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It is a common failing of human nature to be more confidant in strange and unprecedented circumstances...-Julius Caesar, "The Civil War"

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DECEMBER 22, 2010 5:25PM

Christmas in Afghanistan

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With the president busy doing victory laps for caving into the idea of exchanging a few favors for the poor for huge tax cuts for the super-rich, and Washington all aglow in its usual holiday splendor, it's hard to recall that there are those who will be spending Christmas in a bunker.

From Afghanistan, where more than a hundred thousand U.S. troops, and tens of thousands of NATO allies, will be waiting out the inevitable on Dec. 25th, there's a new report out this week about the rate, and the waste, of reconstruction spending that throws some light on the real reason we're there, and the real obstacles facing any kind of breakthrough in the mission...

Arnold Fields, the special inspector general appointed by Congress to look into waste and fraud allegations in the funding of reconstruction and aid projects in Afghanistan, revealed on Monday that "well into the millions, if not billions, of dollars" have gone missing in what he called a "confusing labyrinth" of public and private entities used to funnel money from Washington to Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan.

Since the war in Afghanistan started nearly ten years ago, the U.S. alone has sunk more than $56 billion into the country, much of it during a time when economic stress at home has left governments to make tough choices between funding unemployment and healthcare subsidies or slashing social programs across the board.  About $29 billion has gone into building Afghanistan's military and police forces, and Fields said that this is the area where most of the waste and missing funds got spent--or didn't.

Due to the extensive use of private contractors in the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, it has been difficult for investigators like Fields to find out where funds are going, and when they're being diverted to feather a corrupt official's nest.  Or to pad a corporation's profits.  Or, in fact, when they're being diverted to the enemy.  Previous investigations of Afghanistan funding found that some money ended up in the hands of Taliban fighters and Taliban-supporting groups.  Fields emphasized the difficulty in his report of discovering the final destination of much of the funds he tried to track, due to the fact that private firms are not under the same stringent reporting requirements as government agencies.

And this is the whole point, isn't it?  The vastly increased use of private  contractors under the Bush administration, which has been continued almost without pause (and in some cases with huge increases in funding, like the company formerly known as Blackwater, and currently called Xe), makes it much easier to simply abscond with taxpayer funds. 

Fields, a retired Marine Corps major general, made it clear in his report that the system seems designed to be purposely confusing, and most of this is on the part of private companies who often don't even provide invoices and shipping receipts for materials, don't keep business plan and execution records, and have few if any internal controls.  Many of the companies, especially those involved in providing security, sprang up overnight after 9/11 and were never constructed to provide data to their sole funding source--the federal government--and often seem to have been built from the ground up to frustrate all efforts to find out the truth.

With the war in Afghanistan about to go into its second decade, and investigators like Fields raising similar questions in allied European states, even the money machine in Washington will find itself under increasing pressure for early withdrawal.  The continued use of private firms to provide everything from food services to actual boots-on-the-ground protection for American and NATO troops, parallels the rising power of the security industry in national domestic politics.  Security companies have more power now over a wide spectrum of Washington agencies, from the TSA, to customs, immigration, and even the EPA, IRS and NASA.  The tentacles of the Department of Homeland Security, and its growing army of private capital allies, are constantly busy trying to draw more and more government business, and more and more government funding, under its discretion, and its strict rule of secrecy on the private companies it deals with.

Fields bemoans the fact in his report that in Afghanistan, a country where the average lifespan is only 45 years, and where less than a third of the people are literate, the situation after a decade of U.S. efforts is still one of severe poverty, with no functioning judicial system, very little respect for a violently corrupt police force, and a crisis in both clean water resources and agriculture led by misguided, failed, and just plain fraudulent privatised reconstruction projects.   By the way, the 45-year life expectancy is down considerably since the country was dragged into the weird, irrational games of geopolitcal affairs in the form of the Soviet invasion.  The other problems have emerged during the subsequent upheavals and invasions.  Prior to that, and after the period of colonialism, the country had a functioning, well respected and well liked, leftist secular government. 

But  nobody seems to remember that last fact.  Not even Fields.



