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U.S. Wars and the Opium Trade
December 3, 2009
When Turkey in the late 1940s became a site of NATO and US forces its rank became cemented as the number one supplier of opium to the heroin markets of the US and Europe. This illegal opium market was primarily centered in Europe, where the final processing into heroin was done before going on to the market for the rest of the world. Its profits were therefore also made largely by Europeans. In 1968 research ordered by the Nixon Administration revealed that this Turkish opium crop supplied 80% of the opium destined to become heroin for the illegal markets of Europe and the US .(1)
|Opium cultivation in Afghanistan.|
The Nixon Administration, claiming a threat to the security of the Nation by this situation in the newly proclaimed “war on drugs”, began a multi-pronged effort to limit the amount of opium produced in Turkey from reaching the United States. (2) The foremost of these (and actually the only one that produced even a modicum of success) was a program to buy the crop from the farmers in Turkey (where they still grow it to this day) at outlandish figures that increased by the year, eventually reaching over $25 per kilogram the US taxpayer was forced to spend in an attempt to buy up the entire opium crop of Turkey. This decision was made, all the while seeming to ignore the fact that the illegal channels could pay even $100 a kilogram and it wouldn’t affect the price of a $5 New York City addict’s dose by any more than 1c.(3) It also ignored the fact that the crop can be grown virtually anywhere in the world, that when the entire crop in Turkey was then bought (at inflated prices and at the expense of taxpayers) that it would then leave the entire rest of the world to take its place. But by then Turkey’s prominence as the number one supplier of opium to be manufactured into heroin for US demand had already begun to get competition from South East Asia during the Vietnam War, a market which in turn receded after the US pulled out of Vietnam.
Now, most average, right-thinking Americans might think that the Nixon Administration’s goal in this effort was to raise the price of a dose of heroin by 1c, thereby making heroin addicts in the US finally realize that its just not worth it anymore. But in any case, that was not the effect. The effect was to hand a monopoly to the new opium market (now suddenly much cheaper!) that had been created as US military involvement in Vietnam ramped up. That was the effect, I’ll let you decide what the goal was.
The opium bound for the US heroin market in S.E. Asia was produced primarily in Laos, flown on the CIA’s Air America to Vietnam, where it was converted into heroin then smuggled into the States by US military couriers.(4)(5)
Now starting in 2002, its Afghanistan. And it has always been a part of the culture there to grow opium poppies, as is true of Turkey, where over 100,000 farmers grow it today legally.(6) However, the Taliban had all but wiped the crop out in Afghanistan in short order after they came to power until… the “war” in Afghanistan began. The year after the beginning of the occupation, (by both UN and US estimates) an over 3000% increase in the production of opium occurred over the Taliban days.(7) As it remains to this day. This opium crop, which as the US Military admits, soldiers now stand guard over… supplies 92% of the illegally produced opium in the world supplying the majority of the heroin for both the United States and Europe. Somehow yet again, a monopoly has been created.
The $39 billion that the US has spent in Afghanistan (allegedly) for reconstruction since 2002 must have gone into reconstructing the $65 billion a year opium industry. When you look at the size of the country, the number of people that live there and how desperately poor almost all of are you might tend to think that some of that money is being diverted elsewhere. Now, the corporate controlled media (if they were forced into talking about it, that is) would have you believe that all that money is being diverted to the people dressed in rags working the poppy fields. The same ones that have their schools and weddings blown up in drone attacks.
As for myself, I tend to think it might be getting diverted by the people that are entrusted to hand that money out and administrate the country. The same ones that guard over the opium fields…
Its just a hunch.
|Afghanistan opium poppy cultivation, 1994-2007 (hectares).|
1) Moynihan, Daniel P. (Assistant to the President) ‘Memorandum for Honorable John N. Mitchell, Attorney General’ (18 September 1969); in: Foreign Relations.
2) “The President is convinced that the problem of narcotics addiction in the U.S. has reached proportions constituting a threat to our national stability.” Henry A. Kissinger, ‘Memo: Study of Means to Stop International Traffic in Heroin(Sept 29, 1969): in Foreign Relations
3) Licit and Illicit Drugs Consumers Union ISBN 0-316-15340-0
4) Special Study Mission June ,1971 United States House of Representatives Special Study Mission June ,1971
5) Alfred McCoy The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia (Harper and Row, 1972)
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