They connect on a literal level, of course: Afghanistan provides 90% of the poppy-derived opium distributed to grateful nations around the world. The Emerald City that Dorothy spied in the distance across that poppy-blossom landscape, which put the pilgrims in such a pleasant slumber, was no doubt Kabul. And recently the U.S. has finally bowed to reality and abandoned its efforts to shut down their ancient opium trade. What other crop but poppy could give the Afghan farmer such a rate of return . The Taliban know that, and reversed their anti-poppy policy some time ago. You can't win the minds and hearts of country by shutting down its #1 industry. Why, that would be as ridiculous as trying to stop North Carolina farmers from growing the state's #1 cash-crop: marijuana. Oh, wait ...
The "War on Drugs" (a term now officially excised from the lexicon of our new political leadership) in this country has been about as effective as its counterpart in Afghanistan. That is: totally not. But I really want to use this kind of FAILURE, due primarily to a deluded view of reality (I'll leave to a later post the case for drug-legalization) as an analogy for our miserable military failures already in the Middle East, and for our inevitable defeat by the "insurgents" and assorted militant types in Afghan/Pakistan and Vietnam. (Sorry, you're free to cross-out that last one.) THEY JUST NEVER GIVE UP. For illustration, let's look in a minute at an ostensibly upbeat news report from "the front" which purports to signal some progress in our "War on Terror" over there (another term on the politically-incorrect list). When really it turns out to be exactly the opposite.
But first, aren't you often amused as I am by the self-aggrandizing bloviations of law enforcement officials when they make a drug bust? AS IF it were going to make any difference at all. "Yep," says the Sheriff, "this time we done broke the back of drug traffic in our county. Seized almost 12 pounds of stuff worth 12 billion dollars on the street. Put the Kingpin of the operation under the jail. Y'all can sleep easy." Or some such. Do you know what they call the "arrest of a Kingpin" in the underworld of drug-trafficking? I don't either, so I'll make one up: it's called a PROMOTION. There's always somebody ready to take his place. The money is just too good ... because we make it so.
Likewise, "we make it so" for the insurgents in the Middle East. For, as long as our forces are THERE, providing the incentive, their ranks will never be depleted. Somebody will always step up and take over from a fallen "Kingpin." The power is just too good. The fallen militant-leader in question is the late Baitullah Mehsud, confirmed killed earlier this month in a drone-missile strike on a Taliban stronghold (actually, eating dinner at his father-in-law's house) in Whothehellcares Pakistan. Via the Associated Press (8/25) we are told in bloated terms, with no attribution, that "Mehmud's death is a victory for the U.S. and Pakistan"-- ain't-no-I-reckon-about-it. And further:
Pakistan considered Baitullah Mehmud its main internal threat, and his death was a significant blow to the militancy ... He and his NETWORK were suspected in dozens of suicide attacks, including the 2007 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
His death was also a boost for U.S. efforts to take out militants in Pakistan's wild northwest, where al-Qaida leaders including Osama bin Laden are suspected to be hiding out, and where Taliban from both sides of the border are believed to have plotted attacks on U.S. and Afghan forces in Afghanistan.
The very first "dead" giveaway that all of this is an aromatic load of bullshit is the PHOTO attached to the news story, and reproduced upper right. No, it's NOT the dead guy. It's his very photogenic successor, Hakimullah Mehsud (no "relation" indicated)--a tacit admission that the new guy is already a star, in a tabloid sort of way. "The Kingpin is dead; long live the Kingpin"--if you will. Next, notice that the very propaganda statement itself is riddled with unconscious "tells." The first paragraph starts with one man, but ends with a "network." And this network has obviously operated all over the place, for many years, and with great effectiveness. One dead guy at the top is going to make difference?
The answer to that is conceded in direct contradictions throughout the report. We're suspicious already when we are told that earlier reports after Baitullah's presumed death had his would-be successors "locked in a bitter power struggle" and that the top two contenders, Hakimullah and Waliur Rehman--get this--"had been killed in a shootout during a meeting to choose an heir." Not so. On Tuesday they were on the phone together with the AP and others in a very "cosmopolitan" conference-call, outlining politely their plans for the future. In cozy, chat-room style, "They handed the telephone back and forth to each other at an undisclosed location."
A former Pakistani security-chief, Mahmood Shah, dismissed all of this as "a public relations exercise to satisfy themselves." Well, that's a telling point, isn't it. These folk are so well-organized that they've got their own P.R. Department! The report also speculated that there was "infighting" among the job-seekers. So what? This can only indicate that there is a sufficiency of candidates to take over the position.
And finally, despite all the report's futile disclaimers, the best man got the job. Mahmood the ex-security-chief gets it right after all. The news-report ends with his last words, unwittingly confirming all of the above, and thus completely undermining the propaganda value of the piece:
Shah said Hakimulla's rise might lead to EVEN MORE TERRORIST ATTACKS as he attempts to prove himself. But he added that the young chief's lack of experience RUNNING LARGE ORGANIZATIONS could make it hard to maintain order. "He is a very TRIGGER-HAPPY individual," Shah said. "I think he will show no restraint." [emphases mine]
Perfect. If he shows restraint, get rid of him. There are other gunslingers waiting in the wings who can out-un-restrain themselves with the best of them. How about this: Let's get the hell outta Dodge.