by Robert Scheer
Los Angeles Times
May 22, 2001
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Afghanistan -- This country was able to manage some slow modernization during the 1950s under King Mohammed Zahir, who had assumed the throne in 1933. Afghan development has always hinged on a large hydroelectric and water project in the center of the country, which has never been fully carried out. The King was deposed in 1973, and by 1978 there emerged the progressive regime of Noor Mohammed Taraki, a pro- Marxist poet and novelist with very special talents. Taraki legalized trade unions, instituted a minimum wage, and promoted housing, health care, and public sanitation. He favored improvements in the status of women. Taraki tried to eradicate the cultivation of the opium poppy, which had made his country the world's leading producer of heroin. Taraki also cancelled all debts owed by farmers, including tenant farmers, and began a land reform program to break up the holdings of absentee landlords and latifundists. Taraki thus offended the feudal interest, which was strong in the country. Brzezinski regarded Taraki as a Soviet asset, although he was largely indigenous in origin. As Brzezinski later boasted to the Nouvel Ohservateur, US destabilization teams launched a clandestine operation against Taraki in early 1979, prominently playing the Islamic fundamentalist card. In September 1979 there followed a US-backed coup by the CIA asset Hafizulla Amin, who executed Taraki and rolled back his reforms in the name of setting up a fundamentalist Islamic state in the service of the feudal landowners. Amin's reactionary measures resulted in a backlash against him, and he was himself toppled within two months. In the face of renewed assaults by Brzezinski's opium-poppy mujaheddin, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan at Christmas, 1979. During the various phases of the Afghan war that followed, the CIA always supported the most benighted, the most reactionary, the most opium-mongering factions -- especially their favorite, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. The CIA was looking for forces of absolute self-isolating negativity, incapable of getting along with Iran or anyone else. In the decade of war that followed (December 1979-February 1989), Afghanistan was economically and demographically destroyed. The second generation of Brzezinski's mujaheddin, the Islamic fundamentalist students or Taliban, assumed power in 1994. Like Pol Pot in Cambodia in the wake of Kissinger's bombing destruction of that country in the 1970s, the Taliban represented an unspeakable retrogression towards barbarity. But, just as Kissinger and G.H.W. Bush had supported Pol Pot, the Bush 41 administration found many ways to support the Taliban, who were viewed as ideal because of their inability to ally with Iran or any of the ex-Soviet central Asian republics. As Michael Parenti has pointed out, the US taxpayers paid the salaries of the entire Taliban government in 1999. (Parenti 65) And under Bush 43, this support became even more explicit, as UNOCAL lobbyists sought a deal with the Taliban to build their oil pipeline to central Asia. During this phase, Kissinger, neocon Zalmay Khalilzad, retired State Department anti-terror official Robert Oakley and Leili Helms (daughter of the former CIA director) were successfully lobbying on behalf of Unocal. The goal was to keep the Taliban regime off the State Department terrorist state list, since listing there would have blocked any pipeline deal. In his first spring in office, Bush offered a large grant to the Taliban. This caused columnist Robert Scheer to comment: "Enslave your girls and women, harbor anti-US terrorists, destroy every vestige of civilization in your homeland, and the Bush administration will embrace you. That's the message sent with the recent gift of $43 million to the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan. The gift ... makes the US the main sponsor of the Taliban." ("Bush's Faustian Deal with the Taliban," Los Angeles Times, May 22, 2001)
-- 9/11 Synthetic Terror Made in USA, by Webster Griffin Tarpley
Enslave your girls and women, harbor anti-U.S. terrorists, destroy every vestige of civilization in your homeland, and the Bush administration will embrace you. All that matters is that you line up as an ally in the drug war, the only international cause that this nation still takes seriously.
That's the message sent with the recent gift of $43 million to the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan, the most virulent anti-American violators of human rights in the world today. The gift, announced last Thursday by Secretary of State Colin Powell, in addition to other recent aid, makes the U.S. the main sponsor of the Taliban and rewards that "rogue regime" for declaring that opium growing is against the will of God. So, too, by the Taliban's estimation, are most human activities, but it's the ban on drugs that catches this administration's attention.
Never mind that Osama bin Laden still operates the leading anti-American terror operation from his base in Afghanistan, from which, among other crimes, he launched two bloody attacks on American embassies in Africa in 1998.
Sadly, the Bush administration is cozying up to the Taliban regime at a time when the United Nations, at U.S. insistence, imposes sanctions on Afghanistan because the Kabul government will not turn over Bin Laden.
The war on drugs has become our own fanatics' obsession and easily trumps all other concerns. How else could we come to reward the Taliban, who has subjected the female half of the Afghan population to a continual reign of terror in a country once considered enlightened in its treatment of women?
At no point in modern history have women and girls been more systematically abused than in Afghanistan where, in the name of madness masquerading as Islam, the government in Kabul obliterates their fundamental human rights. Women may not appear in public without being covered from head to toe with the oppressive shroud called the burkha, and they may not leave the house without being accompanied by a male family member. They've not been permitted to attend school or be treated by male doctors, yet women have been banned from practicing medicine or any profession for that matter.
The lot of males is better if they blindly accept the laws of an extreme religious theocracy that prescribes strict rules governing all behavior, from a ban on shaving to what crops may be grown. It is this last power that has captured the enthusiasm of the Bush White House.
The Taliban fanatics, economically and diplomatically isolated, are at the breaking point, and so, in return for a pittance of legitimacy and cash from the Bush administration, they have been willing to appear to reverse themselves on the growing of opium. That a totalitarian country can effectively crack down on its farmers is not surprising. But it is grotesque for a U.S. official, James P. Callahan, director of the State Department's Asian anti-drug program, to describe the Taliban's special methods in the language of representative democracy: "The Taliban used a system of consensus-building," Callahan said after a visit with the Taliban, adding that the Taliban justified the ban on drugs "in very religious terms."
Of course, Callahan also reported, those who didn't obey the theocratic edict would be sent to prison.
In a country where those who break minor rules are simply beaten on the spot by religious police and others are stoned to death, it's understandable that the government's "religious" argument might be compelling. Even if it means, as Callahan concedes, that most of the farmers who grew the poppies will now confront starvation. That's because the Afghan economy has been ruined by the religious extremism of the Taliban, making the attraction of opium as a previously tolerated quick cash crop overwhelming.
For that reason, the opium ban will not last unless the U.S. is willing to pour far larger amounts of money into underwriting the Afghan economy.
As the Drug Enforcement Administration's Steven Casteel admitted, "The bad side of the ban is that it's bringing their country -- or certain regions of their country -- to economic ruin." Nor did he hold out much hope for Afghan farmers growing other crops such as wheat, which require a vast infrastructure to supply water and fertilizer that no longer exists in that devastated country. There's little doubt that the Taliban will turn once again to the easily taxed cash crop of opium in order to stay in power.
The Taliban may suddenly be the dream regime of our own war drug war zealots, but in the end this alliance will prove a costly failure. Our long sad history of signing up dictators in the war on drugs demonstrates the futility of building a foreign policy on a domestic obsession.
Robert Scheer Is a Syndicated Columnist.