Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to war we go!
As President Barack Obama begins winding down the Bush war in Iraq, he is building up his own war farther east. We’re told that it will be a new, expanded, extra-special American adventure in Afghanistan, involving a vigorous surge strategy to “stabilize” this perpetually unstable land.
The initial surge will add 17,000 troops to the 36,000 already there. Then, later this year, there is to be a second troop surge of another 17,000 or so. This mass of soldiers is expected to be deployed to a series of new garrisons to be built in far-flung regions of this impoverished, rural, mostly illiterate warlord state that is ruled by hundreds of fractious, heavily armed tribal leaders. We’re not told how much this escalation will cost, but it will at least double the $2 billion a month that American taxpayers are already shelling out for the Afghan war.
The extra-special part of this effort is to come from a simultaneous “civilian surge” of hundreds of U.S. economic development experts. “What we can’t do,” said Obama in an interview last Sunday, “is think that just a military approach in Afghanistan is going to be able to solve our problems.” To win the hearts (and cooperation) of the Afghan people, this development leg of the operation will try to build infrastructure (roads, schools, etc.), create new crop alternatives to lure hardscrabble farmers out of poppy production and generally lift the country’s bare-subsistence living standard.
What Obama has not mentioned is that, in addition to soldiers and civilians, there is a third surge in his plan: private military contractors. Yes, another privatized army, such as the one in Iraq. There, the Halliburtons, Blackwaters and other war profiteers ran rampant, shortchanging our troops, ripping off taxpayers, killing civilians and doing deep damage to America’s good name.
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