CBS News report on Dana Priest's series in the Washington Post, on the rapid growth of security firms, redundancy, waste, and the involvement of the private security industry in tragic events like the Fort Hood shooting:

AP story on Fields' report:

The full text of Arnold Fields' testimony before Congress:


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America should really stay home, for everyone's sake. It doesn't 'travel well.'
And of course the people who plotten 9/11 are in Pakistan now. And that's an insoluble situation.
Awful situation, awful war. Sometimes I think some Americans would do anything to make a buck, including arresting and torturing their own grandmother on Christmas Eve. If only they could get a government contract to pay for it...
And be sure they'd get another one, and another, and another. That's why we've been there for ten years. It's measured out in fiscal cycles for the same damn thieving companies year after year.

Grandfathered in contracts have become a regular part of the Afghanistan funding. Of course the practice of giving the same company the same contract cycle after cycle, with little oversight or transparency in the process, is not exactly new. But even the Pentagon used to do more than the no-bid process implies.

It causes other problems, too. I think it adds to the labyrinth. Little companies that used to specialize in renting out construction equipment, for instance, become big outfits flush with government money practically overnight. They expand, spin off subsidiaries, which are also involved in the bidding process, sometimes independently of their parent, sometimes not, but they already have their foot in the door. It becomes a self-generating labyrinth that's hard to stop, even once the conflict is over. It's the Military Industrial Complex 2.0.
And the way the funding is doled out actually encourages corruption. One wonders how much of the corruption on the part of Afghanistan government officials is due to their contact with contractors, how much they're "in on it" so to speak.
Hola Boko: the image (?) along with the ellipsis after "the mission" say it all.

Well... not quite ~ ¿¡Dónde están los reales Señor Presidente!?
Inverted - I'm not really sure what our mission in Afghanistan is about anymore, except maybe to bring a modicum of stability to a narco-state just long enough to make a decent withdrawal possible.
One of the most wasteful, pernicious legacies bequeathed to us by the Bush administration (and carried on by Obama, as are most of the Bush legacies) is the burgeoning use of contractors to do jobs which used to be done by our military and intelligence agencies and other branches of government. It goes way beyond Afghanistan, and from the viewpoint of the coprorate interests who run this country is a huge improvement on the old system, the one where we tax payers bought bombs and so forth from for-profit companies but relied on government employees to carry out government policy. Nowadays the idea is "Why pay a soldier Y amount of money to man a checkpoint or do laundry when a private contractor can do it for Y x 2?" It's a way of cutting out the middle man of government and putting public money directly in the hands of the private, corporate sector. Never mind that the reasons given for it, i.e., efficiency, are patently false.
nanatehay - I argued that way when the war in Iraq was really going at its frenzied height in '03 and '04, how the real point of the war on the ground was not gaining control of oil concessions but a massive privatisation in every sector of the country. Hundreds of thousands of people were thrown out of their jobs in every area of life, and private firms brought workers in from neighboring countries to do the work at cost. Now if that wasn't going to cause unrest and instability, what would? The oil concessions will never make back more than a fraction of what that war cost.

Afghanistan was always slim pickings by comparison, that is until Obama ordered the surge there. The more troops, the more protection, services they need from private contractors. So while the no-bid, non-transparent process in Iraq under the Bush administration got it going, you're right, this administration has taken it to a whole new level. Now troop levels seem to be tied to a need to increase profits for the beast created under Bush. And this undermines the military effort--commanders on the ground have not been shy about criticizing private contractors and their screw ups.
"commanders on the ground have not been shy about criticizing private contractors and their screw ups"

