On the ninth anniversary of 9/11 (the day that America became unhinged and ushered in a lucrative national security state), we remember the innocent victims and the heroes who lost their lives trying to save them and others.
Seven thousand miles away, a hundred thousand American troops and another hundred thousand plus private contractors and NATO troops are supposedly fighting to keep western civilization safe from a few dozen Al Qaeda hiding out in caves in the hinterlands of the Af-Pak border. But as Bush’s former anti-terrorism czar Richard Clarke remarked on ABC News this morning, thanks to Islamophobes like Pastor Terry Jones, who threatened to burn a pile of Qurans, and Gangrene Gingrich, who is leading the charge against building a Muslim community center near the former WTC site, those numbers have likely increased by thousands in the last few weeks alone.
Notwithstanding that Jones has called off his asshat stunt, perhaps because he took to heart a suggestion from a US marine that he put a little skin into the game by flying to Afghanistan and burn one there, the damage has already been done. So maybe we’ll need those extra troops after all—for force protection. (Modern mass media is rapidly erasing the boundary between the actual and the virtual, not surprising since the brain used the same neural circuitry to process both.)
Here’s just some of the latest developments in Afghanistan these last couple of weeks.
Firstly, a member of the Karzai Kleptocracy receives double pay from the US taxpayer:
KABUL, Afghanistan — The aide to President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan at the center of a politically sensitive corruption investigation is being paid by the Central Intelligence Agency, according to Afghan and American officials.
Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts met last Saturday in Kabul with President Hamid Karzai. Mr. Kerry said he believed that he had won a commitment from the Afghan president to allow an American-backed anticorruption unit to work unhindered.
Mohammed Zia Salehi, the chief of administration for the National Security Council, appears to have been on the payroll for many years, according to officials in Kabul and Washington. It is unclear exactly what Mr. Salehi does in exchange for his money, whether providing information to the spy agency, advancing American views inside the presidential palace, or both.
Mr. Salehi’s relationship with the C.I.A. underscores deep contradictions at the heart of the Obama administration’s policy in Afghanistan, with American officials simultaneously demanding that Mr. Karzai root out the corruption that pervades his government while sometimes subsidizing the very people suspected of perpetrating it.
Apparently Kerry didn’t notice that Karzai had his fingers crossed:
KABUL, Afghanistan — One of the country’s most senior prosecutors said yesterday that President Hamid Karzai fired him last week after he repeatedly refused to block corruption investigations at the highest levels of Karzai’s government.
Fazel Ahmed Faqiryar, the former deputy attorney general, said investigations of more than two dozen senior Afghan officials — including Cabinet ministers, ambassadors, and provincial governors — were being held up or blocked outright by Karzai, Attorney General Mohammed Ishaq Aloko, and others.”
But wait—there’s more!
Senior officials said that only Afghan investigators working for the major crimes task force and the special investigative unit of the interior ministry will be allowed to make decisions.
The order, being drawn up in new legislation, was given after the US Treasury sent a team from Washington to examine the fall-out of a crisis in Afghanistan’s biggest private bank, which has close ties to the families of both the president and the vice-president.
News of the inquiry into the bank’s loan practices last week led to huge queues of people withdrawing their deposits.
There were already investigators from the FBI and other US bodies working on other anti-corruption inquiries in the country.
In one case, an aide to President Karzai was arrested and accused of seeking a bribe to impede an investigation into a money transfer scheme said to have channeled about USD3 billion (GBP2 billion) out of the country.
Well, it was fun while it lasted:
The brother of the Afghan President Hamid Karzai made a half-million pound profit in eight months on a luxury villa in Dubai bought with a loan from the bank at the centre of a financial and political crisis in Kabul.
Mahmoud Karzai, a high-profile businessman in Afghanistan, borrowed seven million UAE dirham (£1.23 million) from Kabul Bank, in which he is also the third-largest shareholder, in July 2007.
