Thursday, March 22, 2007

Labor Vows To Smash The Opium Industry That Funds The Taliban And Al Qaeda

Cutting Off Australia's Heroin Supply At Its Source

In an announcement that has barely registered with the Australian media, Labor's foreign minister, Robert McClelland, announced last night that if Labor wins the 2007 federal election they intend to do what John Howard and President Bush have so far refused to do in Afghanistan : smash the opium production industry that is buying weapons and recruits for the Taliban and funding international Al Qaeda terrorism.

McClelland claimed on ABC's Lateline that when the British asked the Howard government almost three years ago to commit resources and boots on the ground to eradicating the Afghanistan opium trade, the government took an entire year to get back to the Brits. When they did, the Howard government responded, according to McClellan, "with just four Australian Federal Police officers, two (officers) allocated to fighting the opium trade..."

Two federal police officers to actively fight an opium production industry that is said to be the root source of more than 85% of the world's heroin and a major source of funding for the Taliban and Al Qaeda?

And yet the Howard government will commit dozens of AFP officers and hundreds of millions of dollars to anti-heroin smuggling operations in our region, in conjunction with Indonesia.

Why not simply stop the opium from ever reaching the marketplace in Afghanistan and getting across the border into Pakistan?

McClelland said Howard's unenthusiastic response to Britain, and the Afghan government's, pleas for help was "not nearly good enough. We say that is a real priority. There is absolutely no question that the government has been neglectful in that area."

Labor should back suggestions raised by NGOs in Afghanistan and buy the opium produced by farmers to take it out of the Afghani marketplace, as well as ramping up eradication programs. The opium can then be destroyed or given to drug companies to manufacture morphine for Iraqi hospitals.

This way, the impoverished Afghani farmers still earn a living from growing opium, but the Taliban are unable to get their hands on most of the raw product. This would help to cut off a major source of funding for the Taliban and Al Qaeda terrorists across the world.

You have to wonder why John Howard and President Bush have all but ignored more than three years worth of calls by Britain and NGOs to seriously tackle eradication of the opium crops and to take the raw ingredient for heroin out of worldwide circulation.

How can you seriously claim to be waging a War on Terror when you refuse to take action to cut off a primary source of funding for Al Qaeda operations, propaganda and recruiting?

Labor will find much support in the Australian community if they fully commit to making such plans a central plank in their Afghanistan war fighting policy for 2008 and 2009. Particularly if they can show that buy-up and eradication programs in Afghanistan will reduce the amount of heroin that makes it onto the streets of Australia's capital cities.