Saturday, October 31, 2009

Left Hand, Meet Right Hand

A couple of days ago, the NY Times published an article that caused all sorts of raised heart rates and blood pressures among the younger members of the lefty cause.

ZOMG! The CIA is paying a drug dealer in Afghanistan for help and he just happens to be the brother of the current Afghan President!

Here's the lede from the article:

Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the Afghan president and a suspected player in the country’s booming illegal opium trade, gets regular payments from the Central Intelligence Agency, and has for much of the past eight years, according to current and former American officials.

The agency pays Mr. Karzai for a variety of services, including helping to recruit an Afghan paramilitary force that operates at the C.I.A.’s direction in and around the southern city of Kandahar, Mr. Karzai’s home.

Oh, please.

This has been going on for at least the five decades I've been following the news. And it's not just the CIA protecting and serving American interests. If past history (especially in Latin America) is any measure, members of the CIA have made a tidy profit from the drug trade, and don't think the rest of the world hasn't noticed. A brief trip to Watching America made that clear. This article showed just how pervasive the CIA is with respect to drug distribution. It's from Germany's Junge Welt.

Here's what that article had to say:

“There’s no significant drug trafficking anywhere in the world in which the CIA isn’t involved.” This truism has again been confirmed by a report in the New York Times. While in the past it was limited to hanky-panky with drug lords in Latin America or Southeast Asia, this time the agency, according to the New York Times article, is actually part of an organized crime operation in the Hindu Kush war zone. Active and former U.S. intelligence personnel claim that Ahmed Wali Karzai, brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, is a known key player in the Afghan drug world but has nonetheless been on the CIA payroll for the past eight years. It is therefore absurd that U.S. politicians and the American media are condemning President Karzai for not prosecuting his brother. ...

The CIA helped President Karzai’s brother by ridding him of two bothersome competitors: Matiullah Qati, Police Chief of Kandahar province, was “accidentally” shot to death by a CIA special operations unit, and Karzai also inherited drug baron Hajji Bashir Noorzai’s business after Noorzai, with Ahmed’s help, fell into an American trap, was arrested, later convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. The New York Times reached either the pinnacle of naïveté or was playing administration apologist by saying, “CIA practices in Afghanistan suggest that the United States isn’t doing everything in its power to eradicate the lucrative narcotics trade in Afghanistan.”

Of course the US isn't doing "everything in its power" to stop the illicit drug trade in Afghanistan. That would cut off some serious bucks to people that apparently even the Obama administration fears angering or there would have been some immediate action, something I haven't seen in this administration or any other administration in the past 30 years. What is especially noxious about this connection between the CIA and the drug trade is that it is going on while American and allied troops are fighting a war in the middle of it. I think an argument can be made that the CIA is making it harder for those US soldiers to do their jobs so they can come home.

President Obama is currently facing a decision on increasing troop levels in Afghanistan. He still labors under the delusion that this war, the "good one" can be won. If he really wants to win, then he ought to be considering a few options besides sending more soldiers into Afghanistan.

It's clear that the Taliban are using the opium trade to finance their war. Opium is not just the source for "illegal" drugs, it is also a source for a legitimate medical anodyne. We could invite the United Nations or some other respected international organization to step in and to negotiate with Afghan opium farmers for their crops for that drug. Giving the Taliban some competition for the crops would allow the Afghan farmers to continue growing what they seem bent on growing without worrying about recrimination which comes in the form of bombs from both sides of the war.

With a reasonable expectation of income, Afghan farmers and citizens might get the message that being conquered is not the intent of the rest of the world. I think that might make a difference.

That would cut out not only the Taliban, but also such "organizations" as the CIA from the loop, and that just might give the US a way to rein in an agency which has members who've turned rogue, and who've been allowed to do so under the cover of protecting America. Come on, folks, all those agents have done is protect their bank accounts and their power. They could care less about the nation or the world.

That suggests the second move President Obama could make, although perhaps not on Prime Time television. He could make it clear that the easy flow of money to the CIA and its operatives was over. A super investigator general would be appointed to oversee the CIA when it comes to these kinds of operations and expenditures and that investigator would be given prosecutorial powers. That might get a little attention.

All of which is to say that the US doesn't need to send more troops. It needs to send more intelligence, real intelligence, the kind that sees the whole picture, not just the cropped corner of the photograph that has dollar signs attached to it.

And the US needs to put the choke chain on such organizations as the CIA and yank it. Hard.

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