“In a little more than a year the United States flew $12 billion in cash to Iraq, much of it in $100 bills, shrink wrapped and loaded onto pallets. Vanity Fair reported in 2004 that “at least $9 billion” of the cash had “gone missing, unaccounted for.” $9 billion. Today, we learned that suitcases of $3 billion in cash have openly moved through the Kabul airport.
One U.S. official quoted by the Wall Street Journal said, ‘A lot of this looks like our tax dollars being stolen.’ $3 billion. Consider this as the American people sweat out an extension of unemployment benefits. Last week, the BBC reported that ‘the US military has been giving tens of millions of dollars to Afghan security firms who are funneling the money to warlords.’ Add to that a corrupt Afghan government underwritten by the lives of our troops. And now reports indicate that Congress is preparing to attach $10 billion in state education funding to a $33 billion spending bill to keep the war going. Back home millions of Americans are out of work, losing their homes, losing their savings, their pensions, and their retirement security. We are losing our nation to lies about the necessity of war.
Lara Logan, come on down! You’re the next guest on Hysterical Backstabbing Jealous Hackfest 2010!
I thought I’d seen everything when I read David Brooks saying out loud in a New York Times column that reporters should sit on damaging comments to save their sources from their own idiocy. But now we get CBS News Chief Foreign Correspondent Lara Logan slamming our own Michael Hastings on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” program, agreeing that the Rolling Stone reporter violated an “unspoken agreement” that journalists are not supposed to “embarrass [the troops] by reporting insults and banter.”
Anyone who wants to know why network television news hasn’t mattered since the seventies just needs to check out this appearance by Logan. Here’s CBS’s chief foreign correspondent saying out loud on TV that when the man running a war that’s killing thousands of young men and women every year steps on his own dick in front of a journalist, that journalist is supposed to eat the story so as not to embarrass the flag.
According to Logan, not only are reporters not supposed to disclose their agendas to sources at all times, but in the case of covering the military, one isn’t even supposed to have an agenda that might upset the brass! Why? Because there is an “element of trust” that you’re supposed to have when you hang around the likes of a McChrystal. You cover a war commander, he’s got to be able to trust that you’re not going to embarrass him. Otherwise, how can he possibly feel confident that the right message will get out?
True, the Pentagon does have perhaps the single largest public relations apparatus on earth – spending $4.7 billion on P.R. in 2009 alone and employing 27,000 people, a staff nearly as large as the 30,000-person State Department – but is that really enough to ensure positive coverage in a society with armed with a constitutionally-guaranteed free press?
And true, most of the major TV outlets are completely in the bag for the Pentagon, with two of them (NBC/GE and Logan’s own CBS, until recently owned by Westinghouse, one of the world’s largest nuclear weapons manufacturers) having operated for years as leaders in both the broadcast media and weapons-making businesses.
But is that enough to guarantee a level playing field? Can a general really feel safe that Americans will get the right message when the only tools he has at his disposal are a $5 billion P.R. budget and the near-total acquiescence of all the major media companies, some of whom happen to be the Pentagon’s biggest contractors?
Does the fact that the country is basically barred from seeing dead bodies on TV, or the fact that an embedded reporter in a war zone literally cannot take a shit without a military attaché at his side (I’m not joking: while embedded at Camp Liberty in Iraq, I had to be escorted from my bunk to the latrine) really provide the working general with the security and peace of mind he needs to do his job effectively? …
“… Nor are husbands offering much stimulation in the male display department: visually, American men remain perpetual boys, as shown by the bulky T-shirts, loose shorts and sneakers they wear from preschool through midlife. The sexes, which used to occupy intriguingly separate worlds, are suffering from over-familiarity, a curse of the mundane. There’s no mystery left.”—
So it’s come to this. Every day in the media, a sort of deranged, comical footrace to figure out which worst-case scenario is really the worst, because every day comes a new stat, prediction, photo, possibility for abject horror we hadn’t even conceptualized yet because, well, we’ve never exactly been here before, not at this scale. How bad can it all get, really? No one has a clue. Joy!
