Professor and author Alfred McCoy joins Scott to discuss his latest article “Washington’s Drug of Choice in the War on Terror.” McCoy describes how heroin first became a major factor of the Afghan economy and credits the Taliban’s capture of the illicit opium market for their recent resurgence. According to McCoy, at the peak of the Columbian cartel’s operations cocaine made up 3% of Columbia’s GDP; in Afghanistan in 2008 it was 58%. McCoy then details how all of the U.S. programs to disincentivize people from growing opium have blown up and actually increased incentives to grow opium. McCoy explains why he thinks that the combination of covert and conventional warfare will make Afghanistan the major war of the Trump administration—and how America’s failure to eradicate opium production in Afghanistan is emblematic of a fading superpower. Finally Scott asks: what’s the solution?
Alfred McCoy is a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin. McCoy is the author of “The Politics of Heroin” “The Question of Torture” and “In The Shadows of the American Century.” He writes regularly at TomDispatch.com.
Discussed on the show:
- Opium Production in Afghanistan
- “Taliban asks: What does it take to join the UN club?” (Christian Science Monitor)
- May, 2001: “Taliban’s Ban On Poppy A Success, U.S. Aides Say” (New York Times)
- “Afghan Taliban’s Reach Is Widest Since 2001, U.N. Says” (New York Times)
- “As Heroin Use Grows in U.S., Poppy Crops Thrive in Afghanistan,” (NBC News)
- “The Stimulus of Prohibition: A Critical History of the Global Narcotics Trade,” by Alfred McCoy
- United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
- Afghanistan president Ashraf Ghani: “Without drugs, this war would have been long over.” (New York Times)
- “Truly Unprecedented: How the Helmand Food Zone supported an increase in the province’s capacity to produce opium,” by David Mansfield (Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit)
- Bank of Commerce and Credit International
“This is what I call the stimulus of prohibition—it’s the underlying illogic of the entire supply side effort of the drug war that the United States has been fighting in Afghanistan since the U.S. intervened in 2002.” —Alfred McCoy
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