Tuesday, May 26, 2009

UN Office on Drugs and Crime loses grasp on reality

UN wants 'flood of drugs' in Afghanistan to devalue opium - Guardian:

"United Nations officials in Afghanistan are attempting to create a 'flood of drugs' in the country intended to destroy the value of opium and force poppy farmers to switch to legal crops such as wheat.

After the failure to destroy fields of the scarlet flowers in Afghanistan's volatile south, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime says the answer is to stop the drugs from leaving the country in the first place.

'Manual eradication is incompetent and inefficient,' UNODC chief Antonio Maria Costa said during a visit to the western Afghan province of Herat. 'So we want to see more efforts to stop the flow of drugs across Afghanistan's borders and the hitting of high-value targets to create a market disruption.

'We want to create a flood of drugs within Afghanistan. There will be so much opium inside Afghanistan unable to go out that the price will go down.'"

Whaat!!? Is this for real? Is this something dreamed up by UN policy makers relaxing with a pipe? Have we gone back 100 years to the Opium Wars, when Britain forced our opium products down the collective Chinese trachea? Where is the cheap opium supposed to go? To be used as cattle fodder? To make plasticine substitute for Afghanistan's deprived children?

6 million people a year die in agony from cancer and AIDS, and instead of channelling Afghan opium their way, it is going to flood Afghanistan with spare opium to bring the price down. This is market based ideology gone stark raving mad. Market based, because they are trying to use supply and demand mechanisms in a hopeless attempt to control the opium. Hopeless given the miles of porous borders, and the endemic corruption in the country.

Addiction behaviour is a function of inclination and availability. The inclination is there, due to the desperate condition of the average Afghan. UNDOC is adding the availability factor, if they succeed in damming up the outflow, resulting in masses of cheaply available opium.

The case for buying the opium is as strong as any case I have known in 35 years of campaigning. Government and its fellow-travellers are still peddling the absurd objection that some of the legitimised opium could find its way onto the black market, whereas at the moment all of the damn stuff it going to the black market.

Luckily I am a psychiatrist, so am used to dealing with this sort of thing.
Unluckily the persons with cognitive difficulties are running the world.

Ah well. Take a deep slow breath. Onwards and upwards, and click the Afghan and opium labels below.


GreenCurmudgeon said...

Richard -

Of course if price reduction was their priority, they could legalise many of the banned opiate derivatives in the West; I remember Milton Friedman saying that this would cause prices to fall by up to 70%. But then again, winding up the War on Drugs would make certain people (i.e., the DEA in the States) grouchy. Furthermore, treating drug addiction as a medical problem rather than a law enforcement problem would also put certain people's noses out of joint - far better to use the "market", in their view, to keep the problem at source, although it is actual demand that creates the problem, and law enforcement which complicates the problem.

I agree with you - buying it up and using it in places where medicine is needed, e.g., sub-Saharan Africa, would be a much better idea.

Best Regards, GC

Joseph said...

Also agree Richard. But then the UN at present is run largely by the victors of World War 2 with China thrown in. The NATO war there is also hopeless, as most historians and military experts will point out. The production of opium will continue under whatever regime is there. It is now creating a massive drug addiction problem in Iran, so the Iranians would probably support it being bought up and manunfactured into painkilling drugs.

As CG says, the war on terror and the war against drugs are both stupid. War against terrorists yes, but bombing the hell out of villages and wedding parties in Afghanistan and along the Pakistan border only breeds more anti-Western hatred.

At the Stop the War Coalition conference a while ago an Afghan journalist, who is opposed to the Taliban, said that more than two people never meet in villages now because they are spotted by drones and killed - so wedding parties consist only of the two being married and the mullah. He said that the NATO forces are detested there, as all foreign forces have been in Afghanistan's history.

For a good understandig of what is going on there, I strongly recommend going to see 'The Great Game' a trilogy of short plays at the Tricycle Theater in North London. The plays are written by playwrights with a real knowledge of the country and its history and you come away really enlightened. It does not answer all the questions about this tortured country but it gives you a real insight.

RobB said...

Also agree with you Richard. I know two middle class families in my little world where the concerned parents ( I would guess have never touched any illegal drugs before)in desperation buy heroin for their son to stop him stealing or mugging to get the money for it. They are both staunch tory families and that is one of the few things they agree with me, ie there should be medical/social centres where addicts can get their fix safely, with people to support them in giving up or stablising enough to become part of mainstream society.
Wonder how many similar parents are scoring on the black market for their children.

DocRichard said...

What a pleasure to get agreement.

Joseph, you write "The production of opium will continue under whatever regime is there". But the Taleban are reputed to have stopped opium production 9along with haircuts and female scholarship) when they were in power. What if they win again?

But as things stand, opium production is likely to continue, so we should clearly divert it to humanitarian and medical aid. Let us bring more pressure on the FCO to this end.

Rob, there is good evidence that making heroin available on the NHS for addicts has a great harm reduction effect. However, 90% of street opiates is sourced from Afghanistan, availability on our streets is going to plummet, which means that the addiction problem here will also be greatly reduced.

It all makes such clear sense that we have to consider whether UNDOC and other authorities are influenced by the drug smugglers.

This is not a conspiracy theory. It is a conspiracy hypothesis, a scientific hypothesis that could be refuted (or supported) by a deep, transparent security review of the connections of UNDOC. operatives.

Unknown said...