War on Drugs Hurts War on Terrorism

Steven Taylor reflects on a TIME cover story about Haji Bashar Noorzai, the Afghan warlord and pal of fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar who willingly flew to the United States to provide valuable intelligence on international terrorism only to find himself rotting in a New York prison for growing poppies in Afghanistan.

The administration makes claims that the war on terror is an existential struggle that requires extraordinary actions, including a number of highly questionable domestic surveillance programs and “coercive” interrogation of possible terrorists as well as potentially their life-time incarceration; however, we can’t recognize the imperfect nature of potential allies such as Noorzai? We prefer a drug arrest to progress in a central front on the war against radical Islam?

It does rather boggle the mind considering, as Taylor details in the post, the less-than-stellar results of a supply side approach to illicit drugs.

UPDATE: Jim Henley‘s point that “the incremental further ruin of a faraway land wouldn’t have figured in [the prosecutor’s] calculus at all” occurred to me as well. Then again, one would think it would have figured into the calculus of our intelligence agencies and that the president or the Attorney General might have pulled rank?

(BTW, the allusion in his headline to an old Stones song performed much more brilliantly by the late Townes van Zandt is a nice touch.)

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. The drug enforcement lobby prevents any changes to our failed drug policies.

  2. madmatt says:

    Just another 40 thousand in fees a year from my pocket to some lucky corporation to hold a farmer!

  3. Obviously but why do they hold so much sway?

  4. Sean,

    People are afraid of drugs, they are afraid of their kids using drugs and as a result it is political suicide for any public official to try and have a reasonable dialog on the subject.

  5. Billy says:

    Two words: private prisons.

    Profits are up by record amounts last quarter, and we imprision more individuals than China, a country with 3 times the population.

    Follow the money – who benefits from this obviously failed and inhuman policy?

  6. Jim Henley says:

    Wow. I have to check out the Townes Van Zandt version now. Steve Earle’s is quite good too.

  7. James Joyner says:

    “Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the whole world and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that.” – Steve Earle.

    “I think of Townes as the greatest folk song writer that my native state of Texas ever gave birth to. Some of us song writers are just lyricists, but he was definitely a poet.” – Nanci Griffith

    Earle and Griffith are better singers than Van Zandt was, although he certainly brought a unique style to his craft. And Willie Nelson might have some claim on the songwriting end.