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Taliban Shoots Down U.S. Helicopter, Maybe With Your Money

By Ralph Lopez - Posted on 21 September 2010

Here we go, another helicopter in Afghanistan down, no enemy fire involved.  Why is it that since the Wikileaks document dump revealing that the Taliban has long had SAMs (surface-to-air missiles) I don't believe it?  The AP reported "Nine NATO Troops Killed in Afghan Helicopter Crash" including a "large number" of Americans (meaning probably "most"):

The cause was not immediately clear. The Taliban claimed to have shot down the helicopter, but NATO said there were no reports of hostile fire.

There you guys go again.  I'm just going to say it: that thing was shot down.

A UK Guardian review of the Wikileaks document dump showed:

The US military covered up a reported surface-to-air missile strike by the Taliban that shot down a Chinook helicopter over Helmand in 2007 and killed seven soldiers, including a British military photographer, the [Wikileaks] war logs show.  The strike on the twin-rotor helicopter shows the Taliban enjoyed sophisticated anti-aircraft capabilities earlier than previously thought, casting new light on the battle for the skies over Afghanistan. One internal report in September 2005 warned that Taliban commanders in Zabul and Kandahar provinces had acquired missiles they called "number two Stinger", for about $1,000 (£650) each. Nine months later came the first of at least 10 near-miss reports.

So the Pentagon lies.  I remember a veteran telling me the these helicopters are fitted out with special filters on the air intakes to deal with the region's dust.  I also remember his steady gaze as he looked at me and said, so there was no way I could miss his drift, "helicopters don't just fall out of the sky."  So what's new?

What's new is we now have the best picture yet of how the Taliban manages to pay for these things.  $1,000 in Afghanistan is like $10,000 anywhere else, as poor as the country is.  The report still being studiously ignored by the media, written by a subcommittee of the US Congress, says that it's us.  

Seven months ago Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in testimony before Congress, of the U.S. military supply chain in Afghanistan:

"You offload a ship in Karachi and by the time whatever it is – you know, muffins for our soldiers’ breakfasts or anti-IED equipment – gets to where we’re headed, it goes through a lot of hands. And one of the major sources of funding for the Taliban is the protection money."

Now ain't that special.  

Last summer a report from the House Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, chaired by John Tierney (D-MA,) concluded definitively that up to 20 percent of funds for contracts to transport U.S. military supplies are knowingly and systematically paid to insurgents in "protection money" in order to avoid Taliban attack.  Since then, nothing has changed, because it can't.  A former Defense Department contracting officer said in the report:

"the heart of the matter is that insurgents are getting paid for safe passage because there are few other ways to bring goods to the combat outposts and forward operating bases where soldiers need them. By definition, many outposts are situated in hostile terrain, in the southern parts of Afghanistan. The [Afghan security companies run by warlords] don't really protect convoys of American military goods here, because they simply can't; they need the Taliban's cooperation."

The amount of U.S. funds going to the Taliban in "protection payments" for truck convoys is estimated between $100 million to $400 million per year.  For comparison, the amount the Taliban takes in from opium profits is about $300 million per year.

CBS News reports:

"(CBS)  Billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars are fueling corruption in Afghanistan and funding the insurgency, according to a six-month investigation by the House subcommittee on National Security and Foreign affairs. The committee's chairman, Rep. John F. Tierney, D-Mass., told CBS News: "the business is war and the war is business and you've got ‘Warlord Inc.' going on over there."

   "This is the tip of the iceberg," Tierney said in the interview with CBS News.

$30,000 to $40,000 for every American household so far, is economist Joe Stiglitz's "conservative" estimate of what the wars have cost us since 2001, thanks to about 300 congressmen who keep throwing money down this hole.  That's roughly the average income for Americans, maybe $35,000, so think of your war tax as more than one-tenth of your pre-tax income, (if you are "average") which gets paid before anything else does.   Street lights are going off in America, and bus lines are shutting down, according to Glen Greenwald in "What a Collapsing Empire Looks Like":

Plenty of businesses and governments furloughed workers this year, but Hawaii went further -- it furloughed its schoolchildren. Public schools across the state closed on 17 Fridays during the past school year to save money, giving students the shortest academic year in the nation.

We fund both sides.  Defense contractors get rich.  If that's not a racket, I don't know what is.

Smedley Darlington Butler, author of "War is a Racket."

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