Afghanistan’s newest misery

President Karzai certainly has pressing political reasons to control the exponentially increasing harvests of opium poppies which are supplying his opposition with the wealth necessary to maintain militias, purchase weaponry and threaten the stability of the country. But a new crisis is looming on the horizon which Afghanistan has not had to deal with in the past: drug addiction and a lack of treatment facilities.

Interestingly, the Taliban government was quite successful in stopping opium production during the last year or so of their rule, as this UK study shows. But with the overthrow of the Taliban, Afghanistan is now beginning to experience a public health crisis of drug addition, which may be compounded with a rise in AIDS/HIV and other diseases from shared needles.

Until recently, the use of heroin – a 20th Century invention which can only be made with specialist chemicals – was relatively rare in Afghanistan, largely because most of the processing was done outside the country. That has changed with the return of millions of refugees from neighbouring Pakistan and Iran. Many became regular heroin users there and they have brought the practice and the demand home with them. It is difficult to get accurate figures, but one estimate is that Kabul alone has at least 20,000 heroin addicts.

Just two years after the fall of the Taleban – who banned opium poppy cultivation – the country’s illegal drugs trade has grown so big many believe it now threatens Afghanistan’s stability. Last year, the trade generated $2.3bn in revenue for traffickers, almost as much as the country received in aid.
… read more

Now They Tell Us

One of the best critiques I have read of the media and how they helped lead us into war. From the New York Review of Books’ feature story, “Now They Tell Us” by Michael Massing.

If nothing else, the Iraq saga should cause journalists to examine the breadth of their sources. “One question worth asking,” John Walcott of Knight Ridder says, “is whether we in journalism have become too reliant on high-level officials instead of cultivating less glamorous people in the bowels of the bureaucracy. “In the case of Iraq, he added, the political appointees “really closed ranks. So if you relied exclusively on traditional news sources—assistant secretaries and above—you would not have heard things we heard.” What Walcott calls “the blue collar” employees of the agencies—the working analysts or former analysts—were drawn on extensively by Knight Ridder, but by few others.

The contrast between the press’s feistiness since the end of the war and its meekness before it highlights one of the most entrenched and disturbing features of American journalism: its pack mentality. Editors and reporters don’t like to diverge too sharply from what everyone else is writing. When a president is popular and a consensus prevails, journalists shrink from challenging him. Even now, papers like the Times and the Post seem loath to give prominent play to stories that make the administration look too bad. Thus, stories about the increasing numbers of dead and wounded in Iraq —both American and Iraqi—are usually consigned to page 10 or 12, where they won’t cause readers too much discomfort.

… read more

Revealed: the Axis of Allies

As weird as it seems in the current everybody-hates-us environment, back in the ‘90s political pundits argued that the US’s popularity demonstrated an American exception to balance of power theory. See, according to standard geopolitical theory nations should ally themselves in such a way as to thwart the most powerful interventionist state. Like the law of reversion to the mean, the balance of power tendency increases in strength as geopolitical power increases, making enemies of allies and causing empires to grab defeat from the jaws of victory. A classic example is the British army in North America, they defeated the French and Indians for (and with) their colonists, but having defeated their enemy, their ally, the colonists, no longer threatened, rebelled.

Other than to the minority of us who were alarmed (disgusted?, horrified?) by the Bush Doctrine precursor, the Kosovo intervention, the US’s growing power in the ‘90s seemed to give the USA a get-out-of-history-free card. Post-9/11 was a perfect time to reconsider: here’s an attack allegedly masterminded by an organization that was created during a US-backed victory in Afghanistan. Later, when Iraq “threatened” Saudi Arabia, al Qaeda offered to defend Saudi Arabia, but was rebuffed, since the US was already on duty. Who would have won if Saddam and al Qaeda fought? Who cares? According to a Cato Institute study, Iraq could have taken over Saudi Arabia and raised oil prices, and still it would have been cheaper than the Gulf War. Throw in the 9/11 attack, the second Gulf war, and (if we’re to believe McVeigh), maybe, the OC bombing and it’s a no-brainer: Benjamin Schwarz and Christopher Layne rephrased the obvious, if counter-instinctual, foreign policy implied by the law of the balance of power and called their suggested policy “offshore balancing.”

