Against the Current, No. 27, July/August 1990
ALTHOUGH COCAINE HAS replaced heroin as the main enemy in the media’s drug coverage, heroin has not gone away. For a time in the 1970s, with the end of the U.S. war in Indochina, heroin supplies from Southeast Asia decreased. But in the 1980s heroin began flowing into the United States from other countries; especially Afghanistan and Pakistan. Together they accounted for about 75% of the heroin entering Europe and 50% of the heroin entering the United States. In Central Asia, as in Southeast Asia, U.S. intervention was key to the drug trade’s expansion.
Since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, the Afghan mujahideen (guerrillas) fighting against Soviet troops have been a favorite cause of the U.S. government. From 1980 to 1986 the United States gave about $1 billion a year to the mujahideen, most of whom advocate reimposing the veil on women and rolling back land reform. Another $600 million a year went to Pakistan, their base of operations. There has been minimal opposition to funding the mujahideen in Congress, although several of the groups are closely linked to the Iranian regime. Even the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989 generated little public pressure to change U.S. policy.
The Afghan rebels have supplemented their U.S. funding all along with heroin profits. Their largest base in Peshawar, Pakistan has become a center of opium production. In a familiar pattern, the U.S. government has tolerated and even helped out with drug dealing. A D.E.A. official has said that the agency was “ordered to roll back its men from Afghanistan and Pakistan.” Bush met with Pakistani dictator Zia in May 1984 and praised his anti-drug program, despite Zia’s apparent complicity in Afghan drug dealing.
As usual the human costs of U.S. intervention are paid by ordinary people in both the United States and Asia Today there are nearly half a million drug addicts in Pakistan, while there were virtually none in 1979.
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July-August 1990, ATC 27