If you’re a reader of my Nepal series, you may remember The Drunk Welshman, back in Pokhara, telling me about his theory that the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in order to control the global heroin industry.
While it’s generally a good idea to take conspiracy theories with a grain of salt (especially those told to you by a drunkard in a foreign country), it’s also a good idea to not immediately discount them, just because they don’t square up with your own background knowledge. If traveling teaches us anything, it’s that ALL of us, no matter where we’re from, have woefully inadequate, incomplete, and utterly skewed educations. (See: Fake News in Former Yugoslavia)
Last weekend, I decided to investigate the Welshman’s claim. In doing so, I fell down a bit of a YouTube hole, and learned some really interesting things about modern Afghanistan. Below are three videos that shed some light on the situation in this country. Don’t take them as complete, unbiased texts, but maybe use them to think about your preconceptions about this country and the foreign involvement there. I found them fascinating. I hope you do too.
The Russian Occupation of Afghanistan
Yes, this is an RT piece, and therefore far from ideologically neutral (RT stands for Russia Today, and is sponsored by the Kremlin). But the situation it describes isn’t “fake news,” it’s well-documented history. A really good book on the subject is Ghost Wars: the Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. Basically, the U.S. armed the Taliban when Russia occupied Afghanistan. Didn’t reaaaaally think that one through. Every time I hear the phrase “moderate Syrian rebels,” I think of this.
Does Afghanistan Really Produce 90 Percent of the World’s Heroin?
Apparently yes! The Welshman was not wrong. Here’s a fascinating Al-Jazeera Doc on the subject. It does not make much mention of the US presence or involvement in the trade, but it’s a good starting point.
The Mineral Wealth of Afghanistan
Did you know Afghan emeralds are famous around the world? No? Nor did I. This is a fascinating doc about a Frenchman on a quest to make his fortune in the Afghani emerald mines. The doc is interesting, the conversation in the comments on YouTube, even more so. The country is rich in many, many more minerals than just emeralds. Wonder why foreign powers keep trying to occupy it?