Back in the ‘80s, as most AWC readers know, the US government spent billions of dollars quasi-covertly funding international jihad in Afghanistan. Saudi Arabia and Yemen, respectively, provided the most and second-most foot soldiers. Saudi Arabia also provided US matching funds, and Pakistani intelligence (later creators of the Taliban) directed the training programs.

Last week UPI (“Revealed: the nationalities of Guantanamo”) released the “tentatively determined … nationalities” of 95% of the terror-war prisoners that the Pentagon is holding in Cuba. Most of the 619 alleged anti-American terrorists were seized in Afghanistan, but some were captured among the US’s Muslim allies in Bosnia, and elsewhere. 38 nationalities are represented. Interestingly, only 80 – or 13% – of the prisoners are Afghans. The top three nationalities represented – Saudis, Yemenis, and Pakistanis, in that order – exactly match the degree of involvement of those nations as US allies in the Afghan jihad. Of the 539 non-Afghans, 160 – or 30% – are Saudis, 85 are Yemenis, and 82 are Pakistanis. Those 3 groups make up more than half of the non-Afghan total, with citizens of other US allies comprising most of the rest. Meanwhile, President Bush’s “axis of evil” is represented by a single Iraqi.

Strange but true:

– Citizens of the US’s Afghan jihad allies make up over 300 times as many of the suspected anti-American terrorists than do citizens of the “axis” nations.

– There are as many white Australians and Bahraini royals in the Cuba clink as there are citizens of all of the “axis” nations combined.

– There are twelve times as many citizens of the freedom-loving US ally Kuwait locked up as there are Iraqis, Iranians and Koreans combined.

Our Very Own David Brock

Can’t David Horowitz afford some fact-checkers? He’ll need a couple if he’s going to keep Anthony Gancarski in his stable. From Gancarski’s aforementioned tirade:

I couldn’t imagine Pat Buchanan throwing his support to the man who made it a feature of his stump speech pandering to the LGBT community to say “I refuse to be divided by sexual orientation.” Yet there Dean was, propped up by Buchanan’s magazine as the Democratic Goldwater. Of course, Buchanan ran on the same ticket in 2000 with the Marxist-racist loon, Lenora Fulani — equal parts Sister Souljah and Lyndon LaRouche — so I really shouldn’t have been surprised by the Dean gambit.

No, Pat Buchanan’s 2000 running mate was Ezola Foster, who has nothing in common with Lenora Fulani other than being a black woman. (They all look the same, eh Tony?) Lenora Fulani briefly endorsed Buchanan, then retracted her endorsement. It took me a grand total of 30 seconds to find those two links on Google, but why waste time on research when your apartment building is crawling with Paris and Nicole lookalikes? Party on, Garth!

I hold no grudge against Gancarski for his new alignment. People change their minds; it’s foolish to savage anyone for an honest shift in philosophy. But most people take years or even decades to reorder their entire worldview. One week? Perhaps the meltdown has been a long time coming. Gancarski’s faux-Hunter Thompson shtick might have led some to think passages such as the following sarcastic, but now I’m not so sure:

Official histories naturally are rife with omission. The 2003 SOTU address didn’t tell us if “Bush knew about 9/11,” and made no acknowledgement of the claim that US/Saudi ties are uncomfortably close. Such concerns don’t resonate with the masses, casually observant of politics, for whom this yearly speech is tailored. Bush speeches, though much maligned for certain linguistic crudities, appeal to those who understand intuitively that their material prosperity is inexorably linked to US full-spectrum dominance. That truth runs so deep no rational politician would voice it; nonetheless, it haunted the subtext of this year’s address.

