Editorial: Buy the damn poppies already

Posted Sunday, May 4, 2014 in Opinion

Editorial: Buy the damn poppies already

Afghanistan, it has been said, is where the world goes to lose wars.

Part of the reason the world loses wars there ... hell, a lot of the reason ... lives in a delicate, beautiful flower. A flower that has been used to decorate soldiers' tombs, and has been inhaled into veterans' lungs, and injected into their arms.

Poppies earn the poor farmers of Afghanistan more than any other crop would give them.  It gives them the difference between being able to feed their families, marry their daughters off, support their aging parents ... or not.

But we knew all this, or should have known all this. A rather nasty series of small wars have been fought over this lovely flower, leading to a major nation of Asia finally allowing opium in, dooming millions to addiction.

We shouldn't make opium out of the poppies, and we should stop hanging the poor things on the soldiers' tombs. There should be no more soldiers' tombs in Afghanistan.

Instead, we should load the poppies onto a destroyer, and gently commit the beautiful and deadly creatures to the depths of the Indian Ocean.

Buying the poppies will do two important things. It will win the hearts and minds of the people we desperately need to win over if we don't fancy the idea of another Afghan campaign in the near future. And it will stop the trafficking of opiates in their tracks.

One of the reasons the people of Afghanistan resent the Taliban is that they are dead set against the opium trade. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day; this is one of those things. But we would be welcomed with open arms if we were present to take possession of the crop, in exchange for a healthy check.

The people would be able to pay the taxes they would need to pay to rebuild their country. They'd actively resist the Taliban -- commerce will do that. Increased commerce would mean more people would have to attend school, including women, and increased commerce with the U.S. would mean that the faces of Afghanistan would turn outward, rather than inward, bringing Afghanistan more into the community of nations.

Afghanistan won't care that its poppies are becoming part of the benthic ecosystem of the Indian Ocean. All they'll care about is that their farmers are becoming self-sufficient and that their people are at peace.

Perhaps Afghanistan would have a chance to establish a government that would be good for all the people.

The other thing that buying the poppies would do is to put a big dent in the opiate market in the U.S. and elsewhere.

In 2007, 92 percent of the pharmaceutical opiates available in the world originated in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is virtually the only nation producing opium, far ahead of Burma, Laos, and Thailand.

This isn't a situation where removing the head of the Hydra will create many offspring. This is a chance to exterminate the illicit drug trade.

We haven't done it because we, like the Taliban, have moral qualms about buying poppies that could so easily become opium and heroin. But we would have a chance to end opiate addiction, once and for all, and then, when the deed is done, we could help these farmers find a new, and better way to use their land.

Just buy them.

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