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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

In 2004, Stuart Bowen of Texas was asked by a friend to take on a difficult and important job, which he did.

Bowen’s friend was George W. Bush, and the job was to investigate corruption and waste in Iraq, where his buddy George had launched a misguided and very costly war, as well as an effort to reconstruct that country’s fractured economy. The watchdog soon learned that Air Force transport planes had been airlifting whole pallets of shrink-wrapped $100 bills from the U.S. to Baghdad — totaling some $14 billion!

The bales of cash were delivered to the care of L. Paul Bremer III, a laissez-faire ideologue who’d been installed by the Bush-Cheney regime to rebuild Iraq as a regulation-free corporate utopia. It was quickly obvious to Bowen that the utopia included no accounting of where the $14 billion went, though during the next decade he determined that “billions of dollars [were] taken out of Iraq illegally.” But he couldn’t get the Bushites to mount a full-fledged investigation and prosecution.

Finally, in 2010, he and his team got a break, learning that about $1.5 billion had been stolen and stashed in a bunker in rural Lebanon. However, the Obama administration wouldn’t pursue this lead. Neither did the CIA, FBI or the Iraqi government.

Then, Bowen was stunned that the U.S. embassy in Lebanon was resisting his own attempts to visit the bunker, actually preventing him from entering that country. When two of his investigators did get into Lebanon, our embassy denied them permission to see the bunker, claiming it was too dangerous.

And here we go again — into yet another war in a wide and tumultuous swath of the world involved in centuries-old religio-ethno conflagrations that Euro-centric Americans don’t comprehend and cannot resolve. For a clue about what we’re stepping into in Iraq and Syria, with our high-tech fighter jets, drones and ultimately with our soldiers on the ground in this new war against ISIS, lets remember Afghanistan.

Beginning in the yesteryear of the Cheney-Bush regime, the promise was that our Afghan excursion would promptly dispatch the Taliban, train an effective Afghan military force and create a stable democratic government. But it turned out to be both the longest war in American history and a dismal failure on all counts. After 13 years, more than 2,000 U.S. deaths, nearly 20,000 of our troops horribly maimed and over a trillion dollars spent — what have we won?

Far from defeated, the Taliban is again on the offensive, Afghanistan’s elections are a farce, government corruption is rampant, the infrastructure we built is already crumbling, there is no national unity, and more than $100 billion of the money we sent for reconstruction and training was simply stolen by the elites and shipped in suitcases to their foreign bank accounts.

The good news is that our nation’s Afghan debacle is scheduled to end this year. The bad news is that it won’t — a contingent of U.S. troops will remain, we will keep paying $5 billion a year to sustain the Afghan army and police, and we’re on the hook for billions more each year to fund that country’s bankrupt government.

So hi-ho, hi-ho — off again we go to Syria, Iraq and beyond to conquer ISIS in what is already being called “a long war.” Last year, Bowen’s office was formally shut down, with none of the missing cash recovered or accounted for. Remember Bowen’s 10 years of frustration as Washington starts shoving new billions of dollars into the morass of its newest ill-defined war. The tab just for the direct military cost of this latest ISIS, et al misadventure will be as much as $22 billion — a year. How much of our cash for this misadventure will be stolen or “missing”? And just think how much good that money would do if we invested it here in our own people?

To find out more about Jim Hightower, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at

AFP Photo/Senior Airman Matthew Bruch 

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  • Dominick Vila

    Deceit, corruption, and criminal activities notwithstanding, the worst part of our adventurism in Afghanistan and Iraq is its aftermath. We are not fighting ISIL because of 9/11, we are desperately trying to support our puppets in those countries to avoid admitting that the lives of 4,400 American soldiers were not sacrificed in the pursuit of goals that had nothing to do with our national security, national interests, or 9/11. If the latter had been the case, we would have invaded Saudi Arabia, the homeland of Osama bin Laden, the wealthy Saudi, Wahhabi sect, princes that financed Al Qaeda and the 9/11 attack, and the homeland of 15 of the 18 terrorists that attacked us on 9/11.
    Our ISIL problem was caused by our decision to remove Saddam and all Sunnis from government jobs and replace them with Shias aligned spiritually to Iran. As myopic as that decision was, the worst part of the current situation, and the reason ISIL is so successful in Iraq and Syria, is because they enjoy public support, and neither us nor our puppets do.
    Bombs will delay the inevitable, but they will not stop the will of the people or their determination to achieve their national and spiritual goals, regardless of how determined we are to stop it and how offensive their actions are to us. Similar efforts failed in Vietnam, and the same is going to happen in Afghanistan and Iraq. As for Syria, the best thing we can do is let them solve their problems. When are we going to learn that the problems and goals of other people are none of our business, and that we should respect the rights of others the same way we expect them to respect ours?