No they haven't, at least the ones with any courage. There have been many such screw ups, but one of the most egregious was in 2004 when either KBR or Blackwater (I can't remember which) sent an SUV full of employees into Fallujah without notifying anyone they were doing so, and knowing full well it was an idiotic move. The employees were then slaughtered, and that action led directly to the first and second battles of Fallujah, which though it ultimately resulted in a military victory (of sorts) was a huge PR disaster and cost the lives of thousands of Iraqis and dozens of American personnel. Not that our actions before and after did much for us on the PR front, but it's illustrative of the dangers of putting civilian personnel who aren't accountable to government oversight in a fucking combat zone. Another example was the very public massacre perpetrated by Blackwater several years ago on Iraqi civilians. There are many such cases, and each of them, far from advancing U.S. policy, subvert it. The attitude seems to be that maximizing profits for those corporations with the right contacts is something which outweighs the harm and waste generated by said corporations.
Rotten life these people live now in Afghanistan, but it can't all be put on drugs. The basic local economy, as I understand it, was always approximately nothing. "Real reason we're there...," you're right, is to make money where nobody else wanted to, and to keep the locals under control, so nobody minds a few dead ones.

This is not a war so much as a slaughter. Seems like the idea that we had to invade in the first place just because Osama and Co. were there was pretty weak. They weren't there, as you point out, they were in Pakistan by a few days after the fact. We wanted to invade to MAKE MONEY. Or rather to have a bunch of glue-sniffing corporate pencil pushers make money. I haven't seen any of it. Have you? Have you, Mr. Joe Everyguy? Didn't think so.
Back to Afghanistan. You say:

"The other problems have emerged during the subsequent upheavals and invasions. Prior to that, and after the period of colonialism, the country had a functioning, well respected and well liked, leftist secular government."

Yep. There is a myth that goes something like "Afghanistan is full of barbarians who like to kill each other, it's a hopeless place. They've been that way for millenia and will always be that way." That is, of course, nonsense. People in Afghanistan are no different than people anywhere else; they want a modicum of security in which to raise their families and to at least have a chance for a little prosperity, nothing more. To blame their current circumstances on some supposed inherent flaw within their culture or gene pool rather than on policies which for decades have used Afghanistan as a pawn in a postmodern version of the Great Game is the height of hypocrisy.
It's a sinkhole, isn't it? Good money--and lives--being poured into undeserving hands, hands that are always out.
Doc - You're right, there are no 9/11 criminals in Afghanistan, and there haven't been since late 2001. The recession that began shortly after the attacks was the first sign of real weakness in the American economy, of just how weak it had become over the previous several decades. We have no one to blame for that but the super rich in THIS country, and their patsies in Washington.

nana - Most of the modern history of Afghanistan was peaceful up to the invasion by the Soviets, and the subsequent American involvement through the mujadeen fighters. It was becoming a chess-piece in the cold war struggle that ruined the country. And our inability to let go of that dynamic once it was finished and the enemy had vanished. For the life of me I can't figure out who our enemy is supposed to be in Afghanistan. Sometimes it's the Taliban mentioned on the news, sometimes al Qaeda (even though they haven't operated in the country in years), and sometimes we seem to be at loggerheads with Karzai's government. In fact the situation is one of competition between various gangs for control of the country's drug trade, a consequence of years of there being no other economy to speak of. That's due to the chaos caused by the involvement in geopolitics.
Leon - Yes. Now that's it's happening at a time when there are many destitute people with their hands out in this country, maybe it will get some attention.
yeah. good post. congrats. yeah.
Nana, you have made probably the most reasonable statements that I have ever read on OS. This occupation has roots way further than most know. It has nothing to do with the Afghanistan people none of it ever has. They and the American public are the ones suffering for reasons unknown to both. The object is control for profit it always has been. Both wars have been. There are objectives there but one of them isn't the Afghanistan people, far from it. Read history and see why the Russians originally went there, it's a wonderful starting point. o/e R
Pretty bleak situation. Reminds me of a Road Runner cartoon. In fact I actually found an Afghanistan Road Runner cartoon on the Internet narrated by George W. Bush. See
I appreciate your analysis. It just feels so futile though because two administrations have supported this giant cluster fuck and nothing seems to make them change their viewpoint. And doesn't anyone understand that the primary goal of any private business is to make money and not to serve the country on a battlefield? This notion that privatization of government services is effective is proving to be wrong in many fields; not just in war. It's just all so nuts.
stu - you're looking "older" lately. hah.

older - The Russians (actually the Soviets at the time) may have started some of the mess in Afghanistan, but we're the ones there now.

