2008-07-31 / This Week's Attitude

This Week's Attitude

Terror War Ally Overlooked In War On Drugs
By Neil S. Friedman


For nearly 40 years the United States has spent billions of dollars on the War on Drugs. The decline in crime across the nation since it began — especially in New York City and other urban centers — is largely attributed to decreased drug use and illicit drug trafficking. The money and effort have been significant, and some would maintain worthwhile, but illicit drugs still plague our nation.

According to federal crime statistics, arrests for drug law violations in 2008 are expected to exceed the 1.9 million arrests made two years ago. Law enforcement made more arrests for drug law violations in 2006 than for any other offense. Someone is arrested for violating a drug law every 17 seconds.

Whoops, there's another arrest! And another…

It should be noted that marijuana, which is not usually labeled as a hard drug, is a sizeable factor in the statistics and some arrests for its possession are typically small amounts.

However, it is still believed that not enough is being done to stop the flow — and production — of illegal drugs, including heroin and opium, at the source. Furthermore, one of the main sources of international drug processing is none other than Afghanistan, a critical ally in the war on terrorism, where some U.S. forces regularly combat attacks from neighboring Pakistan that are likely instigated by World Trade Center terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, who reportedly established his base camp there several years ago. Another purpose of America's military presence is to insure Taliban and al-Qaeda terrorists don't overrun it and transform Afghanistan into another terrorist nation.

But as we engage in the war on terrorism, we have, in some aspects, neglected the war on drugs.

Poppy fields in Afghanistan are as prevalent as corn and wheat fields in America's heartland. Experts say it is an easy, valuable crop to grow in the rocky region with mostly unpaved roads, which would make it more difficult to transport other crops even if there were markets for them. Consequently, there has only been a minor effort to stop the drug lords, who reportedly operate with the sanction of corrupt, high-ranking Afghan government officials. Nevertheless, the opium harvest has become a vital income resource for terrorist groups.

According to a United Nations report last month, supplies of narcotics exported from Afghanistan have sharply increased in recent years in areas where insurgents are in control, despite America's four-year campaign designed to reduce heroin production by the world's leading opium producer. In fact, it has doubled in regions where the Taliban has been in control from 2005-2007. Afghanistan reportedly accounts for 92 percent of the world's supply of heroin and illegal drugs contribute over $3 billion to the nation's economy.

Last fall, after the largest opium harvest in Afghanistan's history, U.S. officials stepped up efforts to pressure the government to reduce opium poppies with a herbicide. However, some argue that the chemicals will also destroy other crops and possibly produce collateral damage in humans, resulting in propaganda for our enemies that would set back our relationship with the Afghanistan government.

Is allowing Afghanistan to freely grow and export drugs, some of which eventually winds up on the streets of America, more important, just as important or less important than the capture and trial of the man who caused the worst terrorist attack in our nation's history?

Some might say that should be our priority, but if and when bin Laden's captured and his terrorist army falls apart, will our government still disregard the flow of drugs from Afghanistan to the U.S.? In spite of how large a role the Afghan government plays in assisting us capture bin Laden and breaking up al-Qaeda, it must be cautioned that we will no longer stand by as they reap money for resources while our nation's addicts continue to acquire an adequate supply of illegal drugs.

While it is essential to thwart terrorists to safeguard our freedom, it is also vital that we modify the failed policies of the drug war that continue to embolden our enemies and prolong America's illicit drug dilemma.

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