From our partners at DownWithTyranny!
I was in Afghanistan twice, both times for extended stays, the first being in 1969. Over the years, I’ve written a few disparate posts about it on my travel blog but 45 years later, I’m still processing the Afghan experience and trying to make some sense out of it. I always recall that my initial thought was that I wasn’t just driving my VW van across space– Europe, Turkey, Iran and into Afghanistan– but across time as well. There was always a distinct feeling that it wasn’t 1969; it was more like 969. And I was back again in 1971… although it still seemed like 969.
After Iran, the first stop on the Hippy Trail– originally laid out by Alexander the Great– is Herat, via a border crossing at Taybad (Iran side) and Islam Qala (Afghan side). It took less than 2 hours to drive from the border to Herat, a beautiful, alluring garden city. When the town elders saw my shiny new red VW they saw an opportunity immediately: selling high grade opiated hashish, lots of it. They immediately dragged me off to sample it. It was an amazing experience, smoking out of a water pipe with a dozen bedraggled Afs who were at theta of the local social food chain. And the has– the strongest I ever tried. I only remember having one toke and my high was still accelerating two hours later. It was like acid.
My stay in Afghanistan wasn’t really about drugs and I had no idea I would never do drugs again after my first trip there. But the whole society is high all the time– as Country Joe used to say– and… when in Rome. Everyone was stoned– and all the time. Everywhere. That’s Afghanistan. It used it drive me crazy that American policymakers didn’t take that into account and didn’t understand what it even meant. That seems too have changed– though, not always in a good way.
The U.S. shouldn’t be interfering in Afghanistan. Even the best of intentions– competing with the usually more dominant worst of intentions– are unwelcome by the Afghan people. They’re in their own universe (969) and it is not up to use to change it and them. That said, the dynamic duo of Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), each of whom is a somewhat doddering 81 years old, thinks the U.S. needs to fight the Afghan drug trade, an integral part of Afghan life that neither could ever come close to comprehending.
“The Afghan drug trade funds the Taliban, fuels corruption and creates major public health challenges,” Feinstein said Tuesday. “Afghanistan could become a narco-state without an effective, comprehensive and coordinated counternarcotics strategy, coupled with unprecedented levels of international cooperation.
“If we don’t act, Afghanistan’s drug trade could undermine hard won gains and U.S. investments and threaten the safety of the citizens of Afghanistan and neighboring countries.”
Grassley and Feinstein co-chair the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control and said their report is needed to help Congress coordinate with the administration.
“Our report outlines the critical need for the Obama administration to put plans in place now to support continuing counternarcotics efforts without the current level of security provided by the United States,” Grassley said. “The administration should provide Congress with a comprehensive, multi-agency, workable strategy before any more gains made over the past 13 years are lost.”
Their report also called on other countries to help Afghanistan transition to other, legal industries. Afghan farmers grow large amounts of poppy, which is used to produce opioids such as heroin.
The fear, of course, is that Afghanistan is at risk of becoming a fragmented criminal state, ruled by an illicit economy, which is how it was when Alexander the Great visited and is how it was when I visited and how it was when the Afs kicked the Russians out and how it will be when the Afs kick the Americans out. Afghanistan itself is a figment of western imaginations. When I was in Kandahar, the second biggest city, and I mentioned the king, a town elder spat and said the king was the king of Kabul, not the king of Kandahar and he denied that Afghanistan was even a country.