• We Meant Well and Learned Nothing, Afghan Edition

    September 17, 2015

    Tags: , , ,
    Posted in: Afghanistan, Embassy/State, Iraq

    100118-A-6996A-002 (Small)


    Well, I have a sad today. See, that’s me in the picture, from when I was working in Iraq for the State Department.

    In 2012 I published a book all about how the United States squandered billions of dollars on the reconstruction of Iraq. The main point was that we had no plan on what to do and simply spent money willy-nilly, on stupid things and vanity projects and stuff that made someone’s boss in Washington briefly happy. We had absolutely no plan on how to measure our successes or failures, and then acted surprised when it all turned out to be a steaming pile of sh*t that did little but create the breeding ground for Islamic State.

    The idea of the book was to try and lessen the chance the United States would do exactly, precisely and completely the exact same f*cking thing in Afghanistan.

    Now, I just read a speech given by John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR), entitled “Ground Truths: Honestly Assessing Reconstruction in Afghanistan” which says the United States has done exactly, precisely and completely the exact same f*cking thing in Afghanistan.

    And like me, Sopko concludes if we do not learn the lessons from Afghanistan “we will miss out on a crucial learning opportunity that will affect U.S. foreign policy for generations to come.” To which I can only say, “Good Luck” with that John.

    Here’s some more of what Sopko pointed out, all his quotes from the same speech:

    — There is a strong need for evidence-based policymaking, because if you don’t have a means of knowing whether or not your programs are succeeding, the policymaker’s job is that much harder.

    — In a conflict-affected environment such as Afghanistan, the challenge of setting realistic standards is amplified. That said, perhaps constructing buildings to U.S. standards across the board in such an environment might be unwise, especially if we expect the Afghans to maintain and sustain what we give them.

    — If after 13 years and so much blood and treasure invested in Afghanistan, we cannot be honest with ourselves about our successes and failures, we are not only leaving the Afghans in a precarious position, but also putting our entire mission there at risk.

    — Incredibly, for the first nine years of CERP’s existence [an Army funding program for reconstruction], a single, clearly articulated mention of the program’s true objectives could not be found in any official document beyond the generic inputs of “humanitarian relief and reconstruction.”

    — It becomes really difficult for SIGAR to assess reconstruction projects and programs if agencies don’t set clear criteria or project management standards.

    — USAID spent almost $15 million to build a hospital in Gardez, but USAID did not fully assess the Afghan Ministry of Public Health’s ability to operate and maintain the hospital once completed. It seems that time and again, people have to be reminded that Afghanistan is not Kansas.

    — It is hard to give people the benefit of the doubt when we build multi-billion dollar roads to U.S. weight standards in a country that has no ability to enforce weight limitations, or when a military official suggested that we spend millions building high-tech bus stops in Afghanistan, complete with solar-powered lighting. This is not Bethesda.

    — Two and a half years ago, SIGAR sent the Departments of State and Defense, as well as USAID, a letter requesting that they identify, by their own judgement, their ten most and least successful reconstruction programs, and why they selected those programs. We still have not received a straight answer from any of them. A USAID official even said that asking him to identify his agency’s top successes and failures was like asking him to choose which of his children he loved more.

    — Almost fourteen years into our trillion dollar effort, with over 2,000 American lives sacrificed, if we can’t honestly point to some actual, measurable accomplishments from that massive investment, we will miss out on a crucial learning opportunity that will affect U.S. foreign policy for generations to come. In short, we risk failing to understand the conditions necessary not only to produce peace and prosperity, but to sustain them.




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  • Recent Comments

    • John Poole said...

      1

      Peace and prosperity for others is not what the USA does or intends to do. Gotta keep moving those munitions and weapons-don’t want a logjam on the assembly lines.

      Joker- “How did you shoot women and children?”
      Door gunner: Easy. You just don’t lead ’em so much…

      09/17/15 8:15 AM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...

      2

      John Poole said…

      “Peace and prosperity for others is not what the USA does or intends to do.”

      Ding ding ding! Give this man a prize.