So it was that we heard the word “war” eleven times by this scribe’s count, interwoven with nods to the “forward strategy for freedom” and other such linguistic constructs that justify American military involvement from Bali to Mombassa to Riyadh and beyond. Nothing was said about the looming economic and strategic threats posed by Eastern Hemisphere giants China and India

What the hell? Or take Gancarski’s bizarre attack on Michael Ledeen for war profiteering. At first I thought Gancarski was making a poorly worded joke when he took an obviously humorous reference to Ledeen earning a “$25 million finder’s fee” for locating Osama bin Laden literally. Gancarski only made things worse when he attempted to clarify the issue:

The implication is damned clear from where I sit – Benito12 has been compensated amply for his words. Why would it be “his $25 million” unless he “earned” it?

Jeez Louise. Good luck, Frontpagemag!

Goodbye, Gancarski – and Good Riddance

Traumatized by rejection, our former columnist assumes a new – and weird — persona

Many writers have trouble taking rejection well. They’re sensitive souls, after all, and don’t like being told that their work, in a word, sucks. Anthony Gancarski, author of Unfortunate Incidents, and a former columnist for, is a case in point. I rejected what was to have been the latest installment of his column – and he went over to the Dark Side.

Gancarski’s piece for Frontpage, detailing his conversion to the pro-war position, is distinctly … weird. There is, first of all, his description of his former beliefs:

"If someone had told me a few months ago that I’d be writing a piece for Front Page on this theme, I would’ve dismissed him as a lunatic. After all, then I was supporting the positions expected from those on the so-called antiwar right. I was harshly critical of Israeli defense initiatives, more willing to talk up for Noam Chomsky than the sitting President."

What has Noam Chomsky to do with the antiwar right? Precisely nothing. But to the readers of Frontpage, and apparently to Gancarski, there is little need to explain this seeming anomaly. And that is Gancarski’s great problem as a writer: he never explains, or argues, but merely asserts, without evidence, and without links. (This is the Internet, but you’d never know it from his polemics: in his current screed, we get not a single link out of him. This is the mark of a writer who expects us to take his word for everything.)

At any rate, according to Gancarski, his sojourn on the antiwar right meant that, "more or less without meaning to, I went hard-left." He turned to the right, and found he’d turned to the left. Say what? The man is dizzy with his own confusion.

He explains that he "moved over to to write a weekly column for them at $25 a pop," and confides that "this was a raise from my Counterpunch pay." So, he didn’t like the pay: I trust the 30 pieces of silver from Frontpage affords him the satisfaction of knowing that he’s finally getting what he’s worth.

Gancarski claims that he began to have doubts when he started getting mail from "anti-Semites." why is this a reflection on, and not on the content of his writing, he doesn’t say. He was also, he claimed, getting linked to by people he "wouldn’t let in his living room." Interview requests "were scarce," he complains, except for "a Muslim radio station in South Africa." Although we don’t make the email addresses of our writer public, poor Anthony complains that his mailbox was filling up with missives from Horrors! No money, few interview requests, and anti-Semites drawn to his work like moths to a flame — it was then that he began to have misgivings:

"I started to wonder — is my opposition to the US action in the Middle East, however noble and well-intentioned it seemed to me, actually playing into the hands of America’s enemies, strategic adversaries, and economic competitors?"

What "economic competitors" is Gancarski talking about? Is he saying he was duped – by the French? Or perhaps it was the Taiwanese. If only he’d stayed with a little longer, we would’ve had him playing soccer!

Gancarski’s ranting directed at me makes little sense, until one realizes the real object of his frustration: we weren’t properly respectful of George W. Bush. He claims to have been shocked – shocked! – by my November 26 column, in which I take the President to task for counterposing the prospect of another 9/11 to four more years of Bushian rule. Gancarski writes:

"This set off a number of alarms. Who was Justin Raimondo? Why was he so lacking in respect for a sitting President? Did Raimondo even think how such a column might strike his own readers? I am still at a loss to understand it. When the column appeared, it was hard for me to read much it without revulsion."

