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Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2006 05:59 pm

Poppies up, Bush down

Opium production swells since U.S. dislodged the Taliban

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Here’s some big news on the agricultural front: This year’s crop has reached the highest level ever, with an increase of 49 percent over last year’s production!

Unfortunately, we’re talking not about American corn but about the opium crop in Afghanistan.

You remember Afghanistan, don’t you? That’s where Osama bin Laden was supposed to be headquartered, so our military pounded his Taliban backers shortly after 9/11. Even though the Bushites failed to get Osama either dead or alive, we were told that they had conquered Afghanistan, ousted the Taliban, put a new leader in place, and set that country on an inexorable path to democracy. Mission accomplished!

But wait — Afghanistan has now turned as messy as Iraq. The Taliban is both resurgent and insurgent, Bush’s handpicked leader can’t travel outside the capital of his own country, and the poppy fields — which sustain the Taliban with millions in drug-trafficking dollars — are flourishing again. Despite the fact that poppy eradication has been a centerpiece of Bush’s Afghanistan policy, costing us taxpayers millions of dollars, there was a 59 percent hike in the acreage devoted to poppies this year. “You can say it’s out of control,” said the head of the U.N. office on drugs. Indeed, the Bushites themselves have expressed alarm that Afghanistan is in danger of becoming a full-fledged narcotics state.

Since Bush & Co. have spent $88.2 billion of our money and lost American lives there, the one clear result is not a shining monument to democracy and peace but a country at war with itself while currently supplying 92 percent of the world’s opium crop.

The Bushites are incompetent losers. It’s time to demand basic competence in the global effort to stop terrorists.

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist, and author.

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