Nothing spells imperialism like O.P.I.U.M.

Submitted: Oct 13, 2017
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

Big Green Pharma Machine losing wars and peddling dope from Chiang Mai to Kandahar:  -- blj

10-5-17

Truthdig.com

No Good Reasons to Continue America’s Longest War

Sonali Kolhatkar

https://www.truthdig.com/articles/no-good-reasons-continue-americas-longest-war/

The longest war in modern U.S. history approaches its 16th anniversary Saturday, and so far there is no end in sight. The war in Afghanistan began in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., with the promise of vengeance aimed at the Taliban, hosts of al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden. But that original justification—still as morally questionable now as it was then—has gotten lost amid the open-ended rhetoric of “fighting terrorism.”

The Pentagon recently disclosed that the actual number of U.S. troopscurrently in Afghanistan is 11,000—significantly higher than previously acknowledged. The announcement came just days after President Donald Trump announced an open-ended escalation of the war. With 4,000 more troops now heading to Afghanistan, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, confirmed in an interview that U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan for at least another decade. It is a pity that neither Trump nor Corker has been asked to justify the presence of troops in the country for another decade when the first 16 years of the war appear to have yielded little of value. Indeed, few American politicians who have supported and extended the war year after year are able to articulate past failures or envision any future strategy that holds promise. And so the war continues, seemingly because we have no idea how or why to end it.

When questioned about the war strategy by the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, Trump administration officials were hard-pressed to respond, saying only that the Afghan military was more likely to win against the Taliban with U.S. troops advising and supporting it. But the past 16 years of U.S. military involvement have been variations on the same theme: training, supporting and advising Afghan forces while dropping bombs and conducting raids in parallel. If that strategy hasn’t worked for 16 years, why would it work now?

Afghan civilians are caught between corrupt, U.S.-backed warlords in government, U.S. troops on the ground and airstrikes from above, Taliban forces, and now an emerging Islamic State presence. The war has hardly improved their lives and will likely mean many more years of violence. The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, the oldest women’s political organization in the country, warned 16 years ago against U.S. intervention. A member of RAWA (who uses the pseudonym Heela to protect her identity) told me in a recent interview that Trump’s plan is “not really a new strategy for Afghanistan or for the Afghan people. Nor was it a surprise.” She explains that his plan “is actually a very small tactical change in the wider strategy that the U.S. has in the entire region and especially in Afghanistan.”

That broader plan, which Heela sees as unchanged despite the addition or withdrawal of a few thousands troops by various presidents every few years, is continuing the U.S. use of Afghanistan’s “geographic location to keep its rivals like Russia, India, China, Iran, under its thumb.” She adds, “That strategy is not going to change under Trump or any other president for many years to come.”

If reducing terrorism was its goal, the U.S. has spectacularly failed in Afghanistan and appears to not care one way or another. Aside from the terror it has rained down on Afghans year after year, U.S. presence there has only resulted in the Taliban gaining strength, the U.S.-backed government becoming more corrupt and the emergence of new formations based on fundamentalist ideologies. But if, as Heela suggests, the goal is to maintain a strategic presence in Central Asia, near the territories of political rivals, the war is ostensibly achieving that goal—albeit at a heavy human and financial cost.

Already this year, well before Trump announced his position on the war in Afghanistan, U.S. violence in the country was on the rise. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has tracked American airstrikes there since 2015 and has found a near-exponential rise in bombings. In 2015, the organization recorded 236 airstrikes; in 2016 the number increased to 1,071, and a whopping 2,353 airstrikes were recorded in just the first nine months of this year. The latter number includes the “mother of all bombs”—the U.S.’s largest non-nuclear weapon—which was used in April. Not surprisingly, civilian deaths are proportionately higher, with the United Nations reporting a 43 percent increase in casualties from airstrikes by both the U.S. and Afghan forces.