Who was Justin Raimondo, indeed. Didn’t he read my columns? A random sampling of my writings over the past few years would’ve yielded plenty of statements to the effect that George W. Bush is the worst President we’ve ever had, bar none. His presidency is a disaster for the country, and the world: I’ve said it again and again, in so many different ways that it’s hard to believe that Gancarski was unaware of my views.

Poor Gancarski, the sleepwalker awakened: Yet I heard nothing from Gancarski about this column: not a note, not a peep of dissent. Our correspondence had been limited to notes from me to him, asking him to stop dashing off columns entirely bereft of facts, and please start putting a bit of effort into his pieces. These apparently stuck in his craw, germinating, at last, into a full-throated screech of rage.

Gancarski had approached us, asking him to give him a chance as a columnist: I agreed, based on his work for TAC. But I was beginning to have qualms. The man is a sloppy writer, all opinion and no facts, at least when he was writing for us: his pieces for The American Conservative were much tighter, and far more interesting. Why, I wanted to know, couldn’t he do the same for us?

Did he listen? No, as evidenced by his submission of a sorry excuse for a column which I reprint below, unedited and in full:

"Roger, Over and Out: What Moore can be said about Michael?

"Late one night recently, a pair of soused young ladies knocked on my door. The hallway was pitch-black, so I didn’t unlock the deadbolt before asking them what they wanted. ‘I want some sugar,’ one of them cried, ‘I am your neighbor! I just want to make you come-a…’ The reference to one of Howard Dean’s favorite songs scored points with me, so conversation continued through the quasi-confessional barrier of the closed door.

"What do you need sugar for? I asked, for lack of anything else to say. ‘To make Kool-Aid,’ they cried.

"I gave up no sugar and kept the door closed, and the girls galloped down the stairs and out of my building. I went out on the balcony and called to them: ‘I’d have given you sugar for cookies, but not Kool-Aid! Too many people need deprogramming already!’

"Their response — snapping each other’s thongs — indicated that my allusion was lost on these Paris and Nicole wannabes. Despite the bimbos‘ ignorance, the Kool-Aid discussion nonetheless reinforces my current read on political discourse; these days, it seems everyone has drank some toxic brew, causing them to lose their minds and babble on about Islamofascists or the International Jewish Conspiracy as the Present Danger that must be obliterated yesterday. All of which is nothing but the old familiar codewords for the converted and misinformation for marks."

Is it me, or does this long and patently unnecessary introduction make absolutely no sense? What is the point – I asked myself, as I read it – except to pad and exceedingly short and content-free column? Undeterred, and desperately hoping he’d somehow tie it all together, I pressed on:

"Which brings me to Michael Moore. [Ed. Note: At last!] I was in high school when Roger and Me came out, and watched it dutifully, thinking that the movie was interesting despite its viscerally repellent narrator. Later on, I caught episodes of Moore’s short-lived Fox series TV Nation, but my mind didn’t change about Moore. Even if I found myself agreeing with something he said, I found myself rejecting him as the messenger. He seemed too contrived. Yet I was unable to crystallize that criticism into anything more concrete even as Bowling for Columbine, his flick about gun violence, drove me straight into the arms of the NRA."

But why is Michael Moore "repellent"? I guess, since Gancarski describes him as "viscerally" so, the author feels no need to explain himself. But, then again, Gancarski never feels any need to explain himself: we are supposed to accept his subjective evaluations at face value, on faith. But this just won’t do: I’m prepared to accept that someone may be "viscerally repellent," but, dammit, I want to know why the author feels that way. Alas, introspection is not one of Gancarski’s strong points. But I digress:

"Moore’s friends are not in power right now, of course, and the filmmaker from Flint conveniently and reflexively opposes most anything the Bush team does. Fair enough — I have opposed aggression against Iraq since before Desert Storm, so I sympathize to a point. Despite agreeing with him on the issue of the War, my praise for him is necessarily tempered by my realization that the methods he uses to make the case against ‘full-spectrum dominance’ are sentimental, ill-considered, reductionist, and counterproductive; as long as Moore and others reduce the case against the war in Iraq to ‘human-interest’ prose, they will never succeed in stopping Washington’s wars on foreign soil. In the interest of ‘truth-telling,’ these mountebanks habitually sabotage their own positions."

