Saturday, February 7, 2009

The War With Drugs, Part One

Jim Hightower tells us this would-be-entertaining-if-it-weren't-so-despicable tale about how the CIA is using Viagra in Afghanistan to win over the populace.

Then, last year, a CIA officer reached into his bag of tricks and pulled out a big one. He was wooing a 60-something-year-old chieftain in Southern Afghanistan who was suffering an embarrassing decline in something essential for a guy who has four – count ‘em, four – younger wives: a firm sexual drive. “Take one of these,” said the agent, “you’ll love it.” What he offered was four Viagra pills... Four days later, the CIA agent returned to the village, and the old tribal leader was wreathed in a big grin that only sex can induce. “You are a great man,” he exulted! And, while the chieftain had never before taken sides in the American offensive, suddenly he was a spewing fountain of information about the Taliban’s movements in his area. All he requested in exchange was more of those blue pills.

I suppose in a part of the world that is the chief producer of opium, waging a war with controlled substances might come with the territory. However, anyone who thinks that we're in Afghanistan for any reason - like, for example, "destroying the terrorists" or "freeing the people" - that doesn't involve paying off the Afghans in some measurable form is woefully uninformed.

In this case, we have an arm of a government that, until last month, was celebrating loudly the advances of Afghan women in a post-Taliban Afghanistan pushing prescription drugs on their husbands to improve their husbands' sex lives - all the while standing back from playing a truly supportive role for the women of that country. We also have an agent, presumably not an MD, handing out medication that is distributed in his own country through controlled medical channels, and doing so without even blinking.

The precedent set has a number of horrific implications. First, obviously the Afghan male population will be more - um, benefited - by this sort of action than the women. Second, it sends a dangerous message to women across the globe: the US is willing to ignore your needs to achieve its own. Third, sooner or later the CIA is going to leave Afghanistan; since Viagra is not cheap, when the CIA supply dries up the Afghans will need capital to purchase the prescriptions, and so far the biggest and most consistent money maker they've found is opium, which bodes ill for anti-drug campaigns elsewhere (mind you, this could be useful for some unnamed political movement intent on demonizing drug use and squeezing its government for law enforcement investment). And while it's arguable that this approach is less demonstrably inhumane than the interrogation techniques espoused by the former [mal]administration, the morality of this approach is no less questionable.

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