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Nick Kristof Hits on Afghan Exit Strategy, Cost Same as 246 Soldiers

By Ralph Lopez - Posted on 29 July 2010

Not only is your tax money funding the Taliban to an extent which is perhaps even greater than the opium trade; not only is the Pakistani military helping Afghan insurgents attack American troops (again most likely with part of that $1 billion a year we give them); not only is the $50 billion Congress just borrowed to keep the war going making us even poorer; the kicker is it could all be done and won for a teeny tiny fraction of the cost. In a remarkably subversive piece of journalism for the NYT, Nicholas Kristof lets the cat out of the bag: this military spending is all one big, huge waste. We could be borrowing that money from China for other things. Today he writes:

Mr. [Greg] Mortenson lamented to me that for the cost of just 246 soldiers posted for one year, America could pay for a higher education plan for all Afghanistan. That would help build an Afghan economy, civil society and future — all for one-quarter of 1 percent of our military spending in Afghanistan this year.

The most important point Kristof makes is that the "development follows security" mantra is all wrong. This if anything is one of the military's central justifications for being there. The problem is, it's ass-backwards.

Hawks retort that it’s impossible to run schools in Afghanistan unless there are American troops to protect them. But that’s incorrect.

CARE, a humanitarian organization, operates 300 schools in Afghanistan, and not one has been burned by the Taliban. Greg Mortenson, of “Three Cups of Tea” fame, has overseen the building of 145 schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan and operates dozens more in tents or rented buildings — and he says that not one has been destroyed by the Taliban either.

The gray pages of the New York Times kicks the reason d'etre of the Military Industrial Complex in Afghanistan all to hell:

Aid groups show that it is quite possible to run schools so long as there is respectful consultation with tribal elders and buy-in from them. And my hunch is that CARE and Mr. Mortenson are doing more to bring peace to Afghanistan than Mr. Obama’s surge of troops.

Hullo. Here's our exit strategy.

Yes, the Taliban burns schools, usually the ones built by the US military (through the Provincial Reconstruction Teams.) Get the military out of the reconstruction business and many problems solve themselves.

The roll call of the House vote yesterday to approve the administration's request for $50 billion more in war funding is HERE (a "yea" is in favor of more funds for the war.) Campaign contributions to congressmen from defense corporations are HERE. And is HERE is how you contact your congressmen to let them know what you think.

He's probably one of the NYT people who very much supported the wars, both on Iraq and Afghanistan, when it was obvious to probably most people on Earth and to many Americans that the wars were criminal; since this is what the NYT has mostly had. But maybe he was one of the few exceptional members of or writers for the NYT. I nevertheless would not place much trust in the corporate NYT media.

And "a higher education plan for all Afghanistan"?

What education plan for Afghans? Is there one that already exists, and if there is, then what's the money value the US elites placed on this; as far as what they put on a piece of paper anyway?

Afghanistan probably has no real education plan, in which case it'd be a sinch to provide a higher one. The US war makers and continuers might've talked about reconstruction sort of money to be used, in part, to help provide Afghans with an education system, but it still wouldn't take much, since Afghans had extremely little for education.

What are the numbers?

Building "an Afghan economy, civil society and future" sounds nice, very charitable, but while the foreign forces must leave, Afghans are not going to have much security after the foreign forces do leave; if and when they ever do leave. It will take strong movement among Afghans for them to pull together to try to prevent another harsh rule like the one the Taliban govt ran, or a worse one if the Northern Alliance war and drug lords are left in power.

Sending in UN so-called peacekeepers won't be the solution, either, since they are not peace keepers.

Quote: "The most important point Kristof makes is that the "development follows security" mantra is all wrong. This if anything is one of the military's central justifications for being there. The problem is, it's ass-backwards".

The latter sentence is true, but the US has never been in Afghanistan for Afghan security. It was always for what the US leadership always falsely calls US "national security". That was also always a false justification. The war was always based on lies. A little of the "official (conspiracy) story" about the 9/11 attacks was true, but that's much outweighed by the lies in it.

It never was for neither US or Afghan security. The claims to the contrary were always lies; the claims of political and military leadership.

They fooled idiots, but that's not a good basis for a general judgment. Most people on Earth saw through the lies starting several and more years ago. Some Americans saw through the lies starting in Fall 2001, some also starting on 9/11 itself, that very day.

The US only wages criminal wars and other crimes against humanity. Do we expect the leaders of these crimes to tell the truth to the public? We better not.

We need to forget what the officially claimed justifications were and focus, instead, on what the real reasons were and still are.

The political and military leaders of these wars have known for years that many of us saw through the lies, and that many wrote online denouncing the lies.

It's a pity and pitiful that many Americans were fooled, but the lies were obvious for anyone moderately informed starting plenty of years ago. Common sense alone was enough to be able to realize that the US political and military leaderships were LYING to us all, to all peoples on Earth.

Their so-called justifications were exposed and denounced for the lies that these were starting years ago. There are no new discoveries, really. We've now gotten more proof through documents leaked through Wikileaks, but there's little to be surprised about. The most surprising feature of all has been the extreme and awful public ignorance, and arrogance it was backed with.

That public ignorance and arrogant ignorance has perhaps been the most frustrating or infuriating part of all of this; because very many people were not fooled. There's good reason for the latter fact.

Common sense immediately tells us that a movement into war is definitely not about security at all when a govt does this and hasn't been attacked by another state. Everyone knew the Afghan govt hadn't attacked the US. Bush said the Taliban govt had had nothing to do with 9/11.

Common sense also tells us that we can't war on another country just because there are alleged criminals in it. The US still hasn't officially charged Osama bin Ladin for the 9/11 attacks when the Bush administration used the allegation that he was the mastermind of the attacks in order to magically drum up war on the country of Afghanistan.

That was the official so-called justification for the war and the US still hasn't charged him for responsibility in the 9/11 attacks because, as an FBI officer or official has said, the US has no real proof that he was at all responsible.

But we can't war on other countries when they haven't attacked or even threatened us and then claim that the war is for questions of security.

It was clear since day 1 that the war was never about security.

Only idiots believed security was a real justification for this war, as well as the one on Iraq.

The US leadership does NOT historically act for security. It always acts criminally and there's nothing securitizing about that.

Ignorance is not a valid excuse.

Noone HAS to do anything in this life, we just have to face the consequences, that's all.
So if a soldier refuses to go to Iraq or Afghanistan, what happens? Prison or nothing at all
And if a soldier goes to Iraq or Afghanistan what happens? Death or injury or nothing at all

The best option is rather simple to choose.


Where are the schools of CARE and Mr. Mortenson actually located? What's excerpted from Kristoff's article doesn't specify the locations.

Not knowing, but assuming they're located in Taliban-controlled or dominated areas and that it's true that the Taliban are not attacking these schools, which is very credible, since the Taliban are busy fighting against foreign military forces and not humanitarian aid sort of people, well, what would happen to education for Afghan women after the foreign military forces withdraw from the country?

The answer to that question might be something like, "Well, it depends on what people control the Afghan govt after the foreign military forces withdraw". Will it be the Taliban again, or will Northern Alliance war and drug lords, who are worse, more criminal, and more brutal than the Taliban were be in control?

If the Taliban become dominant again in the central govt, will they let Afghan women have access to education? Will they stop harshly imposing the burqa on Afghan women, leaving it up to each women to decide for herself whether she wants to wear the burqa or not?

If the NA war and drug lords are in power, then don't have any wasted hopes on them being any good towards Afghan women. These criminals are much worse than the Taliban were even if the latter needed to cease their unacceptably harsh ways.

UN peacekeepers won't be a solution for they are not and never really are peace keepers. They are complicit in many extreme crimes against humanity, including genocide. And they perpetrate crimes against humanity, when they're not just complicit by aiding and abetting.

Afghans will have to be the ones who decide what they want and will have for a govt, and the US et al must withdraw all of their military forces, but must not leave Afghans without arms, which they'll surely need in order to be able to enforce security and just laws. If they were disarmed by the US and its allies, then these Afghans would surely need to be re-armed.

That ideally would not be needed. Ideally, everything would flow along [well]. But given the past, Afghans putting in place a good or reasonable govt will most surely need to be sufficiently armed to be able to defend their govt and themselves.

They are the ones who need to do the decision-making though.

The Taliban returning to power in the central govt might agree to respect women's rights after all of these years of war they never invited and did try to prevent from happening to begin with. Their prinipal demand is the full withdrawal of foreign forces.

perhaps you are confusing him with Kristol which I almost did until I did a Wiki search on his views:

Kristol is the ultra-right Neocon who is so far right he's not even on the map.

The Taliban stepped in after a period of civil war which made any semblance of law and order look good, no one knew they would turn out to be repressive and they imposed their interpretation of Sharia in this climate. I don't think Afghans would tolerate going back to that, and the best defense against both the Taliban and the warlords is some sort of pre-troop withdrawal jobs programs which will enable them to resist the Taliban's opium money, which is the source of its strength. Rebuilding the tribes and returning to the Jirga as the main form of government is the key to troop withdrawal without civil war. There can be a Parliament which continues to evolve as power moves toward the center, but Afghanistan is not going to look like a western-style democracy anytime soon.

You are surely right. Kristol is certainly a NYT name that I now recall after your post. That name often came up among anti-war critics of people called journalists.

But this evidently or probably means that I don't know of Kristof's reporting and I wonder what he's been like in his writings over the past several years; whether he was against and denouncing the wars for the crimes that they are, or not.

The Taliban stepped in after a period of civil war which made any semblance of law and order look good, no one knew they would turn out to be repressive and they imposed their interpretation of Sharia in this climate. I don't think Afghans would tolerate going back to that, and the best defense against both the Taliban and the warlords is some sort of pre-troop withdrawal jobs programs which will enable them to resist the Taliban's opium money, which is the source of its strength. Rebuilding the tribes and returning to the Jirga as the main form of government is the key to troop withdrawal without civil war. There can be a Parliament which continues to evolve as power moves toward the center, but Afghanistan is not going to look like a western-style democracy anytime soon.

The Taliban were harsh alright, but they were not cold-blooded criminals like the drug and war lords were. Both were very oppressive, but the drug and war lords were cold-bloodedly criminal. And the Taliban weren't really as oppressive as Americans and Canadians are towards American and Canadian Indians; and indigenous people in many countries, worldwide. Americans are unable to lead others to respect human rights because many people in this world know very well that the US doesn't respect human rights in the US as well as in many other countries.

A Jirga kind of govt seems certainly like a good kind for Afghans to establish. Meanwhile, however, westerners need to establish real democracy and justice, and this is far from happening.

As for the Taliban and heroin, most people who've read non-"mainstream" sort of reporting know that the Taliban worked with the UN or in compliance with a ruling of the UN to eradicate poppy cultivation and, therefore, heroin production and trafficking. They had eradicated 90% or more of this "business" in terms of what came from Afghanistan, which is the biggest producer in the world.

They may very well have started to use profits from this "trade" during this war after the US and NATO basically saw to it that production skyrocketed. US and NATO troops literally protect poppy fields and growers, too. So why wouldn't the Taliban try to profit from this when they're in need of weapons, ... to fight the foreign aggressors and could not possibly fight on both fronts at the same time even if they wanted to? They couldn't fight on both fronts at the same time when their main goal is to try to force the withdrawal of foreign forces of aggression.

Why should only western elites profit from the heroin production in a situation like this? Western elites profit far more from the heroin trafficking than the Taliban ever could.