But how and where does Moore utilize his alleged "method" in terms of "human interest prose" – and what, by the way, is "human interest prose"? The reader is not even given a clue, never mind an actual citation. It turns out that Gancarski’s anger is motivated by pure partisanship:

"A case in point is a recent essay by Michael Moore making the rounds. ‘Dean Supporters, Don’t Give Up.’ His point? That even though protests against the war in Iraq have accomplished precious little beyond getting Ramsey Clark some face time, Moore [a supporter of Wesley Clark on the basis of his "manner" and his ‘electability’] urges Deaniacs not to give up despite their candidate‘s Muskiesque collapse in Iowa and New Hampshire. ‘You have done an incredible thing. You inspired an entire nation to stand up to George W. Bush. Your impact on this election will be felt for years to come. Every bit of energy you put into Dr. Dean’s candidacy was — and is — worth it. He took on Bush when others wouldn’t. He put corporate America on notice that he is coming after them. And he called the Democrats out for what they truly are: a bunch of spineless, wishy-washy appeasers… Everyone in every campaign owes you and your candidate a huge debt of thanks,’ wrote Moore."

Is this the "human interest prose" – the "sentimental" reductionism – Gancarski is inveighing against? I don’t see it. Moore is merely praising the insurgent spirit that motivated the Deaniacs – and nowhere does Gancarski even attempt a critique. Instead, he turns to smearing:

"I’m sure Lyndon LaRouche will be giving Dean a call to thank him for the nudge. I bring up LaRouche purposely; he likely could sue Dean forcopyright infringement. The reductionist, slashing character assassinations of political opponents comes straight from the perennial candidate’s playbook, as does the Messianic self-indulgence. And I’m hard pressed to think of significant differences, leading me to wonder if Howard Dean is just warmed-over LaRouche with a bankroll. Time will tell, I reckon, whether Moore is a hackish flack or the real thing after all. My take? If it quacks like a flack, stay the hell back — if Moore goes down, he’ll take his ‘friends’ with him."

Again, we are asked to take Gancarski’s seemingly arbitrary assertions as canonical. But what, exactly, is the connection that the author discerns between Dean and LaRouche? Where is the evidence that Dean’s views resemble LaRouche’s? Gancarski doesn’t deign to regale the reader with the reasoning behind his effusion – and one gets the feeling that perhaps he feels they don’t deserve any reasons. He rails against "reductionism," "character assassination," and "self-indulgence" – but these are the very sins that he, as a writer, is guilty of!

I had no compunctions about rejecting this farrago of false analogies and smarmy smears. LaRouche, as is well-known, is a raving anti-Semite. Did Gancarski mean to imply that Dean – and Moore – were of the same ilk? In an email to me, he denied it – and I believe him. The big problem with Gancarski’s writing has always been his jarring malapropisms.

Gancarski’s reaction to the rejection of his piece was to fly into a rage. It is the mark of a truly unbalanced personality, however, that his anger seems to have pushed him into the abyss. Like the disturbed "Eve White" in The Three Faces of Eve, this trauma induced the creation of a new persona in the author, sprung , it seemed, from nowhere. Suddenly, the neoconservatives Gancarski had spent each and every column abusing were seen to have redeeming virtues:

"At least they understand the game America had to play for the foreseeable future. Attempting to create democracy in the Middle East can’t be airily dismissed as an imperialist policy objective — not when the security of the United States in an age of terror depends as much as it does on what goes on internally in Islamic countries, or on maintaining stable, reliable allies in the Persian Gulf, central Asia, and other volatile regions. Realizing that led me to an inconvenient conclusion: I had ‘outgrown’ the position that had gotten me started writing about politics seriously in the first place."

