America’s Afghanistan Money Pit

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20101205_inq_cu1vague05-a.JPG
(graphic credit: Barrie Maguire)
Richard Vague has written an interesting short essay criticizing his fellow American fiscal conservatives for their silence on the Afghanistan War.
Vague opens:

My fellow fiscal conservatives are letting me down. At a time when we desperately need to cut the deficit, they are standing by while the Obama administration spends $119 billion per year in Afghanistan, which is a country with a gross national product of only $14 billion a year.
Conservatives fought tooth and nail against the health-care program, which costs far less than our occupation of Afghanistan. Yet when our military plans for a multiyear commitment in Afghanistan – a trillion-dollar commitment even with a gradual drawdown – fiscal conservatives barely raise an eyebrow.
In 2000, the U.S. military budget was $370 billion. For 2011, it is $707 billion. And that’s before any unforeseen emergency supplements. And much of this is for a war where even a cursory review reveals that al-Qaeda is largely gone from Afghanistan – and where the underlying conflict is a civil war in which negotiation among all the relevant parties will get us further, faster, and at a much lower cost.

Richard Vague, a Philadelphia-based CEO, was a member of the Afghanistan Study Group project I helped organize — and I think that one of his key points, that we are spending nearly nine times the GNP of a country, seems like a fiasco.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

58 comments on “America’s Afghanistan Money Pit

  1. John Waring says:

    http://www.newdeal20.org/2010/12/06/whose-side-is-the-white-house-on-28968/
    James K. Galbraith on our feckless President of the United States.

    Reply

  2. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Does your god give you accurate understanding and equanimity under duress? Or only allow you to see evil and be pissed off?”
    Its not up to me to explain my concept of God to you, nor is it any of your business.
    What I suggest to you is to read your last two weeks compilation of posts, then try to make sense of them. Start with your post that mentions “intellectuals” thinking your prattle is “poppycock”. Truth is, you are all over the spectrum with this God thing, some posts of yours negating the content of other posts of yours. I assume the solid grasp of your own spirituality that you lay claim to is far more tenuous than you care to recognize.
    Simplify, Warren. Its much too hard to lay claim to an understanding that is far beyond our understanding. He is, and I’m not him. Thats about all the “truth” I am willing to attempt to lay claim to. And could be, even that is way off base. Maybe our journey takes us to a full understanding, but judging from what we’ve seen from mankind thus far, I have a suspicion its a journey we’ve only just barely begun.
    If you are naive enough to think I am only able to see evil, I will excuse you for the short term you’ve been here. And don’t be so eager to accept my monicker as a statement about my perpetual emotional state. This is a political blog, and I chose a monicker that fits my opinion of the current political scene. If you aren’t pissed off at these sacks of shit in DC, theres something wrong with you. However, this post has been typed out with a number of intermissions. Patting the dogs on the head, enjoying a pretty cool movie on HBO, (coincidentally, “Knowing”), walking down to say “hi” to the neighbor’s appy while Jake, (one of the dogs), takes a dump (after carefully figuring out where the best odds are that a human will manage to step in it)….you know, all that stuff we do when we ain’t waxing eloquent on TWN, or workin’ to pay the taxes and the phone bill.
    Tell ya the truth, Warren, I’m always leery of the occassional mad beanie that comes along thinking he or she needs to lay me onto their concept of God. Ain’t interested. If you can put it into words I’m pretty sure its a pretty damned shallow God you’ve sat upon your shoulders.
    Take a gander at the sky tonight, if its clear in your neck of the woods.

    Reply

  3. Richard Frost says:

    Warren – I was being sarcastic and trying to have a little fun with you. For some reason I held back a little, allowing some abiguity to remain. The tone of my earlier post in this thread should clarify the matter.
    That said, I do not, therefore, share your optimism about our prospects. The vast majority of Americans are simply too ignorant to accurately diagnose the diseases that afflict our body politic. They have been brainwashed over many years to accept the all-pervasive influence of big business, and to respond to its psychological manipulation through advertising; their intellectual curiosity has been limited by a culture that values sporting prowess over erudition; and, as I was trying to express last time, they think they are God’s gift to humanity. This all amounts to a formidable cognitive barrier that will take a miracle to penetrate.
    But it will not be a miracle that finally drives home the ugly truth about America’s descent into Banana Republicdom. It will be a disaster. They won’t get the message until it’s too late.

    Reply

  4. Warren Metzler says:

    POA, I thank you for your less than violent response to my presenting God. I suggest to you that everyone has a god: which is the being / force / phenomenon they believe causes themselves and the world to function. My God over time teaches me how people operate, such as the Israeli’s, so I am able, with sufficient exposure, to realize the god of the the people taking the actions I’m looking at. This understanding of people’s real motivations allows me to experience equanimity under duress, when dealing with monstrously horrible actions like the Israeli’s, PLO, Saudi Arabia, the US, etc. take all the time. Does your god give you accurate understanding and equanimity under duress? Or only allow you to see evil and be pissed off?
    Richard Frost, I don’t know whether your “America is the greatest country…” is real or sarcastic. I assume it is real. And I will agree that the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and mind-set of I can achieve all of which I am capable of that exists in the blood of all Americans is the most viable political system that exists, or has existed in the history of the human race. I just don’t understand the idea of being the most viable allows us to rule over any other country, because part of the essence of what I just listed is the freedom for each person to pursue what is right for them.
    And I also don’t understand why you don’t currently realize that the majority of our politicians, academic types who advice them, and rich people who buy them, are significantly immoral, and taking this great country straight to being mafia and a weapon of mass destruction.
    For the other posters, I’m glad you like expressing your views, because through most of them my horizons have been expanded. And I agree with POA’s view of gratitude to Steve, because it is obviously his personality, intellect and wisdom that has created a site that attracts such well-informed and insightful commentators.
    I also suggest that our current darkness will in time come to an end, once a significant percentage of the American people wake up to the scam their politicians and media has been playing on them for several decades now.

