Monday, June 29, 2009

Afghanistan: Opium profits, the Taliban and al Qaeda

By Jessica Thompson especially for Justice and Drugs

Kathy Gannon provided an insightful review of Gretchen Peters’new book “Seeds of Terror: How Heroin Is Bankrolling the Taliban and al Qaeda” for the Wall Street Journal Friday. In her book, Peters’ promotes a crack down on the Afghan opium trade to undermine the Taliban and al Qaeda’s major source of funding as an essential feature of the “war on terror.”

However, Peters was not the first to discover the $ 2.8 billion opium trade is funding the Taliban and al Qaeda. Phil Smith of DRCNet/StoptheDrug reported that after former Clinton drug czar Gen. Barry McCaffrey visited Afghanistan in 2005 he said "Is there a relationship between $2 billion in this impoverished 14th-century desperate land, and the appearance of brand-new guns and shiny camping gear? Of course there is." Read more from journalist Phil Smith’s on-the-ground reporting of the drug war here.

Although Peters is correct that the opium trade funds the enemies of the U.S., Gannon raises a critical question regarding the identity of the beneficiaries from the opium trade. “Is it the Taliban and al Qaeda or members of Afghanistan’s U.S.-backed government?” Gannon says both. She explains that after removing the Taliban in late 2001, the U.S. and its allies filled the Afghan government with the kingpins and drug lords who had fought against the Soviets that had previously been replaced by the Taliban in 1996.

Not only did Peters miss the key issue by over-emphasizing funding of the Taliban and al Qaeda, she fails to seriously consider the solution to funding of these groups from the illegal drug trade. With no genuine consideration of the legalization and consequent regulation of the opium trade, Peters introduces, discusses and dismisses the idea within a single paragraph in her 238-page book.

Today the U.S. government announced it is ceasing the failed opium eradication policy it has pursued for eight years. The full scope of the policy is unstated. Yet, it is hard to imagine that this is not a prelude to a regularization, normalization and control of the market in opium to assure that farmers get their income, but profits don’t go to criminals.

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Friday, June 05, 2009

Could Youth Drug Use Be Making a Comeback?

John Carnevale, one of the few well respected top people at ONDCP at the White House for many years is now a consultant and has just issued a short, thoughtful warning:

History: 12th grade attitudes about the "harmfulness" of marijuana "weakened" in the early 90s in the first Bush Administration and during the Clinton Administration, and perhaps as a consequence, youth drug use rose.

Emerging situation: In 2006 and 2007, there seems to have been the beginning of another trend of "weakening" in the perception of "harmfulness" regarding marijuana. (There was also a short-lived decline from 2000 to 2002.) And, in 2006, high school senior marijuana use began to rise after a fairly steady decline since 1999.

Carnevale thinks the Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities program and SAMHSHA's "Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive Grants" (SPF SIG) are important to address the problem. (Bush Administration cuts in prevention spending is the likely cause of the problem, Carnevale suggests).

Carnevale warns that there are further prevention cuts proposed by the Obama Administration in the 2010 Federal Drug Budget Summary, released by ONDCP in May 2009. (I understand that these numbers were mostly generated before Kerlikowske was confirmed as ONDCP director.)

Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities Funding in the Department of Education budget--
The 2010 Federal Budget, proposes to eliminate the State Grant programs from the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools and to grow the National Programs in SFDFSC. The totals go from $429.840 million in FY 2008 down to $238.608 in FY 2010!

$294.759 million is cut in the elimination of the State Grant program for Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities. These funds are allocated to the states on the basis of two formulas. Generally Governors get 20 percent and state educational agencies get 80 percent of a state's funds. The budget "proposes to terminate funding for SDFSC State Grants because the program has not demonstrated effectiveness and grant funds are spread too thinly to support quality interventions." In a review in 2006, OMB assessed the State Grant program as "Results not Demonstrated." (Drug Budget Summary, page 32).

$100 million is added to the national programs that, according to the budget analysis,"provid[es] direct support, in amounts sufficient to make a real difference, for targeted school safety and drug prevention and education activities that are structured in a manner that permits grantees and independent evaluators to measure progress and add to the national knowledge base on program effectiveness and best practices." (Drug Budget Summary, p. 32).

"Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive Grants" (SPF SIG) in the SAMHSHA HHS budget--
The funding for SPF SIGs that Carnevale praises seems to come from the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) "Programs of Regional and National Significance" (PRNS):
The SPF SIGS portion of this is $110.0 million for FY 2010, unchanged from FY 2009.
This program uses a "public health approach" that can be "embraced by multiple agencies", "emphasizes community coalitions;" "implementing evidence-based programs with fidelity," etc. (Drug Budget Summary, p.40).

SAMSHA also provides money to the states via the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment (SAPT) Block Grant, requested at $1.779 billion for FY 2010, no change from 2009. It is divided among the states along a variety of formulas. A minimum of 20 percent of that money is set aside for prevention.

Given the crisis in state funding and local government funding, this is not a good picture.

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The fate of Clarence Aaron in the Obama years?

This report from FOXNEWS.COM about Clarence Aaron. He is still serving three life sentences for having been a driver of about 10 kilos of cocaine for a Mobile, AL crack gang of his childhood buddies. The organizers of the gang have all completed their sentences.

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Monday, June 01, 2009

Mexico's prohibition violence is now spreading

NPR reports on the spread of violence by Mexican illegal drug trafficking organizations to Guatemala.

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Federal Anti-Drug Budget is almost $22 billion this year

The ONDCP just issued the FY 2010 Budget Summary to accompany the National Drug Control Strategy. The tweaked drug control spending (that leaves out anti-drug spending by the Bureau of Prisons and other agencies) for FY 2009 is $14,844,700,000.

But this year ONDCP includes an appendix that provides the expenditures and requests for the anti-drug programs of the Bureau of Prisons, U.S. Forest Service, the Federal Judiciary, etc. for an additional $6,899,100,000 in FY 2009. I did the math and the FY 2009 total is $21,743,800,000 !

For FY 2010, I calculate the total request is $21,867,400,000.

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