Wednesday, January 5, 2005

An Afghan Quandary for the U.S.

/ choices / choices /
With a bumper poppy harvest expected in Afghanistan in the new year, a debate has erupted within the Bush administration on whether the United States should push for the crop's destruction despite the objections of the Afghan government.

Some U.S. officials advocate aerial spraying to reduce the opium crop, warning that if harvested, it could flood the West with heroin, fill the coffers of Taliban fighters and fund terrorist activity in Afghanistan and beyond. They estimate the haul could earn Afghan warlords up to $7 billion, up from a record $2.2 billion in 2004...

Although Afghan President Hamid Karzai has declared a "jihad" against the drug trade, he has vetoed aerial spraying. And his stance is supported by some U.S. officials, who warn that attempts at mass crop eradication in spring, during the campaign season for parliamentary elections scheduled for April, will alienate rural voters. Instead, they argue for a delay in crop eradication but a vigorous crackdown on drug traffickers.

The dispute underscores a vexing dilemma for the United States. Having ousted the Taliban from power, the Bush administration now finds that its three main policy objectives in the strategically important country — counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics and political stability — appear to be contradictory.

[via the invaluable cursor]

Well, welcome to the real world. Note that the final decision will be taken by the US government, mindful that their puppet not be perceived by the natives as a... well... a puppet.

Note also this interesting part:

U.S. officials say the herbicide used is a very diluted form of Monsanto's Roundup, a glyphosate that is approved for use in American gardens and has been sprayed safely in Colombia and elsewhere.

Eh, well some would argue with the "safely" part:

The United States has sprayed tons of Roundup and Roundup Ultra, produced by the St. Louis-based chemical and biotechnology giant, Monsanto, during the 24 year-long drug war in Colombia. The use of these herbicides (both of which we refer to as Roundup in this story) has consistently produced health complaints from campesinos in the Colombian countryside. Those complaints have gone largely ignored by government officials in Washington and corporate honchos within Monsanto...

...Colombian indigenous leaders visited Congress to personally speak out against the fumigation: "The twelve indigenous peoples have been suffering under this plague as if it were a government decree to exterminate our culture and our very survival," said José Francisco Tenorio, the only leader who was not afraid to use his real name. "Our legal crops -- our only sustenance -- manioc, banana, palms, sugar cane, and corn have been fumigated. Our sources of water, creeks, rivers, lakes, have been poisoned, killing our fish and other living things. Today, hunger is our daily bread. In the name of the Amazonian Indigenous people I ask that the fumigations be immediately suspended..."

And also:

The herbicide used contains RoundUp Ultra, manufactured by the agro-chemical transnational Monsanto, with the active ingredient glyphosate. Cosmo-Flux 411F is added to the Roundup Both are highly toxic, says the environmental organization.

Lucía Gallardo, head of Ecological Action's biodiversity campaign, pointed out that Roundup Ultra contains 26 percent glyphosate, instead of the one percent recommended for use as an herbicide.

''That percentage is exceptionally dangerous to human health, but even worse is the use of Cosmo-Flux, which the United States Environmental Protection Agency has classified as 'extremely toxic','' Gallardo told IPS.

So great... spray on... heck, at least they are liberated now (enough to indulge enthusiastically in opium cultivation), they can't have it all, can they?

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