[I wrote this post in June but cannot access it from my control panel. It belongs in the Afghanistan category, so this is just an administrative repost. Original date, 2006.06.10]
Crediting the Senlis Council
In April I wrote suggesting that opium production in Afghanistan be legalized, instead of the current policy of trying unsucessfully to eradicate it by force. Earlier this week, in the Guardian, Simon Jenkins writing from Kabul, had a similar thought:
A faintly plausible intervention in southern Afghanistan might have the west buying the entire poppy crop for processing through legal channels (as in Turkey and India), thus undercutting the Taliban and the drug mafia.
I was relieved to find I wasn't the only one thinking along these lines and wondered if there had been others before us. There had.
This week, in Kabul, a French think-tank called the Senlis Council, which specialises in drug policy, is holding an international conference about the trade in opium and heroin. Afghanistan now produces something like 85% of the world's opium poppies, and most Afghan heroin ends up in Europe and the US. Since the overthrow of the Taleban the position has grown much worse.
The Senlis Council is making a proposal which is receiving guarded but positive responses from many different governments and organisations. It springs from a bit of lateral thinking by the Council's boss, earlier this year.
Someone pointed out that there was a worldwide shortage of opiate-derived painkillers, chiefly morphine and codeine. Suppose, it was suggested, the opiates which cause such trouble in the form of heroin were diverted to medical use instead?
The Senlis Council carried out a feasibility study with the help of several universities, and the idea stood up.
In March 2006, the Commons' Defence Committee released a report on the Afghanistan mission, after having taken evidence from, among others, the Senlis Council. Unfortunately, they rejected the idea, finding several obstacles to its implementation and judging it 'inappropriate'. Might I suggest that the problem lay less with the idea, which has so much to commend it, and more with it being contrary to the will of
God the US?