Today I was reading in Working for Change about what they call the U.S.'s "gift" to the Taliban of $43 million in foreign aid to "reward" them for cracking down on poppy-growing. The U.N. has responded favorably to the precipitous drop in opium production. Their inspectors (which, for security reasons did not include US representatives) were elated to find only onions and wheat where they had seen opium a year before - a year during which Afghanistan was the world's leader in opium production. They UN called on the world to help Afghani farmers convert to other crops - a process that is not easy since opium was so much hardier and more profitable than any alternative. Nevertheless, when faced with grenade-launchers, beatings and jail sentences, farmers are eager to comply with the new revelation that poppy growing is incompatible with Islamic law (as is, apparently receiving medical treatment if you are female, preserving monuments to other cultures on your land, wondering if someone might be a hindu, etc.). It seems like the question isn't whether the help is needed, but whether it comes in the form of development aid to farmers or as a reward to a regime that spits on human rights. (Later we'll ask the question about whether either option is good.)

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