Dr Bramhall - Funny. Not ha ha funny, but a funny spoof. My favorite site lately though is It follows the ongoing fraud that is the U.S. mortgage servicing industry. Another issue. Perhaps another post. The site is a great source for news, resources to fight back etc.

grif - You're right about privatisation. It's failed on every front. Just ask the people of Atlanta, the domestic "model" for privatising city services. An absolute disaster. One would be crazy to think it would work any better in Iraq, or Afghanistan, but then there are a lot of lunatics in Washington lately.
"a decent withdrawal" ~ yes, that may have something to do with this:

It's a tremendous game the Old Glory Elites are playing with the world and with their own "constituency" . A curious problem has arisen after several decades~with many manifestations~how to pass the torta on to the next generation. Generation Xe. The greyheads have only to weather a few more storms before they are too old and senile to even realize they are sitting in the dock at the Hague. Not bad for a lifes work... In the footsteps of Pinochet come Kissinger, Papa Bush, Baby Bush, Cheney, Clinton xx or Clinton xy , Madeleine Albright and the numerous seemingly invisible "titans" of "industry" and "finance" in all their permutations (all scare quotes). The long (insert adjective) list.

Justice? Freedom? Dead linguistic memes, yearnings reduced beyond the level of morpheme, sense extinguished, extinct?
In a news note, the editor of the Wall Street Journal stated that he anticipated that American ground troops would be in Afghanistan for the rest of his lifetime.
In a news note, the editor of the Wall Street Journal stated that he anticipated that American ground troops would be in Afghanistan for the rest of his lifetime.
Who does Fields report to, besides Congress?
Congratulations on the EP, Boko. Well done!
Very timely post.
I was just talking about this in my classes yesterday. I had my students read, and respond to, an excerpt of Sebastian Junger's "War". I wanted them to think about these (increasingly forgotten) service members as they left for the holidays.
I highly recommend "War" and the brilliant documentary film "Restrepo" (also by Junger). Junger gives voice to regular soldiers struggling in Afghanistan--voices the American public likes to pay lip service to, but not necessarily listen to.
Good on you for writing this. And good on OS for promoting it.
My soldier is home for now, and is the subject of my current post. I think we must stop the flow of human Americans and funds to ANY other country, pull back for a year or two, reorganize, heal ourselves and the JUDICIOUSLY reach out to others. Problem is, if we did that, the US is so far in, the world would implode. No other country is the watchdog security guard for the world like the US. Pogo said "I have seen the enemy and he are us." No truer words.
War is horrible. Many people die. What should we do?
Or to put it differently; if we weren't in Afghanistan now, who would be? If I remember correctly, we bailed on the place after the Soviets pulled out in '89, thus setting in motion a series of events which culminated in 9/11 and our subsequent invasion of Afghanistan. Let's pull out again, and let the festering shithole revert to a Disneyland for terrorists the way it was before 9/11, so we can invade again. Eternal war is easy, especially if you never bother crossing your Ts and dotting your Is.
Thanks BOKO. BOKO is fun to say, BOKO.
What else can one say? Thank Dana Priest.
Thank Truth Seekers.
Field's may check mail?
Barak Obama sent card.
Politicos send Valentine.
That former politician `
Linsey Graham. UGH.
He has a guttural tone.
Some politicos have that disgusting voice from Dark-Abyss-Hell Pit-Street @ Evil Leviathan.
They pray to Theft gods.
Fallen dark forces. That!
Yes. They go to snake pit!
Sit means go pew. pew sit.
Demon guts go ho hah ho.
War mongers sit on a pot.
Read EDgar Allen Poe`Pot
Boy @ bar for Bar Mitzvah.
They steal opium and `Pot.
K`Street loves blood money.
Look at their red-blood lips.
Woe unto warmonger Scribe.
Voices sound shit-full-flops.
They chew Camel Dung`Pot.
to send or not to send. puke.
The whole situation in the Stan reads like a plot right out of Hideo Kojima's METAL GEAR series of video games. It's even got a scary 'revolver ocelot' and 'Big Boss,' as it were.