      We Meant Well …my ass.

      quote:
      “— Almost fourteen years into our trillion dollar effort, with over 2,000 American lives sacrificed, if we can’t honestly point to some actual, measurable accomplishments from that massive investment, …

      ..then Peter Van Buren has proved beyond a shadow of doubt we are dangerously stupid fucking morons. ”

      From Vietnam to ISIS..

      You can’t make this shit up.

      09/17/15 9:31 AM | Comment Link

    • Misty said...

      3

      09/17/15 9:41 AM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...

      4

      Site of the My Lai massacre 1968 – Colonel to Joker, “Inside every gook is an American trying to get out……”

      Fallujah, Iraq circa 2004 . Platoon sgt after unleashing his white phosporus munitions” “Inside every raghead is an American trying to bust out…….”

      Wecome to America’s learning curve I mean learning flatline.

      09/17/15 1:13 PM | Comment Link

    • Kyzl Orda said...

      5

      “— There is a strong need for evidence-based policymaking, because if you don’t have a means of knowing whether or not your programs are succeeding, the policymaker’s job is that much harder.”

      Peter, thank you. The concept of ‘evidence-based policymaking’ is at the heart of so many problems, Iraq or any other foreign or domestic policy problem. Nowhere else have I seen this phrase expressed, but it captures the essence of problems. The science and art of foreign policymaking has just disappeared.

      Just dare to push non-evidence- based science, and the person or institution would be the subject of sharp ridicule. But non-evidence-based policymaking, especially regarding the Middle East, is just bringing one debacle on after another.

      09/17/15 6:52 PM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...

      6

      Kyzl Orda said..

      “— There is a strong need for evidence-based policymaking, because if you don’t have a means of knowing whether or not your programs are succeeding, the policymaker’s job is that much harder.”

      Policymakers. right. Look where their policys have led us.

      Misty said..

      “Well,someone is profiting.”

      Welcome to the world of the Lords of War and Legal Imperialism.

      btw.. it’s thanks to Micheal Hayden..aka..the mastermind of CIA’s control of heroin in Afghanistan in 2006..that the current upswing in heroin addiction is occurring across the planet. After all..the CIA’s drug running is over 40 yrs old and they have a world wide network of compliant money laundering Central banks within their networks. Why do you think Bankers NEVER go to jail.?

      http://www.globalresearch.ca/afghanistan-s-opium-crop-at-an-all-time-high/4102

      again..welcome to the Hideaway…

      09/17/15 8:25 PM | Comment Link

    • teri said...

      7

      “[…] we risk failing to understand the conditions necessary not only to produce peace and prosperity, but to sustain them.”

      Oh, bullshit. We did not go into Afghanistan to produce peace and prosperity. One does not go into a country with guns and tanks and start shooting up the place, illegally and under false pretenses, in an effort to produce peace. And prosperity? Well, maybe for Raytheon which makes the bombs, Halliburton which “rebuilds” the shit we blew up and builds defective Army bases they can “rebuild” again later, and JPMorgan Chase which gets [illegal] access to Afghanistan’s gold mines along with US soldiers to guard them. Prosperity for the oil companies who want that TAPI pipeline. And perhaps prosperity for the CIA, whose main lines of business seem to be gun-running and drug smuggling. Not prosperity for the Afghanis, who, last I heard, have to live there and actually own the joint.

      We will never figure out how to “do reconstruction right” until we make better decisions about whether or not to wreak utter destruction on another country in the first place. Here’s a hint: don’t. Next time someone says, “Hey, let’s go into [name a country] and blow things up,” just say NO.

      If I am alive in 10 years, I’ll get to read PVB’s article on how the US Special Inspector General for Syrian Reconstruction (SIGSR), Bobby Butthole, is lamenting that it all seems to have gone wrong. Of course, by then, the US will be completely broke-ass broke, California will be uninhabited due to lack of water, half of Florida will be under water, 1/3 of all US babies will be born with genetic defects due to fracking waste and genetically modified food, the unemployment rate will be 50% (which will be reported in the press as 4.7%), and the entire country will be under martial law as civil unrest reaches extreme levels.

      Then we will nuke Russia and Iran. (For peace and prosperity.)

      The end.

      09/18/15 4:30 AM | Comment Link

    • teri said...

