August 20, 2010 – August 19th marked the 91st anniversary of national Afghani independence gained through the signing of the Treaty of Rawalpindi in 1919 following the end of the third failure by the British Empire to colonize Afghanistan. While the event was marked as a public relations opportunity by politicos from Hillary Clinton in the US to the Foreign Secretary in London, who seized the occasion to talk about Afghanistan in a light that didn’t involve defending the deaths of Afghani civilians at the hands of NATO, most Afghanis themselves don’t even acknowledge the “milestone”. To most citizens of Afghanistan, the independence granted through the Treaty of Rawalpindi in 1919 is as meaningless as the European-drawn line which indicates a border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
-CNN this week reported on the heartbreaking levels of drug-addiction in Afghanistan. Opium and heroine are rampant throughout the country as the poppy crop which is at the root of these narcotic drugs continues to grow since American and NATO arrival in Afghanistan.
One interesting point raised in the article is the suggestion that it is a combination of the effects of war, the lack of access to hospitals and medicine, and the cheap availability of the poppy which have combined to spike the rise in Afghani drug addiction.
Dr Latifa Hamidi puts it this way: “When their child is in pain the family doesn’t give them medicine, they use narcotics.”
What the CNN story did not mention is that between 2000 and 2001, the two years of Taliban control before the invasion of foreign troops, the Taliban had virtually eliminated the poppy crop altogether. Since Canadian soldiers arrived in Afghanistan the poppy crop production in the South has increased by 600%. According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, poppy production nationwide increased by 3200% during the first five years of NATO operations in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan produces 94% of the world’s opiates. The biggest consumers of the illegal drugs produced by these opiates are the United States and Europe. When the Taliban managed to turn off the tap by the summer of 2001, that is when the foreign armies invaded and the opium and heroine output has been restored ever since.
-The United States and Canada comprise about 5% of the world’s population yet consume 50% of the world’s illegal drugs. Everyone has their own reasoning to explain this ratio, however these are the numbers that have begun to infect the Afghani civilian population today, and part of the mentality behind the cries demanding that NATO forces withdraw from Afghanistan.
There are also substantial figures which give an idea as to the annual worth of the drug trade in Afghanistan – estimates put the figure as high as 3 billion dollars, but the reality is that only an infinitesimal fraction of that amount ever filters down to the farmers on the ground in Afghanistan who grow the poppy to feed their family. The crux of the drug money is distributed between business syndicates, organized crime, banking and financial institutions. And what we have going on in Afghanistan today is a turf battle in which
NATO is not a peacekeeper at all, but a prospector staking its claim fighting with and against other intelligence agencies, powerful business, drug traders and organized crime in competition for the strategic control over the heroin routes.
– The most important reality to be ascertained from all of this is that if the US, Canada and other occupying forces are truly interested in eliminating poppy production and cultivation, just as many of the individual soldiers and the US Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control which convened at the end of July apparently are, then the obvious course of action would be to open talks and ask the Taliban how they were able to succeed in virtually eradicating the poppy trade within two years. All NATO has been able to do is confound the problem, a problem that the Taliban had already solved.
Canada’s Role in Afghanistan
-All Canadians continued to be disgraced by the actions of the Conservative government, who continue to ignore and stonewall the directives of the Supreme Court of Canada which has twice told the government it must repatriate Omar Khadr. The Conservative government’s approach to Omar Khadr’s case is to alternate media and public attention between Khadr’s case and our other Afghanistan disgrace involving Canada knowingly subjecting its war prisoners to torture. Maybe the Conservatives hope that if they keep diverting our attention from one scandal to the other, they won’t be held to account on either by the time they are kicked out of office by the Canadian people.
– Here is a timeline of events in the Omar Khadr case, published in Saturday’s Globe and Mail:
July 27, 2002: Omar Khadr is taken into U.S. custody after a firefight in a village near Khost, in eastern Afghanistan.
October, 2002: Mr. Khadr, now 16, is transferred to Guantanamo Bay. No charges laid yet, but U.S. officials allege he killed U.S. Sergeant 1st Class Christopher Speer.
November, 2005: U.S. government formally charges Mr. Khadr, now 19, with conspiracy, murder, attempted murder and aiding the enemy.
January, 2006: Mr. Khadr makes his first court appearance, wearing a Roots Athletics t-shirt.
June/July, 2006: U.S. Supreme Court declares Guantanamo military commissions process illegal, effectively dismissing ongoing charges – including Mr. Khadr’s. The Bush administration mulls creating special terrorism courts.
February, 2007: New charges filed against Mr. Khadr, including murder, attempted murder and material support for terrorism.
June, 2007: Military judge dismisses all charges against Mr. Khadr in what would have been the beginning of the 20-year-old’s trial, saying the prosecution failed to label him an “unlawful” enemy combatant.
September, 2007: U.S. military appeals court sides with government, reinstates all charges against Mr. Khadr.
November, 2007: Trial set to start when Mr. Khadr’s defence team discloses a secret witness whose testimony, they argue, casts doubts on whether Mr. Khadr was an unlawful combatant.
February-December, 2008: Khadr case back in court and mired in multitudinous pre-trial motions as defence feuds with government on access to information and the validity of the charges themselves. Trial date pushed back multiple times.
January, 2009: Newly inaugurated U.S. President Barack Obama requests 120-day adjournment of all Guantanamo war commissions proceedings as he announces the closing of Guantanamo Bay within a year.
November, 2009: Mr. Obama unveils revived, revamped process for war commissions, Mr. Khadr’s included.
April/May 2010: Hearings continue into pre-trial motions, this time regarding the admissibility of evidence Mr. Khadr’s lawyers argue was obtained through torture.
July, 2010: Pre-trial hearings pushed back when Mr. Khadr fires civilian U.S. lawyers.
August, 2010: Pre-trial motions end. Jury selected. Opening arguments made
– A majority of people in Canada reject this country’s participation in Afghanistan, according to a poll by Angus Reid Public Opinion that was released this week. I’ve been pointing the same thing out to Canadians since 2003.