February 27, 2007

Name: SGT Brandon White
Posting date: 2/27/07
Stationed in: Afghanistan
Hometown: Diamond, OH
Milblog url:
Email: [email protected]
Just got back from a three-day mission down south. While I can’t go into operational specifics I will list the keywords: Taliban, weapons, poppy.

This photo shows someone’s little “backyard garden” of papaver somniferum, aka Opium Poppy. These guys look to be no more than a few weeks old, but would have grown to produce thousands of dollars for the key players of the opium trade. Sadly, the cultivators who are trying to put food on the table would get hardly enough to do just that. Why is that sad, you ask? Well, come on over here and see how they’re livin’ and you’ll get the gist.Framed_white_poppies_distant_2

The growers aren’t the bad guys. It's the local Taliban “underlords” who are exploiting them, selling the stuff for a premium and pocketing the money, who are the bad guys. Sure, it would be great to end the whole dern drug cycle here, but what do we replace that poppy with for the farmers? What could be exported in mass quantities that can grow easily in these arid lands? Those are questions that I sincerely hope someone, somewhere (besides myself) is thinking about. Otherwise, we are doing nothing but breeding more terrorists by eliminating this crop. Mark my words on that one.

Here is a zoomed-out view of the same backyard garden. This little plot is pretty small in comparison to the gi-normous fields which surround this village.


What else can be done with that place? It sounds like the old Sam Kennison adage would apply... "move to where the food is!"

I applaud you for having the guts to voice this controversial opinion publicly. Be careful over there and keep writing the truth as you see it.

It sure doesn't look like a place to grow crops! As you said, arid. But do they have to grow a cash crop instead of food for them to live on? Yeah I know everyone sometimes needs cash for stuff they can't make or grow and I know they're just trying to survive. But I'd say the growers aren't completely innocent.

There may not be a lot of food crops that will grow in that place. There maybe some fuel crops, but the market for those is just emerging. Not the kind of thing that you would want to hold your breath waiting for definition.

Growers grow, they're gonna grow what they can to provide the best life they can, you're not gonna change that.
Smugglers smuggle, insurgents, uh... well I guess they sponsor insurrections. How one's lot in life is determined varies from culture to culture. I'm just trying to give my kids as much choice as possible.

Godspeed. We pray for you, Soldier.

Do what is done in the U.S. Pay them not to grow anything. Pay them 20x what the Taliban pay, I'm sure it's still a pittance. Then when the Taliban force them to grow poppy at gunpoint we'll see who is hit by the road side bombs us or the Taliban.

Water wells? Irrigation? I don't know, history cites the Mormans and the Israelis turning desert into cropland. Just a thought.

Thanks for your comments everyone. I've mentioned it a few times and a few others emailed me with the same advice for Afghanistan: Connect the growers to the pharm companies so that the farmers can grow the stuff legally which will then be used for medicinal purposes (ie, Morphine, Codiene).

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