The Spectator

Dangerous poppycock from Blair

Dangerous poppycock from Blair
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Today’s news that Afghanistan’s opium production is soaring takes me back to perhaps the biggest lie Tony Blair has uttered during the war on terror. He told the 2001 Labour conference that “90% of the heroin on British streets originates in Afghanistan. The arms the Taliban are buying today are paid for with the lives of young British people buying their drugs on British streets.” In fact, he knew that the Taliban psychos had virtually extinguished the poppy trade declaring it “un-Islamic”. Fearing limb amputation, farmers obeyed. The UN said crops dropped by 91% - info that was available well before his speech. So our intervention in Afghanistan was only ever going to increase world opium supply, as well he knew.

 

Two important points here:

1. Blair’s opium lie was a bigger lie than Saddam’s weapons. In Iraq, Blair exaggerated a threat he believed to be true. But he’d have known what he said about the Taliban and opium was a damned lie. Strange thing is that even now, this lie is believed and repeated by the more intelligent ministers and used to justify our troop presence (see Jim Murphy’s recent pamphlet).

2. The Taliban’s last act was to prove to the world that stamping out opium farming in Afghanistan doesn’t impact the UK . The UK street price of heroin went down from £74 a gram in 1997 to £61 in 2002 and £55 a gram in 2004. Rival opium producers, like Myanmar, simply grew more. So the UK drugs problem lies with the collapse of British border control, not impoverished Afghan farmers.

In Mr Murphy’s pamphlet, he says “the case for our continued engagement in Afghanistan can be made by a progressive self-interest that 90% of the heroin in the UK traditionally comes from Afghan poppy fields.” If this Blair poppy lie is behind our troop deployment in Afghanistan, it’s worth correcting soon. Lives of our servicemen are literally at stake.

 

As Americans know, you can’t win a drugs war at gunpoint. Much Taliban support is fuelled by locals thinking the Brits will take away their sole source of income. I propose buying their opium, European Union style, and using it to address the shortage of medical opium. The Times’ Camilla Cavendish explains it all superbly here. If Gordon Brown or the Conservatives want an intelligent way to pursue peace in Afghanistan, here it is.