Opium for the Masses

Tales of the Afghan Drug Trade

Hekmatyar and the CIA denied any involvement in the drug trade, and the U.S. media held the story until the Cold War ended. Finally, in 1990, The Washington Post published a front-page exposé of Hekmatyar and his U.S. protectors that should be required reading for every journalist covering Afghanistan. (These days, Hekmatyar lives in exile in Iran, and Pakistan gets high marks in the drug war.)

Some final facts to consider: The Taliban have at least 40 opium warehouses in Afghanistan, as well as stockpiles in Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and elsewhere. U.S. sources have said they will try to find the stockpiles using satellite imagery, and the Pentagon recently moved to buy the rights to every photo it commissions from a commercial satellite company—effectively preventing the war photos from ever becoming public.

Does the U.S. have a secret plan to seize raw opium as war booty? A DEA spokesperson told the Voice last week that "a lot" of the Taliban stockpiles had already been "seized," a report the Pentagon would not confirm or deny. On the contrary, Golden's sources said the U.S. has "scant information" about the location of the stockpiles.

Make no mistake—raw opium is a valuable commodity. Just ask the late U.S. drug czar Harry Anslinger. During World War II, Anslinger quietly built his own opium stockpile to assuage the fears of the pharmaceutical industry. At the time, the U.S. bought most of its legal opium from Yugoslavia and Turkey. But as Anslinger assured the industry in 1941, there was always "high-grade" and "abundant" opium to be had from Afghanistan. Sixty years later, there still is.


ccotts@villagevoice.com

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