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The British and American Empires Compared


The British empire depended for its existence upon a healthy drug trade. Where is the U.S. on the issue?



Chalmers Johnson excerpt

In retrospect, there has been simple amnesia: the systematic omission of subjects that are impossible to square with the idea of "liberal imperialism." For example, both Ferguson and the Cambridge Illustrated History of the British Empire skip lightly over the fact that the empire operated the world's largest and most successful drug cartel. During the nineteenth century, Britain fought two wars of choice with China to force it to import opium. The opium grown in India and shipped to China first by the British East India Company and after 1857 by the government of India, helped Britain finance much of its military and colonial budgets in South and Southeast Asia. The Australian scholar Carl A. Trocki concludes that, given the huge profits from the sale of opium, "without the drug, there probably would have been no British empire."

Where does the U.S. stand on drug trade in the American empire?

The Afghan opium trade has exploded since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, following a lull after the Taliban had imposed a crackdown. According to the U.N., the drug trade is now worth $65 billion annually. Afghanistan produces 92% of the world’s opium, with the equivalent of at least 3,500 tons leaving the country each year.

This racket is secured by drug kingpins like the brother of president Hamid Karzai. According to a New York Times report, Ahmed Wali Karzai, a Mafia-like figure who expanded his influence over the drug trade with the aid of U.S. efforts to eliminate his competitors, is on the CIA payroll.

According to Professor Michel Chossudovsky, the explosion of opium production after the invasion was about the CIA’s drive to restore the lucrative Golden Crescent opium trade that was in place during the time when the Agency was funding the Mujahideen rebels to fight the Soviets, and flood the streets of America and Britain with cheap heroin, destroying lives while making obscene profits.

Troops Protect Poppies The primary funding source for al-Qaeda and the Taliban is the opium poppy trade. Removing their funding will defeat them. But, rather than destroy the fields and pay off the farmers, the U.S. protects the poppy fields, allows the farmers to sell their crops, and then fights the losing war on drugs across the globe.

This drug money then funds the drug wars in the American southwest, which has undermined the quality of life throughout the region. Since January 2007 there have been more than 6,800 drug-war related deaths in Mexico, and Mexican drug cartels continue to expand their operations in American cities.

Washington's response has been to expand its prohibitionist efforts with the Mérida Initiative, a U.S.–Mexico anti-drug-trafficking program. Historically, however, prohibitionist policies have had little success in reducing the flow of drugs. Instead, those policies have led to increased turmoil and corruption.

At some point drugs will need to be legalized and controlled, to remove the profit which drives all the disasters. Providing reliable drugs, tracking the users, and offering them help to get off drugs may be much more cost effective than prohibition.




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