Heela adds that another aspect of the war in Afghanistan—one that has placed a huge burden on civilians but rarely gets media coverage—is the U.S.-backed government. “The jihadist government of Afghanistan is still in power, and is enjoying the full support of the U.S.,” she says. Recently, for example, “Gulbuddin Hekmatyar—one of the most infamous, bloodthirsty, criminal warlords of the past three decades—was welcomed back to the government by the U.S.,” Heela notes. The Guardian confirms her assessment:

Among Afghanistan’s many warlords, Hekmatyar stands out with an almost unparalleled record of human rights abuses. Aside from indiscriminate shelling of civilians, he is accused of assassinating intellectuals, feminists and royalists. His followers have run torture chambers in Pakistan and thrown acid at women.

If there is any clear pattern to U.S. policy in Afghanistan dating from the Cold War to today, it is the backing of fundamentalist warlords and criminals who are ideologically similar to the Taliban and al-Qaida. A recent exposé by Afghanistan-based journalist May Jeong for In These Times magazine recounts how U.S.-backed militias have fought battles “off the books” and with little oversight, so that even the Pentagon has no real records of the extent of their crimes. Under this informal system, there is no accountability, no prosecutions for war crimes, no responsibility and no justice.

The financial cost of America’s endless war in Afghanistan also is a massive burden to taxpayers. The troop increase this year will cost more than $1 billion annually, bringing the total cost of the war to $12.5 billion a year. As the U.S. government pours such huge amounts of money into a war that has played no constructive role in the lives of ordinary Americans (or Afghans), members of Congress this week “struggle[d] to find money for the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program.”

Most importantly, ordinary Afghans, sick of American interference and destruction, want us gone. “Today the [Afghan] people more than ever, especially people in isolated provinces, where they experience drone strikes and airstrikes, night raids or patrols, definitely hate the U.S. more than [they hate] the Taliban and want them to leave,” Heela explains, adding that Afghan citizens “see the [Afghan] government as the lackeys of the occupiers.”

A 16-year-old in the United States today may wonder why U.S. troops are fighting in the longest modern war, as there is no apparent value to a cause that has resulted in death, destruction and wasted resources. Unless something changes, another 10 years will pass with Americans remaining blind to the reasons for the war and Afghans continuing to pay the price of our ignorance

 

3-3-17

ThoughtCo.com

The Golden Triangle

The Golden Triangle is a Land at the Border of Crime and Development

Jacob Goldberg

https://www.thoughtco.com/the-golden-triangle-1434569

The Golden Triangle is an area covering 367,000 square miles in Southeast Asia where a significant portion of the world’s opium has been produced since the beginning of the twentieth century. This area is centered around the meeting point of the borders that separate Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand. The Golden Triangle’s mountainous terrain and distance from major urban centers make it an ideal location for illicit poppy cultivation and transnational opium smuggling.

Until the end of the 20th century the Golden Triangle was the world’s largest producer of opium and heroin, with Myanmar being the single highest-producing country. Since 1991, the Golden Triangle’s opium production has been outpaced by the Golden Crescent, which refers to an area that traverses the mountainous regions of AfghanistanPakistan and Iran. 

A Brief History of Opium in Southeast Asia

Although opium poppies appear to be native to Southeast Asia, the practice of using opium recreationally was introduced to China and Southeast Asia by Dutch traders in the early 18th century. European traders also introduced the practice of smoking opium and tobacco using pipes. 

Soon after the introduction of recreational opium consumption to Asia, Britain replaced the Netherlands as China’s primary European trade partner. According to historians, China became the primary target of British opium traders for financial reasons.

In the 18th century, there was high demand in Britain for Chinese and other Asian goods, but there was little demand for British goods in China. This imbalance forced British merchants to pay for Chinese goods in hard currency rather than British goods. In order to make up for this loss of cash, British merchants introduced opium to China with the hope that high rates of opium addiction would generate large amounts of cash for them.

In response to this strategy, Chinese rulers outlawed opium for non-medicinal use, and in 1799, Emperor Kia King banned opium and poppy cultivation completely. Nonetheless, British smugglers continued to bring opium into China and the surrounding areas.

