by ralphlopez, Fri Feb 12, 2010 at 04:00:42 PM EST
As the world prepares for a turkey shoot in Marjah village, Helmand Province in which civilian lives will matter less than body counts, we may as well look at the corruption which has hindered the jobs and reconstruction programs which might have prevented young men from joining the Taliban for the ten dollar per day wage, in country with 40 percent unemployment. As Ann Jones reported, in "The Road to Taliban Land"
Most Afghans, after the dispersal of the Taliban, were full of hope and ready to work. The tangible benefits of reconstruction -- jobs, housing, schools, health-care facilities -- could have rallied them to support the government and turn that illusory "democracy" into something like the real thing. But reconstruction didn't happen.
What might surprise folks is that it was not the warlords and corrupt ministers who stole most of the money, which was not that much to begin with. OXFAM puts the lion's share of the blame on American contractors like Louis Berger Group who scooped up 40 percent or more of the funds before any ground for a project was ever broken. In 2008 Matt Waldman of OXFAM wrote:
Just $15 billion in aid has so far been spent, of which it is estimated a staggering 40% has returned to donor countries in corporate profits and consultant salaries.
This is the report which is required reading for anyone wishing to know happened to all the money that was supposed to keep hope alive and the insurgency from rearing its head again, as it did in 2006. Before then there was relative peace in the country, and Americans were still fairly well-liked.
If we're going to have a turkey shoot, at least let's understand how we came to this point. General Karl Eikenberry told the House Armed Services Committee in 2007: "Much of the enemy force is drawn from the ranks of unemployed men looking for wages to support their families." On this there is now wide agreement, although as casualties rise and "offensive operations" get cranked up to fix what was an economic problem to begin with, hatreds will harden and it will get tougher to leave in any face-saving fashion every day.
Imagine if every time some nut took a hostage and barricaded himself inside someone's house the police just called in an F-16 to level the place. Wouldn't that win them friends!
And how much is the $15 billion total spent on jobs and reconstruction as of 2008? Going by General Barry McCaffrrey's "burn rate" of $9 billion per month for military operations in Afghanistan, that entire budget is what we throw into the fireplace of war in a mere 2 months.
Stop the madness. You are on the verge, and the world is watching Marjah.