US should do its part to end opium profits

In "Afghanistan's biggest problem - poverty - can be solved" (Oct. 16, opinion page), S. Frederick Starr suggests that a new Afghan government must abandon terrorism and stop growing opium poppy. But it's hard for starving people to "just say no" to ready cash. Instead of growing unpredictable food crops, Afghans learned to grow most of the world's opium, from which heroin is made. A portion no doubt ends up on America's streets, and on its way, the one dollar paid to farms grows in cash value to hundreds of thousands of dollars - a sizable portion of which ends up in terrorists' pockets. It's time for us to wake up to what our "war on drugs" does to other countries, and take the profit out of drugs by legalizing, decriminalizing, and regulating their sale and use.

James M. Murphy

New York

In "Afghan casualty: anti-drug effort" (Oct. 25), basic economic principles are once again shown to be just as valid in the black market as in legitimate markets. Poor farmers, their land bombed and razed, turn to the only crop that can feed their families: opium. This crop is lucrative because of massive demand, and because US drug prohibition keeps the supply tight. Low supply and high demand equal vast profits, which attract struggling third-world farmers.

Let's stop blaming Afghanistan, and instead place blame where it lies: with ourselves. Until we address the demand at home (through treatment and education), and the supply (by creating a legal supply to remove the black market), we have no business judging Afghan farmers for their choice of crop.

Adam Wiggins

Pasadena, Calif.

Include Afghan women in the solution

You have had some excellent coverage on events in Afghanistan. What I find lacking is a focus on Afghan women and children - on atrocities committed against them, and on the fact that thousands will die if ceaseless bombing replaces food and aid. Please include in-depth coverage of both the Taliban's and the Northern Alliance's atrocities against women and children. Please include editorials and articles demanding that Afghan women be involved in every aspect of coalition- and nation-building. Democracy will be impossible if half of the population remain prisoners.

Rose Lyons

Grants Pass, Ore.

I suggest that you add more discussion of implications for human rights - and especially women's rights - to your discussion on rebuilding Afghanistan. Analyzing the outcome of this war without addressing women's rights is like discussing the US Civil War without addressing slavery.

Marc Harold Vatter Providence, R.I.

'Collateral damage' goes beyond war

Regardless of political persuasion, Americans need to face the fact that weapons in the US arsenal are extremely toxic. They include depleted uranium, among other harmful chemicals, and the residue will kill Afghans for generations to come.

In addition to environmental and genetic damage, the bombing in Afghanistan is creating an immense humanitarian crisis. International aid agencies serving Afghanistan are calling for a cessation in bombing so that essential supplies can be delivered into the area before winter sets in. It is estimated that 7 million people - almost a third of the population - will perish without these supplies. Many of those who die will be children.

As our nation mourns, we must question the wisdom of inflicting this horrific and lasting damage upon the people and environment of Afghanistan.

Margo Shafer

Berkeley, Calif.

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