Boston Globe

Obey's Afghanistan: At Long Last, It's Guns vs. Butter

One of the many destructive legacies of the Reagan Era was the effective Washington consensus that wars and other military spending exist on their own fiscal planet. Reagan got a Dixiecrat Congress to double military spending at a time when the U.S. was not at war (unless you were a poor person in Central America.) Meanwhile, Reagan got the Dixiecrat Congress to cut domestic spending - we just couldn't afford those costly social programs. Reagan pretended the two things were totally unrelated, and the Dixiecrat Congress went along.

Ever since, the Democratic leadership and the big Democratic constituency groups have largely collaborated in maintaining the destructive fiction that we can shovel tax dollars to war and to corporate welfare called "defense spending" without having any impact on our ability to provide quality education, health care, effective enforcement of environmental, civil rights, and worker safety laws, and other basic services to our citizens that are taken for granted by the citizens of every other industrialized country.

But maybe - maybe - that destructive connivance is coming to an end.

This week, House Appropriations Committee Chair David Obey told the White House that he was going to sit on the Administration's request for $33 billion more for pointless killing in Afghanistan until the White House acted on House Democratic demands to unlock federal money to aid the states in averting a wave of layoffs of teachers and other public employees.

Obey didn't just link the two issues rhetorically; he linked them with the threat of effective action.

At last, at long last.

But why is David Obey standing alone?

Perhaps, behind the scenes, the big Democratic constituency groups are pulling for Obey.

Our Corrupt Occupation of Afghanistan

Is it just me, or is the pontification of Western leaders about corruption in Afghanistan growing rather tiresome?

There is something very Captain Renault about it. We're shocked, shocked that the Afghans have sullied our morally immaculate occupation of their country with their dirty corruption. How ungrateful can they be?

But perhaps we should consider the possibility that our occupation of the country is not so morally immaculate - indeed, that the most corrupt racket going in Afghanistan today is the American occupation.

US military officials in Kabul estimate that a minimum of 10 percent of the Pentagon's logistics contracts in Afghanistan consists of protection payments to insurgents, Aram Roston reports in The Nation. In southern Afghanistan - where General McChrystal wants to send more troops - security firms can't physically protect convoys of American military supplies. There's no practical way to move the supplies without paying the Taliban. So, like Milo Minderbinder in Catch-22, we're supplying both sides of the war.