Following the British victories against China in the Opium Wars in 1842 and 1860, China was forced to legalize opium. This foothold allowed British traders to expand the opium trade to Lower Burma when British forces began to arrive there in 1852. In 1878, after knowledge of the negative effects of opium consumption had thoroughly circulated throughout the British Empire, British Parliament passed the Opium Act, prohibiting all British subjects, including those in Lower Burma, from consuming or producing opium. Nonetheless, illegal opium trade and consumption continued to take place.

 

The Birth of the Golden Triangle

In 1886, the British Empire expanded to include Upper Burma, where the modern Kachin and Shan states of Myanmar are located. Nestled in rugged highlands, the populations that inhabited Upper Burma lived relatively beyond the control of British authorities. Despite British efforts to retain a monopoly on the opium trade and regulate its consumption, opium production and smuggling took root in these rugged highlands and fueled much of the region’s economic activity.

In Lower Burma, on the other hand, British efforts to secure a monopoly on opium production succeeded by the 1940s. Similarly, France retained similar control over opium production in the lowland regions of its colonies in Laos and Vietnam. Nonetheless, the mountainous regions surrounding the convergence point of the Burma, Thailand, and Laos borders continued to play a major role in the global opium economy.

 

The Role of the United States

Following Burma’s independence in 1948, several ethnic separatist and political militia groups emerged and became embroiled in conflict with the newly formed central government. At the same time, the United States actively sought to forge local alliances in Asia in its effort to contain the spread of communism. In exchange for access and protection during anti-communist operations along China’s southern border, the United States supplied arms, ammunition and air transport for the sale and production of opium to insurgent groups in Burma and ethnic minority groups in Thailand and Laos.

This led to a surge in the availability of heroin from the Golden Triangle in the United States and established opium as a major source of funding for separatist groups in the region.

During the American war in Vietnam, the CIA trained and armed a militia of ethnic Hmong people in northern Laos to wage an unofficial war against northern Vietnamese and Lao communists. Initially, this war disrupted the economy of the Hmong community, which was dominated by opium cash-cropping. However, this economy was soon stabilized by the CIA-backed militia under Hmong general Vang Pao, who was given access to his own aircrafts and permission to continue opium smuggling by his American case handlers, preserving the Hmongs’ access to heroin markets in southern Vietnam and elsewhere. Opium trade continues to be a major feature of Hmong communities in the Golden Triangle as well as in the United States.

 

Khun Sa: King of the Golden Triangle

By the 1960s, several rebel groups based in northern Burma, Thailand and Laos supported their operations through the illegal opium trade, including a faction of the Kuomintang (KMT), which had been expelled from China by the Communist Party. The KMT funded its operations by expanding the opium trade in the region. 

Khun Sa, born in Chan Chi-fu in 1934 to a Chinese father and Shan mother, was an uneducated  youth in the Burmese countryside who formed his own gang in the Shan State and sought to break into the opium business. He partnered with the Burmese government, which armed Chan and his gang, essentially outsourcing them to fight the KMT and Shan nationalist militias in the region. In exchange for fighting as the Burmese government’s proxy in the Golden Triangle, Chan was permitted to continue trading opium.

However, over time, Chan grew friendlier with Shan separatists, which aggravated the Burmese government, and in 1969, he was imprisoned. Upon his release five years later, he adopted the Shan name Khun Sa and devoted himself, at least nominally, to the cause of Shan separatism.

His Shan nationalism and success in drug production garnered the support of many Shan, and by the 1980s, Khun Sa had amassed an army of over 20,000 soldiers, which he dubbed the Mok Tai Army, and established a semi-autonomous fiefdom in the hills of the Golden Triangle near the town of Baan Hin Taek. It is estimated that at this point, Khun Sa controlled over half of the opium in the Golden Triangle, which in turn constituted half of the world’s opium and 45% of the opium that came to the United States.

Khun Sa was described by historian Alfred McCoy as “the only Shan warlord who ran a truly professional smuggling organization capable of transporting large quantities of opium.”

Khun Sa was also notorious for his affinity for media attention, and he frequently played host to foreign journalists in his semi-autonomous narco-state. In a 1977 interview 1977 with the now-defunct Bangkok World, he called himself the “King of the Golden Triangle.”

