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Rep. Lowey Challenges Obama Directly on War Strategy, No Butter, Just Guns


By Ralph Lopez - Posted on 28 June 2010

NOTE: IT'S THE REST OF IT THAT IS WASTE. We can either spend another quarter-trillion to a trillion over the next few years for this phony, economics-driven insurgency, or we can do what works and get out now. The little girl starving in the video below is in Kandahar in 2007, five years after we arrived. It is still happening.

In an unprecedented move which directly challenges a president's war strategy, Rep. Nita Lowey has axed Obama's request for $4.4 billion for programs which would result in greater jobs and development for Afghans, citing concerns over corruption. By doing so Lowey has challenged President Obama's analysis that Taliban is a mix of "hardcore ideologues and kids who sign up because it's the best job they can get."

Obama's budget request for $4.4 billion for civilian assistance includes funds which hire young Afghan men at peaceful purposes, mostly building infrastructure for the future economy. In doing so Obama has tangibly implemented his vision and campaign statement that "the war cannot be won by military means alone."

The scale of the leakage in civilian assistance funds dwarfs in comparison to the massive fraud which takes place regularly within the Pentagon budget for military operations. The US has spent $250 billion on military operations since 2001. Advocates of civilian jobs programs for Afghan men, who face 40% unemployment, say that the military part is the waste.

The $250 billion spent so far on military operations, in a country whose entire GDP is $12 billion per year, compares to less than $18 billion in civilian assistance, which comes to about $50 per year, per Afghan. The country remains mired in abject poverty and 40% unemployment. The President yesterday at the Toronto G-20 Conference argued that the Taliban is a mix of hardcore ideologues and kids who sign up because it's the best job they can get.

Rep. Lowey failed to mention that the bulk of corruption and profit-skimming takes place before US assistance ever reaches the country, in the form of high profit margins for American contractors such as Louis Berger Group.

The ham-handed cut-off neglects the recent maturation of a number of Afghan-led job and development programs such as the National Solidarity Program (NSP), which was built by the internationally-admired Minister Ehsan Zia. Both Wired Magazine and the Washington Monthly hailed the NSP as "the schools the Taliban won't torch," since a combination of local village-level decision-making and employment tends to turn populations firmly against the Taliban when these projects are attacked. The maturing institutions are widely recognized as being run by dedicated, competent, and honest Afghan officials who work relatively independently of the Karzai goverment.

Former NSP Minister Ehsan Zia

Lowey's cut-off of all civilian assistance for jobs and development, except emergency humanitarian aid such as food hand-outs, insures that the Taliban will remain Afghanistan's principle employer, and that young men will continue to sign up in order to feed their families. This unnecessarily bolsters the ranks of uncommitted fighters who nevertheless will participate in attacks when ordered, and will kill American soldiers.

The better solution would be to support President Obama's unparalleled effort to win the war with "butter" as well as "guns" while implementing investigations of both Pentagon and civilian assistance fraud. Stop the wholesale throwing out of the baby with the bathwater, which cuts the legs out from the president's plan to win the war in a way Bush could not, or would not.

It's up to us. We can either spend another quarter-trillion to a trillion over the next few years for this phony, economics-driven insurgency, or we can do what works and get out now. PLEASE CALL REP. NITA LOWEY'S OFFICE NOW TO DEMAND SHE NOT SECOND-GUESS THE PRESIDENT'S CIVILIAN COMPONENT FOR AFGHANISTAN. IF FUNDS ARE TO BE SAVED, THEY SHOULD BE SAVED BY REDUCING FUNDS FOR MILITARY OPERATIONS. YOUR PRESIDENT NEEDS YOU NOW. LEAVE A SCORCHING AFTER-HOURS MESSAGE TONIGHT. Phone: 202-225-6506 Fax 202-225-0546 ALSO PLEASE EMAIL NITA LOWEY'S CHIEF OF STAFF ELIZABETH STANLEY Elizabeth.stanley@mail.house.gov

If we can use Iraq for analogy and Lowey didn't oppose Obama's budget of $4.4bn for reconstruction, then what could we realistically expect? Not much. And compared to what's needed, we could basically say 'nothing' has really been significantly done for reconstruction, restoration of drinking water that's safe, medical care, and so on.

And there was tremendous theft of the reconstruction money for Iraq.

It's not the worst crime of these wars, but it nevertheless was an awfully large amount of money that was stolen.

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