By: William Edstrom
The Brookings Institution reported that Barack Obama ended opium eradication efforts in Afghanistan in 2009, effectively green lighting Afghan opium production and the Afghan heroin trade. By 2010, all US efforts to eradicate Afghan opium ceased. It has been US policy to allow Afghan opium growing and the heroin trade since. US heroin deaths tripled from 3,036 in 2010 to 10,574 in 2014 as a result of the Afghan narcotics trade being green lighted by Obama during his first year in office.
Vanda Felbab-Brown at the Brookings Institution. a liberal think tank that often writes reports supporting the Obama Administration, penned “No Easy Exit: Drugs and Counternarcotics Strategies in Afghanistan” in advance of the April 19th, 2016 UN Summit on Drugs (UNgass). The report is notable for what it omits, which is any mention of the heroin epidemic, the worst ever illicit drug epidemic in history, or any of the tens of thousands of Americans killed by heroin since Obama took office.
The Bush Administration had an Afghan opium eradication program in effect, carried out by DynCorp. Obama didn’t renew DynCorp’s eradication contracts, effectively ending all US efforts to eradicate opium. (Afghan government eradication efforts in 2014, resulted in 1.1% of the Afghan opium crop being eradicated.) Heroin is made from opium.
Ms. Felbab-Brown might as well have said “let them eat cake” to the tens of thousands of Americans killed by heroin since 2009, the millions now hooked on heroin and the tens of millions living in terror because of loved ones now hooked on this deadly poison.
US policy changed to permit opium growing and the heroin trade during Obama’s first year in office, as a way to minimize US troop casualties in Afghanistan. And to maximize US civilian casualties in the US from heroin.
The CIA defines blowback as the ‘consequences at home of operations overseas’.
Since ending US eradication efforts, US heroin deaths shot up from 3,036 (2010) to 4,397 (2011) to 5,925 (2012) to 8,260 (2013) to 10,574 in 2014. The heroin death toll continues to shoot up as does the number of heroin users, from the 1,500,000 US heroin users in 2010 to 4,500,000 heroin users in 2015. As heroin deaths under Obama tripled, so has heroin usage.
There were 7,600 hectares of Afghan opium poppies when the War in Afghanistan began in 2001. (1 hectare = 2.5 US acres.) By 2009, there were 123,000 hectares. In 2014, Afghan poppy fields spread to 224,000 hectares resulting in a bumper crop of 6,400 tons of opium, enough to make 640,000 kilograms of heroin thanks to Obama. Opium yields far greater profit than foods like wheat or corn, so opium production will continue to rise without serious eradication efforts.
Afghanistan is by far the number one producer of opium and heroin. Total worldwide opium production was 7,554 tons in 2014, of which 85% came from Afghanistan. The remaining 1,154 tons are primarily from Myanmar, Laos, Mexico, Thailand and Vietnam.
Mexico produced 162 tons of opium in 2014, enough to make 16,200 kilograms of heroin. An average heroin addict takes 0.15 kg of heroin a year, meaning Mexican heroin could only supply 108,000 heroin addicts. Heroin from Mexico cannot supply even 10% of US heroin demand.
Yet the DEA claims most heroin in the US is from Mexico. I asked Barbara Carreno and Russell Baer at the DEA questions like how such a mathematical impossibility was reported. They dodged many questions, claiming only 4% of heroin is from Afghanistan and the rest is mostly from Mexico. Carreno and Baer acknowledged 90% of heroin in Canada is from Afghanistan, but wouldn’t acknowledge that the USA has a border with Canada, only with Mexico.
We’re getting hit with the largest ever illicit drug epidemic in American history and the DEA is asleep at the wheel.
USA’s now #1 for heroin use. US heroin demand is 415,000 kilograms a year. The whole world, except Afghanistan, could only produce 115,400 kilograms of heroin (2014), not enough for even a third of the mushrooming US demand. Most heroin in the US is coming from US-occupied Afghanistan, there is no other mathematical possibility. There is no other physical possibility.