    Reply

  5. JohnH says:

    “It is often the case that the mumbo jumbo “think” tank horseshit that masquerades as “smart” political opinion neglects the time proven value of common sense and logic.” Of course it does! “Think” tanks are bought and paid for by the same narrow interests that are looking out for their profits, not common sense, logic, or the common good.
    Julian Assange’s crime was not the publication of state secrets and hypocrisy, per se. Rather, it was his refusal to obey the tacit rules governing unofficial state organs, like the New York Times, Washington Post, cable “news” and anyone else in the corporate media sphere.

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  6. DonS says:

    Speaking of common sense, Australian PM Rudd notes the obvious fact that Assange is not the legally culpable party in the release of the wilileak cables. It’s closer to home.
    “I have been pretty consistent about where the core responsibility lies in this entire matter and that lies with the release of an unauthorized nature of this material by U.S. personnel,” Rudd told Reuters.
    “Mr. Assange is not himself responsible for the unauthorized release of 250,000 documents from the U.S. diplomatic communications network,” Rudd told the agency. “The Americans are responsible for that.”
    “U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley conceded Rudd’s point — up to a point.”
    “Foreign Minister Rudd is correct, in that the first responsibility rests with us. Someone in the U.S. government leaked these documents. That said, what Julian Assange is doing harms not just our interests, but has placed real lives at risk,” Crowley said.
    http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/europe/12/08/uk.wikileaks/?hpt=T2
    And, of course, if were going to parse responsibility for ‘publishing’, the NYT is right up there even given their watered down version of freedom of the press which included consultation with the government prior to publication.
    It’s ironic that Mr. Crowley is concerned that Assange has place “real lives at risk” given the real lives that continue to be placed at risk in Afghanistan for no good strategic reason.

    Reply

  7. Pahlavan says:

    Of course, the talks will collapse. Although I bet Israel will get to keep the fighter jets they were promised as an incentive to come to the negotiating table, not to mention the revenue they generate from selling the old hardware to Saudi Arabia, Egypt or Jordan

    Reply

  8. downtown says:

    Meanwhile in Bizarro Land:
    Israel Sees Hopeful Signs in Collapse of Peace Talks
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/09/world/middleeast/09mideast.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

    Reply

  9. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “I blogged: You people are wrong, you better stop this. It’s BS. But they didn’t stop. And one day I went to the Trruthout Town Hall blog, and you know what? It was no longer there. It still isn’t there. I miss it”
    I wish I had access to the old blogs I posted at. I was mostly on the AOL message boards, and we had some great stuff going back and forth. I posted as “Mo”, and was targeted heavily by the government trolls. The irony is just how prescient my posting really was. I’m not saying that out of ego, it’s just fact. Most of my political predictions have come to pass, uncanny in their accuracy. And this from someone that was utterly and completely unengaged and apothetic prior to 9/11. I was eventually, with great fanfare and wide message board exposure, “kicked off” of the AOL boards by having my AOL membership cancelled by some fucking “AOL” asshole that was openly posting from an office in Langley, and was the main “moderator” on the AOL political message board community. My offense, apparently, was a fascination with exposing what was going on at the UN storage facilities in Iraq, mainly Tuwaitha. If you dig into that aspect of our invasion of Iraq, it PROVES that the proliferation of WMD technology had NOTHING TO DO with our invasion, because the invasion simply opened up these storage facilities to any Tom, Dick, or Ahmed that wanted to drive a truck in and load up anything from yellow cake to centrifuges, with a myriad of chemical warheads and various other implements of mass destruction there for the grabbing. We left these facilities totally unsecured. Tons of yellow cake went missing from Tuwaitha, with who knows what else. And there were TWELVE such UN monitored and secured sites scattered throughout Iraq, that, as near as I can asdcertain, were left unsecured post invasion. Did you know we eventually flew what yellowcake was left at Tuwaitha into the United States, without the oversight of the IAEA??? Comfortable thought, knowing aircraft were transporting yellowcake over our heads in military aircraft, eh? I wonder what training these kids had in transporting radioactive material? And when you think about it, the fact that there were TONS AND TONS of yellowcake in these storage facilities, it really lends the lie to that whole Niger fantasy. If the UN monitoring and securing efforts weren’t working, as claimed, then Saddam had no reason to go to Niger for yellow cake, because he had tons of it. Or, if he DID in fact need to go to Niger to procur yellowcake, than the UN efforts were working perfectly. And as a side to all this, in leaving Tuwaitha unattended, we exposed an entire village to what was surely a horrible mass death. The villagers dumped yellowcake out on the grouind, and used the barrels for water storage. They bathed in it, drank it, and did their laundry in it. I imagine they’re still dying from it. And probably have caused genetic damage that will persist for generations.
    I think it is often the case that the mumbo jumbo “think” tank horseshit that masquerades as “smart” political opinion neglects the time proven value of common sense and logic. I mean, when you really boil some of this crap down to its essence, the disconnect from basic common sense is stunning. For example, a government, and a think tank community, that tells the people that “We are killing them and violating their soveriegnity so that they won’t hate us and will embrace our form of government”.
    Yeah, so that is over-simplistic??? No, well, perhaps our government’s reasoning is over-complicated instead, eh? I mean geez, look at all the convoluted SHIT these think tanks and governmental assholes throw at us to justify and explain blatantly self-destructive policies.
    Honestly, Don, I think like those old blogs and message boards, in a coupole of years we will look back at our posting here and marvel at our freedom to express opurselves. These fuckers in DC CANNOT allow this flow of info to continue. I think the wiki-leaks charade will open the door to shutting down, or at least heavily controlling, our ability to freely exchange opinions and information over the internet. Information is power, and these felons and traitors running the show are severly threatened by any power amassed by the people. The truth is their enemy, and they will stop at nothing to conceal it. Enjoy this while you can, becxause soon they will take it away from us.

