Thursday, August 18, 2011

Enough Already - Questioning the Administration's Strategy in Afghanistan

When I sit down to read the news or (as I've mentioned often) watch the important stories of the day on the Today Show, I wait until a story jumps out, grabs me by the shirt collar, pulls my face close and says in no uncertain terms, "You WILL write about this, right?"  Yeah, that's the one that gets my fingers to the keyboard easily.  I find, too, that the bigger the impact it has, the easier it is for the words find their way to the screen.  This story is NO exception.  The headline was enough to get me to ask, "Are, no, that HAS to be a typo.  Surely, what I am about to read cannot say what I think it will."  Guess what?  I was wrong.  There was no typographical error.  The headline said it all - the article simply made it worse.  This is called, "The Tease."  Getting you, as readers, to beg me to reveal the headline.  Either that, or you've closed the page already.  On the chance you haven't left yet, here it is - "$360 Million lost to insurgents, criminals in Afghanistan."  So I don't misconstrue anything or make any erroneous comments, I'll share the first two paragraphs of this story, word for word.  The article began with this:

WASHINGTON (AP) — After examining hundreds of combat support and reconstruction contracts in Afghanistan, the U.S military estimates $360 million in U.S. tax dollars has ended up in the hands of people the American-led coalition has spent nearly a decade battling: the Taliban, criminals and power brokers with ties to both.
The losses underscore the challenges the U.S. and its international partners face in overcoming corruption in Afghanistan. A central part of the Obama administration's strategy has been to award U.S.-financed contracts to Afghan businesses to help improve quality of life and stoke the country's economy.
So, now I have to ask of everyone, both Administration supporters and detractors - how did THAT make you feel?  $360 Million (with an "M") of our tax dollars ended up in the hands of...The Taliban???  How did THAT happen?  I know, I know...just as it says in the article, "Hey, we're still facing a few challenges over there," right?  A few challenges?  Oh, and what about that last part?  The segment that says that a central part of the Administration's strategy is to award US-financed contracts to Afghan businesses to help improve quality of life and STOKE THE COUNTRY'S ECONOMY??  Uh, Dear Mr President, I'd like to share a fairly well-known fact here.  We, here in America, would really enjoy it if you know, improve OUR quality of life and, perhaps stoke OUR ECONOMY!  I'm not trying to say I disagree with your......wait, yes I am.  I DO disagree with this effort.  At a time when our economy is in the tank, isn't it time to give a little less foreign aid and concentrate on domestic problems?  Basically, as this story goes, it's a case of what has been billed, "Reverse money-laundering."  We give money to the contractors for construction, transportation, power projects and other services to help rebuild Afghanistan, then they get it to the insurgents.  Clean money being turned into dirty money.  What a concept. 

I realize Foreign Policy is necessary.  I realize we have more than a vested interest in what happens everywhere in the world.  Really, I get it.  I also understand that we have more people than ever, right here in the United States, living at or below the poverty level.  We have children that are homeless and going hungry.  We have more people out of work than most of us can ever remember.  We have record foreclosures.  Semi-serious question, Mr President - Are we TRYING to turn the USA into a third-world country, too?  We're selling our country off to others.  We are giving more away in social programs for illegal (always have to highlight that word) immigrants, and now, at the height of the worst economic time many of us can recall, we're still spending Billions (with a "B") on our military in other countries.  Weren't our boys supposed to be on their way home already?  Weren't we supposed to show them how to set up a democracy and rebuild their country, then wish them well and get the hell out of there?  I, for one, am ready for those very billions to be spent here at home.  Oh, wait.....we don't really HAVE that money.  We're borrowing it, right?  We can't repay it....but we're borrowing and giving it to other countries.  Wait, what?  Am I missing something?  I am, by no means, a rocket scientist or PhD, but I have to ask how this makes sense.  Quick analogy to make sure I have this right - this would be like me going to the bank, borrowing money to give to other families so they can buy a house, food, and clothing, then wondering why my wife and kids leave me when our house is in foreclosure.  Am I close on that one?

Somewhere along the one, someone has to answer these questions.  We, as your constituents, are asking often, yet we have no real response.  I hear you have a new plan to fight unemployment, too.  Sadly, we can't hear it for another three weeks.  Kind of reminds me of an episode of, "The West Wing," when a reporter asked the Deputy Chief-of-Staff if the President had a plan to fight inflation.  The answer was, "Yes," however he couldn't share it with the reporters.  Another reporter then asked, "Why not?  Is it a secret?"  The Deputy Chief responded, "Yeah, the President has a 'secret plan' to fight inflation," when, in reality, there was no plan at all.  I guess my point to sharing that little passage we really have a new plan or are we faking it?  I'm assuming we'll all know in three weeks.  In the meantime, we're going to take the time to read this entire article...and, hopefully, remember it come next November.  We'll let our feelings be known, not just for the occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but for the guests working on Capitol Hill as well.  So, I submit to you, dear readers, the article that can be found at:

Until next time.........

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