by ralphlopez, Wed Nov 23, 2011 at 05:31:03 PM EST
It's as an obscene a scenario as you can imagine. Year after year, Afghan villages to which aid can easily be delivered are faced with starvation because the regions are peaceful and there is no need for Pentagon press releases about winning "hearts and minds."
"More than 2.5 million people face hunger in drought-stricken areas of Afghanistan despite billions of dollars of aid that have poured into the country in recent years, aid agencies say. Many villagers have only limited supplies of food left as winter looms...Aid agencies have been concerned for some time about the amount of aid directed towards conflict areas of Afghanistan. Much of it is designed to win hearts and minds through "quick impact projects" in insurgency-plagued provinces in the south and east of the country. According to a US Congressional study, 80% of US aid has gone to troubled regions....For example, last year Kandahar province received four times more US aid per head than Bamiyan, while the equally quiet neighbouring Daykundi province saw five times less."
BBC says the policy of letting people starve in the north and focusing on the southern, Pashtun regions is "roundly defended" by the US ambassador to Kabul, Ryan Crocker. Crocker says:
"We have put substantial assistance into the south. You know, we are trying to end an insurgency here and that means, in part, funding a better future and giving people alternatives."
Getting aid to the villages faced with starvation is easy because security is not as big a problem. The US manages to get food aid through to much "hotter" zones just fine. Even in winter, airdrop capacity and technology is such that cargo planes can drop pallets of food and ammunition within a quarter mile of a combat outpost in all but worst of weather. But ordinary, non-combatant Afghans who are starving in the snow don't rate this kind of attention (although I have no doubt that rank-and-file American soldiers would vie for these missions.)
Ten years after the occupation began, Afghans at times are still often literally reduced to eating grass.
(Note: Bimayan Province is where our new little friends, the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers, are from.)
David Swanson of War is a Crime reports:
"While the “Super” Committee works on the federal budget for FY 2013 and beyond, under the radar, the Congress is moving forward with another huge Defense budget for FY 2012. When it returns from Thanksgiving break, the Senate will be voting on a $682.5 billion Defense Authorization bill."
2.5 million are in imminent danger. $2 worth of foodstuffs, protein/vitamin-enriched flour, cooking oil, etc., is a reasonable cost per person since most people are already living on less than a dollar a day. That's 2 times 2.5 million times 90 days or about a half billion dollars for a solid commitment to warding off hunger during the three harshest months of the winter. We spend $10 billion per month in Afghanistan on military operations. So the entire food part of the program would cost less what we spend in 2 days in fuel, ammo, and the cost of maintaining the occupation.
2 days. Obama should ask Congress for an emergency appropriation and begin relief operations immediately.
The kicker is that the insurgency has steadily spread from the south, the "conflict areas," to the north, and Washington and the generals can't seem to figure out why. Why, why are Afghans so cynical about the US presence? Now there is fighting where there was never fighting before!
When one looks at the dynamics, one thing starts to become perfectly clear: this is no recipe for winning a war. Keep the masses in hunger and starvation, unleash brutal, indiscriminate force, such as drone attacks which kill mostly civilians, in the chase for a few insurgents, and make sure the Taliban is well-funded by the Pentagon itself through pay-offs for allowing military supply convoys to pass through. This is a perfect recipe for keeping any war going.
And why not? In 2006 the Institute for Policy Studies and United for a Fair Economy reported that "stock price gains for defense contractors have averaged 48 percent" more than the overall stock market. CEOs of major defense contracting corporations are not only in Occupy Wall Street's top one percent, but in the top .1%.
Investing Daily gushed last year:
The Afghanistan Troop Surge Means Profits!
the likelihood that the U.S. will end up the loser in Afghanistan is a long-term worry. In the short-term, military contractors doing business in Afghanistan will make a boatload of money... - "How To Profit From the War in Afghanistan"
In 1934 Marine General and double Medal of Honor winner Smedley Butler took off his uniform and traveled the country to tell Americans what he had learned from his career. The title of his book and speech was "War is a Racket." Butler until his dying day shook people by the scruff and begged them to understand what he had seen:
"War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives... A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small 'inside' group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes."
The failure of direct aid in the north is a microcosm of the greater, almost deliberate neglect on the part of the US to support the many avenues available, over the last ten years, for delivering meaningful assistance to Afghans wishing to rebuild the country's war-torn basic infrastructure, and instead directing billions toward foreign contractors and their subsidiaries who soak up 40-60 percent of the funds for profits and overhead, so that little of that aid actually reaches Afghans or goes toward projects that they themselves want and need.
Much more effective would be fully funding the indigenous Afghan National Solidarity Program (NSP), which has thousands of local projects voted on by community councils which are ready for ground-breaking but lack funds. The NSP has been found by the US Special Inspector General to be honest and efficient. These are the kinds of projects which put Afghans on the path to sustainability by rebuilding vital parts of the traditional agrarian economy: water projects, canal clearing and irrigation, and secondary (unpaved) road improvement. It is a myth that development cannot be done in rural regions because of security concerns, a myth that is used to excuse years of abysmal neglect. Dr. Greg Mortenson says:
“Aid can be done anywhere, including where Taliban are...But it’s imperative the elders are consulted, and that the development staff is all local, with no foreigners.”
The UN World Food Programme country director in Afghanistan, Louis Imbleau, in the BBC article is adamant about the looming food crisis in the country where fuel costs alone amount to at least $300,000 per year for every single US soldier on the ground. Speaking of the effects of malnutrition on those children who survive, Imbleau says:
"it's irreversible and should just not be allowed to happen. It should not be allowed to happen."
Obama ask Congress for an emergency appropriation and begin relief operations immediately.
For more information of Afghan development go to Jobs for Afghans.