Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Afghanistan: poppy in one ear, cock in the other.

Perhaps the coalition currently ruling Afghanistan militarily is getting fed up with American annihilism. Conn Hallinan of Foreign Policy in Focus has an interesting article up at Counterpunch, describing a bit of grumbling among America's allies. Too many bodies piling up, looks bad on television. The SPD have most to worry about, of course, because it is outflanked to the left by the Left Party, and there is a vote coming up on extending Germany's role in the mission. Suddenly their shower of uncharismatic largely right-wing leaders are vocalising complaints about the occupation. The UK Defense Secretary is apparently trying to pin the blame for the failure of the occupation on the United Nations.

Also interesting is the discussion of widespread opposition to Washington's eradicationist policy toward opium growth, which makes up about a third of total income in Afghanistan. It's treated as if it's an accident that in Colombia, where Dyncorps has practised this policy before, coca acreage is at exactly the level it was when the crop spraying began in 2001. It's as if the destruction of peasant communities, the ruining of food crops, the poisoning of a fragile and threatened ecosphere, was all an incidental byproduct of an exuberantly idealistic war on narcotics. On the other hand, if the whole thing was a counterinsurgency effort, all of these effects would be predictable. If there was no serious effort to disrupt the biggest coca barons and their right-wing paramilitaries, and if the main aim was to attack the sources of support for FARC among poor peasant communities, then none of it would be a surprise. The reason is that, as the United Nations Drug Control Programme acknowledges, there is no evidence that FARC are themselves involved in any trafficking: they have even participated in programmes to replace the crop with other sustainable commodities. On the other hand, what FARC do endanger are American interests in Colombia: as Under-Secretary Marc Grossman explained, FARC

"represent a danger to the $4.3 billion in direct U.S. investment in Colombia. They regularly attack U.S. interests, including the railway used by the Drummond Coal Mining facility and Occidental Petroleum's stake in the Cano Limon oil pipeline. Terrorist attacks on the Cano Limon pipeline also pose a threat to U.S. energy security. Colombia supplied three per cent of U.S. oil imports in 2001, and possesses substantial potential oil and natural gas reserves."


In the past, the US has abandoned the mass poisoning policy in the face of opposition from Karzai and its client regime. And it may be that they will abandon it again if it threatens to fracture the military alliance. However, consider its utility: the best thing from the point of view of the American government about using Dyncorps is that, as civilians, they are exempt from the usual scrutiny, even though they were routinely engaged in combat with Colombian rebels, and were caught transporting heroin. They may engage in a range of actions well beyond stated US goals, and the administration need never have to answer for it. William Wood, the current US ambassador to Afghanistan, used to oversee Dyncorp's campaign in Colombia. He'll know what the score is.