the illegal production of this flower is now funding the killing of British troops
We are nearing the end of the season for the big ornamental poppies that flower all over South Oxfordshire, the area I used to represent in parliament. The petals have fallen to the ground, pink and purple and red. But I expect the seed-pods are still standing tall. If you take a sharp knife to one of those seed-pods, and make a careful diagonal incision, you will see a white latex ooze out. What is that gunk? That is opium, my friend; and the reason there are so many giant poppies all over that part of England is that the seeds have been blown in the wind or carried in the guts of birds. They have come from the farms. We actually grow opium there, and we grow it officially.
At direct government urgings, there are large tracts of land that are given over to the cultivation of the palaver somniferum
, for the very good reason that the opium is essential for the NHS. When we die of cancer, or when we are carried off in any other mortal agony, our final miseries are invariably palliated by opiates, in the form of morphine or diamorphine, and indeed our respiration is typically suppressed by these drugs in a vast and unadmitted programme of humane killing.
Given this reality, and given the desperate shortage of analgesic drugs that has occasionally hit the health service, opium has entered the repertoire of UK cash crops.
There are several respects in which the Afghan war has not yet been successful, in the past eight years. We have not captured or killed Osama bin Laden. We have not crushed the Taliban. We have not created a stable and democratic nation-state. But there is one sector of the Afghan economy that has positively boomed since 2001, and that is poppy production. Before we kicked out the Taliban, the crop was deemed un-Islamic, and production fell virtually to zero. Since the unleashing of the War on Terror, combined with the War on Drugs, the figures have been astonishing. Only 15 per cent of Afghanistan is arable, and yet more of that land is now under poppy than ever before.
This appears in full in the Daily Telegraph