Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Did We Really?

--Pee, Luojie (China Daily)

And my eyes couldn't stand the strain

Of that promised love

All the way from America

--All the Way from America
Joan Armatrading

It is a popular delusion that the government wastes

vast amounts of money through inefficiency and sloth.

Enormous effort and elaborate planning

are required to waste this much money

--Parliament of Whores
, P. J. O'Rourke

The street game is the only game

the white man can’t control

--American Pimp

If U.S. policy makers would listen strategically to rock-n-roll lyrics, they would realize that promised love is not the same as received love. Further, winning hearts and minds is not the same as a Love Fest, as we have re-learned in the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©); even if it were, the results are destined to end up as disastrously.

We have mentioned Peter Van Buren's trenchant comic-tragic book,
We Meant Well, when discussing the tragedy of suicide amongst the ranks. Van Buren, a career Foreign Service officer sent to help administrate a Provisional Reconstruction Team (PRT), offers a series of surreal vignettes displaying one man's view of the misled efforts of the State and Military Department in Iraq.

The very title is a challenge: Does invading and occupying a country, destroying its infrastructure and imposing the foreigner's concept of needful activities equate with well-meaning?
The book dovetails well with Ranger's perspective of the PWOT ©, so he will offer some quotes from this fine primer on the failure of counterinsurgency to win hearts and minds.

The players and materiel are dissected rapier-style: KBR contractors are "fat as sheltered ponies"; "The DVDs all came from China. After oil, it seemed like illegal DVD sales made up the other half of the Iraqi economy." The milk episode embodies the entire debacle within a few pages, as a good parable might.

More observations, though each page is quotable,

"The Army and Embassy public relations people ordered the term [triangle of death] embargoed once they wanted us to seem like we were winning."

"The [U.S.] Army held elaborate ceremonies to "gift" the palaces back to the ungrateful Iraqis after they were done with them." "The programs they had initiated reflected months of constantly changing guidance from the Embassy ... To me, these were by and large people aggressively devoted to mediocrity, often achieving it."

"This is what the military would look like without NCOs -- a frat house with guns."

On Iraqis:

"There were Iraqis who worked for us ... our own imported Iraqi Americans. ... Many of them had not lived in Iraq for years yet we used them as cultural advisers. No one will ever know how much of our failure in reconstructing Iraq was caused simply by bad translation and subject matter ignorance, but it would be a decent percentage."

"Now there was literally more money than we could spend ... we wondered among ourselves whether we shouldn't be running a PRT in Detroit or New Orleans instead of Baghdad."

"A Commander could himself approve projects up to $200,000 with almost no technical or policy oversight. ... a 2009 audit ... found the Army could not account for $8.7 Billion in finds."

"Military units were graded on how much cash they spent ... spent meant more kudos on evaluation reports."

This random selection brings to mind the Social Security Administration's mistake with Ranger's benefits causing him to now owe them $10,740. (Their mistake was discussed HERE.)

Situation recap: A 65 y.o. U.S. pensioner who devoted his entire adult working career to the U.S. government and who, from 11 May 11 - Nov 2012 will not be receiving his Social Security benefits. My income will be docked due to their error, but every page of We Meant Well documents examples of fraud, waste and myopic policies that squandered U.S. tax dollars to phenomenal -- criminal -- levels, if the concept of criminality retains any meaning today.

100's of Billions of dollars were thrown down a shit hole, yet my government chicken shits me and others like me with a petty (for them) debt caused by their ineptitude. If we had applied this conservative approach (demanding strict oversight and accountability) to Iraq, we might have achieved something of value, though what that would have been remains undefined. At least, we would not have lost some things of irretrievable cost.

Ranger is torqued that his country busts him for a paltry sum, while his Army and State Department wiped Iraqi asses with newly-minted benjamins. Why embark on a foreign policy dependent upon gaining the hearts and minds of Iraqis? Ranger doesn't care if they love or hate us -- no American soldier's life should be spent on such a meaningless goal.

Our government should focus on its own citizen's hearts, minds and bodily welfare. When one sells love, one is pimping or whoring.
WOT also means "War on Truth", and a war on truth equates well with a reign of terror.

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