We live in difficult times. Afghanistan is sucking up NATO money (and lives) at an alarming rate, with no end in sight and no measurable progress. Member countries are apparently unable to agree on policy or implementation. The laughable Afghanistan Compact, which has no basis in law, set mid-2007 as the goal for an end to all illegal armed activity. Maybe that seemed reasonable from the bar of a London hotel.
"The history of the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) is grounded in the experience of farmers prior to World War I. Many farmers at the time felt captive to the railways, the line elevator companies, and the Winnipeg Grain Exchange for the delivery, weighing, grading, and pricing of their grain. They wanted greater power and protection for themselves in the grain marketing system. They developed a strong confidence in cooperative strategies and government intervention for addressing their needs ."
So Afghan farmers are in a similar position: they have a cash crop, but they’re dependent on distributors and middlemen who make a fortune and might not pay a decent price. The whole thing needs to be taken out of the hands of these cartels, warlords, drug barons, and what have you, then nationalized and professionalized. That’s where the Wheat Board comes in.
Various difficulties present themselves: the end-market user, protection for farmers, and competition.
- End-market user
- Protection for farmers
As I understand it, almost all the Afghan opium crop ends up on the streets of Europe as heroin, and the actual opium grower gets a pittance compared to the final market price. This can be remedied by having the Canadian Wheat Board buy the entire crop at a fair price, then license the refining into heroin to reputable pharmaceutical companies (as opposed, say, to some pharmaceutical division of Gazprom with links to Russian oligarchs).
The problem of course is the illegality of heroin consumption. Assuming no changes to current law, heroin could be held by the Wheat Board as a "strategic reserve," much like oil or indeed the various foodstuff "mountains" accumulated in the European Union as part of subsidized agriculture. Pharmaceutical-grade heroin is a perfectly useful drug, which could be used in medical practice worldwide.
It seems obvious that the current middlemen in the Afghan opium business would object to being cut out of their enormous profits. The Wheat Board is very experienced in this sort of difficulty. It will be necessary to protect Afghan farmers, and of course the Afghan family farm, from intimidation and threats. That’s why the Board needs appropriate munitions. This solution will involve arming Afghan farmers, of course, but attack helicopters and AC-130 Spectre gunships may be needed to root out any remaining resistance. Tactical nuclear weapons may be impractical for protection of the crops, but rocket-propelled grenades will be useful if the opposition tries to use armor.
When this first phase comes to fruition, Afghans will have a steady source of income, fairly distributed, and can begin to support their own economy. The black market in opium will have to look elsewhere for raw materials (assuming heroin is not legalized in Europe), and the obvious source is the Golden Triangle, currently run by gangsters who wear uniforms and live in Singapore. Thus, Phase 2 of the NATO plan involves taking and holding territory in the Golden Triangle and establishing cooperatives within the secure perimeter. This will almost certainly require surface-to-air missiles and other conventional arms. None of this is beyond the capabilities of the Wheat Board.
Some might regard this proposal as frivolous. What could be more frivolous than the waste of over 70 Canadian lives and over 6 billion Canadian dollars without any forethought or afterthought, for that matter?