Saturday, February 09, 2008

Missing the Poppy Field for the Poppies

Barnett Rubin, on the Informed Comment Global Affairs blog, noted back on January 24, 2008, that
"Under the provocative title Poverty feeds Afghan drugs trade, Alastair Leithead of the BBC reports from Helmand and Balkh in southern and northern Afghanistan. His findings, like my arguments, contradict the claim by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (echoed of course by the US) that 'opium cultivation is no longer linked to poverty.'"
This is a crucial issue and is missing from Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson's report from Afghanistan on Saturday Weekend Edition. Her report notes the burgeoning opium harvests coming out of Afghanistan and how this benefits the Taliban. So far, so good. Sarhaddi Nelson mentions that "the UN report noted that eradication has had a neglible effect" but she fails to tell us the most significant fact of the eradication program - that this US directed program is not only failing to stem the growth of poppies and opium production, but is actually fueling the growth of the Taliban and the destabilization of Afghanistan! This is not a new observation: Green Left in Australia reported on this in October of 2006. In August of 2007, Adam Holloway of The Telegraph reported that "while the US wants mass eradication programmes, the Royal Marines believe that eradication fuels the insurgency...." Reason Online had similar news in September of 2007. And then this week a major report from the Center on International Cooperation of New York University (authored by Barnett Rubin) has detailed the stupidity of the US program in Afghanistan.

From Sarhaddi Nelson all you learn is that the poppy fields are thriving and that "farmers there were expressing frustration....they want things like crop subsidies and helping get their goods to market, but all those things are just not moving fast enough for them." Frankly that's just misleading. It's not that they're not moving fast enough; it's that the US policy is - shall we say - ass backwards. All this makes me wonder just where on earth Sarhaddi Nelson gets her information, and just who is she working for anyway?

No comments: