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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 7/31/10

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

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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 justification 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.

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. If I'm going to borrow money from China (I'd rather not) it would be to go back to school.

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Ralph Lopez majored in Economics and Political Science at Yale University. He writes for Truth Out, Alternet, Consortium News, Op-Ed News, and other Internet media. He reported from Afghanistan in 2009 and produced a short documentary film on (more...)

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