Archive for July 12th, 2010

Congressman Ron Paul: Funding Corruption and Waste in Afghanistan

Funding corruption and waste in Afghanistan

By Ron Paul ⋅ July 12, 2010 ⋅

Last week, GOP chairman Michael Steele came under fire for daring to say what a lot of Americans already know – that our involvement in Afghanistan is an ill-advised quagmire with no end in sight. After nearly 10 years and approaching $1 trillion spent, the conflict is going nowhere because there is nowhere for it to go. After all, if victory is never really defined, defeat is inevitable.

With our economy at home in serious trouble, this wasteful occupation is something we clearly cannot afford. Each soldier costs us $1 million per year, and yet most in Washington are only considering how many more soldiers to send. Fuel costs an astonishing $400 per gallon for our military in Afghanistan! Yet somehow, many politicians feel it is acceptable to squeeze this money out of our taxpayers, who are truly struggling economically, to fund this non-war. Our economy here is not showing any real signs of improvement. Official unemployment is pushing 10nd getting worse. (Real unemployment is over 20ccording to the free-market economists) The growing debt and inflation used to fund this occupation only dooms us to more economic hardship for a long time to come. And – for what?

Where the money for Afghanistan comes from is one problem – where it goes is another. Recently, it has come to light that much of the aid money we send to Afghanistan is lost due to corruption. Billions of tax dollars from hardworking Americans are ending up lining the pockets of corrupt Afghan officials, and likely even filtering into the Taliban we are ostensibly fighting. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that curiously enough, billions more than the Afghan government collects in revenue is leaving the country in the form of cash on huge pallets and in suitcases and mostly ending up in Dubai, as well-connected Afghan officials buy up luxury homes and enrich their personal off-shore bank accounts. Investigations into corruption and graft have been blocked by the Karzai government, probably because Karzai’s own brother would have to be implicated. It is encouraging that the foreign aid appropriations subcommittee has attempted to block billions in aid as a response to these allegations, but this is likely temporary and may not even succeed.

The point is that sending aid money to Afghanistan is not making poor people over there better off. It is making poor people here worse off. Corruption is endemic to Afghanistan, with graft comprising about one fourth of their economy! Even though it is considered the second most corrupt nation in the world according to Transparency International, we still send the Afghan government billions of dollars in aid and are shocked to find it is not making its way out of the sticky fingers of the officials entrusted with it.

Robbing citizens here to fund corruption over there is not helping average citizens anywhere. We are sacrificing real economic opportunities at home for the opportunity to line corrupt pockets in Afghanistan. Not only that, but American soldiers are being killed and maimed. It is tragic and frustrating how much we have lost and wasted already. It is time to leave Afghanistan to the Afghans to sort out. I am glad more Americans are finally willing to face this reality.

About the Author

Ron Paul is a Congressman from the 14th district of Texas and enjoys a national reputation as the premier advocate for liberty in politics today.

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Ron Paul: The War That’s Not a War

www.house.gov/apps/list/speech/tx14_paul/Warthatsnotwar.shtml

DEBORCHGRAVE: America ‘s uncertain trumpet

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/jul/7/americas-uncertain-trumpet/print/

DEBORCHGRAVE: America ‘s uncertain trumpet

There is no better proof of a dysfunctional – and broke – system of government than Congress passing additional funding for the Afghan war – $300 billion thus far – while simultaneously denying the unemployed an extension of benefits – and then taking a 10-day Independence Day vacation. With the jobless rate hovering just under 10 percent of a 158-million-strong U.S. labor force, including 1.3 million who didn’t get their benefits reinstated and an additional 200,000 a week who have been without a job for at least six months and stand to lose their benefits each week until Congress acts, about 15 million Americans are out of work.

One million Americans dropped out of the job market over the past two months as they gave up a fruitless search for work. They lack the skills needed for a high-tech economy. And companies have slashed payrolls as automation has helped them get along with fewer employees. The ranks of the unemployed who no longer receive any compensation are climbing to 10 million.