    Reply

  10. Don Bacon says:

    from my new Security Watch page on Smedley:
    Afghanistan: US war commander General David Petraeus expressed doubts about the prospect of a victory in Afghanistan by 2014, admitting that a “resilient” Taliban, squeezed out of some areas, simply pops up in others. According to a recent US war report: “The insurgency has a number of strengths, the most significant strength and main effort being the speed and decisiveness of their information operations and media campaign. Organizationally, the insurgency

    Reply

  11. rc says:

    A good read imo. … and this is a nice way of putting it: “The current row over the latest WikiLeaks trove of classified US diplomatic cables has four sobering implications. The first is that it represents the first really sustained confrontation between the established order and the culture of the Net.” …
    “Secondly, the one thing that might explain the official hysteria about the revelations is the way they comprehensively expose the way political elites in Western democracies have been lying to their electorates. The leaks make it abundantly clear not just that the US-Anglo-European adventure in Afghanistan is doomed (because even the dogs in the street know that), but more importantly that the US and UK governments privately admit that too.” …
    http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2010/12/20101279213237416.html

    Reply

  12. replice vertu says:

    The daily said that US officials believe Hezbollah has acquired an arsenal of some 50,000 rockets and missiles, including some 40 to 50 Fatah-110 missiles and 10 Scud-D missiles, raising fears of an enlarged conflict with Israel. [Read: next time widespread destruction won’t be confined to Lebanon. So, bye-bye Haifa oil refinery.]

    Reply

  13. replice vertu phone says:

    Though stymied, Israel steadfastly refuses to defuse tensions or negotiate. Weird! It’s as if Israel can’t envision anything but sadistic treatment of Palestinians and Lebanese.

    Reply

  14. replice cell phone says:

    Those rockets should be a deterrent against an Israeli attack on Iran. Pity about that Iranian scientist, though. Calls for retribution of some kind, but not against a scientist.

    Reply

  15. Don Bacon says:

    Those rockets should be a deterrent against an Israeli attack on Iran. Pity about that Iranian scientist, though. Calls for retribution of some kind, but not against a scientist.

    Reply

  16. JohnH says:

    US spooked by Hezbollah deterrence: the “New York Times quoted on Tuesday a Pentagon official as saying that Syria has provided Hezbollah with 10 Scud-D missiles, which are deadly accurate, noting that two of them were transferred to the Lebanese territories while the other eight remained in a Syrian base.
    The daily said that US officials believe Hezbollah has acquired an arsenal of some 50,000 rockets and missiles, including some 40 to 50 Fatah-110 missiles and 10 Scud-D missiles, raising fears of an enlarged conflict with Israel. [Read: next time widespread destruction won’t be confined to Lebanon. So, bye-bye Haifa oil refinery.]
    A particularly grave concern was that Hezbollah had been provided with sophisticated Fatah-110 missiles, which are deadly accurate and would have the capacity to strike most of the occupied territories, including Tel Aviv.” [Why would Hezbollah ever want to strike Occupied Territories unless IDF put bases there and areusing Palestinian populations as human shields?]
    http://www.almanar.com.lb/NewsSite/NewsDetails.aspx?id=164856&language=en
    The only thing that Israel understands is force, so Hezbollah’s rockets may be the only thing that is standing between Lebanon and another Israeli pogrom there.
    And, if you recall, Israel covered Southern Lebanon with cluster bombs in 2006, making much of the area uninhabitable. Next time around, I wouldn’t be surprised if Hezbollah returns the favor.
    Though stymied, Israel steadfastly refuses to defuse tensions or negotiate. Weird! It’s as if Israel can’t envision anything but sadistic treatment of Palestinians and Lebanese.

    Reply

  17. Don Bacon says:

    POA, you’re full of sweetness and charity, besides some other things I won’r mention, and above all you’re full of that other rare ingredient — integrity.
    Let’s face the truth. The problem with some liberals is that they’re illiberal. They can’t go toe-to-toe. They have to pick up their marbles and go home because the others just don’t play fair and think like they do.
    Regarding our host, I’m reminded of when I first got into this blogging business. It was years ago with the Truthout Town Hall. It was a great blog. First, the architecture was good, with nested comments. It also featured bloggers from all over the spectrum, African-Americans, foreigners, R’s and D’s — it was great. The topics were interesting and we went at it.
    That blog no longer exists. It hasn’t existed for a long time. Why? Some of the bloggers, a cabal, started emailing each other and then blogging in unison about how fucked up the host was. He wasn’t doing this, and he wasn’t doing that. He misused his donations, and on and on.
    I blogged: You people are wrong, you better stop this. It’s BS. But they didn’t stop. And one day I went to the Trruthout Town Hall blog, and you know what? It was no longer there. It still isn’t there. I miss it. But the bloggers kissed it goodbye. Tnink about it.

