T Nation

Your US Tax Dollars at Work


If you are an American and actually work a job, take a few minutes and read how our illustrious leaders are spending our tax money. I have personally observed this moronic insanity for 10 years. The amount of waste and taxpayer abuse committed by USACE, DoD, DoS, USACE, USAID, INL, and government NGO's ( USIP, etc.) is beyond belief.

Why doesn't any Democatic or Republican " Future leader" on the campaign trail ever pay anything more that lip service to this insanity? It great, every would be candidate has some type of tax plan, but, what good does that do? How it is spent is just as important as how it is collected. Unbelievable.

TomDispatch: Tomgram: Engelhardt, Roads to Nowhere, Ghost Soldiers, and a $43 Million Gas Station in Afghanistan http://redirect.state.sbu/url=http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/176068/tomgram%3A_engelhardt,_roads_to_nowhere,_ghost_soldiers,_and_a_$43_million_gas_station_in_afghanistan/

The Gas Station to Nowhere

So much construction and reconstruction -- and so many failures. There was the chicken-processing plant built in Iraq for $2.58 million that, except in a few Potemkin-Village-like moments, never plucked a chicken and sent it to market. There was the sparkling new, 64,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art, $25 million headquarters for the U.S. military in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, that doubled in cost as it was being built and that three generals tried to stop. They were overruled because Congress had already allotted the money for it, so why not spend it, even though it would never be used? And don't forget the $20 million that went into constructing roads and utilities for the base that was to hold it, or the $8.4 billion that went into Afghan opium-poppy-suppression and anti-drug programs and resulted in... bumper poppy crops and record opium yields, or the aid funds that somehow made their way directly into the hands of the Taliban (reputedly its second-largest funding source after those poppies).

There were the billions of dollars in aid that no one could account for, and a significant percentage of the 465,000 small arms (rifles, machine guns, grenade launchers, and the like) that the U.S. shipped to Afghanistan and simply lost track of. Most recently, there was the Task Force for Business Stability Operations, an $800-million Pentagon project to help jump-start the Afghan economy. It was shut down only six months ago and yet, in response to requests from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, the Pentagon swears that there are no Defense Department personnel who can answer questions about what the task force did with its money. As Megan McCloskey writes, The Pentagon claims are particularly surprising since Joseph Catalino, the former acting director of the task force who was with the program for two years, is still employed by the Pentagon as Senior Adviser for Special Operations and Combating Terrorism."

Still, from that pile of unaccountable taxpayer dollars, one nearly $43 million chunk did prove traceable to a single project: the building of a compressed natural gas station. (The cost of constructing a similar gas station in neighboring Pakistan: $300,000.) Located in an area that seems to have had no infrastructure for delivering natural gas and no cars converted for the use of such fuel, it represented the only example on record in those years of a gas station to nowhere.

All of this just scratches the surface when it comes to the piles of money that were poured into an increasingly privatized version of the American way of war and, in the form of overcharges and abuses of every sort, often simply disappeared into the pockets of the warrior corporations that entered Americas war zones. In a sense, a surprising amount of the money that the Pentagon and U.S. civilian agencies invested in Iraq and Afghanistan never left the United States, since it went directly into the coffers of those companies.

Clearly, Washington had gone to war like a drunk on a bender, while the domestic infrastructure began to fray. At $109 billion by 2014, the American reconstruction program in Afghanistan was already, in today's dollars, larger than the Marshall Plan (which helped put all of devastated Western Europe back on its feet after World War II) and still the country was a shambles. In Iraq, a mere $60 billion was squandered on the failed rebuilding of the country. Keep in mind that none of this takes into account the staggering billions spent by the Pentagon in both countries to build strings of bases, ranging in size from American towns (with all the amenities of home) to tiny outposts. There would be 505 of them in Iraq and at least 550 in Afghanistan. Most were, in the end, abandoned, dismantled, or sometimes simply looted. And dont forget the vast quantities of fuel imported into Afghanistan to run the U.S. military machine in those years, some of which was siphoned off by American soldiers, to the tune of at least $15 million, and sold to local Afghans on the sly.

In other words, in the post-9/11 years, reconstruction and war have really been euphemisms for what, in other countries, we would recognize as a massive system of corruption.

And lets not forget another kind of reconstruction then underway. In both countries, the U.S. was creating enormous militarys and police forces essentially from scratch to the tune of at least $25 billion in Iraq and $65 billion in Afghanistan. Whats striking about both of these security forces, once constructed, is how similar they turned out to be to those police academies, the unfinished schools, and that natural gas station. It cant be purely coincidental that both of the forces Americans proudly stood up have turned out to be the definition of corrupt: that is, they were filled not just with genuine recruits but with serried ranks of ghost personnel

In June 2014, after whole divisions of the Iraqi army collapsed and fled before modest numbers of Islamic State militants, abandoning much of their weaponry and equipment, it became clear that they had been significantly smaller in reality than on paper. And no wonder, as that army had enlisted 50,000 ghost soldiers (who existed only on paper and whose salaries were lining the pockets of commanders and others). In Afghanistan, the U.S. is still evidently helping to pay for similarly stunning numbers of phantom personnel, though no specific figures are available. (In 2009, an estimated more than 25% of the police force consisted of such ghosts.) As John Sopko, the U.S. inspector general for Afghanistan, warned last June: "We are paying a lot of money for ghosts in Afghanistan... whether they are ghost teachers, ghost doctors or ghost policeman or ghost soldiers."

And lest you imagine that the U.S. military has learned its lesson, rest assured that its still quite capable of producing nonexistent proxy forces. Take the Pentagon-CIA program to train thousands of carefully vetted a moderate Syrian rebels, equip them, arm them, and put them in the field to fight the Islamic State. Congress ponied up $500 million for it, $384 million of which was spent before that project was shut down as an abject failure. By then, less than 200 American-backed rebels had been trained and even less put into the field in Syria -- and they were almost instantly kidnapped or killed, or they simply handed over their equipment to the AL-Qaeda-linked AL-Nusra Front. At one point, according to the congressional testimony of the top American commander in the Middle East, only four or five American-produced rebels were left in the field. The cost-per-rebel sent into Syria, by the way, is now estimated at approximately $2 million.

A final footnote: the general who oversaw this program is, according to the New York Times, still a "rising star" in the Pentagon and in line for a promotion.

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