Until the 1990s, Khun Sa and his army ran an international opium operation with impunity. However, in 1994, his empire collapsed due to attacks from the rival United Wa State Army and from the Myanmar Armed Forces. Furthermore, a faction of the Mok Tai Army abandoned Khun Sa and formed the Shan State National Army, declaring that Khun Sa’s Shan nationalism was merely a front for his opium business. To avoid punishment by the government upon his impending capture, Khun Sa surrendered on the condition that he be protected from extradition to the US, which had a $2 million bounty on his head. It is reported that Khun Sa also received a concession from the Burmese government to operate a ruby mine and a transport company, which allowing him to live out the rest of his life in luxury in Burma's main city, Yangon. He died in 2007 at the age of 74.

 

Khun Sa’s Legacy: Narco-development

Myanmar expert Bertil Lintner claims that Khun Sa was, in reality, an illiterate frontman for an organization dominated by ethnic Chinese from Yunnan Province, and that this organization still operates in the Golden Triangle today. Opium production in the Golden Triangle continues to fund the military operations of several other separatist groups. The largest of these groups is the United Wa State Army (UWSA), a force of over 20,000 troops nestled in the semi-autonomous Wa Special Region. The UWSA is reported to be the largest drug-producing organization in Southeast Asia. The UWSA, along with the  Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) in neighboring Kokang Special Region, have also expanded their drug enterprises to the production of methamphetamines known in the region as yaa baa, which are easier and cheaper to manufacture than heroin. 

Like Khun Sa, the leaders of these narco-militias can be seen as both business entrepreneurs, community developers, as well as agents of the Myanmar government. Nearly everyone in the Wa and Kokang regions are involved in the drug trade in some capacity, which supports the argument that drugs are an essential component of the development of these regions, offering an alternative to poverty. 

Criminologist Ko-Lin Chin writes that the reason why a political solution to drug production in the Golden Triangle has been so elusive is because “the difference between a state builder and drug kingpin, between benevolence and greed, and between public funds and personal wealth” have become difficult to delineate. In a context in which conventional agriculture and local business is stunted by conflict and in which competition between the United States and China deter long-term successful development interventions, drug production and smuggling have become these communities’ path toward development. Throughout the Wa and Kokang special regions, drug profits have been funneled into road construction, hotels, and casino towns, giving rise to what Bertil Lintner calls “narco-development.” Towns such as Mong La attract over 500,000 Chinese vice tourists every year, who come to this mountainous region of the Shan State to gamble, eat endangered animal species and partake in the seedy nightlife. 

 

Statelessness in the Golden Triangle

Since 1984, conflict in Myanmar’s ethnic minority states has driven approximately 150,000 Burmese refugees across the border into Thailand, where they have been living in nine UN-recognized refugee camps along the Thai-Myanmar border. These refugees have no legal right to employment in Thailand, and according to Thai law, undocumented Burmese found outside of the camps are subject to arrest and deportation. The provision of temporary shelter in the camps by the Thai Government has remained unchanged over the years, and limited access to higher education, livelihoods and other opportunities for refugees has raised alarm within the UN High Commission for Refugees that many refugees will resort to negative coping mechanisms for survival.

Hundreds of thousands of members of Thailand’s indigenous “hill tribes” constitute another major stateless population in the Golden Triangle. Their statelessness renders them ineligible for state services, including formal education and the right to work legally, leading to a situation in which the average hill tribe member makes less than $1 per day. This poverty leaves hill tribe people vulnerable to exploitation by human traffickers, who recruit poor women and children by promising them jobs in northern Thai cities such as Chiang Mai.

Today, one in three sex workers in Chiang Mai comes from a hill tribe family. Girls as young as eight years old are confined to brothels where they may be forced to service up to 20 men per day, putting them at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and other diseases. Older girls are often sold overseas, where they are stripped of their documentation and left powerless to escape. Although the government of Thailand has enacted progressive laws to combat human trafficking, the lack of citizenship of these hill tribes leaves this population at disproportionately elevated risk of exploitation. Human rights groups such as The Thailand Project assert that education for the hill tribes is the key to solving the human trafficking issue in the Golden Triangle.

