The farce that keeps on giving in Afghanistan

“The Obama administration is debating whether to make Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai, a more central player in efforts to root out corruption in his own government, including giving him more oversight of graft investigations and notifying him before any arrests.”

This was the lead paragraph in a front page New York Times story on September 15 by reporters Mark Mazzetti and Rod Nordland.

President Obama, they wrote, has instructed key players in his administration to come up with more “sophisticated” guidelines for dealing with Afghan corruption. Specifically, they want to attack only that corruption that drives Afghans into the arms of the insurgency. All other corruption is OK.

The country that overthrew duly-elected moderate governments in Iran and Guatemala in the 1950s, sponsored a bloody 1973 coup in Chile and connived with France to bring down 40 years of war on the people of Vietnam is now “debating” whether to notify the elected president of a sovereign nation before it arrests members of his government?

What other than hubris gives us the right to do this kind of thing?

My wife has worked in the Darfur/Sudan movement for six years. If corruption is something the United States is now devoted to routing out, there’s plenty of it in the genocidal regime of Sudanese President Omar Bashir, a tyrant responsible for incredible scorched earth slaughter campaigns in both southern Sudan and Darfur in western Sudan.

Why don’t we just drop seven or eight infantry divisions with air support and drones into Khartoum and get busy routing out the corruption there?

Art by Marc AndersonArt by Marc Anderson

That, of course, is a stupid question. Anyone who knows anything about our Sudan policy understands that, despite the fact the International Criminal Court and our own Colin Powell have called Bashir’s activities “genocide,” we are cozying up to the Bashir government.

President Obama has sent Air Force Major General Scott Gratian, son of missionaries violently run out of the Congo, as a special envoy to make nice while the southern Sudanese plan to vote in January for independence from the north and the Bashir government.

The upcoming secession vote, fears of inciting anti-western, Islamic animosities and competition for resources with China keeps the US in a Bashir friendly mode.

If we assumed the role of world cop, took on corruption in Sudan and declared we were going to protect the Sudanese people like we are doing in Afghanistan, we would be creating another war like the one we created and are escalating in Afghanistan. And two wars is more than we can handle right now.

How did we get here?

How did ordinary Americans get themselves into such a mess where they are now forced to spend their hard-earned taxes (what Republicans want to cut) on making sure Afghan elites don’t rob the cookie jar jammed full of those tax resources?

Did Americans ever vote on this? Were we ever asked: Yes or no, do you want billions, even trillions, of your tax resources allocated to a notoriously ungovernable “nation” largely still living in the 14th century?

Again, a stupid question. The best the American people get is the 2008 presidential election where, when it came to Afghanistan, both candidates were committed to not rocking the Pentagon boat and keeping the wars going.

Democratic and Republican leaders cling to these wars “out of parochial self-interest laced with inertia,” writes Andrew Bacevich in Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War.

“The Washington rules deliver profit, power, and privilege to a long list of beneficiaries: elected and appointed officials, corporate executives and corporate lobbyists, admirals and generals, functionaries staffing the national security apparatus, media personalities, and policy intellectuals from universities and research organizations.”

Except for the rare libertarian like Ron Paul, this is something never even touched on by the Tea Party Movement. Only the left pushes this boulder, like Sisyphus, up the hill, over and over again.

“Appointed officials” like Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton recognize the nation’s dire economic troubles and admit the swelling federal debt “sends a message of weakness internationally.” But slow down the military train? No, she said the other day, we are in a “new American moment” and “the world is counting on us” to be everywhere vigilant and on guard.

We talk about sovereignty like it means something, then we trample it, waving the flag and deluding ourselves we’re doing the world’s bidding.

The most egregious example is 90 miles away. At gunpoint, we hold one end of the island of Cuba, a place our military has turned into an internationally condemned prison. Our militarist leaders even tell us without the least bit of shame they have done this to circumvent provisions of the US constitution.

This Democratic President fights in federal court to prevent an Ethiopian man from suing a private contractor that worked with our CIA to secretly “render” him to Morocco, where he was held for 18 months and tortured with such techniques as having small razor cuts made on his penis followed by the application of hot stinging liquid. The federal appeals judges who denied him the right to sue were sympathetic but agreed with the Obama administration that a trial would reveal even more disturbing things than penis slicing.

Meanwhile, our leaders continue to attack the island of Cuba for holding political prisoners. The imperial hypocrisy is nothing short of monumental. And much of the world knows it.

Jobs Not Wars

Working men and women in America are flat on their back and down for the count. Labor unions that opposed the Bush wars and the wasteful expenditures of US tax resources for them now won’t oppose the same wars because they are run by a Democratic President who they voted for.

Meanwhile, the economy keeps weakening and the two wars and the sacrosanct defense budget suck money from a host of neglected domestic needs – from jobs and job training programs; from infrastructure repair and maintenance; from investment in a lagging national education system; from a domestic Marshall Plan to encourage alternative energy applications across the nation.

Post-WWII American over-confidence, Bacevich writes, “has allowed Washington to postpone or ignore problems demanding attention here at home. Fixing Iraq or Afghanistan ends up taking precedence over fixing Cleveland and Detroit.”

He makes the case that the solution to this disastrous situation can only come from the American people.

“When Americans demonstrate a willingness to engage seriously with others, combined with the courage to engage seriously with themselves, then real education just might begin.”

A coalition of groups in Philadelphia is attempting to start that engagement and education process with a non-partisan Town Meeting For Jobs Not Wars in October. Hopefully, similar dialogues will break out across America.

Securing America and improving the lives of Americans has nothing to do with monitoring the books in places like Afghanistan for bribery and corruption. Expending more tax resources desperately needed here at home to keep the Afghan government we created honest is a misguided and futile effort.

When you recall how we dealt with Ngo Dinh Diem in Saigon, the idea of American leaders “debating” whether or not to inform the “sovereign” puppet of Afghanistan of imminent raids to arrest members of his administration, you have to concede our policy has arrived at the stage of farce.