    Reply

  18. Carroll says:

    Oppsies…
    I hate captcha.
    BTW, POA…no need to miss wag and nadine.
    Go over to Steve Walt’s blog, wag is there calling Walt a anti semite about 10 times in one comment.LOL

    Reply

  19. Carroll says:

    LMAO…
    Right on POA

    Reply

  20. Carroll says:

    LMAO…
    Right on POA

    Reply

  21. DonS says:

    Thanks for your take POA. But,as you know, different stokes. I admit to a certain amount of “fun” in posting but for the most part my intention is serious. Getting snarky is a trip, and sometimes a methodology, but to me this blog is about consistently serious concern with the state of affairs. My own conflict in posting here relates to a dichotomy between seeing myself as a member of society with commensurate responsibility, and as someone also struggling to evolve in another dimension than the sad, ego bound realm of life on this planet.
    In one sense of course, everyone posting here, I feel, needs to be respected. But on the ordinary level of life, the ego level, some do not seem to feel the same way (maybe all of us at some time) and, in this venue, don’t reciprocate others humanity. Sorry, whether they are deluded or terminally selfish, I have a hard time respecting that attitude. And I don’t miss them in that guise. Not one bit.

    Reply

  22. Richard Frost says:

    “What is needed to cease wars is to get the majority of Americans to give up the idea we should be running the world.” – Warren Metzler, above.
    Indeed. But, as Chalmers Johnson no doubt knew to his core, that’s become an even tougher sell than it was in the Cold War, when the “enemy” was more readily identified.
    We have, inadvertently or perhaps intentionally, made the world more dangerous for ourselves by creating multiple potential sources of blowback. There’s enough work there to keep the military industrial complex busy for decades, which is just the way they, and their enablers, like it. A suitably frightened population will be protected at all costs (to the budget and to civil liberties) by a “conservative” regime that views security as one of the few legitimate roles of the state.
    More importantly, Warren, you do realize that America is the greatest country God ever created, destined to rule over inferior nations just as the superior homo sapiens rules over the animals that were put here for his amusement? Anyone who dares to think otherwise hates America and should leave it, preferably for some hateful, socialist place like France, where they don’t even like McDonalds, for Christ’s sake!

    Reply

  23. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Well. if posting at TWN is merely frustrated activism, I woulda packed my tent and saddled up a long time ago.
    Some post here to sound smart, some post here because they’re convinced they ARE smart.
    Most that wanna show us how “smart” they are are jackasses. I mean who cares? Its the “smart” assholes that have brought this nation to its knees, after all. Just read some of the intellectually pretentious crap that seeps out of the keyboards of some of Steve’s guest bloggers. Saying they’ve got a cork in their ass is putting it mildly. More like a brick or a cinder block.
    But theres more here for me. I post here because I dig it. Truth be told, its kinda fun. I mean yeah, Nadine and Wiggie are frustratingly unyielding, and despicably bigoted in my view, but damn, what fun would it be spend 24/7 typing “Smart post, Dan”, or “Right on, Carroll”??? Far more fun being the obnoxious POA, knowing I can get someone’s boxers in a bunch, or put a smile on their face, despite the fact I might be a coupla thousand miles away from them.
    And you gotta hand to to Steve. Number one, he really keeps confidences. I imagine he knows intimate details of many of our lives, having privately corresponded with us, yet when have you ever seen him break those confidences, even when angry with certain individuals? Damn, I’d love to know what he could tell us about Wiggie or Nadine, or even questions. (Actually, I think I got questions figured out, right down to his proffession. But I’d hate to see Steve remove the mystery, and pop my bubble should I be way off base.)And number two, there is a bit of vicarious empowerment to be had here, knowing, once in a while, one of these sacks of pure shit that I used to just see on TV, or read about in the newspaper, might just get to read what this struggling tradesman in Central Cal thinks about the despicable horseshit they do in the name of “leadership”. I mean its not often, or many places that provide the opportunity, where you can tell some scumwad like John Bolton to go fuck himself, and actually think that maybe, just maybe, he heard ya.
    So really, I think we ALL owe Steve a resounding “thank you!”. And those of us that owe him apologies, (and theres plenty of times I do), should consider humbling ourselves a small price to pay for what we get in return.
    So, I dunno. I’ll miss insulting Nadine, and I always kinda hoped Wiggie would finally confide in us and tell us what, and from where, she (?)really is. It pains me that we’ll probably never know. But ya know what??? I have posted here for a LONG time now, and I have watched one hasbarist after another march, slither, or crawl through here, and I doubt this blog will suffer (?) a lack for very long.
    A shame about Dan. I understand his frustration though. Too bad he can’t just find the fun in this, and not take it so seriously. The few times I’ve seen him do snark and sarcasm told me he’d be pretty damned good at it if he applied himself. For a small fee, I’d give him some pointers.

    Reply

  24. Carroll says:

    Let me say that I am not leaving TWN, although most of my comments for the past year have been pure snark born of pure frustration from all the talk in the world never changing anything we talk about.
    But I think, maybe, if and when things keep piling up and get down to the last yard Steve might use his position and knowledge to become more than a insider who explains and gives his point of view on events and policies and start talking about what we can ‘do’ about it all.
    We need to ‘do’ something about the sorry state of our government, not just talk about what it does.

