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Life Arts    H3'ed 12/3/09

Part Two: Ann Jones, Author of "Kabul in Winter," Talks with OpEdNews

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Welcome back for the conclusion of my interview with writer Ann Jones. It didn't seem as if many of the officials on the ground described in your book had a deep understanding of the Afghan culture and situation. If that is true,what does that mean in terms of efficiency of delivering aid and the future for our involvement over there, ostensibly to be helping them?


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I don't think that "helping them" was ever an American objective, and it certainly isn't now. "Delivering aid," as you put it, was part of State Department strategy under the Bush administration, designed to serve US (not Afghan) national interests. In any aid organization, it's always difficult to find people steeped in the language and culture and willing to stay long enough to see projects through, but as a minimum requirement they should be good at what they're hired to do.

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Yet under Bush, we delivered (never competently) what we wanted to givethat is, whatever Bush/Cheney corporate friends wanted to be overpaid to deliver. Things like shoddy roads at a million bucks per mile, exorbitantly expensive schools with collapsing roofs, private bodyguards for the warlords we'd put in power.

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USAID was established by JFK as a kind of professional peace corps, staffed with specialiststeachers, hydrologists, public health administrators, engineers, agriculturalistscapable of working with people at the grass roots on projects they initiated.

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Over the years, it dwindled into a blunt instrument of foreign policy, and under Bush it became a contracting shop, handing over ridiculous sums to for-profit private contractors who share the wealth in kickbacks to their favorite congresspeople. (When Afghans do things like this we call it "corruption," and just the other day President Karzai responded to charges of corruption by saying that America must share the blame.)

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)
 

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