    • DEFENDER88

      Continue writing

      Most agree that invading Iraq was a mistake. Taking nothing away from the bravery and accomplishments(futile as some have proved to be) of our people who fought there.

      So its hard to “argue” with most of your points.
      BUT – going forward:
      Problem with ISIL is they do NOT “respect” our “right to exist” with “religious freedom”.
      ISIS is the new-age Nazi regim re-incarnate. Mass murders by a shot to the head of those captured etal – exactly like the Nazies “started” until it got much much worse. You are aware of the Nazi Religious/Race “cleansing” places like Auschwitz?
      If your are familiar with what the Nazies did you know ISIS if following the same pattern.

      The US ignored it then(1941) – until the Nazi ally Japan made it deadly clear that ignorance and inaction “can be” just as, if not more deadly than pro-active defense. For “some”(ie NAZI’s, Japan1941, Alqaeda, ISIL, etc) it is their nature(twisted Holy justification/duty) to Attack/Conquer/Supress/Dictate/Murder, especially if they think there will be no consequences for them.

      If it is difficult now – If ISIL is allowed to take over the entire Mid East – how much more difficult will it be for us to stop them then?
      You think they will really stop there? I remind you of 911. And their(ISIS) “stated” intentions for us the US.
      They are just like the Nazies proved to be – there is NO negotiating with them.
      Religious/racial fanatics to the extreme.
      The only real solution. like with the Nazies and then(1941)Japan – is to “wipe them out”.
      So – you are willing to live under Sharia Law and worship Alla, beat down women?

      How best to do that is debatable but I think it must be done – somehow.

      • holyreality

        The IS may be the chimera you describe, but they do remain the JV squad. Sure they ran amok on flat land overrunning Shia Iraqi Army positions, that was because the Shia didn’t have a dog in that fight. Only when IS goons in pickups ran up against Kurdish fighters who had terrain advantage, IS raiders stopped and sulk.
        The “news” coverage is propaganda, frightening the home of the brave into shrieking over phantom menaces because the “news” broadcast some alleged beheadings.
        Try looking up Gary Brecher the War Nerd who nails exactly what IS is capable of and why they cannot proceed any further. He lives on the shore of the Red Sea teaching English to Arabs, he understands the culture more than any armchair pundit spoonfed propaganda daily.

        • DEFENDER88

          I have heard your argument “they can go no further” – When they were outside Kobani(because Kurdish Peshmurga fighters were helping fight them there) and 80mi from Baghdad Airport. Now they have 1/2 of Kobani and are only 8 mi from Bagdad Airport. Unfortunately, the “Facts On The Ground” dont seem to support your argument.

          I am not basing my thoughts only on what “others”/news sources et al “have said”.
          I have “seen” the videos of ISIL fighters herding captured young men(former Iraqi Soldiers we trained, so we could leave) into a ditch and systematically executing them with a head shot – just like the Nazis did (“at First”). Also the videos of them standing them up 1 by 1 continuously shooting them(a long line) in the back of the head. These have, of course, been taken down now for fear of – whatever.

          Watch some old documentaries of how the Nazis did it and it is the very same thing again. Looks the same, sounds the same, feels the same, it IS the same.
          ie We have been here before. We know where this goes. “If you dont know history, you are doomed to repeat it”. We know it here.

          England negotiated an agreement with Hitler to stop the killing(during this same type period) – guess what happened? As with Hitler and the Nazies – these people(ISIL) ARE the same(Just the Arab version of the same thing) – you cannot negotiate with these brainwashed nut jobs. Unfortunately – the only solution seems to be(as we finally found out the hard and catastropic way ie The Holocaust) is to “Wipe Them Out”.

          • JPHALL

            So you actually think that the US alone can effectively deal with IS? We needed the Russians and others to end the Nazi and Japanese threat. Who is going to get the so called moderate Moslems to realize that it is in their interest to stop IS?
            Otherwise we end up ten years later with a new group seeking revenge on us for destroying IS. Remember, we are responsible for the creation of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. We helped create them to fight the Russians.

          • Sand_Cat

            Again, ISIS is not even close to the threat of Japan or Germany alone. A division of Waffen-SS would obliterate the whole organization. Don’t get caught up in the fear game: that’s the GOP’s domain, and that’s how they keep us at war and keep us paying more than the rest of the world combined for “defense.”

          • holyreality

            Thanks for your reply.
            It comes down to whether the airport is in the strategic interests of the Shia in power in the Iraqi government. I wouldn’t be surprised if they(Iraqi govt) give the IS the green zone to seige the US embassy just for spite.
            But that is giving ISIS more credit than they deserve. Sure they are very good at PR, they have put terror in the hearts of the home of the brave fer instance. You complain of mass executions, but as far as a serious military power they just don’t have the fighters. Jihadi don’t come to win, they come to die.
            They are great out in the open but lose force in terrain or city block to block battles the Iraqi army is good at these things.
            Meanwhile the Kurds, the best and bravest tribes are attacked from the north and the west, yet they stopped ISIS because they are better fighters surrounded by hostile neighbors who don’t give them a right to exist as a nation.
            If ISIS takes Syria, then they might become a player in the varsity games.

