If you’re an American tax payer, then you owe it to ~3000 dead Americans, 20,000 wounded Americans, and more than 100,000 dead Afghans to read this whole thing:
This long piece is worth every second of your time—and deserves every moment of your attention. It’s full of gems: nauseous, heartbreaking facts, brief tales of uncertain moral.
“We don’t invade poor countries to make them rich. We don’t invade authoritarian countries to make them democratic.We invade violent countries to make them peaceful and we clearly failed in Afghanistan.”— James Dobbins, former U.S. diplomat
Also—and I’m not being flip here—but I sorta love that Rumsfield called his frequent memoranda “snowflakes.” Over the years, I’ve grown to realize that he may have been one of the most profoundly clear-eyed thinkers of the dawning of the American 21st C. Again, I’m not being sarcastic in any way here: The shit he said frequently sounded nuts, but it was and is perhaps the only clear and honest way to talk about Now.
Anyway, here’s a #fact you should know:
One unidentified contractor told government interviewers he was expected to dole out $3 million daily for projects in a single Afghan district roughly the size of a U.S. county. He once asked a visiting congressman whether the lawmaker could responsibly spend that kind of money back home: “He said hell no. ‘Well, sir, that’s what you just obligated us to spend and I’m doing it for communities that live in mud huts with no windows.’ ”
The gusher of aid that Washington spent on Afghanistan also gave rise to historic levels of corruption.
In public, U.S. officials insisted they had no tolerance for graft. But in the Lessons Learned interviews, they admitted the U.S. government looked the other way while Afghan power brokers — allies of Washington — plundered with impunity.
Christopher Kolenda, an Army colonel who deployed to Afghanistan several times and advised three U.S. generals in charge of the war, said that the Afghan government led by President Hamid Karzai had “self-organized into a kleptocracy” by 2006 — and that U.S. officials failed to recognize the lethal threat it posed to their strategy.
“I like to use a cancer analogy,” Kolenda told government interviewers. “Petty corruption is like skin cancer; there are ways to deal with it and you’ll probably be just fine. Corruption within the ministries, higher level, is like colon cancer; it’s worse, but if you catch it in time, you’re probably ok. Kleptocracy, however, is like brain cancer; it’s fatal.”
And here’s another:
“We stated that our goal is to establish a ‘flourishing market economy,’ ” said Douglas Lute, the White House’s Afghan war czar from 2007 to 2013. “I thought we should have specified a flourishing drug trade — this is the only part of the market that’s working.”
No single agency or country was in charge of the Afghan drug strategy for the entirety of the war, so the State Department, the DEA, the U.S. military, NATO allies and the Afghan government butted heads constantly.
The agencies and allies made things worse by embracing a dysfunctional muddle of programs, according to the interviews.
At first, Afghan poppy farmers were paid by the British to destroy their crops — which only encouraged them to grow more the next season. Later, the U.S. government eradicated poppy fields without compensation — which only infuriated farmers and encouraged them to side with the Taliban.
And here’s a picture. No trigger warning, because we should all look, regardless of how it makes us feel. Do you see the writing on his forehead? The duct tape on his shirt? These tell me that there is a tourniquet on his right leg. It was put on at 2:55 pm. I wonder if he kept that leg, if he survived at all.
Incidentally, here’s the previous winner for “Most American Sentence Dave Can Imagine”:
This is us, folks. Anyone who tells you different is trying to sell you something.