Carreno and Baer stated “we are a small press office with many queries to answer, and your line of questioning is expanding. I’m sorry to have to say that we will not able to assist you further.” I filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for information about what the DEA has been doing (if anything) about Afghan opium and heroin.
I also asked the DEA people if they know how bad the heroin epidemic’s gotten or have any sense of urgency about it, they dodged these questions too. An American now gets killed every 32 minutes by heroin. Carreno and Baer seemed like they couldn’t care less and they don’t feel like answering most questions asked.
Perhaps the DEA people would answer questions at Congressional Hearings.
Basic math shows that Mexico cannot produce enough heroin for even 1/10th of US demand. Besides 4,500,000 American heroin users (2,500,000 addicts and 2,000,000 casual users) and 10,000+ US heroin deaths a year, are the tens of millions of loved ones and neighbors living through hell because of this biggest ever drug epidemic in history. One New Yorker said “what with heroin addicts on every block now, it’s like a zombie invasion.” One small town in Indiana has 190 HIV+ people due to IV narcotic use. The War in Afghanistan is the longest ever war in US history and the “collateral damage” of Americans being killed by Afghan heroin is shooting up.
Afghanistan has been known as the Graveyard of the Empires since Alexander the Great. Afghan heroin may yet destroy the American Empire. Since Obama green lighted Afghan opium and heroin, crime’s been shooting up in many places like Baltimore, considered to be ground zero for the heroin epidemic and the canary in the coal mine for the rest of the nation.
False narratives have proliferated about the heroin epidemic in the run up to UNgass. One such narrative is ‘the Mexicans did it”. Mexico, producing enough opium for 16.2 tons of heroin (2014), has enough for only 4% of current US heroin demand. The Mexicans didn’t do the heroin epidemic. (Colombia produced 2 tons of heroin in 2014, not enough for even 1% of the US heroin market.)
‘Myanmar did it.’ Myanmar, a distant 2nd for heroin production, produced enough opium for 67 tons of heroin (2014), not enough for even 1/4th of US demand. Plus, Myanmar’s heroin goes to Asia, Australia and Europe. Not US.
“Genetics did it” which says ‘10% of people are prone to addiction, so genetics is the reason for the heroin epidemic.’ Human genetics hasn’t changed much the past 15 years. What has changed is Afghan opium production shot up from 7,600 hectares (2001) to 224,000 hectares (2014), a 29-fold increase.
“Treatment is the solution.” If the Afghan heroin supply keeps increasing, then heroin usage will keep increasing too. Treatment is a few fingers in a dyke that has sprung millions of holes. As Afghan heroin floods in, heroin use shoots up.
In Afghanistan, where heroin’s been as readily available as Coca-Cola since 2009, 8% of the people are addicted to narcotics. Following the footsteps of US policy in Afghanistan would mean 8% of the US population, 25,500,000 Americans, becoming addicted, which would be more like a zombie victory than a zombie invasion and would solidify Obama’s legacy as Heroin Dealer In Chief.
“Decriminalize” and “marijuana is like heroin” are additional narratives, about marijuana legalization in some places and Portugal’s decriminalization of personal possession of all drugs in 2001. Heroin’s not marijuana and trafficking tons of heroin is not personal possession. Apples and oranges.
Heroin is physically addictive within 30 days of daily use. Heroin kills 40x more than cocaine does and over 100x more than marijuana. Just as there are vast differences between drinking a glass of OJ, a Heineken or 3 liters of rum, so too there are vast differences between drugs. Decriminalizing personal possession of drugs is not comparable to decriminalizing trafficking tons of heroin.
Heroin traffickers want decriminalization instead of life imprisonment just as the makers of the world’s #1 narco state, Afghanistan, want people (especially UN Ambassadors) confused and distracted away from how and why they did that. Don’t get confused or distracted by their many narratives.
