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Opium, Rape and the Bravest Woman in Afghanistan

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This is a war fueled by drug money.

By Eric Michael Johnson, ScienceBlogs, November 3, 2009

Malalai Joya

Chris Hedges, the American war correspondent who has authored such books as War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, has a new article entitled "Opium, Rape and the American Way" published on the website of RAWA (Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan).

The warlords we champion in Afghanistan are as venal, as opposed to the rights of women and basic democratic freedoms, and as heavily involved in opium trafficking as the Taliban. The moral lines we draw between us and our adversaries are fictional. The uplifting narratives used to justify the war in Afghanistan are pathetic attempts to redeem acts of senseless brutality.

This is a war fueled by drug money. There are very few good things you can say about the brutal thugs that ran Afghanistan following the Soviet Union's withdrawal in the late 1980s. However, the Taliban of old completely eradicated the crop that, after eight years of US intervention, is now the country's number one export:

Afghanistan's boom in the trade in opium, used to produce heroin, over the past eight years of occupation has funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to the Taliban, al-Qaida, local warlords, criminal gangs, kidnappers, private armies, drug traffickers and many of the senior figures in the government of Hamid Karzai. The New York Times reported that the brother of President Karzai, Ahmed Wali Karzai, has been collecting money from the CIA although he is a major player in the illegal opium business. Afghanistan produces 92 percent of the world's opium in a trade that is worth some $65 billion, the United Nations estimates. This opium feeds some 15 million addicts worldwide and kills around 100,000 people annually. These fatalities should be added to the rolls of war dead.

In the piece Hedges interviews Malalai Joya, the former Afghani Parliament member who was expelled in 2007 after allegedly insulting a fellow representative during a television interview. She has been widely hailed as "the bravest woman in Afghanistan" and must constantly move from house to house to avoid the numerous death threats made against her.

Long an outspoken critic of warlord rule in the country, in December 2003 she publicly denounced the warlords who serve as the leaders of the nation during the Loya Jirga convened to ratify the constitution of Afghanistan:

In her interview with Chris Hedges, Joya likewise denounces the American occupation and insists that it has only helped prop up the corrupt regime of Hamid Karzai (who yesterday was redeclared President after his opponent, the warlord Abdullah Abdullah, dropped out of the runoff election):

"Afghanistan, after eight years of occupation, has become a world center for drugs," Joya told me. "The drug lords are the only ones with power. How can you expect these people to stop the planting of opium and halt the drug trade? How is it that the Taliban when they were in power destroyed the opium production and a superpower not only cannot destroy the opium production but allows it to increase?

And while all this goes on, those who support the war talk to you about women's rights. We do not have human rights now in most provinces. It is as easy to kill a woman in my country as it is to kill a bird. In some big cities like Kabul, some women have access to jobs and education, but in most of the country the situation for women is hell. Rape, kidnapping and domestic violence are increasing. These fundamentalists during the so-called free elections made a misogynist law against Shia women in Afghanistan. This law has even been signed by Hamid Karzai. All these crimes are happening under the name of democracy."