I don't want to say I'm smarter than everyone
else when it comes to Afghanistan and opium, but I seem to be
smarter than everyone else when it comes to Afghanistan and
There is a simple way to solve the "problem"
of Afghanistan 's opium production, which accounts for 90
percent of the world's supply.
The solution is cheap and peaceful; it will
make us friends instead of enemies and it won't kill anyone.
We should buy the whole crop. Every year.
It will cost us less than $1 billion a year
at today's prices.
It costs us $1 million to keep a single U.S.
soldier in Afghanistan for a year. With 53,000 U.S. troops in
country now, that's $53 billion a year.
We could buy up the whole opium crop for
less than the price of keeping 1,000 troops there - less than 2
percent of our troop expenses.
We could do whatever we like with the opium
after we buy it. We could burn it, sell it to drug companies
that need it to make painkillers for hospitals, or we could
insert it as suppositories up the Republican congressmen and
senators who so desperately need it.
Facts about opium are notoriously
unreliable. The primary liars about it are the governments that
pretend to want to eradicate it. But even accepting the high end
of estimates from semi-reliable sources, such as the Washington
Post, The New York Times, Reuters, our government and others, it
should cost less than $1 billion to buy up the whole crop. That
way the narcos won't get it, or the Afghan warlords. Of course,
that would bring down our friendly Afghan government, but you've
got to take the good with the bad sometimes.
The entire world needs about 5,000 tons of
opium a year for painkillers, according to those semi-reliable
sources. Afghanistan is expected to produce 6,900 tons this
year, and the wholesale price for opium today, according to
Reuters, is $64 a kilo, or $64,000 a metric ton.
At that price, we could buy Afghanistan 's
entire opium harvest this year for $442 million.
We could offer twice the money the warlords
and drug lords pay, and still buy it all for less than $1
And if our generous government program
drives up the production next year, so what? That will drive
down the cost, and it will still be cheaper by far than making
war against people on the other side of the world, who hate us
more every day whether we claim to be winning or losing.
It should come as no surprise that the
biggest opium-growing regions are Helmand and Kandahar
provinces, the Taliban strongholds where so much of the war is
Opium is why the war is being fought there.
If we bought it all, there would be less to fight about.
Estimates of opium's share of Afghanistan 's
Gross Domestic Product vary wildly, from 3 percent to 27
percent. But it's clear that opium accounts for a hell of a lot
of money in Afghanistan . But the entire annual crop would cost
the United States just a drop in our tinseled bucket.
The opium crop employs from 1.6 million to
2.4 million Afghan citizens - as much as 8 percent of the
country's 28.4 million people (the population estimate is from
the CIA World Fact Book.)
We're not making any friends trying to kill
the jobs of 8 percent of a county's people, or trying to kill
the people, either.
If we bought their crops at a better price
than Hamid Karzai's brother pays them, the Afghan farmers will
be our friends.
We need friends there.
After President George W. Bush spent 3 years
trying to "eradicate" the crop, the opium acreage increased by
61 percent and the value of the crop increased by about
one-third, the Washington Post reported in 2006.
Opium pays Afghan farmers 12 times as much
as food crops. They can't grow food in opium country as easily
as they can grow opium. Growing opium may be the best thing that
land can be used for. History seems to indicate that. Those two
poor, devastated provinces could supply the entire world with
nearly all of a drug that the world needs - legally.
If anyone can give me one good reason why we
shouldn't buy up Afghanistan 's entire opium crop, I'd like to
hear it. Sure, it'll cause a certain amount of corruption in the
U.S. agencies that buy it and burn it, but so what? Every other
department of our government seems to be corrupted from top to
bottom, and the country staggers along anyway. This way, we
could stagger along more cheaply, making friends with people by
giving them money for something we need, instead of trying to
make them our friends by killing them.
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