5/7/21 Alfred McCoy: How Washington Lost the Ultimate Drug War

by | May 10, 2021 | Interviews

Scott interviews Professor Alfred McCoy about the history of the drug trade during America’s decades-long involvement in Afghanistan. Before the 1980s, McCoy explains, drugs were not a significant part of the Afghan economy—but that all changed when President Bush’s CIA began arming a resistance against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. These Mujahideen fighters turned to opium for their funding, quickly growing Afghanistan’s opium trade to thousands of tons a year, and accounting for 70% of the world’s heroin trade. When the Taliban wiped out the drug trade in the late 90s, the resulting economic devastation was part of what allowed the U.S. to achieve such a swift military victory. And throughout the U.S. occupation, drugs have once again become by far the biggest part of Afghanistan’s economy. Opium, McCoy concludes, has been an inextricable part of nearly every significant event in Afghan history for the last 40 years, and it is impossible to adequately understand the issues facing Afghanistan without understanding the drug trade. In general, McCoy fears that U.S. withdrawal—which is virtually inevitable at this point—will trigger serious chaos, and may present another “fall of Saigon” moment. If this should occur, it may give war hawks an argument against pulling out of any protracted conflict like Afghanistan in the future.

Discussed on the show:

  • “The True Meaning of the Afghan “Withdrawal”” (TomDispatch.com)
  • “President Ashraf Ghani on What U.S. Withdrawal Means for Afghanistan” (Foreign Affairs)

Alfred W. McCoy is the Harrington professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His many books include The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror and In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power. Read his work at tomdispatch.com.

This episode of the Scott Horton Show is sponsored by: The War State, by Mike Swanson; Tom Woods’ Liberty Classroom; ExpandDesigns.com/Scott; Photo IQ; Green Mill Supercritical; Zippix Toothpicks; and Listen and Think Audio.

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