    Reply

  25. Carroll says:

    Posted by JamesL, Dec 07 2010, 11:41AM – Link
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Actually quite right. Those of us who have been here forever could chart our commentary decline and probably cite the various reasons for it, with differences in opinions naturally, as to who among us contributed to conversations being 99% wag and nadine vr. the rest of us. I am glad to see kervick, among others, is finally out of patience with the fruitless back and forths and ancient history analogies of wag’s that kept much of it going.
    “The US is going down folks, a ship filled with holes while the intelligentsia has another meeting about the deplorable state of the decor in room 1703.”…you said.
    I’ve said…Exactly….the same.

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  26. DonS says:

    Listening to Obama’s press conference, he remains most angry, confrontational, and critical of ‘fellow’ democrats that of republicans. Incidentally, his put down of democrats who don’t appreciate him, had an edge that would seem to antagonize more than anything. Perhaps the brewing, for the moment anyway, ‘revolt’ against the tax extension for the wealthy part of the deal, among some interest groups (unions), the progressive caucus on the hill, and individual congresscritters (despite Joe Biden’s emergency firefighting trip to the hill) has disturbed his preferred narrative. No doubt it has. Now the arm twisting and giveaways to dems begins (?) to get them in line?
    OT: Marcy Wheeler reveals the dark side of wikileaks persecution in terms of the government breaking the back of the internet.
    http://emptywheel.firedoglake.com/2010/12/07/will-wikileaks-be-the-internets-titanic/ :
    embedded excerpt: “This is reminiscent of the way the old Soviet Union worked, with everyone being forced to pretend they don

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  27. Maw of America says:

    Listening to Obama’s press conference, I remain committed to my previous proposition that our President refuses to play to win, opting instead to play not-to-lose.
    He should have traded Rahm for Ari. Now that guy knows how to negotiate!

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  28. JohnH says:

    Not only is the ship going down, but the plutocrats are looting it for anything of value. When it’s all done, there will be nothing left but an empty hull…and a loan with a face value of more than the ship was ever worth. Taxpayers will be obligated, of course, to pay the debt for the next 60 years, like Britain in hock to the US after WWII. By then the bankers will have all moved on, to their off-shore havens, with nothing to protect them but a mercenary US military force (also paid by US taxpayers), whose main purpose will be to protect the bankers against their former fellow citizens.
    Everyone who pays any attention at all knows all of this. But it’s not “proper form,” as Steve would say, for Serious People to discuss it. After all, it might inconvenience the looters to have their thievery called out for what it is. I mean, if Wikileaks ruffles Serious People, imagine their momentary discomfort at serious analysis!

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  29. Maw of America says:

    I have come to the determination that the real money pit is the top one percent of wealth owners in the U.S. – almost exclusively at the expense of the other 99%.
    Trickle down meets torrent up.

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  30. DonS says:

    Well said, JamesL. And if I haven’t acknowledged Dan K’s predicament, it’s because 1) I agree with him and 2) he almost promised he’d be back. And, for myself, it feels like a heavy weight has been lifted with the ejection of the corrupting commenters; they or their ilk (propaganda per se, not any particular issue) should never gain a foothold here again. Free speech and openness is one thing; abuse is another. I notice no one has yet call Steve out for exercising his right of exclusion although, when he has acknowledged doing so in the past, several posters questioned just that. As one comment said below, it was long overdue, and poisonous. The result of taking the guilt driving, presumptive privilege of being untouchable to it’s obscene limits.
    Anyway, I can’t fault Steve for being who he is, what he chooses to push, how and how hard he pushes, though I feel free to disagree. It’s his blog. I think I appreciate there is a balancing act that constitutes his job maybe more than most.
    The more thoughtful commenters here seem to agree with you that the ‘ship is going down’, and that’s just the way the plutocrats want it. From the outside we can say damn the enablers who haven’t the courage to stand up before this whirlwind; this hot air. Maybe our technology of rapidly shared information makes things seem more imminent than in previous cycles — if indeed this is a cycle and not an off ramp. I am at lest encouraged by seeing that sanity remains among many progressives, for the time being, in pointing out the emperor is without clothes. And, like you and others, I am looking for ways to save my own ship and devote some energy to counter what feels like a growing darkness, meanness and evil in the nation.

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  31. Kathleen says:

    Would really like to read more articles about the drug operations in Afghanistan. Who is transporting Heroin out of the country, where it moves from too etc. Why not more programs subsidizing poppy growers?
    How many people in Afghanistan have turned to using heroin due to the endless wars in that country.
    Max Blumenthal doing amazing work. Really worth the time
    http://mondoweiss.net/2010/12/the-forest-through-the-trees-what-the-carmel-fire-reminds-us-about-israels-history.html/comment-page-1#comment-255719

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  32. JamesL says:

    I second Dan Kervick and note no one else mentioned him. I used to recommend this blog constantly. No more. A few useful comments show up once in a while and I do check in. But I have stopped commenting. I refrained from writing this for at least six months.
    The turning point for me was when Steve decided that though he had time to make comments to commentors, he was too busy to moderate. When Nadine moved her furniture in, TWN became Talking With Nadine. I could never understand Steve’s writing that he had learned some things from Nadine. The only things one could learn from her/him/them are the unending justifications of bigotry. It’s like having a Nazi on staff just so you don’t forget what they stand for.
    Reading TWN posts and comments is like walking through a political house of mirrors, each new mirror an opportunity to bask, argue, and preen, and far too many mirrors and reflections to actually do anything about, except to check back later and see what’s new.
    The US is going down folks, a ship filled with holes while the intelligentsia has another meeting about the deplorable state of the decor in room 1703. If common sense is not effectively mustered in much more massive quantities than any seen in the past fifty years, and directed immediately toward a very unpleasant triage on the rotten hull of the USS America, America will be a sea of drowning po’ folk while the filthy rich toast each other and motor away among the cries.
    Steve, I am sure you are a great guy and I know I

