How many Middle East leaders are junkies?

Posted on February 27, 2011

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Watching Libya’s president Muammar Qaddafi go off the deep end this past week has brought to my mind two questions: 1) Is Qaddafi a drug-addict?  2) How many Middle Eastern presidents can we reasonably suspect of being addicted to narcotics of some sort?

The first time I suspected Qaddafi of being either high or completely delusional was in 2009 when he stood in front of the U.N. piecing together a bunch of nonsensical (and mostly unrelated) conspiracy theories.  He began by comparing the Security Counsel to Al Qaeda and went on to question the legitimacy of the official record of the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  However, at the time, Qaddafi seemed just another lunatic despot and a relatively inconsequential figure in world politics, so I quickly forgot about this occurrence.  Now he is back in the headlines.

It was just under a year ago that former UN envoy Peter Galbraith suggested that, according to certain “palace insiders,” Hamid Karzai was addicted to heroin and/or opium.  Such was the explanation Galbraith offered for Karzai’s ridiculous claims that the international community had meddled in Afghan elections and that he was considering joining the Taliban if the fraud did not cease.  Despite the fact that many people, including officials inside the Obama administration, were quick to dismiss Galbraith’s assertion as “stupid,” no one could really offer a more convincing explanation for Karzai’s baseless, impulsive, and, quite frankly, completely random comments.

Is the idea of Karzai being addicted to heroin or opium, two of the country’s heaviest exports, really all that unbelievable?  Boris Yeltsin had a particular fondness for vodka, one of Russia’s most popular products, and he famously indulged in drinking it on a daily basis.  Is it more difficult for Americans to notice (or even believe) that Karzai has a heroin problem because it is not the traditional, Judeo-Christian, socially acceptable drug that alcohol is?

The dismal nature of Boris Yeltsin’s reign during an era of economic and political crises in Russia most likely caused him to tumble faster and harder into the abyss of alcoholism.  So why can’t we propose that Karzai, considering his rather hopeless situation, is suffering from a similar struggle with drug abuse?  Considering his lack of support among the Afghan people and the United States’s imminent (a year or so from now, we think) withdrawal of troops, he is, politically-speaking, a dead-man-walking.  He and his brother also have strong ties to opium trade and, just like any other well-off drug dealers, they undoubtedly have access to the substance at all all times.  When Tony Montana became aware that his power was on the decline, he violated Biggie’s fourth Crack Commandment (“Never get high on your own supply”) to the utmost extent and consequently accelerated his downfall.  We can draw a parallel to this with Karzai’s corrupt policies and corrosive behavior which are only exacerbating his already very bleak situation.

Now we turn to present-day Libya where Qaddafi is at it again with spouting outlandish conspiracies, but this time it matters much more because he is also ordering mass genocide.  I originally began formulating this post when he blamed the people’s uprising on their consumption of milk mixed with hallucinogenic drugs.  Is it not textbook addict behavior for the druggy to blindly accuse people of actions that the druggy himself is engaged in?  Does Qaddafi recognize the irony of mentioning hallucinogenic drugs in a conspiracy theory that is wholly illusory?

Furthermore, Qaddafi’s demonstration of a vast range of emotions over the last number of days has been quite peculiar as well.  One day we see him pounding his fist and shouting viciously and in the next speech he appears calm and emotionally measured (although he is consistently making preposterous statements).

I will not engage in speculation regarding the private lives of any other rulers, but I will say this: Middle Eastern rulers remind me of a lot of the kids I grew up with in my small, wealthy, uneventful, suburban hometown.  Both are rich simply by circumstance: the leader sits on top of the world’s largest oil reserves and these resources basically act as rich parents that pay the ruler’s way to unearned privilege.  However, despite the leader’s personal riches and privilege, he still leads a 3rd world nation, which means his opportunities for advancement in geopolitical power outside of his country are severely limited (or, in the case of rich suburban kids: they feel fully entitled to everything life has to offer, yet they have minimal control outside of their own little meaningless worlds).  And finally, both arab leaders and rich baby suburbanites have very few responsibilities and they are rarely held accountable for their actions (until now, in Qaddafi’s case), which means that they have little need for self-restraint.  So, with heaps of cash, no fiscal common sense, frustrations fueled by entitlement, and no need for self-discipline, is there any wonder why Karzai, Qaddafi, and the ungrateful punks in Basking Ridge spend much of their time and money on getting high (allegedly)?

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Posted in: Middle East