Boots on the Ground
Chuck Holton

CBN News Correspondent

A Harvest of Heartache
September 10, 2008

Today I received the sad news that the teenaged son of a good friend died last night. He and some "buddies" decided it would be fun to experiment with heroin. Just once.

That's all it took - and my friend must now face the horrific task of burying her child.

The DEA website calls heroin the "most abused" opiate drug. It also warns that the drug is often "cut" with different substances, some of which are more dangerous than the opium itself. It adds, "Because heroin abusers do not know the actual strength of the drug or its true contents, they are at risk of overdose or death."

This sad news brings home the real necessity for the forces of good in this world to stay the course in Afghanistan. You see, over 80% of all the world's opium, and an even larger percentage of the world's illegal supply of the flower is grown there. To make matters worse - the Taliban use opium production to fund their terrorist schemes, which kills Americans two ways - with the heroin that reaches our shores and again with the weapons bought with opium profits.

While I was embedded in Helmand province, we saw TONS of harvested poppy plants, the opium already extracted and sold. The Marines stationed there said that they aren't allowed to destroy the poppies in the fields, because they are currently in the mode of trying to win the locals' trust and respect, and destroying their only source of income would run counter to that goal. Besides, many of the local farmers there would be killed by the Taliban if they didn't grow the poppy, because Helmand is one of the terorists' largest sources of income.

The farmers don't get rich from selling opium poppy anyway, because the Taliban "businessmen" pay them pennies on the pound for their product.

There is currently a worldwide shortage of legitimate opium poppies grown for legal purposes - making drugs like codeine and morphine. Afghanistan's farmers could continue growing poppy and make much more money, but there are some interim steps that have to happen to make that a reality:

1. The Taliban must be vanquished for good and security returned to the country.

2. Infrastructure must be built - roads, specifically - that will allow Afghan farmers to ship their product to the global market. Once this happens, they may be able to make more money growing corn, considering the rising market for biofuel.

3. The government in Afghanistan must be rid of its corrupt influences and become a legitimate agency committed to upholding the law. Then it can effectively oversee the poppy trade.

This is probably the most difficult step we'll face, since it involves changing the entire worldview of most Afghans from "do unto others before they do unto you" to "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." This will likely take at least a generation. But it can begin while we work on the first two steps.

Some people question why we should pour our national treasure and the blood of our bravest into this rock-strewn wasteland a half-world removed from our shores. The sad news I received today is one good reason. There are others, but for today, this is the one that is on my mind.