But there are ultra, mega, super worst-case scenarios that make all the rest seem like a little splotch on your pretty new iPhone 4 and they all have one thing in common: Each one of them, all by itself, spells the end of modern life as we know it. Utter annihilation. The End. I am so not kidding. OK, maybe a little. But only until we all die. After that, not kidding at all.
BP Will Kill Us All Scenario #1: Everyone knows that, early on in the spill, BP was thoughtful enough to pump millions of gallons of a horrible chemical dispersant called Corexit 9500 into the gusher, a violently toxic compound so notoriously lethal it’s been banned for years by the European union. Obama & Co finally caught on to BP’s tactic and told them to knock it off. Too late. Obscure Russian scientists tell us Corexit’s deadly compounds are now breaking up and evaporating into North American rainclouds, which will shortly begin raining down complete toxic hell on us all, poisoning all crops, babies, cats, Christians, Starbucks baristas and none-too-bright redneck videographers — though it will somehow magically spare the really good jazz clubs in Louisiana and that one guy who scored the goal for the USA in the World Cup, because he’s a freakin’ hero. These scientists say the toxic rain could be so poisonous, it will destroy the entire food chain and plunge North America into chaos, rendering the entire region unlivable, with any straggling survivors crawling desperately up to Canada, where they will be promptly made into slave labor to build hockey arenas and drink lager and fade into the woods.
BP Will Kill Us All Scenario #2: Apparently, deep in the ocean floor, just beneath the gushing oil, lives a massive bubble of methane gas the size of… oh, let’s just say Texas. Maybe Oklahoma. South Carolina. Someplace gassy and slightly rancid and always ready to explode at the poke of a big phallic stick.
This is the drama: All our mucking around on the ocean floor could trigger a methane explosion so gargantuan, it will cause a tsunami. Not just any tsunami, mind you, but a “supersonic tsunami" so ultra-awesomely massive it will effortlessly wipe out the much of the gulf coast states, killing millions and completely destabilizing the nation and inducing zombie riots in the streets as everyone wails over the loss of Florida. Or, you know, not.
So there you have it. Toxic rain and supersonic tsunamis, the end of North America as we know it. Done. Finished. Certainly, one of those two scenarios is guaranteed to come to pass, right? Maybe, if we’re really lucky, even both?
Every day, as many as 260 trucks filled with supplies for U.S. troops - from muffins to fuel to armoured tanks - are driven from the Pakistani port of Karachi across the Khyber pass into Afghanistan. They’ve always been a dangerous mission - the Soviets reportedly spent most of their occupation in the 1980s fighting off attacks. The U.S. has chosen another method - outsourcing the delivery and even the protection of the vehicles to private contractors. Almost four out of every five containers delivered to Afghanistan are now hauled by a consortium of eight Afghan, Middle Eastern and U.S. companies under a 2.16-billion- dollar contract called Host Nation Trucking (HNT) that started May 1, 2009.
These trucks come under irregular attack. As recently as Jun. 8, 2010, a convoy of contractor was attacked when it stopped at a depot just outside of Islamabad. The insurgents burnt 30 trucks and killed six people. In November 2009, Aram Roston of the Nation magazine published a startling article: The trucking and security contractors were paying off warlords, and perhaps even the Taliban. On Tuesday, a new report by U.S. Congressional investigators titled: Warlord, Inc. Extortion and Corruption Along the U.S. Supply Chain in Afghanistan confirmed Roston’s allegations. Memos show that occasionally the contractors even worked with the insurgents to shake down the U.S. military for more money.
"U.S. taxpayer dollars are feeding a protection racket in Afghanistan that would make Tony Soprano proud. This arrangement has fueled a vast protection racket run by shadowy network of warlords, strongmen, commanders, corrupt Afghan officials, and perhaps others."