The headline in Britain‘s conservative Daily Telegraph read, “With the U.S. trapped in depression, this really is starting to feel like 1932.” For those who do find jobs, the search averaged 35.2 weeks.

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard‘s story reported, ” California tightening faster than Greece,” as 200,000 state workers were reduced to the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour to cover a state deficit of $19 billion. Illinois , with a deficit of $12 billion, owes $5 billion to its schools, nursing homes, child care centers and prisons.

Europe, in America ‘s footsteps, is looking anemic, and a double-dip recession for 2011 is the new consensus.

Canada‘s Globe and Mail said our friendly neighbor to the north is perplexed and disturbed as it watches “the most gifted President in several generations,” with a majority in both houses, be swamped “by the doleful legacy of the Bush years, a worldwide recession and its parlous aftermath, and a ferocious Republican opposition bent on a search-and-destroy mission of his presidency.”

To make matters worse, says the Globe and Mail‘s Jeffrey Simpson, “the war in Afghanistan, into which President Obama has poured thousands of additional soldiers and billions of borrowed dollars, is going poorly. As The Economist belatedly recognized this week, ‘ America and its allies are losing in Afghanistan.’ ”

It’s now up to Gen. David H. Petraeus to “somehow salvage something from the Afghan mess, at a time when Americans are growing increasingly weary of that war, now in its ninth year.” One of only five (out of 44) nations authorized to engage in kinetic operations, Canada lost 150 killed, most of them by improvised explosive devices, and Parliament ordered the return of its 2,500 troops next year.

The Globe and Mail echoed the widespread sentiment among Afghan cognoscenti at NATO headquarters in Brussels, in Pakistani military circles and in the U.S. Congress that the best the U.S. and its allies “might hope for is to inflict sufficient damage on the Taliban in the next year that some insurgents might be inclined to negotiate inclusion in an Afghan government. To say that this is a long shot understates the odds.”

The Pakistani military, with the approval of President Asif Ali Zardari and the government, is keeping lines open to some of the groups in the Taliban coalition and to President Hamid Karzai in Kabul. The Pakistanis remain convinced that the U.S. will not stay the course for another five to 10 years, the estimated time required to prevail over the nationwide Taliban insurgency.

The deadline for the beginning of a U.S. withdrawal next summer, set by Mr. Obama, is the evidence cited on both sides of the Atlantic, and in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, for what is seen as Washington’s quixotic resolve. Can the U.S. really stretch gargantuan borrowing requirements into an indefinite future without collapsing the dollar?

Can anyone change the Afghan equation in favor of the U.S. and its allies before the harsh winter freezes operations until next spring? No one knows as much about the history of insurgencies since World War II as Gen. Petraeus. Following his victorious surge in Iraq , he is best qualified and equipped to pull it off. But he needs a minimum of three to five years. Mr. Obama needs dramatic results for his re-election campaign by the spring of 2012.

At London-based Ladbrokes bookmakers, Mr. Obama is odds-on favorite at 10/11 for a second term. Mitt Romney is next at 8/1. Then Sarah Palin (12/1); Mike Huckabee (20/1); Hillary Rodham Clinton (25/1), even with Bobby Jindal; Gen. Petraeus (33/1), even with Michael Bloomberg and Jeb Bush.

There’s no Ladbrokes betting on Afghanistan, but important questions are yet to be answered. How does Afghan nation-building benefit the U.S. economy and its security? Are we less or more vulnerable to another Sept. 11? Is al Qaeda less or more of a threat? There is no question both Iraq and Afghanistan have weakened America ‘s economy. Al Qaeda, with its multiple websites, has radicalized Muslim youth from Mindanao in the Philippines to Meknes in Morocco .

The estimated average of $1 million a day ($365 million a year) taken out of Afghanistan legally on the four daily Kabul-Dubai flights by civilian workers, most of them American, is the kind of war profiteering that can only hurt the allies – and benefit the enemy.

Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor-at-large of The Washington Times and of United Press International.

DEBORCHGRAVE Commentary: A three-front war?

http://www.upi.com/Top_News/Analysis/2010/07/12/Commentary-A-three-front-war/UPI-84521278941203/ 

Commentary: A three-front war?

By ARNAUD DE BORCHGRAVE
UPI Editor at Large

WASHINGTON, July 12 (UPI) — There is no better illustration of the futility of the $1 trillion Iraq war than news photos of a long line of gasoline tankers lined up bumper to bumper as they leave Iraq to enter Iran.

The U.N. Security Council decision to strengthen economic measures against Iran and U.S. President Barack Obama signing into law draconian new legislative sanctions against Iran ‘s nuclear weapons ambitions, leave Iraq ‘s defeated government unable to act.

The Iraq Study Group, led by Lee Hamilton, the prominent Democrat who heads the Woodrow Wilson International Center, and James Baker, whose Institute for Public Policy is at Houston’s Rice University, warned in 2006 that Iran, now rid of erstwhile enemy Saddam Hussein, was already wielding more influence in Iraq than the United States.

The only sanction that would seriously undermine the mullah’s military regime is a severe shortage of gasoline. Iran is awash in oil but lacks refining capacity and has to import 60 percent of its gasoline. A lack of governance in Baghdad has allowed Iran to strike a sub-rosa deal for gasoline imports.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s coalition government narrowly lost last March’s national elections (89 to 91 seats, both rivals short of the 163 seats needed to govern alone). Endless palavers since then have failed to produce a new coalition. With suicide bombers trying to reignite a bloody trail of sectarian violence, Joe Biden flew into Baghdad over the Fourth of July weekend for his fifth visit since becoming U.S. vice president. He urged Iraq ‘s political leaders to form an all-party coalition ASAP.

On his first night there, sirens wailed and over an extensive loudspeaker system a voice shouted, “Duck and Cover.” Five mortar rounds exploded in the Green Zone, a large maximum-security area in the heart of Baghdad that houses the $700 million, 100-acre U.S. Embassy, now the world’s largest.

There was a time when the late dictator Saddam Hussein (executed Dec. 30, 2006) was the most effective barrier to Iran ‘s regional ambitions. In 1980, he launched an invasion of Iran which led to a Mexican standoff that lasted 8 years and cost 1 million dead on both sides. Iranian teenagers were pressed into service as “suicide volunteers” with a golden key around their necks — for the gates of paradise that would allow them to meet up with 72 virgins.

Until now those advocating military action against Iran ‘s nuclear installations were found mostly in Israel and among the “neocon” lobby in Congress, and its sympathizers in think tanks and the media. In recent weeks, the ranks of those who now concede the inevitability of a military showdown with Iran ‘s theocracy-cum-military regime have widened to include normally less bellicose politicians and their military friends.

Three former CENTCOM commanders have said on different occasions we should learn to live with an Iranian bomb, much the way the United States adjusted to Russian leader Joseph Stalin breaking America’s atomic and then nuclear monopoly. Later China ‘s Mao Zedong boasted that in a nuclear war hundreds of millions of people would die and China would emerge victorious as it would still have several hundred million survivors. That was just as much of an existential threat for the United States as Iran is to Israel .

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen also expressed reservations from time to time. The Joint Chiefs and former CENTCOM commanders know better than most experts that Iran has formidable asymmetrical retaliatory capabilities, from the narrow Straits of Hormuz that still handles 25 percent of the world’s oil traffic; to Bahrain (U.S. Fifth Fleet headquarters where the population is two-thirds Shiite and the royal family Sunni); to Dubai, where some 400,000 Iranians reside, many of them “sleeper agents” or favorable to Tehran; to Qatar, now the world’s richest country with per capita income at $78,000, which supplies the United States with the world’s longest runway and sub-headquarters for CENTCOM, and whose LNG facilities are within short missile range of Iran’s coastal batteries; to Saudi Arabia’s Ras Tanura, the world’s largest oil terminal, and Abqaiq, nerve center of Saudi’s eastern oilfields) all are vulnerable to Iranian sabotage or hundreds of Iranian missiles on the eastern side of the Gulf, from southern Iraq down to the Strait of Hormuz.