    Reply

  33. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Personally, Warren, I pity those who have a God that does hurricanes, sway-backed horses, whooping cough, hangnails and hemorrhoids. But to each their own. If thats the God you wanna, well, fear, than surely you have a right to cower on your knees before any idol you see fit. Perhaps he’ll send ya a tumor for Christmas, so you can emote about “God’s will” and all.
    But in the real world…
    Its surreal seeing these sacks of shit in DC debating the economy while never muttering a word about our war expenditures. And ya gotta love the way the missing two trillion was shoved under the rug by the 9/11 trifecta. ‘Ol Dov Zakhiem is grinning about that one. I wonder, where DID that money go? Whats a dollar bill look like when its printed in yiddish?
    Anyone notice that F-16’s don’t seem to be very good at putting out forest fires? Maybe those settlers shoulda saved some of their raw sewage for fighting fires, instead of squandering it by wastefully dumping it on their Palestinian nieghbors.
    I remember when here in what used to be the USA we trained Job Corps kids to fight forest fires. Israel coulda used a similiar program if they weren’t so busy teaching their teens racism, vandalism, and the fine art of throwing Bedouin families out of their homes.
    Too late now, just like their humanity, their forest is a thing of the past. Well, no big deal. They can always pave the land and put in more zionist breeding pens. Just add demographics to their long list of enemies.
    Speaking about enemies, have we left anyone out in our efforts to amass as many as we can? I mean hey, well shit, we gotta get SOMETHING for our money, don’t we?

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  34. Jim says:

    As America tries to reassess what has been accomplished in Afghanistan and neighboring areas where our brawny military interventions and extravagant expenditures are concentrated, the forthcoming boycott of this year

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  35. Warren Metzler says:

    I would like to comment on the voluntary army thing. We had the draft in Vietnam (got me in), and it was a major catastrophe. I don’t think our politicians choose to go to war because we have a draft or a totally voluntary military.
    The lack of taxes to fund the Iraq and Afghanistan wars I propose is because few, if any, politicians were willing to have the American people see the real financial costs of those wars. That wouldn’t have been changed if there was a draft.
    What is needed to cease wars is to get the majority of Americans to give up the idea we should be running the world. It most make that change, our government will follow. I also think that if the Obama administration had had the decency and integrity to prosecute Bush and Cheney for war crimes, which I consider it obvious they committed, we would by now know that many lies got us there, which would significantly increase the push for immediate withdrawal.
    Further, I don’t believe the Afghan opposition is going to go home because Iranian, or Indian, or Chinese, etc. forces are there imposing the government they want. So the only realistic solution is to unilaterally withdraw, and let them learn how to grow up and form a civil, peaceful society on their own. I’m sure whatever government eventually arose would be more than willing to accept funds from us to provide them with the infrastructure we owe them.

    Reply

  36. John Waring says:

    The Afghan War could not be fought with a conscripted army.
    The Afghan War has not and will not be financed by a tax increase.
    Therefore the Afghan War has not been, is not now, nor ever will be in the vital interests of the United States. If it truly were, the American people would tolerate, not welcome, mind you, but tolerate, a draft and and an increase in taxes.
    We routed the Taliban and put Karzai and his warlords in place, and it’s been downhill ever since.
    We don’t have the guts to tell ourselves the truth, namely, we don’t have the bone-deep historical and cultural acumen needed to turn Afghanistan around, nor do we have, after several years of constantly bombing the place, the legitimacy with the Afghan people to attempt it. All the President’s horses and all the President’s men cannot put the damn place back together again.
    I think we should leave a residual force there to deal with the al Qaeda remnants in Pakistan, and then turn over the intractable problem of Afghanistan to the other regional powers and to the UN. The single greatest boon we can offer the Afghan people at this point is to leave.

    Reply

  37. Don Bacon says:

    Warren, you make a lot of sense. Living the good life doesn’t require big bucks.
    Regarding politicians, they are never going to give us anything. They will never, on their own, “practice what they preach.”
    I’m just reading a wonderful book on political activism: “The progressive’s guide to raising hell — how to win grassroots campaigns, pass ballot box laws, and get the change we voted for.”
    The author, Jamie Court, has some marvelous stories about how he has forced politicians to deviate from their corporate-financed comfort zones and to do what the people want (on domestic programs). One way he’s done it is by pressuring them and getting them to make mistakes, which he has then used against them.
    I have to finish the book and think about what I should do next. The Smedley site and blogging have been fun, but it’s not activism. I’ve got to do more.
    (In the meantime my main computer has been hacked to death. Gotta solve that one first.)
    Speaking of books — wasn’t Steve working on one?

