convoluted than soldiers guarding poppies.
If the US soldiers destroy the poppyfields they destroy peoples livliehood and there goes the winning of hearts and minds mantra.
The Taliban forceably prohibited opium production and output fell considerably.
Then Karzai asserted power and the country went into poppy overdrive.
THe US invadors and their UK and other allies blunder along. There is and never has been any clear mission.
No politician has the balls to legalize the trade or suggest buying up the entire production.
So supply and demand and the market win, not only the blackhat warloads but probably several contractors working for ``legitimate´´ companies
all probably with a nod and a wink to the intelligence forces who probably take a cut for their slush funds for black ops.
As to financing terrorism: - is that US terrorism against brown people or brown peoples terrorism against the invadors?
or internecine vengence and territorial warfare.
I believe that just about 100% of Afghan produced opiates goes on the black market even though there is a world shortage of opium derivative according to the WHO though the International Narcotics Control board disagrees. Maybe they are corrupted. Quel surprise.
A rated Clusterfuck.
posted by adamvasco at 5:18 AM on November 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


According to my calculations, Rhode Island is somewhere between 60% and 150% of the size of Rhode Island.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:58 AM on November 13, 2014 [9 favorites]


Thanks grubby! The Hmong were thoroughly exploited.

But I also heard from a vet from the period a story that US soldiers had boots on the ground in poppy fields in the remote Golden Triangle region where poppies thrive, during the US-Indochina War period, over the Thai border, when the US had a large military presence. Just a story - but today I see pictures of US soldiers strolling through huge fields of poppies!

Ha, if it is policy now in our enlightened times. it surely was policy then, when we would do anything to defeat communism. We send soldiers to protect poppies to leverage the local power structure, and those people back home crippled from the junk don't really matter, they don't vote or finance PACs, at least for all I know.
posted by koebelin at 7:31 AM on November 13, 2014


I really wish -- no snark here -- that it weren't so taboo to use opiates to feel good.

If I had my way I would be an opiate addict. I say this with complete sincerity. One can generally function on opiates. I could live a normal life (or suspect I could).

As it is now I have chronic pain and spend a huge amount of my brain's processing power just pushing through it and acting like I'm not in pain so I can at least have the semblance of a normal life.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:03 AM on November 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


Rhode Island is the smallest US state (unless you count DC/Samoa/Guam/etc).

Sorry to be snarky but even if you count DC, Samoa, and Guam, Rhode Island is still the smallest US state. You can include my bathtub in your list of places and Rhode Island will still be the smallest US state.

From Rhode Island, live in DC. Now my vote OFFICIALLY doesn't matter!
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:47 AM on November 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


Admit drugs won and move on, it isn't that hard. I know the USA has a thing about never admitting defeat,

Really? 30 years into this you really think there was a single altruistic motivation behind Reagan's War on Drugs? EVERY single policy decision pushed forth from Republicans since the 80's has been crafted with the intention of funneling money from the government to private industry. The War on Drugs has been their greatest success. Just go ask corporations from CCA to Phoenix House if we are winning the war and their answer would be an unequivocal ye$!
posted by any major dude at 9:28 AM on November 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


I am smack dab in the middle of Gravitys Rainbow. This is where the money comes from to finance your lack of privacy, our swelling Corporatocracy . So, get out of there, leave it to the contractors. Afghanistan has always been the crossroads of that obscenely lucrative trade. It is someone else's turn to bleed. The big dealers will carry on, business as usual.
posted by Oyéah at 11:27 AM on November 13, 2014



If it's any consolation, Wales feels your pain.


good job we have all these opiates flooding the market then!
posted by lalochezia at 12:13 PM on November 13, 2014 [4 favorites]


The Taliban had nearly eradicated the opium trade in Afghanistan. We brought it back. Go America!
posted by Chuffy at 2:05 PM on November 13, 2014


How much of that Afghani opium is diverted to legitimate drug production (i.e. morphine and all the other legitimate opiate pain-killers)?

I suppose it depends what you call legitimate. Some people might describe self-medication as legitimate, and I'm sure there's a lot of that. Opiate production is regulated by international treaties, and I presume that Western drug companies are required to account for their sources (we actually produce a fair bit in Australia, in Tasmania). But that doesn't mean that firms in other parts of the world don't buy opiates from black-market dealers, directly or indirectly. I.e., "Here is a bill of lading from Mr Smith and an affidavit that he bought it from a licensed producer, and here are the keys to your new car."
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:03 PM on November 13, 2014


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