He used the money to buy a villa in Palm Jumeirah, the artificial island in the Gulf off the coast of Dubai. The seller was the bank’s former chairman, Sher Khan Farnood, who had used the bank to buy a $140 million (£91 million) property portfolio in Dubai which he registered in his own name.
Looks like there’s another exciting bank bailout in America’s future:
Thousands of worried Afghans making a run on Kabul Bank
Afghanistan’s financial authorities are prepared to bail out the country’s largest bank despite allegations of corruption after the US refused to prop it up and depositors continued to demand their money back.
The Afghan Central Bank said it was ready to provide loans to the troubled Kabul Bank, which has crumbled amid allegations of unfettered lending to shareholders and allies of the president, Hamid Karzai.
Banking authorities announced they would freeze the assets of shareholders with outstanding loans, but would not say if that applied to the president’s own brother.
As the biggest loan-providing institution we, the Central Bank, are ready to provide loans to the Kabul Bank.” The US Treasury department has called the crisis an “Afghan issue” and said no American taxpayers’ money would be used.
Sher Khan Farnood, chairman, and Khalilullah Frozi, chief executive, were ousted last week as the Afghan Central bank tried to prevent a meltdown at the bank which has two million depositors.
Reports said the bank was riddled with off-the-books loans to political cronies. It has also lost heavily in Dubai’s property collapse.
Given that the Afghan Central Bank, like the government itself, is financed almost exclusively by the US, does anyone seriously believe that the American taxpayer isn’t going to be on the hook for this? Maybe it won’t be actual dollars like the shrink-wrapped $8 billion that was flown into Iraq on pallets (and which promptly disappeared), but something along the lines of the trillions of dollars in toxic assets that the Federal Reserve moved out of Wall Street and buried in the bowels of the US Treasury, we’ll ending up taking it in the shorts somehow. Guaranteed.
Prof Cole is outraged by the whole damn thing:
I write in anger. Not blind rage, mind you. A cool, searing, steady anger. I think it is a righteous anger. It is not consequential, but it is my reality. I am angry about the 1,172 US troops dead in the Afghanistan War, and all the other brave NATO and Afghan soldiers who gave their lives for a new Afghanistan. Because they haven’t gotten a new Afghanistan. They have paid the ultimate sacrifice for a ponzi scheme masquerading as a reformist government. And, as usual, you and I may well get stuck with the bill for the economic damage done by the fraud.
The house of cards that is the Hamid Karzai government in Kabul may be falling before our eyes, as vast, globe-spanning webs of corruption, formerly hidden in shadows, have suddenly had a spotlight thrown on them. The crisis raises the severest questions about whether the Obama administration can plausibly hope to stand up a stable government in Afghanistan before US troops depart.”
Finally, US troops continue their campaign of winning Afghan hearts and minds– and fingers:
A dozen U.S. soldiers are charged with organizing a secret “kill team” which allegedly murdered Afghan civilians at random and cut fingers and other body parts from corpses as trophies, according to new documents released by the U.S. military.
So much for St. Petraeus‘ grand counter-insurgency strategy that depends not only on military success, but on maintaining the good will of the Afghan people. Seems that trying to convert a pre-feudal society into a modern, prosperous democracy that serves US strategic interests is proving a bit harder than first conceived. Propping up a hopelessly corrupt government with American tax dollars, billions of which have disappeared in speculative real estate investments abroad (Dubai bye!), Afghanistan is quickly turning into President Obama‘s Vietnam.
Afghanistan is a no-win situation. Since Obama hasn’t listened to the warnings of his own vice-president, Joe Biden; experienced military veterans like Colonel Andrew Bacevich who told Amy Goodman Obama didn’t have the guts to leave ; or retired diplomats like former UN envoy Peter Galbraith who called Hamid Karzai a vote stealing drug addict, then maybe he’ll listen to Mr. Gary Larsen instead.
May the farside be with you.