The troops over there do appreciate the love and support we show over here, and I can think of no better present than to try to bring them home.
I am not sure who you mean by "Washington" but if you mean our President, here's a quote from a message that the White House just released a few hours ago, " . . . one of my favorite decorations this year is the Military Appreciation Tree where visitors can leave their holiday messages for our troops and their families, many of whom will spend this holiday season far away from their loved ones. You can send your own season’s greetings to our men and women in uniform and our military families, as well as see all the holiday decorations and watch behind-the-scenes videos, on "

But I will go further than the current critiques and pointout something is know to people of my generation. One of the reasons why WWll was won and so relatively quickly, compared with everything we have gotten involved since then (Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan) is that the whole country made sacrifices at every level, personal, physical, cultural, financial. etc.).

Had there been a draft, plus taxes and bond drives to pay for these wars, they might not have happened at all, and the outcome might have been different.
I'm not a real fan of perpetual wars, which is what we seem to be getting ourselves into these days. Fortunately for me, every war I fought in was one that actually ended, including the first Gulf War. I kind of saw this happening with the invasion of Afghanistan, as I couldn't see any kind of marker at the time that indicated when we'd be finished. Iraq was exactly the same way.
Billions coming in from America, and Iran has more pull with a few million in money bags going directly to the leaders of different clans. We have now been there almost a decade and many Americans can't remember "why" we went ther in the first place. To kill Bin Laden was what we were told. Ten years later, we have soldiers there that were eight years when this started. How do we win this war. Under what conditons do we declare victory. Democracy? Thats a joke and the world knows it. Train soldiers to fight the Taliban and for security? Another joke. We could very well be training the Taliban and not even know it. There are no better ways to get out of Afghanistan than there were in Vietnam. The states in this country are bankrupt. We're laying off teachers, police officers, government workers, yet we continue to pour billions into a lost cause. When will we ever learn that we cannot police the world, when we become a third world country ourselves!
Drew Silla - Al Qaeda planned and carried out 9/11. And there's every reason to believe that if they hadn't found a safe haven in Afghanistan, they would have found one elsewhere, in the Sudan, Somalia etc. This would have been perhaps even harder to get at it, even with the kind of engagement we should have taken from the beginning in Afghanistan--an international law enforcement route. But our government has rejected international law as a recourse, for obvious reasons, as the post makes clear--it's so much more profitable this way.
Arnold Fields reports to Congress, the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State. His organization, SIGAR, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, was created specifically to oversee and look into allegations pertaining to waste and obstacles in the reconstruction in that theater. It's an independent office attached to the U.S. military in an advisory capacity. Part of his mission is also to look into problems with government officials in Afghanistan and their involvement in diplomatic and reconstruction efforts.
Linnnn - I like your plan. We should have a cooling off period. Ever since shortly after 9/11 we've been going from one cock-eyed military adventure to another. The constant disorientation makes is easier for certain corporations to rip us off, and it keeps America in a constant state of siege--a la Naomi Klein's "disaster capitalism." Your doubts about America serving as the world cop are echoed admirably by scanner in his comment. There are other routes and organizations to handle this role today, we just don't seem to want to make the right use of them.
There's a not-so-secret war going on in Yemen, too. What does the big construction project planned for that region have to do with it? Seems wherever some giant thingamajig is going up, there's a conflict. Dollars=Violence.
Dr Lee -

Yes, Dollars = Violence, Indifference = More Dollars

There's a cycle here.

By the way, SIGAR's work continues.
And there's another post on Yemen coming. Oddly enough I know some people who worked on the project you mentioned. The City on the Sea. It's had several incarnations, on paper, but the funding has always imploded. The adjacent conflicts have something to do with it, too, although the connections are not always clear. In general, Western backed projects in the Middle East have become targets, for various reasons, and so the argument of non-involvement being impossible (because something horrible might happen if we WEREN'T around) does not make sense. It's the presence of Western funding that draws the heaviest fire--it's a magnet for conflict.
Great post. Afghanistan was on my heart so I wrote a post about it last night, too. This whole thing is shameful, wasteful, and corrupt. I think George Bush opened the gates of hell.
Janice - Yes, and Obama took us down to the seventh level.