Officially, all the Arab rulers of the Persian Gulf and other Arab leaders are strenuously opposed to any Israeli or U.S. airstrikes against Iran ‘s nuclear facilities. But that opposition is eroding rapidly.

Speaking at the Aspen Institute in Colorado last week, United Arab Emirates Ambassador to the United States Yousef al-Otaiba said publicly — before denying it — “I think despite the large amount of trade we do with Iran, which is close to $12 billion, there will be consequences, there will be a backlash and there will be problems with people protesting and rioting and very unhappy that there is an outside force attacking a Muslim country; that is going to happen no matter what.”

And he added, “If you are asking me, ‘Am I willing to live with that versus living with a nuclear Iran , my answer is still the same — ‘We cannot live with a nuclear Iran .'”

A former Arab leader, in close touch with current leaders, speaking privately not for attribution, told this reporter July 6, “All the Middle Eastern and gulf leaders now want Iran taken out of the nuclear arms business and they all know sanctions won’t work.”

In a joint op-ed, former U.S. Sen. Chuck Robb, D-Va., and retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Chuck Wald, the air commander in the opening stages of Operation “Enduring Freedom” in October 2001, say the time is now to credibly prepare for a U.S. military strike.

“Sanctions can be effective only if coupled with open preparation for the military option as a last resort … publicly playing down potential military options has weakened our leverage with Tehran , making a peaceful resolution less likely.”

The temptation for Obama to double down on Iran will grow rapidly as he concludes that Afghanistan will remain a festering sore as far as anyone can peer into a murky future, hardly a recipe for success at the polls in November. With a war in Afghanistan , which is bound to get worse, and a military theater in Iraq replete with sectarian violence, the bombing of Iran may give Obama a three-front war — and a chance to retain both houses of Congress.

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http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/jul/12/a-three-front-war/?page=1

DEBORCHGRAVE: A three-front war?

Strikes on Iran becoming more likely

There is no better illustration of the futility of the $1 trillion Iraq war than news photos of a long line of gasoline tankers lined up bumper to bumper as they leave Iraq to enter Iran.

The U.N. Security Council decision to strengthen economic measures against Iran, and President Obama‘s signing into law draconian new legislative sanctions against Iran‘s nuclear weapons ambitions leave Iraq‘s defeated government unable to act.

The Iraq Study Group co-chaired by Lee H. Hamilton, the prominent Democrat who heads the Woodrow Wilson International Center, and James A. Baker III, whose Institute for Public Policy is at Houston’s Rice University, warned in 2006 that Iran, now rid of erstwhile enemy Saddam Hussein, was already wielding more influence in Iraq than the U.S.

The only sanction that would seriously undermine the mullahs’ military regime would be a severe shortage of gasoline. Iran is awash in oil but lacks refining capacity and has to import 60 percent of its gasoline. A lack of governance in Baghdad has enabled Iran to strike a sub rosa deal for gasoline imports.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki‘s coalition government narrowly lost last March’s national elections (89 to 91 seats, both rivals short of the 163 seats needed to govern alone). Endless palavers since then have failed to produce a new coalition. With suicide bombers trying to reignite a bloody trail of sectarian violence, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. flew into Baghdad over the 4th of July weekend for his fifth visit since becoming vice president. He urged Iraq‘s political leaders to form an all-party coalition ASAP.

On his first night, sirens wailed, and over an extensive loudspeaker system a voice shouted, “Duck and cover.” Five mortar rounds exploded in the Green Zone, a large maximum-security area in the heart of Baghdad that houses the $700 million, 100-acre U.S. Embassy, the world’s largest.

