Osama: The Heroin Pusher
By: Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, January 03, 2005
Afghanistan no longer serves as al-Qaeda's home base. Yet, it remains the source of another great evil -- the biggest heroin supply in the world. Since its liberation, Afghanistan's heroin production has gone from 640 tons to 5,000, an increase of almost 800%. Afghanistan now supplies 87% of the world's heroin market, and at least 90% of the heroin abused in Europe.
Unlike al-Qaeda, whose worst attacks killed more than 3,000 Americans, heroin kills millions of people all over the free world every year, and destroys the lives of many others. Yet, the world seems either unable or unwilling to put an end to this scourge. Why? After all, the poppy fields are visible to everybody and the locations of the heroin labs in Afghanistan and Pakistan are well known, as are the drug lords and the smuggling routes.
It is the money, stupid. Afghani President Hamid Karzai explained it recently himself, saying that heroin, which provides 60% of the Afghani GDP, proves to the world that his country is 'not a nation of beggars.' Yet he recognizes that this trade poses even greater dangers than terrorism, and he called on his countrymen to 'do jihad' against narcotics 'as we did jihad against the Russian invasion.'
Needless to say that, with all his good intentions, Karzai cannot fight it alone, nor should he. The huge increase in heroin production occurred under the watchful eyes of the coalition forces in Afghanistan. They claim that they do not wish to destabilize Karzai's government by cutting off the primary source of revenue to the warlords. However, those revenues are also helping to fund the resurrection of the Taliban and al-Qaeda renegades, who, according to Illinois Congressman Mark Steven Kirk, reaped at least $28 million from the heroin trade last year. This money is used not only to strengthen their forces in the region but also to buy protection for Bin Laden.
Yet, the US government decided that the best way to fight the growing heroin trade in Afghanistan is by forming a committee, and a Pakistani-Afghani-US committee which met earlier this month in Kabul issued a statement 'expressing its satisfaction over cooperation between the three countries in the war on drugs.' Considering the tremendous increase in heroin production over just this past year, one can only wonder what it was they were congratulating themselves on.
By now, the evidence that drugs are a major financial lifeline for terrorism is overwhelming. However, neither the US government nor its allies consider it a priority to aggressively target this source of funding.
A relatively simple way to eradicate these drugs already exists in the form of mycoherbicides. According to Dr. David Sands, a scientist who spent years researching these naturally-occurring plant pathogentic fungi as a means of targeting either coca bushes or poppy plants, mycoherbicides do not need to be genetically engineered. They can be taken directly from nature, if the pathogen is effective in controlling the target[ed] weed -- a battery of six tests to verify the safety of the mycoherbicide from the point of toxicity and probable environmental impact 'would cost forty thousand dollars for each fungal strain.' However, instead of developing this method of eradication in the US, the Department of Agriculture handed over ten million dollars to the Department of State, which in turn asked the United Nations Office of Drug Control and Crime Prevention (UNODCCP) to develop mycoherbicides that could be used on the coca but not on the poppy plant. But if the UN's track record on making this world a better place is of any indication, we should not hold our breaths for the development of this relatively simple means of ridding the world of the illegal drug scourge, which would cut off the major financial lifeline to the terrorists.
Rachel Ehrenfeld, PhD is Director of the American Center for Democracy and the author of many publication, the most recent, Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed -- And How to Stop It. She's also a member of the Committee on the Present Danger.
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