For those interested there's a story on the front page of the New York Times today about American corporations that have been doing billions of dollars in business with blacklisted countries and organizations that sponsor terrorism over the past decade. This includes Iran, North Korea, and of course Pakistan, which is not officially listed as a terrorist-sponsoring state--since it's an ally of ours, of sorts--but which should be. This gives the last lie to the idea that any of the steps taken since 9/11 have had anything to do with "making America safer." And they certainly haven't made America any richer, not unless you consider America to be the upper 2% of income earners and nobody else.
Here's the story:
It's often said that Afghanistan's history proves that it can't be conquered by an invader, but that's not really true. Rather, invaders have given up the effort because they realised Afghanistan wasn't worth the effort. I guess we're rediscovering what the British and the Russians found out before us.

Or rather, we sort of knew it all along, but got sucked in anyway. That's often how foreign policy works.
Thanks to all, including the OS editors, and to all a Merry Christmas, wherever you are.
slick willy was smarter than people realized, when he just sent a few cruise missiles to alqaeda training camps, in response to attacks. value for money, he was spot-on.

but the dubya gang had bigger goals, many of which have been accomplished already, and many still in progress. the centerpiece is lacking, and may be called a failure, but the massive transfer of taxes to private hands is a soothing recompense.
al - The entire neoliberal agenda is unraveling. I don't see where the Bush team accomplished anything that lasted. If austerity fails in Europe, and here, as it almost certainly will, then we're off to the races socially and politically. We'll see the rise of a powerful populist left just like in Latin America. Of course one can't entirely blame the shortsighted, simplistic economic philosophies of Bush and Clinton for this--or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, even though they are very expensive and privatized for the profit of a few. The political actors were largely controlled by economic and historical forces they never understood.
I saw on Huffpost the other day how Karzai has been releasing dozens of drug traffickers over the last few years. Evidently they're the ones associated with his crew. That's all we're doing over there now, setting up one crew of drug dealers above all the rest. And for what? The oil under the country isn't worth piss, and the so called mineral wealth has been known about for decades--it's too expensive to get at. This is a FUBAR affair from start to finish. And as you point out, al Qaeda hasn't been there for years. They're in Pakistan, and Somalia, and Sudan, and Yemen, and on and on and on. Mostly because we've been screwing around for so long in Afghanistan and Iraq, we forgot to follow up on the guys who actually attacke us on 9/11. Weren't most of them Saudis anyway? God. What a load of shit this war is.
For those interested in the Huffpost story on Karzai's drug connections:
You said it, Leon. Nine years ago would have been better.
From the wise Drew, "Let's pull out again, and let the festering shithole revert to a Disneyland for terrorists the way it was before 9/11, so we can invade again. "

Wow, what a remarkable distillation of disinterest for the people who live in that country.

And comments like, "War is terrible". Holy hell, so, ah, deep. Yeah, baby, war is terrible, and some wars may be the wrong ones, but without some war, some time, all the Anne Franks die and, probably, you too. Grow up, learn a little history, and try pretending to some compassion for the people you so blithely consign to a "shit hole", which, by the way, is two words and, I suspect, a place you're more than familiar with.

God, what a lover of death you are.
I'd say, torture and then execute the rich, no, Stu?
Barbara - I don't see what our remaining there accomplishes. Of course by being in favor of our staying you're the lover of death and destruction, you should pretend to hide it beneath layers of humanistic "caring." We've cared hundreds of thousands to death in Iraq and Afghanistan now. When is enough?

Stu and Cousin - In a bad mood are we?
Many still accept the myth of this nation, which is that we're "free" and noble, heroic, and have democratically elected leaders. The reality is that this world is, and always has been, ruled by the Wealthy Ruling Class (corporations, banks, politicians, media personalities, and in the USA, Congress, governors, Wall Street, not to forget the modern day "robber barons", etc.).

The USA was founded by the wealthiest men in the colonies for the purpose of protecting their wealth, along with slavery which made so much of that wealth possible, especially since the British Empire had outlawed slavery, to go into effect within a few years. We are the most controlled citizens on the planet (see my series of posts on this topic), as for example, the current lies we're being fed: no more oil in the gulf, we're winning in Afghanistan, there's no global warming, inflated prices are inevitable, etc.