There was a time when the late dictator Saddam Hussein (executed Dec. 30, 2006) was the most effective barrier to Iran‘s regional ambitions. In 1980, he launched an invasion of Iran that led to a Mexican standoff that lasted 8 years and cost 1 million dead on both sides. Iranian teenagers were pressed into service as “suicide volunteers” with a golden key around their necks – for the gates of paradise that would allow them to meet up with 72 virgins.

Until now, those advocating military action against Iran‘s nuclear installations were found mostly in Israel and among the neoconservative lobby in Congress and its sympathizers in think tanks and the media. In recent weeks, the ranks of those who concede the inevitability of a military showdown with Iran‘s theocracy-cum-military-regime have widened to include normally less bellicose politicians and their military friends.

Three former U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) commanders have said on different occasions that we should learn to live with an Iranian bomb, much the way the U.S. adjusted to Stalin breaking America’s atomic and then nuclear monopoly. Later, China ‘s Mao Zedong boasted that in a nuclear war, hundreds of millions of people would die, and China would emerge victorious, as it would still have several hundred million survivors. That was just as much of an existential threat for the U.S. as Iran is to Israel.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also expressed reservations from time to time. The Joint Chiefs and former CENTCOM commanders know better than most experts that Iran has formidable asymmetrical retaliatory capabilities, from the narrow Strait of Hormuz, which still handles 25 percent of the world’s oil traffic; to Bahrain (U.S. 5th Fleet headquarters, where the population is two-thirds Shia and the royal family Sunni); to Dubai, where about 400,000 Iranians reside, many of them “sleeper agents” or favorable to Tehran; to Qatar, now the world’s richest country, with per capita income at $78,000, which supplies the U.S. with the world’s longest runway and subheadquarters for CENTCOM, and whose liquified natural gas facilities are within short missile range of Iran‘s coastal batteries; to Saudi Arabia’s Ras Tanura, the world’s largest oil terminal, and Abqaiq, nerve center of Saudi’s eastern oil fields – all are vulnerable to Iranian sabotage and/or hundreds of Iranian missiles on the eastern side of the Gulf, from southern Iraq down to the Strait of Hormuz.

Officially, all the Arab rulers of the Gulf and other Arab leaders are strenuously opposed to any Israeli and/or U.S. air strikes against Iran‘s nuclear facilities. But that opposition is eroding rapidly.

Speaking at the Aspen Institute in Colorado last week, the United Arab Emirates Ambassador to the U.S. Yousef al-Otaiba said publicly – before denying it – “I think despite the large amount of trade we do with Iran, which is close to $12 billion, there will be consequences, there will be a backlash, and there will be problems with people protesting and rioting and very unhappy that there is an outside force attacking a Muslim country; that is going to happen no matter what.”

And he added, “If you are asking me, ‘Am I willing to live with that, versus living with a nuclear Iran, my answer is still the same – ‘We cannot live with a nuclear Iran.'” A former Arab leader, in close touch with current leaders, speaking privately and not for attribution, told this reporter July 6, “All the Middle Eastern and Gulf leaders now want Iran taken out of the nuclear arms business, and they all know sanctions won’t work.”

In a joint op-ed column, former Sen. Chuck Robb and Gen. Charles F. Wald, the air commander in the opening stages of Operation Enduring Freedom in Oct. 2001, say the time is now to prepare credibly for a U.S. military strike. “Sanctions can be effective only if coupled with open preparation for the military option as a last resort … publicly playing down potential military options has weakened our leverage with Tehran , making a peaceful resolution less likely.”

The temptation for President Obama to double down on Iran will grow rapidly as he concludes that Afghanistan will remain a festering sore as far as anyone can peer into a murky future, hardly a recipe for success at the polls in November. With a war in Afghanistan, which is bound to get worse, and a military theater in Iraq replete with sectarian violence, the bombing of Iran may give Mr. Obama a three-front war – and a chance to retain both houses of Congress.

Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor-at-large of The Washington Times and of United Press International