Friday, February 27, 2009

Obama's withdrawal plan. Now: peace in Afghanistan

Great. Obama sets a time to withdraw from Iraq. We must hope that Iraq stays peaceful and is able to reconstruct itself after Georg W's orgy of destruction.

Now Obama has to sort Afghanistan out. He is aiming for a surge, a doubling of the US troops towards 60,000. It is going to take more than brute force though. If NATO win militarily in Afghanistan it will be the first time in history that anyone has won there. At present, things are not promising that the US is going to buck the trend.

Opium is the key. The trade funds the Taleban war effort, and stops Western troops winning hearts and minds. The answer is very clear indeed: buy the opium, turn it into medical morphine and heroin, and use it to relieve terminal pain from cancer and HIV in Africa and other places where millions die in miserable pain every year.

The Senlis council, the Afghan Crescent, the Italian Red Cross, the Green Party of England and Wales, the European Green Party, the European Green Party, and the European Parliament (part of) have all endorsed the policy of buying the opium and turning it to medical use.

The closest to a substantive argument against the policy that I have yet encountered is that the Afghan Government does not have the competence to administer such an operation. Well, bloody well teach them and empower them to do it! It's a chicken and egg problem: the Afghan Government's writ does not run in Helmand, because the opium is illegal. Make it legal, and their writ will run.

Is it that the Afghan Government does not have the will to do it? If so, they are dancing to a tune that only they can hear, because a legal medical opium trade will get the Afghan economy up and running, so it is a no-brainer in terms of political and economic rationality. Maybe the tune they are dancing to is played by Hamid Karzai's brother .

The people who have leverage (excuse the expression) on this situation are the American Green Party. Marnie or anyone, if you read this, please get in touch and let's get this show on the road; let's persuade Obama to look seriously at legitimising the opium crop so that it is used to relieve suffering, not to cause it. This is an issue that we can win. Yes, we can!

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