Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Nation Building 101

Lesson #1: When setting up a puppet ruler, make sure his brother isn't a major drug trafficker. Come on, guys, you shouldn't need me to tell you this.

McClatchy Moscow bureau chief Tom Lasseter flew to Afghanistan recently to have a long heart to heart chat with Ahmed Wali Karzai, the younger brother of Afghani President Hamid Karzai. The younger Karzai is the top provincial council official in Kandahar and he makes his residence in southern Afghanistan, a place notably more conservative than their slightly more liberal and cosmopolitan countrymen to the north. Southern Afghanistan is also where the resurgent Taliban holds the most sway.

And it's Karzai's relationship with the drug trade and certain Taliban operatives is what interested Lasseter. The stories and allegations include one from an ex intelligence chief in the Helmand province who alleged that Karzai had once sent an emissary to free a Taliban commander who'd been arrested on drug trafficking charges.

After speaking with his source, Lasseter found out he had been killed by an IED, news that didn't seem to surprise nor distress Karzai too much. In a chilling moment in the interview, Lasseter mentioned another name, another intelligence official who'd alleged a relationship between the president's brother and the opium/heroin trade. Karzai wasted no time in asking someone to give him a cell phone so he could call a source that should have remained confidential and unnamed.

These and other uncomfortable questions about Karzai were asked by the Moscow bureau chief and Karzai quickly got hotter and hotter under the collar, eventually accusing Lasseter of not being a real reporter. The interview then unmistakably came to a close when Karzai began screaming obscenities at him and telling him to get the fuck out of his 'hood.

After a brief consultation with some local officials, Lasseter then got the fuck out of the 'hood.

So what do the Karzai brothers have to say about the allegations that have been collected for years by journalists and American and Afghani investigators? “I am a victim of vicious politics,” whines the younger Karzai. Which is exactly the same excuse we hear from Republicans when others publicly call attention to them shitting their pants.

To give you an idea how thoroughly rotten and corrupt this puppet fiefdom is, James Risen had written in the New York Times last October about an incident that involved both Karzai brothers, Afghan security forces and a shitload of smack:
When Afghan security forces found an enormous cache of heroin hidden beneath concrete blocks in a tractor-trailer outside Kandahar in 2004, the local Afghan commander quickly impounded the truck and notified his boss.

Before long, the commander, Habibullah Jan, received a telephone call from Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of President Hamid Karzai, asking him to release the vehicle and the drugs, Mr. Jan later told American investigators, according to notes from the debriefing obtained by The New York Times. He said he complied after getting a phone call from an aide to President Karzai directing him to release the truck.

One can hardly fault Mr. Jan for complying. After all, when the president of your country tells you to release a huge shipment of heroin, you don't argue with him. You simply do it. Right or wrong has nothing to do with it. And one can be reasonably sure that Mr. Jan wouldn't have released such a sizable cache of heroin unless he knew he was under direct orders from the President's office. Officially, President Karzai had turned on the Taliban after they'd assassinated his father but this allegation would suggest that the President had long since gotten over it.

Perhaps George Bush remembered the travails, trials and tribulations that the family had suffered when his own younger brother Marvin was revealed to have gotten lap dances and STD's from under-aged Asian hookers. That's why the administration, even after getting strong evidence from the CIA as to Ahmed Karzai's drug involvement, never seriously pushed the Karzai administration too much about it.

At most, CIA officials had gently suggested that the president move his drug-dealing brother out of the country so he wouldn't, you know, embarrass us so much while we pretended to get a handle on the still-booming opium poppy and heroin trade that finances the Taliban. Ironically, our government officially blames the Taliban for the opium bumper crops because prior to the 2001-led invasion, the Taliban had banned opium and heroin production, bringing the drug trade in Afghanistan almost to a standstill.

Since Bush and his under-sized army went in in late 2001, guns a'blazin', it allowed the drug merchants who'd been suppressed by the Taliban to get back to work. With every dictatorship (save for our own recently-ended one), there's at least one thin silver lining: Mussolini got the trains running on time, Ankhenaton brought about a brief golden period in Egyptian art and the Taliban almost completely halted the drug trade in Afghanistan. Now, under the Bush administration's initiatives, we're not plagued with one of the lesser of two evils: Both are back and both are winning.

In a way, this uneasy, laissez faire arrangement that we have with the Karzai brothers in some key elements is not very dissimilar to the one written about in 1996 by Gary Webb in his "Dark Alliance" series. The CIA and American government, including the Obama administration, is strenuously turning a blind eye to the revived drug trade in central/south Asia and the Middle East of which Afghanistan is the nucleus. The very same part of the world we're seeking to pacify and civilize is being flooded with drugs.

And, ironically, the ones benefiting the most from this revived drug trade, aside from heroin kingpins like Ahmed Wali Karzai, are the same people who'd successfully suppressed it- the Taliban. As with our own government, the Taliban may be philosophically opposed to drugs but they'll gladly accept the money that finances their murderous operations. And we'll gladly allow the crops to remain standing as long as Hamid Karzai, a former Taliban supporter and secret police chief, is in power and has criticized our token efforts to spray the poppy crops that helped support his own presidential campaign.

Sure, Afghanistan's economy has been steadily growing under Karzai's stewardship but what no one within the Beltway or at Langley will admit is that's largely due to the same poppy crops that we're allowing to grow. In fact, Karzai's overarching rationale for banning crop spraying is that it would hurt his nation's economy!

James Risen and Tom Lasseter have gotten off to good starts in exposing this connection between the Karzai brothers, the Afghani drug trade, the CIA and two American administrations. But we need someone like Gary Webb to write a full-blown series that no one can ignore, at how the United States is, once again, cynically aiding and abetting a drug trade and allowing drugs to flood the world market and financing terrorists and how we're piously yet hypocritically condemning both.


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