The irony of all this is that the Wealthy Ruling Class believes it can move jobs overseas where the poor are more easily exploited, fail to raise wages for the last 30-40 years, pay most workers $8/hour, and still make huge profits selling us gas at $5/gallon, continue to raise medical costs, etc., continue to engage us in war for their personal profit, but at taxpayer expense, and somehow this nation will continue as before, except of course, for the rich always getting richer....but they're wrong......this is all coming to an end...and soon!!
Soap Box - The system is certainly much more stressed than advertised. The security state is failing, its own heart, the Pentagon and its creepy corporate extensions, are honeycombed with dissenters and whistleblowers. The financial system is not done with its spectacular failures--the bond market is now beginning to show signs of serious weakness. The Chinese labor movement has forced most manufacturing-heavy provinces to raise their minimum wages considerably over the last few years. Their infrastructure projects are largely on hold now, which leaves enormous fixed capital in their banks...

And, to get back to the post, there is serious doubt as to the long term viability of any mission in Afghanistan. It's already been changed several times--as it was in Iraq, from preventing terrorism, to spreading democracy, to just plain getting out in one piece--and it's also getting more expensive all the time. The recent addition of armored brigades, which did nothing to help the situation on the ground since we're engaged in a guerrilla war, was very expensive. There is a point of honor here, yes. But the lynchpin argument for continued engagement being used in Washington--that if we withdraw we will have experienced two bruising failures in a row--is not sufficient to justify the expense, and the destruction. Only corruption at the highest levels, both here and in Afghanistan, keeps this war afloat. For now.

On a side note, the suspension of a naval commander this week for making indecent videos reveals where this conflict has gone in recent years. There is not only a moral drift that occurs in battle, but a drift toward arrogance as well, at least at the top, in military echelons.
these ancient tribal people have kicked everybody's ass since Kubla Khan in the 13th century. The message is clear: leave them the fuck alone.
For those interested, two contractors involved in construction at bases in Afghanistan were suspended from Pentagon programs for at least 18 months yesterday due to their non payment of Afghanistan companies that subcontracted with them. Both Bennett-Fouch (which owns Fouch Electric amongst other active subsidiaries) and K5 Global told their subcontractors they had not been paid, when in fact the federal government had fully reimbursed them--the implied scam being that B-F and K5 kept the difference that was supposed to go to subcontractor work for themselves. Both companies are listed as being owned by someone named (wait for it) "Sarah Lee." Bennett-Fouch closed their Afghanistan offices after being approached for the money owed by the subcontracting firms.

For those into conspiracy theories, the company that John P. Wheeler III, the veterans advocate whose body was recently discovered in a dumpster, consulted for--Mitre Corp.--may have done business in the past with both of the suspended firms. The knowledge of the wrongdoing by B-F and K5 supposedly came from the subcontractors reports, but whether or not any additional information was provided by other sources remains uncertain. Mitre Corp. is a military contractor on a different level than the other two companies--having received more than $177 million in fed money in the last reported cycle of 2009, with Bennett Fouch having gotten a tiny half million in the same time. K5's figures were unavailable, but their services are similar to B-F's. Amongst other services, Mitre Corp provides advice on data mining including ways of improving intrusion detection. Meaning they help the government to find out when their own computer systems have been broken into. Sound familiar to the news?
Please sign the petition to indict Sarah Palin for inciting violence in the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona. The petition was started by Dr. Stuart Jeanne Bramhall and is directed to the U.S. Dept. of Justice:
Well-written article. I'm one of those people who believes the war(s) have little or nothing to do with 9/11, but everything to do with Iran and the Middle East in general. It's the only thing that makes any sense to me. Of course, I believe America should stay at home and stop bullying the world.
Fay - I don't think anyone believes the wars have anything to do with 9/11 anymore. It was just the event capitalized on to get us there. I'll even take the extraordinary step of paraphrasing Keith Olbermann here: "The reason there is a war in Afghanistan is to have a war in Afghanistan."