      • 1standlastword

        IS hasn’t had a challenge yet and you can be sure that Israel remembers the horrors of the Nazis.

        Let IS continue up to the border of Israel and then we shall see IS in a real fight.

        I put my money on Israel

      • Sand_Cat

        I think you overestimate ISIS by a great deal.

        • DEFENDER88

          I hope so. But I would rather be there than underestimate like we did the Nazies and Japanese.
          They DO remind me so much of the Nazi ideology and tactics – if left un-checked we do know where that leads – Racial/ethnic “cleansing” – mass murder. At that time 1941 the US had a Severe case of isolationism and anti-war phobia(from WWI). Pearl Harbor changed all that in an instant.

          I dont think they pose much of a “direct threat” to us NOW but could if allowed to take over a country with sovereignty – like say – Syria. Like Bin Laudin, Alqaeda and the Taliban did in Afghanistan. And they have called for our destruction as one of their primary objectives. In a sovereign country with borders they could buy/develop/capture/steal nukes or Bio weapons, develope plans, etc and make 911 look like kids play. Not to mention how they treat women.

          Obama seems to think they are a threat to the region and eventually us.

          The type of threat we face now is likely radicalized Americans killing a few of us here and there. But that could also get pretty ugly, and even harder to stop. Looks like it might have already started in Canada. Yesterday – a ISIL believer uses car to rundown/kill Canadian military men.

          Long term – seems easy enough to me to put a nuke in a shipping container with 5 guys, in Bum F**k anywhere, ship it to a US port, then while just sitting in port – Bang. What would that do to say the Port of L.A. or NY or NJ (and surrounding cities) and thus we have – Mass Death, chaos, “real” fear, shut down(for a while anyway).
          “Our” “Pearl Harbor” and avoiding/preventing it is my bigger concern.
          So the saying “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst”.

          Of course if they concentrate in one country that would be easy – we could just Nuke them from a sub.:)

    • sigrid28

      We once had such terrible “neighbors” that we were lucky to get away with our lives after they destroyed the resale value of our property by degrading theirs and otherwise made our lives not just miserable but unbearable. Our personal wealth was dismantled in ten years, during which time I had faith in the usual resources available to restore balance in a community threatened by bad actors. These resources, too, were co-opted. Out of fear or cowardice or complicity, the entire community–except for a brave few brave souls who risked their own well-being to help us (unless they were spies)–saw to it that we left with the few possessions exempt under bankruptcy protections, except that we were too poor to make bankruptcy a worthwhile goal. Our situation would be the subject of a decent novel if it weren’t so commonplace these days as to be called trite by most editors out to make a buck.

  • FireBaron

    The Taliban was not defeated, nor bin Laden captured in late 2002 because Donald Rumsfeld decided to order the troops to pull back. By all accounts we were within a week of capturing OBL and dismantling or eliminating the Taliban. However Donald “the army we have” Rumsfeld didn’t see the need to pursue.

    • Dominick Vila

      …and after years of not getting the mastermind of 9/11, W went as far as saying, publicly, that getting OBL was not a big deal! This is also the guy that should not be held responsible for 9/11 because attending the daily national security briefings interfered with chopping firewood at Crawford and reading primers to little kids in Florida and, after all, 8 months was not enough time to place our law enforcement agencies on high alert. In the interest of fair play, I have to admit that he was 100% correct when he attributed the root cause for the worst foreign terrorist attack on U.S. soil in history to “BAD INTELLIGENCE”, although I suspect our interpretation of that limitation is very different than his.

      • sigrid28

        BAD INTELLIGENCE would be the battle cry of the Republican party, with its anti-intellectual fixation and refusal “to be dictated to by fact checkers,” if it weren’t just their favorite excuse for cowardly self-interest and not well-concealed xenophobia.

        • Dominick Vila

          Their strength is party discipline. I voted early a few minutes ago. I saw three couples from my neighborhood who I know are Republicans, and the guy in front of me stepped out of a pickup truck with a large confederate flag. The voting place was unusually busy, especially for a midterm election, and with the exception of an African American couple, I doubt any of the folks there were voting blue.

          • sigrid28

            I, too, find it really hard to take the mean-spirited self-satisfied attitude of Joni Ernst’s followers here in Iowa, where we have been part of the early, vote by mail push, that includes many Democrats like us. Since my son is a Millennial, I have the constant reminder that while Republicans may have party discipline, the demographics in our country belong to the Democrats. I say this to share a smidgen of hope on a dispiriting day.