      8

      Sorta on topic: We have the bestest allies EVER; they really GET our thinking when it comes to attacking captive populations mired in poverty.

      Israel has decided to use live ammo against Palestinians who throw rocks over the ghetto walls.  Thereby proving that 1) they are barbarians and murdering thugs, 2) their goal is to kill as many Palestinians as possible using the merest provocation as a lame excuse, 3) the Palestinians actually have no weapons other than rocks.  

      “We are declaring a war on stone throwers.” – from Netanyahu’s twitterfeed.  I am not making that up.  

      http://www.rt.com/news/315801-jerusalem-approves-sniper-fire/

      Oh, and the IAEA General Conference just voted to NOT make Israel undergo inspections of its nuclear facilities. One might note that nobody, including Netanyahu, comes right out and denies that Israel has nukes. Because, of course, they do. Unlike, say, Iran, which does not.

      http://www.rt.com/news/315787-israel-iaea-nuclear-inspection/

      09/18/15 6:42 AM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...

      9

      Most here on this site hold onto the possibility that this violent force driven empire might self correct and try a different approach to winning hearts and minds. We’re waiting in the green room with our proposals but it looks like the broadcast will go dark before we get the chance to go on, At best we’ll be playing to test pattern static mixed with a little radiation.

      09/18/15 7:46 AM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...

      10

      “teri said…”

      A friggin mouthful. Indeed. And someone here said I was hyperbolic. Ha. 🙂

      quote”If I am alive in 10 years, I’ll get to read PVB’s article on how the US Special Inspector General for Syrian Reconstruction (SIGSR), Bobby Butthole, is lamenting that it all seems to have gone wrong.”unquote

      By then it won’t matter. Half of those alive today in the US will be dead and those that are alive will wish they weren’t and won’t give a fuck. Unless of course, Trump wins and makes Murika “great” again…which reminds me. When exactly were we “great”..and what were we great at? I don’t remember. ..er…wait. I know…THIS..
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_involving_the_United_States

      Insert rolling eyes smiley here.

      Btw, speaking of Syria and Lords of War… and the USG’s secret arms deals using Lords of War arms dealers as intermediarys..

      http://www.buzzfeed.com/aramroston/the-secret-arms-deal-behind-americas-syria-fiasco?utm_term=.cfqgkZD63M#.qg5WD5d3b

      If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend the movie..Lords of War. At the end..it shows EXACTLY what that article is about. The USG IS the Lord of War.

      btw..get a load of these dolts..

      http://ak-hdl.buzzfed.com/static/2015-09/15/14/enhanced/webdr05/enhanced-buzz-wide-682-1442341714-18.jpg

      If I didn’t know better I’d swear it was a pic of a Monte Python sketch.

      09/18/15 8:20 AM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...

      11

      ps…

      teri said…

      quote“We are declaring a war on stone throwers.” – from Netanyahu’s twitterfeed. I am not making that up.”unquote

      (sighing) Just when you think Netanyahu couldn’t spew anything worse than his normal cesspool fodder..

      quote”Oh, and the IAEA General Conference just voted to NOT make Israel undergo inspections of its nuclear facilities. “unquote

      Just when you think the world couldn’t get any more insane. However, I’ve got $1k that says the NSA had something to do with it. Something meaning..well..you know.

      09/18/15 8:40 AM | Comment Link

    • teri said...

      12

      Pitch: “[…] and the USG’s secret arms deals […]”

      So-o-o, the US government gives a contractor money to supply arms to the “rebels” somewhere, in order to destabilize – er, I mean, spread peace and prosperity – to a foreign country. The contractor uses the money to buy Russian-made weapons from somewhere else and hands the Russian arms off to our “rebels-de-jour”. Then the US government announces that it has evidence of Russian weapons in that country, thus proving that the perfidious Russians are invading or arming or doing something equally icky and distasteful in the country we are trying to wreck ourselves.

      Gotcha.

      09/18/15 9:59 AM | Comment Link

    • Donald Trump in the 1980s | Phil Ebersole's Blog said...

      13

      […] a doubling down on everything that has been wrong in Washington for the past 10 or 15 years—how repeated failures are hidden behind a smokescreen of denital and […]

      09/28/15 5:57 AM | Comment Link

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