by William Hartung
Late last year, I spent some time digging into the Pentagon’s “reconstruction” efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, countries it invaded in 2001 and 2003 in tandem with a chosen crew of warrior corporations. As a story of fabled American can-do in distant lands, both proved genuinely dismal no-can-do tales, from roads built (that instantly started crumbling) to police academies constructed (that proved to be health hazards) to prisons begun (that were never finished) to schools constructed (that remained uncompleted) to small arms transfers (that were “lost” in transit) to armies built, trained, and equipped for stunning sums (that collapsed). It was as if nothing the Pentagon touched turned to anything but dross (including the never-ending wars it fought). All of it added up to what I then labeled a massive “$cam” with American taxpayer money lost in amounts that staggered the imagination.
All of that came rushing back as I read TomDispatch regular William Hartung’s latest post on “waste” at the Pentagon. It didn’t just happen in Kabul and Baghdad; it’s been going on right here in the good old USA for, as Hartung recounts, the last five decades. There’s only one difference I can see: in Kabul, Baghdad, or any other capital in the Greater Middle East and Africa, if we saw far smaller versions of such “waste” indulged in by the elites of those countries, we would call it “corruption” without blinking. So here’s my little suggestion, as you read Hartung: think about just how deeply what once would have been considered a Third World-style of corruption is buried in the very heart of our system and in the way of life of the military-industrial complex. By now, President Dwight Eisenhower must be tossing and turning in his grave. Tom Engelhardt