    Reply

  38. Warren Metzler says:

    DonS, I looked at your link. Looks as if the situation today is not dramatically different than 100 years ago. But if real freedom is the individual living her life in a manner that moves her progressively closer to achieving her full potential (becoming all she is intrinsically capable of being), and that can be done by every person who sincerely pursues it; which I consider a stone cold fact; and how much internal satisfaction and enjoyment you experience is a function of how much you are pursuing your personal freedom potential; than how much money you have isn’t related to real individual freedom or fulfillment.
    And, consider that the more money you have the less really free and fulfilled you are (because to make a lot of money, you most often have to compromise every principle you ever discovered), which would mean that most of the wealthy people in the world are inwardly quite confined and miserable (even though they do a very clever job of hiding this fact from us). And should be pitied and not admired or considered to be better off.
    If we all became clear what is real conservatism and real liberalism, we might vote for politicians who give us a much more sound and Constitutionally valid foreign policy.I propose that if the electorate only reelected politicians who practiced what they preached, few of our current politicians would be in office.
    Kudos to Lulu, one of the few reasonable world leaders today. More actions like that, and the world’s many problems will move much closer to a quality life for all.

    Reply

  39. samuelburke says:

    since this is a corollary to the u.s in the middle east story.
    once this fire is put out or at least starts to extinguish itself
    more vigorously then there can be more peace.
    “In a public letter addressed to Palestinian President Mahmoud
    Abbas on Friday, outgoing and popular Brazilian President Luiz
    Inacio Lula da Silva formally recognized Palestine as an
    independent state within its 1967 borders.
    Meanwhile, Israel is angry, saying Brazil

    Reply

  40. DonS says:

    Here is the link to the income distribution graph I mentioned just above.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Share_top_1%25.jpg

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  41. DonS says:

    Conservatism has morphed not only since Edmund Burke, but even from Barry Goldwater, when the republican party was much more ‘mainstream’ than it is today. Today you can hardly throw a rock in a gaggle of republicans without hitting a Joe McCarthy wannabe. (in fact Rep Steve King has called for a revival of the House Internal Security Committee, the successor to HUAC, the House Committee on Un-American activities).
    Can we doubt that the plutocracy is real and that income distribution has become increasingly so skewed that the “conservative” approach is to protect that wealth, both personally and through the medium of control of government apparatus. Here’s a chart I quickly googled that reveals the the shape of the curve that saw greater equality, defined at least by income distribution, curing the time of Goldwater, before and after, when we were a more financially egalitarian country. (egalitarians in the sense of not ridiculously, embarrassingly [or should be] skewed.
    The interesting question is why the masses still buy the legitimacy of this situation, to the extent they do. My guess is that the moneyed classes and their media mouthpieces use the social and cultural war meme as a trojan horse for their emotional control of the electorate, and the whole fiscal hocus pocus slips into the tent in the package. Statistics show the upcoming generations are a whole lot more liberal than the middle age group — probably generally true anyway — but, that aside, it is not too hard to override one’s basic decency with lots of fearmongering . . . not to mention real economic hurt. And of course, the perpetual ‘war footing’ plays to their favor, in the way of keeping a tight noose around the neck of the desire to complain about ‘waste’ of precious resources. The conservative ‘wave’ has managed to deflect attention from the real source of the problem. Themselves.

    Reply

  42. samuelburke says:

    The war on afghanistan is sold based on the total potential gross
    national product which would come under western capitalist
    tutelage and control. It’s a big If
    what other reasons could there be for such an adventure?
    China and all other major players in the area will want a piece of
    the action and will exert themselves in the pursuit of this
    achievement.
    China is perceived as the enemy sine qua non because we impute
    our motives on them.

    Reply

  43. Don Bacon says:

    That’s why these labels don’t work any more, if they ever did. A traditional Robert Taft conservative would in fact be conservative, and not be one to initiate conflicts in foreign countries. The liberals were the ones that got the US into wars, by and large, wanting to help poor foreign unfortunates get on the right path.
    Anyhow it’s good to see Steve Clemons get after Afghanistan. I was afraid the ASG effort was dead. Is it?

    Reply

  44. Richard Frost says:

    The supposedly consistent conservative mindset described by questions, above, is indeed self-defeating. For not only is America’s arrogant imperialism creating enemies to undermine future security (blowback), it is also incredibly expensive, requiring huge sums of “our” money either today or whenever the piper finally has to be paid. The cost in lives, on the other hand, will be paid by the lower strata of American society who have no other options besides enlistment, and by foreign civilians who are accorded scarcely more statistical value than factory-farm animals.
    Conservatism, as a political philosophy, has been totally bastardized from Edmund Burke’s classical concept of venerating tradition and seeing society as an organic whole. It has become the new radicalism, advancing the self-interest of the elite at the expense of the general welfare and long-term national interests. It is long past time for “liberals” to reclaim the right to control the meaning of political terminology. The usurpers need to be portrayed at every turn as the cynical, corrupt destroyers that they really are.

    Reply

  45. jonst says:

    To Nadine, neocon mantra: “My money is MINE”. My BILLS on the other hand, are yours.
    Steve,
    Fiasco is what we do well these days.

