Deja vu

Washington DC 3/17/05 - In a hearing of the House Committee on International Relations today, agency officials from the State Dept., Army and Drug Enforcement Agency gave unconvincing testimony before largely vacant seats of committee members. The hearing was on Counter-Narcotics on the same day as hearings were held on the other side of the same building for steroid use in baseball. Most of the testimony was from prepared statements stuffed with old history and vague statistics that indicated progress by various government agencies in rolling back rampant opium production in Afghanistan.

Under sharp questioning by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) that impression seemed to come apart as government witnesses claimed to forget important details of counter-narcotics strategies and offer straw man arguments and answers to questions never asked. It turned out to be more theatrical testimony than the baseball hearing.

We, at Jezail, have seen this kind of political theater many times before. Performances like that of then-Ambassador Robin Raphel stating before committee that "the Taliban is a purely indigenous Afghan phenomenon", was a claim that strained credulity to the breaking point at the time.

It can be said that the more things change, the more they stay the same in Washington. Under questioning by Congresswoman Diane E. Watson, (D Calif.), government witnesses painted a picture of a half-full glass rather than an abject failure as they stood before a bar graph depicting the sharp rise in opium production over some 6 years. Congresswoman Watson noted that there were few in attendance at the hearing because there were simultaneous hearings being conducted to look into steroid abuse by professional baseball players.