          • tranz2deep

            Do you know what the original symbol for fascism was? A bundle of sticks. Break a stick. Then try to break a bundle.
            If party discipline trumps logic, compassion, and fair representation, then that party is fascist. End stop.

    • Sand_Cat

      Bin Laden was the best friend Bush and Cheney ever had. One would like to think most of the repressive and ill-considered legislation passed during that time would have drawn at least a fair amount of resistance without 9/11 and Bin Laden. No doubt I’m being paranoid, but it wouldn’t surprise me to find out Rumsfeld was acting on orders from higher up.

  • 1standlastword

    Reading this just made me sick.

    It just seems obvious to me the Bush/ Cheney/ Rumsfeld fiasco can’t and won’t be litigated as criminal because fits right into the big picture that the United States is on the path of that other “exceptional civilization” barbaric Rome.

    Rome was rich, powerful and prideful. She was totally unable to sate her appetite for imperial conquests.

    Her foreign policy was based on diplomacy carried out by violence. That was her strength and mandate from cradle to grave.

    Rome from Kingdom to Republic to Empire lasted for about 1200 years. America is less than 300 years old, so we have many wars yet to fight.

  • howa4x

    We will never win against radical Islam by dropping bombs. This only swells their ranks and draws sympathy. Look no further than Israel whose been at war since it’s existence. Are they any safer? No because each one they kill has 5 family members that swear vengeance against Israel for their death.
    So here we are again, fighting an idea sprung from a misinterpretation of the Koran, against people who see this as a holy war to save their way of life. Islamic countries are the last bastions of complete male dominated rule. Even our so called allies like Saudi Arabia ban women from driving or being out at night or showing their faces. Women are beheaded for religious crimes there just like ISIS. Countries from Syria to Pakistan have laws that restrict women. I’m relating to the part of the country that practices Sharia law and provides recruits to the ranks of the Taliban, who btw were created by the Pakistan Intelligence service, our supposed allies.
    This entire movement is no different than the white power factions that dot America. Ones that want to rule by force and make all observant to their perverse interpretation of the Christian bible. What separates them from ISIS? Each will resort to violence to get their beliefs across, The main difference being we have more police and security than Iraq or Syria. The white power movement here is arming for the final battle just like ISIS, and both groups think the end of the world is near. So if you want to understand what drives ISIS or why people are drawn to them have a chat with the leader of Aryan nation or the Klan.
    The only way to stop all this is not war but education, but hey who is going to make money off of that?

  • charleo1

    I agree with everything I’ve read so far. Deceit, corruption, stupidity. Who thinks sending Pallets of saran wrapped $100 dollar bills into a war zone is a good idea? But, balks at extending unemployment benefits for 6 million, out of work Americans, in the deepest recession in 80 years? That would be the Party that’s poised to retake control of Congress next year. And promises to oppose every idea of that President who steered said Nation thru said recession, saved a good deal of our manufacturing base, nailed the mastermind of 9/11, and enacted the Country’s first National Healthcare Policy. Bringing comprehensive medical care to some 10 million Americans. Many, well into their 40’s and 50’s, who had never had the experience of having a regular doctor, or a basic physical examination. This, while being fully employed in the richest, most industrialized, many would argue the most modern Country in the World. We Americans must have a love-hate relationship with ourselves. We will gladly spend billions, or trillions, if necessary, in the pursuit, “to the gates of Hell,” V.P Biden said a few weeks ago. To destroy a bunch of 9th Century cockroaches, beheading our citizens on the other side of the World. And, I absolutely understand that. But here, for our own people, struggling to keep a roof over their heads, and food on their tables. Working full time, and still qualifying for assistance. Somehow, we can’t find enough rage, to raise the minimum wage? We elect the social authoritarians, the penny pinchers, the cut the taxes of the rich, and pay for it by cutting spending, on investing in America, or in Americans. Even after it’s proven that kind of economics works for no one, but politicians promising a quid pro quo, to the few very wealthy ideologues who lavishly finance their campaigns, and it works like a charm. I love myself, and I hate myself.

    • Whatmeworry

      It was less $$ than the pallets shipped to GM, Chrysler and Solara

      • Whatmeworry is Dan M Ketter

        don’t know about gm, but the union assembly lines guys at Ford made more $$ than desk clerk danodid.

  • Whatmeworry

    What a loon. W deposed a regime that attacked us on 9/11 and rid the world of a despot that Carter had embraced. It wasn’t until Barak took charge that the causalities sky rocketed, we were forced into new wars with no military input. Its time the little boy in the WH is sent packing

    • Whatmeworry is Dan M Ketter

      But Georgie Bush has been out of that officer for yearzsssss dannnno.

    • tranz2deep

      No, he didn’t.
      Try to pay attention this time, not that you have a wide span of it–