Today the neocons and their plans for "democracy" in the Middle East can’t be "airily dismissed," but it was only yesterday that Tony "Hot Air" Gancarski turned his blowtorch in their direction:

"The active duty military understands what the War on Terror is; a shell game for old men and their younger, flabby, soft-palmed, unctuous, duplicitous, and effete neoconservative adherents. All Hell will break loose domestically when these newly-embittered veterans find common cause with the elderly and the anarchists, and it looks like that day is coming soon enough."

And he accuses me of having a style that is "pure rhodomantade" [sic]! (He means rhodomontade, but spelling was never the great writer Gancarski’s strong point).

Gancarski absurdly berates me for my "physical remoteness from any of the real work being done in the War on Terror" – as if I’m supposed to plonk myself down in the middle of Baghdad in order to be able to write about – or have an opinion about – what is happening in Iraq. Really? We all await the news of Gancarski’s coming departure to the front lines of the "War on Terror" – will he be traveling in the company of his new sponsor, David Horowtiz?

In closing, Gancarski again refers to his paltry payment, and disdainfully notes that he’ll just have to do without the 25 bucks, but there is one big compensation: "I feel I’ve gotten my credibility and my country back."

Whether he had any credibility to begin with is an open question. In writing for us he could be witty, and pretty nasty in a way that was often amusing: but credible? I don’t think so.

One example: In writing yet another attack on Howard Dean, Gancarski’s big objection seemed to be that Dean had hired a former leader of the AIPAC, the pro-Israeli lobbying group, to work on fundraising. He seemed to imply that this somehow tainted Dean, in spite of the beating the candidate had taken about the desirability of taking an "evenhanded" approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While I am no fan of Dean’s, this remark seemed intemperate enough for me to take him to task, albeit gently, in my column. He said nothing about it at the time, but when he wrote a long abusive letter on the occasion of his rejected column, he accused me of smearing him as an anti-Semite. I leave it to my readers to decide for themselves whether that’s what I was saying: in my view, I said no such thing. I offered, however, to clear the matter up in a future column. I never heard from him again, however – until he went public with his ridiculous article.

As for getting his country back, the volatile Gancarski needs to get his emotional equilibrium back, assuming he ever had any. If and when he does, he’ll find out he’s defected, not to the Real America, but to the fantasy land of David Horowtiz, where critics of a futile and unnecessary war are a "Fifth Column," ex-Trotskyites wander the halls hailing George W. Bush’s "global democratic revolution, and writers are free to vent their grudges without regard for truth, facts, logic, or common sense. No doubt he’ll be more comfortable there: and, at any rate, I’m sure the pay is a lot better.

Who’s Afraid of Glenn Reynolds?

I’ve been waiting all weekend to update you on my correspondence with the King of the Bloggers, but the King has cut and run. In response to my last query, Reynolds wrote the following:

Rape all the Sunnis? Which one is that?

The linked post seemed to me to be directed at his commenters. What was I supposed to say about it?

My reply:

You should really pay more attention to the blogs you promote! And perhaps I’m mistaken, but it seems to me that Zeyad’s addressing a much larger audience (“armchair analysts”) than his commenters, including all the “oh, it can’t be!” types in the Instapundit post I linked to.

End of discussion, I guess. Poor Glenn: he’s so busy cutting and pasting from Andrew Sullivan, Jeff Jarvis, Mark Steyn, and James Taranto that he can’t be bothered with reality. But after this exchange with Reynolds, I’m surprised more bloggers don’t call him on his BS. Go ahead, take a jab at the soft belly of the warmongers. And make sure to send him a link: