Waste, fraud, and corruption are endemic to government projects. At least projects that take place close to home, however, can be monitored and the corruption exposed. Imagine how much worse such projects must be when carried out in foreign countries, far from the watchful eye of the taxpayers funding them.
The Obama administration plans to release a review of U.S. policies in Afghanistan and Pakistan on December 16. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said on Tuesday that “the report will not contain any surprises,” according to Voice of America — which is to say that it will simply rehash the administration’s public position that Obama’s strategies are succeeding. “Gibbs,” added VOA, “says the administration is pleased with progress in several areas,” and “he has no doubt that the war effort is going better than it was a year ago.”
As the death toll among U.S. service members in Afghanistan continues to mount — 2010 is the deadliest year of the war thus far — President Barack Obama may regret his administration’s decision, correct though it was, to permit the media to cover the return of dead soldiers’ remains to Dover Air Force Base. Scenes such as this one reported by the Associated Press may become all too common: “Several of President Barack Obama’s top national security advisers stood on a silent, windy tarmac Wednesday night to watch as the bodies of six U.S. soldiers killed by a rogue Afghan policeman returned to U.S. soil.”
In 2008 a series of terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, claimed the lives of 164 people. According to the New York Times, one of the key plotters of the attacks was David C. Headley, a former drug dealer then serving as an informant in Pakistan for the U.S. government. To make matters worse, Washington had evidence that Headley was a terrorist sympathizer yet kept him on its payroll, says the Times, “even as he was learning to deal with explosives and small arms in terrorist training camps.”
Americans do not like to think of their government as an aggressor against foreign countries. We prefer to believe that our country is always the victim of unprovoked attacks and that military actions our government takes against other countries are always in response to such unwarranted aggression. For this reason, Presidents have generally felt it necessary to provoke attacks secretly, knowing that once the country was attacked, seemingly with no cause, Americans would rally ‘round the flag and support the war the President had wanted all along.
In a famous TV commercial from the 1980s, an elderly woman, surveying the minuscule amount of hamburger in the middle of a bun, asks pointedly, “Where’s the beef?” One year after President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize despite having been in office only a short time, ABC News’ Russell Goldman reports that many people are asking, “Where’s the peace?”
The average Afghan — and, indeed, the average American — may be deriving very little benefit from the United States’ continued occupation of Afghanistan and the billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars that continue to be poured into that country, but in both countries the well-connected make out quite handsomely. In Afghanistan, the key to prosperity and power, it seems, is having the surname of Karzai, as in President Hamid Karzai.
President Barack Obama may have publicly stated that U.S. troops will begin withdrawing from Afghanistan in July 2011, but according to reporter Bob Woodward, both Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Gen. David Petraeus have other ideas. The Huffington Post reports that Woodward’s new book, Obama’s Wars, portrays Gates and Petraeus as anticipating — in Gates’s case, perhaps even desiring — a long-term U.S. presence in the “graveyard of empires.”