The latest narratives: “W-18 did it” and “heroin deaths are over-reported“. Synthetics like W-18 are a drop in the overflowing heroin epidemic bucket. Heroin breaks down to morphine in the body within hours, gets recorded by American coroners as morphine (prescription drug) overdoses, resulting in under-reporting of heroin deaths by as much as 100%. The real US heroin death count in 2014 was closer to 20,000 than to 10,574.
It’s as if the Spring 2016 media flurry of false narratives and distracting narratives have been to try to confuse and distract people away from the largest ever illicit drug epidemic (the heroin epidemic 2009-present), Afghanistan (source of 85% of all heroin) and how the heroin is getting to US. It appears as if the US government is afraid, very afraid of the epidemic of Afghan heroin being discussed at UNgass and the UN voting for sanctions on the US government for what they did in making Afghanistan the biggest (and most lethal) narco state ever in human history.
The Taliban ruled Afghanistan until Fall 2001. In mid-2000, the Taliban outlawed opium, within a year it was all but gone, from 91,000 hectares (1999) to 7,600 hectares (2001). Since the Taliban effectively outlawed opium within a year, then why hasn’t the latest US-supported Afghan regime and US Administration done the same?
If serious efforts are not made to eradicate heroin at it’s source, then the heroin epidemic will get worse. Much worse.
Besides prioritizing eradication first, which will take a year if done in earnest, there are additional solutions.
Second, outlaw precursor chemicals, like acetic anhydride, needed to make heroin from opium. The chemicals to make methaqualone were outlawed in the 1980s. Methaqualone overdoses then stopped.
Third, US government and government-chartered planes can be searched.
Fourth, buying opium for medical morphine in the meantime, until eradication is complete, will alleviate this surge of heroin shocking and awing America.
Fifth, millions of addicts need treatment. There aren’t enough inpatient beds or outpatient seats for even 1/8th of the surge in narcotic users. $25 billion constructs 100,000 inpatient treatment beds and $10 billion annually provides another million seats in outpatient treatment.
Sixth, decriminalizing personal possession in order to focus on big heroin traffickers would result in lower overall prison costs and fewer non-violent drug users serving expensive lengthy sentences.
US government agencies and departments involved in Afghanistan, 2000 to present, can come clean and tell all about Afghan opium and heroin.
One giant step forward would be Congressional Hearings to determine facts: 1) how did Afghan opium surge from 7,600 hectares (2001) to 224,000 hectares (2014), 2) why did heroin deaths surge from 1,779 (2001) to 3,036 (2010) to 10,574 (2014) on up, 3) how did the Taliban effectively outlaw and eradicate Afghan opium within a year, 4) why hasn’t the current Administration done likewise, 5) what exactly have the DEA, CIA and DoD been doing about Afghan opium and heroin, and 6) why did Obama green light the Afghan opium trade and heroin trade, 2009 to present, leading to the biggest illicit drug epidemic ever.
UN Ambassadors at UNgass can focus on getting honest answers to these honest questions, then decide on censure or sanctions against the US government and Afghanistan government until opium is eradicated in Afghanistan as it was under the Taliban in 2001.
Obama green lighted the end of US eradication efforts against Afghan opium in 2009, which green lighted the Afghan opium and heroin trade, which green lighted the most lethal illicit drug epidemic ever. The 10,000+ Americans getting killed every year by heroin, that’s just “collateral damage” to “the little people” from the lingering War in Afghanistan, Mr. President?
Eradicate the Afghan opium crops, stat, the way the Taliban eradicated the Afghan opium crops, within a year. No need to re-invent the wheel on this one.
William Edstrom graduated from Columbia University in 2003 and have worked several years as a scientist and educator. I have published in Mott Haven Herald, Pravda, Truth-Out and Counterpunch. I have also published technical articles in peer reviewed journals such as Nature plus a few chapters in a couple of books. I was a 2014 candidate for US Congress (NY’s 15th Congressional District) and I’m a member of the Educational Writers Association (EWA).