Opiate of the Masses

COP Shangri-La, Zhari District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan:

It’s been over a week since the rat king fell, but this isn’t checkmate yet. The reprisals promised over here haven’t been seen in our area yet, but KC (Kandahar City, not Kansas City) has seen a few. The ANSF and ISAF forces hunted the Taliban around town and holed them up in a building a la Butch and Sundance. There were no survivors.  On the day he died, the bad guys primarily held meetings. We know they are bad guys based on how they act; a rat acts like a rat. However, we cannot engage because they are unarmed and do not present an immediate threat. The rules of engagement are trying at times, though it wasn’t too many days before they started shooting again.

The lull is most likely attributed to Nesh, the opium harvest. Herds of migrant farmers descended on the area late last week to begin the bulk of the harvesting.

They come from all over the country. Each man brandishes a small wooden tool inlaid with five or six tiny razor blades.

If we thought they were angry about us walking through their fields two weeks ago, now they are really ticked. Imagine every poppy bulb stepped on sends a wing’d hundred dollar bill floating away. As you can see, we are torn up about that, really heartbroken. On the plus side, the street value of my boots just went up a hundred fold.

The Taliban depend on funds from drugs to continue their fight (Contras, anybody?). Initially, one’s impression might be that the solution to both the war in Afghanistan and the heroine back home is to slash and burn. This country produces upwards of ninety percent of the worlds opium, so why not? To significantly affect it would require the destruction of far more than our area alone, and would represent a foreign policy of screwing Afghanistan out of its already meager GDP.

This tool is used to lance the poppy bulbs.

Alternatively, supply reduction doesn’t necessarily reduce cash flow. Given ten units of opium, if five are subtracted, the price per unit simply doubles, and a heroin junkie will do what is required to pay for the fix. Therefore, slash and burn equals a poor and pissed off Afghanistan, and the crime rate in consumer nations would rise. Interestingly enough, these are the same poppy fields the British Empire used to control East Asia for decades.

To quote the versifier Jay-Z himself, “thanks to all the hustlers, and most importantly you, the customer.” Though he didn’t mean to make this point (or maybe he did), the hard drug trade is fueled not by the seller, but by the consumer. If no one bought Monopoly, Milton-Bradley would be out of business.

In squad sized elements they move through the fields scraping the bulbs to allow the opium sap to drain. It oozes out of the bulbs and is then collected up with another tool.

When Nesh ends, the fighting season will pick up. It’s like football, March and early April are the preseason where new players are trained up, the bench gets warm, and the starting QB will take only a few snaps. When the opium is done, the regular season begins, and it’s all starters, all the time. You can tell it in the voices of the locals. People who were once willing to talk to me are now strangled with fear. They worry if even seen talking to us it could lead to violent recourse. As Chris Wallace said, “if [they] think you’re snitchin’, they aint tryin’ to listen’. They be sittin’ in your kitchen, waitin’ to start hittin’.” Biggie Smalls, truer words were never spoken. Reports come in pretty frequently of “night letters” nailed to the doors of collaborators, at night, as titled, with a range of threats.

The other tool.

How do you stop a bully? Stand up to him. Smack him across the face and say no, not today. Unfortunately, this isn’t Tombstone, and they won’t show up at the OK Corral to fight us heads up. They know very well that such confrontations tend to conclude with many jihadists taking long-term dirt-naps. So how do we bring them out, fighting with our hands tied? It’s a question, wrapped in an enigma, stuffed in a paradox. A veritable turducken of mystery. We’re pretty good though. Bet you five it gets figured out, and soon White Platoon will have “done squeezed mad clips, at these cats for their bricks and chips”

Thanks to Biggie for that last one. Hopefully everybody learned something today about the origins of the international drug trade. Like the man said, “if you don’t know, now you know”

Staying nine and a half hours ahead, HE heavy, and until next time faithful readers,

1LT Wm Treadway

2/A/4-4 Cavalry

SGT Berhardt Rupperecht (ja) and PFC Samaniego enjoy pies after a patrol sent from Royer's Round Top Cafe. Thanks, Bud.

Engineers assess an incredibly tiny bridge.

His situational awareness, precise; his stance on candid photos, clear.

SFC Rogers and 2LT Flores in the tent.

ANA Ford. Sick.

Cause: Storing bombs in your grapehut. Effect: see above.

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One Response to Opiate of the Masses

  1. cynshep says:

    Very interesting! I did learn something today about the origins of the opium trade. The tools used are primitive. Much like the country.

    I understand the reasoning not to slash and burn. But I would be tempted to do it anyway.

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