 

3-24-17

Global Research

A Conspiracy Theory that became a “Conspiracy Fact”: The CIA, Afghanistan’s Poppy Fields and America’s Growing Heroin Epidemic

Timothy Alexander Guzman

First published by Global Research in July 2016

https://www.globalresearch.ca/a-conspiracy-theory-that-became-a-conspiracy-fact-the-cia-afghanistans-poppy-fields-and-americas-growing-heroin-epidemic/5533673

The heroin epidemic resembles the days when “Crack cocaine” became the major drug that destroyed communities across the United States and other parts of the world including the Caribbean that began in the early 1980’s. The Crack epidemic coincidently began around the same time when the Iran-Contra Scandal was being exposed. U.S. cities such as Los Angeles, Miami and New York City experienced a rise in crime and disease. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported back in 2015 that “heroin use in the United States increased 63% from 2002 through 2013.” Fast forward to 2016, heroin is sweeping across the United States at unprecedented levels.

According to an NBC affiliate  reported that state officials were set to declare a “public health emergency” in New Haven, Connecticut over the rise of heroin use which has resulted in two deaths:

Officials in New Haven on Friday were set to address a public health emergency declaration brought on by a rash of heroin overdoses in the city beginning Thursday. New Haven police said emergency responders saw at least 15 overdoses since Thursday afternoon, and possibly up to 22. At least two people have died. The city is warning residents that there is a batch of tainted, life-threatening heroin on the streets

In the suburbs of Long Island, NY, heroin use is an increasing problem. According to www.suburbanheroin.com a website devoted to the heroin epidemic on Long Island states that in 2012 – 2013 more than 242 people died from heroin use. Long Island is home to some of the wealthiest communities in New York State which goes to show that heroin is affecting all neighborhoods rich and poor. The NBC news report said that the CDC admitted that heroin has become an epidemic since 2002 

“The CDC reports that between 2002 and 2014 the rate of heroin-related overdose deaths more than quadrupled and more than 10,500 died nationwide in 2014.”

Now the question is why heroin use has dramatically increased since 2002? Maybe the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001 after the September 11th attacks under the Bush regime had something to do with it? The main-stream media (MSM) establishment mouthpiece The Washington Post admitted in 2006 that heroin production in Afghanistan “broke all records” while under U.S. occupation:

Opium production in Afghanistan, which provides more than 90 percent of the world’s heroin, broke all records in 2006, reaching a historic high despite ongoing U.S.-sponsored eradication efforts, the Bush administration reported yesterday.

In addition to a 26 percent production increase over past year — for a total of 5,644 metric tons — the amount of land under cultivation in opium poppies grew by 61 percent. Cultivation in the two main production provinces, Helmand in the southwest and Oruzgan in central Afghanistan, was up by 132 percent

Washington claims that Mexico is the source of the heroin that is flooding U.S. streets “with 10,500 hectares under poppy cultivation in 2012” while Afghanistan had “224,000 hectares” according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in a 2014 report but the numbers tell a different story. Mexico’s heroin trade is small in comparison although it has been increasing its production capabilities.

However, not only heroin from Afghanistan is the major source for U.S. citizens, “BigPharma”, or the ‘corporate drug dealers’ who sell “legal drugs” also have a hand in the epidemic because they produce and sell ‘Opioids’ such asOxyContin and Percocet which is similar to heroin. Opioid medications are normally used as painkillers for broken bones, lacerations or post-surgery pain. However, abusing Opioids can also lead to heroin use.

The online news source The Huffington Post published an article titled ‘Ron Paul Had Accurate Conspiracy Theory: CIA Was Tied To Drug Traffickers’ highlights what the former Libertarian Presidential nominee Dr. Ron Paul said on the involvement of the CIA in the drug trade which was not a “Conspiracy Theory” but a fact when taking into consideration the Iran-Contra Scandal:

In 1988, while running for president on the Libertarian Party ticket, he highlighted yet another conspiracy theory, and this one doesn’t collapse under investigation: The CIA, Paul told a gathering of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, was involved in trafficking drugs as part of the Iran-Contra debacle.

