The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Afghanistan


By Chris McManus

In the movie ”American Gangster” the Harlem druglord  Frank Lucas is played by Denzel Washington.  The movie portrays the smuggling of tons of heroin into the US from Vietnam using the coffins of dead American servicemen. Lucas bragged in a magazine article that the coffins were modified with false bottoms” big enough to load up with six, maybe eight kilos”. In the commentary section of the DVD  American Gangster,  when asked how he got away with smuggling tons of heroin on Air Force planes, Lucas states “We paid off the Joint Chiefs of Staff”.

The veracity of a convicted drug dealer can always be called into question, however, it does make one wonder-How does one go about smuggling tons of heroin on military cargo ships?

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In late March, Admiral Michael Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff recently visited the town of Marjah, in the Helmand province of Afghanistan. In February the Marines had wrested the province away from the Taliban. This was kind of a dry run for the big offensive coming up this summer, the coming assault on Kandahar.

The Helmand province, where Gen. Stanley Mc Chrystal and Michael Mullen just visited, produces 40% of the worlds illicit opium supply. According to Alfred McCoy, “Afghanistan’s opium harvest has accounted for as much as 50% of the country’s GDP and provided the prime ingredient for over 90% of the world’s heroin supply.” Opium farming supports 500,000 Afghan families, nearly 20% of the country’s estimated population.

Afghanistan is truly the number one narco-state in the world. Combined with the cannabis crop, the majority of afghanistan’s GDP comes from drugs. Compare this to Columbia where the figure is only 4%.

Joel Brinkley in the San Francisco Chronicle writes, “over the last several years, the US and NATO have offered vacillating strategies for dealing with the poppy. Now, however, they have decided to leave it alone, meaning funding for bombs, weapons and soldiers will continue unabated.” (www.sfgate,4/11/10)

The Americans are now preparing to attack Kandahar province, where Wali Karzai is on the Kandahar Provincil Council. Wali Karzai is a known heroin dealer, controlling much of his province’s heroin crop. He is also the brother of the President of Afghanistan. Asking Hamid Karzai to clean up the corruption in Afghanistan after his fraudulent election is like telling Al Capone to clean up Chicago.

Meanwhile, out at the frontline on the War on Terror, the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, the Americans are retreating. The Americans have surrendered the Korengal outpost in the Konar Province on the Af-Pak border. This is where Osama bin laden is rumored to be hiding. The outpost has been overrun by insurgents. See for yourself on YouTube,”US military Post under Taliban Control”. Known as the Valley of Death, the Americans have been losing there for years, until they finally surrendered their position.

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In the rhetoric of the long war, Barack Obama promised to take the fight to the insurgents on the Pakistan border. On April 18th, The Americans have retreated from Korengal outpost, and are now focusing on Kandahar after taking Marjah. Kandahar is on the other side of the country from the Af-Pak border. They are there to control the heroin trade as well as try to starve the Taliban of its profits.

Barak Obama’s escalation of this war has brought the American troop number to 90,000 not counting military contractors. Obama and Karzai met at the White House yesterday to claim that corruption in Karzai’s government and civilian deaths from U.S. military operations were overblown.                                                                                                                The coming offensive in Kandahar will be another civilian bloodbath in order to control the heroin trade. Obama is the new American Gangster. If history is any lesson, the CIA complicity in the drug trade will usher in an epidemic of heroin in this country. Not only will civilians die on the streets of Kandahar, addicts will die in the streets of the US from the cheap heroin that will flood our cities.

For Alfred McCoy”s article in Mother Jones-“Can Anyone Pacify the World’s Number One Narco State? The Opium Wars in Afghanistan”

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