PT: Two Afghanistan drug reports / President's V-Day Speech

Drugs in Afghanistan

Two 2004 reports, one from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC); and the other from the Cato Institute illustrate how there are no easy answers to problems in Afghanistan:

The first, from UNODC:

Afghanistan Opium Survey 2004

This year, opium cultivation in Afghanistan has increased by 64 per cent compared to 2003, according to the Afghanistan Opium Survey 2004, released today by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). In Afghanistan, drugs are now a clear and present danger, stated Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of UNODC.

Press Release
Full Report

Since the warlords and terrorists profit from the drug trade, we should stamp it out, right? Well, that brings us to our second report:

How the Drug War in Afghanistan Undermines America's War on Terror (From the Cato Institute):

For many Afghan farmers, growing opium poppies is the difference between prosperity and destitution. There is a serious risk that they will turn against the United States and the U.S.-supported government of President Hamid Karzai if Washington and Kabul pursue vigorous anti-drug programs. In addition, regional warlords who have helped the United States combat Al Qaeda and Taliban forces derive substantial profits from the drug trade. They use those revenues to pay the militias that keep them in power. A drug eradication campaign could easily drive important warlords into alliance with America's terrorist adversaries.

Apparently the terrorists and warlords aren't working together yet but maybe they'll find common cause if we squeeze their profits. Joy.

What's the answer? I don't know. Just a reminder that sometimes there are no easy answers to pressing problems.

President's Veterans' Day Speech

I commemorated Veterans' Day 2005 by contributing to Operation Uplink, a project of the VFW that gives phone cards to servicemembers so they can stay in touch with their loved ones while deployed. No matter what you think of the Iraq War, I think it keeping soldiers and sailors in touch with home is a good cause and urge to you contribute to Operation Uplink or other organizations that are providing tangible support to our servicemembers.

Vice-President Cheney demonstrated how politicians should spend Veterans Day by giving a moving and respectful speech at Arlington. I honestly believe that all Americans can be proud of the speech he gave.

Sadly, our President chose to spend Veterans' Day by giving his now standard speech tweaked with a few paragraphs about veterans and a few deeply partisan attacks on a day we should be united in our appreciation for the sacrifices of veterans on behalf of America.

To his standard, misleading, fear-filled speech, I offer my standard reply. There is a new claim in this speech that I find misleading (Emphasis mine):

While it's perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began. (Applause.) Some Democrats and anti-war critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people about why we went to war. These critics are fully aware that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community's judgments related to Iraq's weapons programs.

That bipartisan investigation would be the Report of the Select Committee on Intelligence, Senate Report 108-301, this report explicitly DID NOT examine how the White House used the information it was provided (emphasis mine):

In addition to the matters set forth in the joint release of the Chairman and Vice Chairman on June 20,2003, the Committee agreed to examine additional issues in two phases. Issues annotated as phase one have been addressed in this report. Issues annotated as phase two are currently under review by the Committee. The additional issues are:

  • the collection of intelligence on Iraq from the end of the Gulf War to the commencement of Operation Iraqi Freedom (phase I);
  • whether public statements, reports, and testimony regarding Iraq by US. Government officials made between the Gulf War period and the commencement of Operation Iraqi Freedom were substantiated by intelligence information (phase II);
  • the postwar findings about Iraq'€™s weapons of mass destruction and weapons programs and links to terrorism and how they compare with prewar assessments (phase 11);
  • prewar intelligence assessments about postwar Iraq (phase II);
  • any intelligence activities relating to Iraq conducted by the Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group (PCTEG) and the Office of Special Plans within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (phase I and II);

The President's critics make their claims of "misleading America" based on what publicly available evidence exists in the second and fifth areas above.

The President's apparent ignorance of the Senate report's lack of exoneration on matters of distorting the intelligence he was provided is puzzling. To me there are two likely possibilities -- either he did not read the report, or he is aware of the report's findings and deliberately chose to misrepresent them. Either alternative is scary in its own way. If you would like to suggest a third alternative, feel free.

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