Drug trafficking is “a gold mine for people who want to raise money in the underground government in order to finance projects that they can’t get legitimately. It is very clear that the CIA has been very much involved with drug dealings,” Paul said. “The CIA was very much involved in the Iran-Contra scandals. I’m not making up the stories; we saw it on television. They were hauling down weapons and drugs back. And the CIA and government officials were closing their eyes, fighting a war that was technically illegal”

 

The Taliban banned the production of opium in 2000. The War in Afghanistan was mainly about producing opium which did end up in the streets of Iran, Russia and China. According to a Pravda report in 2015 by William Edstrom titled ‘Heroin Dealer in Chief. Afghanistan, Source of 90% of The World’s Heroin’ stated the impact of Afghanistan’s opium production on neighboring countries:

Afghanistan, source of 90% of Earth’s heroin, ended 90% of Earth’s heroin problems when Taliban outlawed opium in 2000. The reason for War in Afghanistan was because Taliban outlawed opium growing which ended economic wars (opium wars) against Iran, Russia and China

The heroin epidemic is now affecting cities and towns across the U.S. Edstrom estimates that 165,000 American’s will die from the heroin epidemic in the next 10 years:

The War in Afghanistan began as an opium war against Iran, Russia and China, the tables are turning into an opium war against Americans on track to kill 165,000 Americans (2016-2026). Americans, 5% of Earth’s population, take 60% of painkillers on Earth

The death rate could go much higher considering the increasing level of poverty in the U.S. especially in the inner cities where the highest unemployment rates is among the 18-34 year olds. Many young adults will unfortunately turn to the drug trade whether they sell or use as hope fades for the lack of jobs or opportunities.

Fox News had a segment with Geraldo Rivera that shows how the U.S. government (in this case, the U.S. Marines) is involved in Afghanistan’s heroin production with Washington’s approval of course. Watch Video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AgKmJESBFsw

Heroin is a valuable commodity as long as the War on Drugs remains in effect, that’s why Obama extended the Afghan mission until 2017, for the next U.S. elected president to occupy the White House. If it’s Hillary Clinton, U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan indefinitely. Trump might do the same, but that still remains to be seen. On July 7th, 2015 NBC reported on Afghanistan’s opium production and where they stand in terms of world supply

“According to the United Nations, the war-torn nation provides 90 percent of the world’s supply of opium poppy, the bright, flowery crop that transforms into one of the most addictive drugs in existence.”NBC also quoted John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction who did say that “Afghanistan has roughly 500,000 acres, or about 780 square miles, devoted to growing opium poppy. That’s equivalent to more than 400,000 U.S. football fields — including the end zones.”

That’s a large amount of land devoted to opium production which provides an opportunity for the CIA to cash in on the illegal drug trade for their secret covert operations (which avoids public scrutiny) and re-establish a drug trade route to target the populations of China, Iran and Russia.

The heroin crisis then and now is a direct consequence of the Military-Industrial Complex. During the 1970’s, around the same time during the Vietnam War, heroin made its way to the United States from the Golden Triangle which became an epidemic. It was estimated that more than 200,000 people in New York City alone were using heroin. At one point in time, you were able to find used syringes on public playgrounds. Now, heroin from Afghanistan has made its way back to the U.S. Heroin is profitable as much as it is strategic; it is also used as a weapon against Chinese, Iranian and Russian populations which has led to addiction, crime and helped spread diseases such as AIDS. Heroin is now affecting the United States, the CIA’s very own territory. Not that the CIA really cares who it effects when you closely examine their history of drug trafficking with the Iran-Contra Scandal or the Golden Triangle during the Vietnam War as author and activist William Blum noted in his book Rogue State,

 “The CIA flew the drugs all over Southeast Asia, to sites where the opium was processed into heroin, and to trans-shipment points on the route to Western customers.”

As long as the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan continues under the guise of establishing a democratic government, the flow of heroin will continue unabated. One question we should ask is “who owns the planes and the ships that transport 90% percent of the world’s heroin from Afghanistan to the rest of the world in the first place? It sure isn’t the Taliban.

  

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