    Reply

  46. Warren Metzler says:

    The primary value of philosophy is to provide an understanding of the inner make-up of humans that causes them to manifest their behaviors. And here we have a classic example of how ignoring the philosophy of liberalism and conservatism causes massive fraud to be ignored.
    Authentic liberals believe humans can change, and government programs are a good way to stimulate that change. Although they persistently ignore that each such government program, in the long run, creates more problems, and don’t produce the desired change.
    Authentic conservatives believe that humans can’t change, so it is a waste of time to create government programs that attempt to change humans. And further believe that each person has the right to become whatever he or she works sufficiently hard to achieve. Which if followed rationally prohibits the US from attempting to force change on any foreign country. Please remember that the post wwi agreements failed to a large degree because American conservative politicians opposed them based on believing that the US shouldn’t be involved in telling other countries what to do.
    If it turns out that humans can change; a view I wholeheartedly support; but only through individual effort and never through government programs; then the liberals are wasting their time and wasting a lot of government money.
    If it turns out that the conservative view of letting each person fend for herself is valid; which I wholeheartedly support; then all those posturing conservatives who support huge corporate welfare, huge military expenditures and repeated interference with a multitude of foreign countries are liars and should be sued by real conservatives for false presentations.
    If we allowed ourselves to realize people’s real inner motivations, instead of repeatedly buying into their overt packaging, we would have a very different government, and very different government actions. We would never to go war unless overtly and explicitly attacked. We would never assume the government can cause humans to act in a certain way. And we would operate as a country in a manner that encouraged people to recognize that each person can achieve that person’s personal destiny with sufficient application; at the same time admitting that some (maybe many) people are lazy, and refuse to apply themselves, and should be left to stew in their own juices.

    Reply

  47. non-hater says:

    questions – I don’t care what rank and file conservative rubes think; I only care what elected conservatives do.

    Reply

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  49. JohnH says:

    Fiscal conservatives is a misnomer. They support any government waste in programs where their tentacles are firmly attached (“defense”, medicare, fed bailouts, farm subsidies).
    But the “fiscal conservatives” get really pissed when they don’t their cut (social security).

    Reply

  50. Don Bacon says:

    Credit where credit is due. It’s not America’s money pit. Americans, independents and democrats are against the war. Republicans (polls show) and Obama are for it. It’s Obama’s

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  51. Don Bacon says:

    There’s nothing wrong with making common cause with fiscal conservatives to stop wars, which are the principal scourge of mankind besides being fatal for women and children (principally) and other living beings.
    The diversion of funds to military conquests, a peculiarly American trait, sucks money from citizens and also from programs that are good for people.
    Comparing foreign wars to domestic taxes and unemployment is silly. There is nothing as terrible or as indefensible as war.

    Reply

  52. DonS says:

    via Atrios, ‘The return of “Get Your War On”‘ I don’t know much about the history of this series, but anything that can poke a hole in the stupidity and self-righteous facade that keeps the war industry in business is useful, if not at all funny.
    http://nymag.com/news/articles/10/12/getyourwaron/

    Reply

  53. DonS says:

    Obama exhibits the hubris of the presidency. There is no data supporting real, ethical, financial, moral benefits — to the US — the continuation of US presence in Afghanistan for one minute longer. Benefits to Afghanistan — at least to the non-thieving part — are not substantiated, and justifications put forth by the US government cannot be trusted (that we should have learned from Vietnam lying a long time ago, and from Iraq lying not so long ago). Reversal of official government policy must issue from the president. The rest of the system is simply a many faceted monolith on a self-executing mission.
    Change in policy and orders must come now, and it must be signaled publicly by Obama. Cut the head of the snake off this ugly enterprise before another moment’s damage is done.

    Reply

  54. Don Bacon says:

    The annual Afghanistan national budget, 90% funded by foreign sources, has doubled in the last few years to about $2 billion, which is less than what the US spends there in a week in a seemingly endless losing cause.
    So the current war expenditures in “America’s Afghanistan Money Pit” which is helping to drive the US financial system into the notorious Greece range of debt ought to be fought by fiscal conservatives, as Richard Vague writes.
    Throwing money at losing causes is wrong by any measure, and financing a losing war that is killing and injuring people just because it’s good for the economy is especially wrong, and comments that promote it are not helpful.

    Reply

  55. questions says:

    No, non-hater, not at all. To conservatives, “MY money is MINE” and so should almost never be taken, and wars are for security which is the only legitimate purpose for the state.
    The rest of the social welfare redistribution we practice actually pretty much runs against the conservative mindset.
    It’s all quite consistent, even if a little self defeating for most conservatives who aren’t wealthy.
    But consistent, it is.

    Reply

  56. non-hater says:

    To conservatives, wars and tax cuts are free, but extending unemployment insurance during the deepest recession in 70 years is an intolerable burden on future generations. That makes as much sense as nailing jello to a tree, but there you have it.

    Reply

  57. Dan Kervick says:

    You’re not going to find me making common cause with “fiscal conservatives”.
    We don’t need fiscally conservative Hooverism right now. We’re in a depression. What we do need is to spend more money restoring the prosperity of Americans and putting them all back to work. Shifting some money out of defense appropriations for intractable foreign wars can help.
    There are 15 million unemployed Americans, officially. A one-time 35% tax surcharge on the 1% of Americans who earn 24% of our annual national income would pay to employ every one of those Americans at a 50K annual salary for a solid year. We need our “progressive” president to start putting facts like this on the table and enter them into political play.
    I’ve decided to stop commenting on this blog for at least one month. Apart from the fact that the commentary is frequently not very constructive, I can’t go on supporting the skewed and otherworldly priorities of the foreign policy chit-chatters.
    We’re in a profound national and western economic crisis with a clear global dimension. My time for political participation and discussion is limited. I really don’t have time to waste discussing forest fires in Israel, the politics of Cuba, the non-existent nuclear weapons of Iran and the extraneous needs of Gulf oil barons, except to the extent that the latter are tied clearly to clear to pressing US economic priorities. Airport security scans are also not #1 – or #101 – on my list of priorities.
    I’ll see you folks some time in the new year.

    Reply

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