Faustian Deal With the Taliban
A Guest News Report
By Robert Scheer
Published May 22, 2001 in the Los
Please NOTE: This article was published almost four months before the
catastrophe of September 11.
Enslave your girls and women, harbor anti-U.S. terrorists, destroy
every vestige of civilization in your homeland, and the Bush
administration will embrace you. All that matters is that you line up
as an ally in the drug war, the only international cause that this
nation still takes seriously.
That's the message sent with the recent gift of $43 million to the
Taliban rulers of Afghanistan, the most virulent anti-American
violators of human rights in the world today. The gift, announced last
Thursday by Secretary of State Colin Powell, in addition to other
recent aid, makes the U.S. the main sponsor of the Taliban and rewards
that "rogue regime" for declaring that opium growing is against the
will of God. So, too, by the Taliban's estimation, are most human
activities, but it's the ban on drugs that catches this
Never mind that Osama bin Laden still operates the leading
anti-American terror operation from his base in Afghanistan, from
which, among other crimes, he launched two bloody attacks on American
embassies in Africa in 1998.
Sadly, the Bush administration is cozying up to the Taliban regime at a
time when the United Nations, at U.S. insistence, imposes sanctions on
Afghanistan because the Kabul government will not turn over Bin Laden.
The war on drugs has become our own fanatics' obsession and easily
trumps all other concerns. How else could we come to reward the
Taliban, who has subjected the female half of the Afghan population to
a continual reign of terror in a country once considered enlightened in
its treatment of women?
At no point in modern history have women and girls been more
systematically abused than in Afghanistan where, in the name of madness
masquerading as Islam, the government in Kabul obliterates their
fundamental human rights. Women may not appear in public without being
covered from head to toe with the oppressive shroud called the burkha ,
and they may not leave the house without being accompanied by a male
family member. They've not been permitted to attend school or be
treated by male doctors, yet women have been banned from practicing
medicine or any profession for that matter.
The lot of males is better if they blindly accept the laws of an
extreme religious theocracy that prescribes strict rules governing all
behavior, from a ban on shaving to what crops may be grown. It is this
last power that has captured the enthusiasm of the Bush White House.
The Taliban fanatics, economically and diplomatically isolated, are at
the breaking point, and so, in return for a pittance of legitimacy and
cash from the Bush administration, they have been willing to appear to
reverse themselves on the growing of opium. That a totalitarian country
can effectively crack down on its farmers is not surprising. But it is
grotesque for a U.S. official, James P. Callahan, director of the State
Department's Asian anti-drug program, to describe the Taliban's special
methods in the language of representative democracy: "The Taliban used
a system of consensus-building," Callahan said after a visit with the
Taliban, adding that the Taliban justified the ban on drugs "in very
Of course, Callahan also reported, those who didn't obey the theocratic
edict would be sent to prison.
In a country where those who break minor rules are simply beaten on the
spot by religious police and others are stoned to death, it's
understandable that the government's "religious" argument might be
compelling. Even if it means, as Callahan concedes, that most of the
farmers who grew the poppies will now confront starvation. That's
because the Afghan economy has been ruined by the religious extremism
of the Taliban, making the attraction of opium as a previously
tolerated quick cash crop overwhelming.
For that reason, the opium ban will not last unless the U.S. is willing
to pour far larger amounts of money into underwriting the Afghan
As the Drug Enforcement Administration's Steven Casteel admitted, "The
bad side of the ban is that it's bringing their country--or certain
regions of their country--to economic ruin." Nor did he hold out much
hope for Afghan farmers growing other crops such as wheat, which
require a vast infrastructure to supply water and fertilizer that no
longer exists in that devastated country. There's little doubt that the
Taliban will turn once again to the easily taxed cash crop of opium in
order to stay in power.
The Taliban may suddenly be the dream regime of our own war drug war
zealots, but in the end this alliance will prove a costly failure. Our
long sad history of signing up dictators in the war on drugs
demonstrates the futility of building a foreign policy on a domestic
Robert Scheer Is a Syndicated
Copyright © 2001 Robert Scheer
The M+G+R Foundation
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