The Taliban aren't faultable for this. They eradicated most heroin production from Afghan farming long ago. The only groups to be blamed for heroin production skyrocketing again are the US and NATO leaderships.

And I don't know of any war being "clean", or nicely fought.

But a Jirga form of govt certainly sounds good. It should be able to work. But the important thing right now is ending the war; foreign forces withdrawing.

And westerners need to establish govts that are truly democratic, just, for "equal rights", non-double standards, ... for ourselves, because westerners presently have this kind of govt only on paper.

Meanwhile, the situation in Iraq is very bad. The west has shifted its attention to Afghanistan, but people can learn about what's really been happening and is happening in Iraq by simply checking out and possibly some other web sites. Uruknet had plenty of articles about Iraq posted over the past week and the situation is not good at all. Many or most Iraqis have no cause to jubilate at all. The govt there is very oppressive and allied (say) with western elites and corporations.

Not only military forces need to be withdrawn from these countries. All foreign military forces [and] all forms of corrupt foreign influence must be withdrawn. The military is an instrument for the western elites to accomplish their ultimate goals and all efforts, military and political, for achieving these goals must be stopped. The ultimate goals are economic, but also global dominance in all of its facets. They aim for "full spectrum dominance" militarily, but it's a means, instead of an or the end. That can be an end in terms of what the MIC chiefs and stock holders want from all of this, but there are other powerful elites behind this. They invest in the MIC, but it's not the only investment through which they profit from wars and geopolitical or global hegemony.

It's an oligarchic and omni-facted "affair".

And it's like Zbigniew Brzezinski's book, "The Grand Chessboard: ...", for "American" empire, globally and necessitating domination over especially Asia (surely including Russia, much of which is in Asia, unless we draw weird contour lines). I haven't read the book, but have read enough about it to be able to realize what it's about. This includes that he was or is not the originator of this imperialist and capitalist idea, for British lord (little 'l') Curzon preceded Brzezinski (and ilk) by around a century or so.

The wars need to be ended, but this will be monumental; if and when it's achieved. The war-making and profiteering elites might end their program before we can succeed in making them end these supreme international (and national) crimes. As many people have said, the US is an empire and all empires have fallen. And they add that these past empires fell because of the overstretch of their leaders, who apparently always cause their own downfalls. That's great, but it's slow in coming today.

And Iraq and Afghanistan are only two of several or more countries that are presently in bad circumstances that are not due to their populations. There are also examples in Africa, which is highly ignored in western media and when western media does produce anything about conflicts in Africa, then it's rare that this will be truthful information; it's usually US N.E.D. sort of bs propaganda, a lot of cover-up and distortion. Keith Harmon Snow is very good on Africa; it's his main and investigative focus. Some people might disagree with him, but he is very, very right. He has articles at other websites now and then, but has his own too,

In every case there is extremely criminal US involvement of leading kind. It's just that most cases are not US-lead theatre wars. But they don't need to be of "theatrical" scope to be very important and major crimes of the US (and its proxy foreign govts). "Proxifying" foreign govts of countries western elites want to prey upon is M.O. for the US; "theatrically" and on a lesser and less obvious scale.

The US leadership and the leadership of US allies in hell must be made to stop all of these supreme crimes against humanity.

Once we realize the full scope of US-lead crimes on or against humanity, then we can see that there's an awful lot of work to be done to get this criminality to be stopped. If we consider only the "theatre" wars, then we will be making ourselves complicit in the other extreme or supreme crimes of the US that are only not as well known. Not as well known does not mean less important by any measure of real justice.

There's a heck of a lot of work that needs to be achieved for real peace and justice. Taliban profiting from heroin trade that exists only or mostly because of the US and NATO is no fault of the Taliban. They just need to stop their oppressive ways. Meanwhile, many Christians also need to stop their ways; of oppression, imperialism, colonialism, capitalism, and so on. The latter have been a far greater evil in human history and today than the Taliban have been.

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