September 18, 2001
PROSECUTE BIN LADEN THROUGH TALIBAN HEROIN CONNECTION,EX-WHITE HOUSE DRUG STAFFER URGES;

A.G. AND SEC. STATE SHOULD LOOK AT TALIBAN NURTURING FUNDSFROM WORLD-LEADING OPIUM CULTIVATION AND HEROIN PRODUCTION

      (Washington, DC) – Robert Weiner, former White House Drug Policy Director of Public Affairs and spokesman for Drug Czars Barry McCaffrey and Lee Brown, is suggesting the investigation and prosecution of terrorist Osama bin Laden through the Taliban’s “nurturing” of funds from Afghanistan’s world-leading opium poppy cultivation, the raw product for heroin production, as an additional way to expose and prosecute the way “bin Laden and those who harbor him may get a great part of their operational money.”

    Weiner’s statement follows:

    As evidence grows of Osama bin Laden and his network’s connection to the most horrific terrorism in our history, and as President Bush promises to mobilize the nation for a military campaign against those who harbor such terrorists and a disruption of their financing, consider this fact:  Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of the opium poppy, the crop refined into heroin.  According to the State department, Afghanistan’s poppy cultivation area has quadrupled since 1990.

    The Taliban government has made no effective attack against opium cultivation or production.  On the contrary, they have nurtured the development of an infrastructure for the production of heroin “in contrast to several years ago when nearly all heroin refining took place outside the country, ” the State Department reports.  Despite Taliban claims, officials believe that nothing indicates that the Taliban intends to take serious action to destroy heroin laboratories or stop drug trafficking.       As in Colombia – where the FARC, the ELN, and paramilitary extremists combine to commit more murders of civilians than in any other nation while deriving their funding from drug trafficking -- we can stop a huge portion of the funding of the terrorists if we go after the money of the drug traffickers – they are likely one and the same.  Colombia is the leading supplier of cocaine to the world; Afghanistan is the leading supplier of poppy for heroin.  The Taliban, which harbors bin Laden, has overseen on its land the world’s greatest growth in opium cultivation as well as heroin production and trafficking.  It is not a coincidence and may well answer the question of where Bin Laden and those who harbor and support him may get a great part of their operational money.

    U.S. consumers spend $57 billion a year on purchases of illegal drugs.  Drugs were a national security issue even before the World Trade Center and Pentagon destruction.  50,000 die annually in the U.S. from drug related causes, we face over $100 billion in health and workplace damages each year, and over 60% of arrestees for all crimes in the U.S. test positive for illegal drugs.

    Hearings are set to begin on the confirmation of John Walters as the next Drug Czar, following Barry McCaffrey. Walters has been criticized for a record of statements indicating a predisposition to making a priority of enforcement and interdiction strategies rather than prevention, education, and treatment.  We will never truly end drug abuse in America if we do not succeed in encouraging children to avoid these poisons.

     However, here is a case where all can agree.  On Sunday and Monday, the Attorney General stated that the laws allowing us to go after those who harbor drug traffickers are stronger than ones letting us confront those who harbor terrorists.  He, the Secretary of State, and the President have stated that we will punish those who harbor terrorists.  Included in the investigation and prosecution of bin Laden and his network should be his and the Taliban’s connection to opium cultivation and heroin production.

     The Drug Czar can make an enormous contribution to the current proper war against terrorism by emphasizing its link to drug trafficking, and supplying all possible resources to find and block the funding base of the drug traffickers in key terrorist states like Afghanistan and Colombia.  In so doing he will not only be strengthening our national security by helping to root out the despicable perpetrators of deeds like the horrific ones in New York and the Pentagon, he will be protecting our children as well.

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(Bob Weiner was Director of Public Affairs for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy May 1995-July 2001.  He is now President of Robert Weiner Associates, a public affairs and issues strategy company.)