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So much for budget restraint

Just a few days after the budget bill that included canceling emergency unemployment benefits but increased spending on the already bloated military, our government has added injury to insult by passing a new National Defense Authorization Act which unbelievably gives $30 billion more to the military than was was allocated just a few days ago.

Yes, the budget for the US military is now $526.8 billion for the Pentagon. As if that isn’t enough, the bill also allocates $80 billion to be spent on the war in Afghanistan. Coincidentally, a new poll shows that just 17% of Americans support the Afghan war, making what is already the longest US military conflict ever also one of the most unpopular wars.

Remember this the next time some politician argues that we need to cut spending by cutting food stamps, unemployment benefits, or social security. They should put their money where their mouth is, rather than their foot.



  1. ebdoug wrote:

    Wait, we started the war in Afghanistan. We hired the Arabs as Mercenaries to get rid of the Russians. Had we been insular and kept our hands off Afghanistan in the 1980s, we would not now be cleaning up the mess that allowed the Taliban to be formed. I’ve said this many times: Kabul was a forward city since the 1950s. Poodle skirts, regular clothes for woman, education for all, woman were Dr’s teachers, etc. We took all that away from them by playing God there. And you say we have no further responsibility for what we started? A whole generation went uneducated under the Taliban regime. Think what would have happened had the Russians won the war in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Russian rule would have been a lot more Civilized than the Taliban chopping off limbs, heads, giving women no health care, education, etc. We started it, somehow generations later, we have to finish it.

    Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 4:34 am | Permalink
  2. David Freeman wrote:

    Ebdoug, I am very sympathetic to what you’re saying. Philosophically I agree. However, pragmatically I think the most good/least harm to Afghanistan we can do in this political climate is just get out. As individuals and as humanitarian groups we can support NGOs but no good at this time can make it through Congress.

    Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 10:44 am | Permalink
  3. Hassan wrote:

    Wow, EBDOUG preferring occupation of foreign forces, that is weird. I guess you can tell Russians to join American forces and eat whatever left is of Afghanistan.

    Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 11:12 am | Permalink
  4. ThatGuy wrote:

    Definitely debatable whether the Soviet occupation forces were more or less brutal than the Taliban. But the Soviet-backed regime in power before the rebellion in the late 70s that brought the Soviets into the country was certainly better than everything that followed, but faced opposition from the start as being contrary to Islam.

    As for the United States having “started” the war, I think that’s a pretty big claim. Carter authorized covert action against the Soviet Regime in the summer of ’79, militant coup attempts and rebellions had been going on since ’75. The mistake the U.S. made was declaring the job over once the last Soviet units left Afghan territory, allowing the Taliban to fill a huge power vacuum.

    Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 11:29 am | Permalink
  5. Hassan wrote:

    Lot of uninformed people commenting showing exactly why American foreign policy is messed up in muslim world.

    Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 12:20 pm | Permalink
  6. David Freeman wrote:

    Hassan, could you be specific as to who the “uninformed people commenting” are? I don’t know whether you’re referring to here or elsewhere and since comments vary so much, which ones are ignorant. There is a difference between uninformed and disagreeing.

    Also, though I agree that American foreign policy in the muslim world is messed up, is there any nation who’s foreign policy in that region isn’t messed up?

    Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 3:51 pm | Permalink
  7. ThatGuy wrote:

    Do share your more nuanced views, Hassan. Though it seems you prefer one-line declarations of others’ incompetence to serious contributions to discussions.

    Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 4:01 pm | Permalink
  8. ebdoug wrote:

    No, Russia started the war in Afghanistan against the Afghans who are not Arab and are Muslim. We had the covert operations to keep Russia from gaining access to the sea through Afghanistan. Had we stayed out, we would not now need to be there.

    Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 5:02 pm | Permalink
  9. Hassan wrote:

    Well, I have following issues:

    1. I find the comments from people here as one would expect from colonizer with any regard to what locals would want.
    2. Also the comments clearly depicts that westerners want to focus on 5% of segment of society that they like and project that if it is majority. Having lived and traveled extensively in muslim lands, and also knowing/living with muslims in America, I can attest that liberal fantasy of progressive muslim is mere fantasy. There is 1-5% maximum of muslims that can be deemed as liberal/progressive from western point of view. Then there may be 5% of extremist terrorists. 90% of muslims lie in between these two extreme spectrum. The west only focus on those two 5%. Either fantasizing a world where they think progressive 5% will become majority and rule them or terrifying from other 5% mentioned above.
    3. The brutality of Taliban can be divided into 2 parts. From western liberal point of view they are absolute brutal in both parts, while from people of Afghanistan point of view they were not considered absolute evil (as you may hope for). They did not come as foreign force (like Russia), they came from locals and had good support among them and hence held control on major part of Afghanistan.
    4. Also from chronology point of view of history, taliban did not start ruling when Russians and Americans left, they came for 4-5 years later due to warlords keep fighting and they brought much needed stability.

    There are many things that majority of muslims think that Taliban did wrong, which is specifically education of women and stuff. Their response has always been to criticism is that the western media reports on such issues are not true. They deny this accusation, so even if they are lying on this issue, at least they know that muslims around them did not approve of it.

    Again implying a foreign occupation force is preferable is mind boggling.

    Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 5:05 pm | Permalink
  10. Hassan wrote:

    EBDOUG, if America had stayed out, then USSR would have been more larger than now including Afghanistan (landlocked country) and Pakistan (where the warm sea was).

    Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 5:07 pm | Permalink
  11. Hassan wrote:

    Also, just to clarify, muslims overwhelmingly (except the 5% extremist) condemn terrorism and 9/11 attacks. They consider taliban foolish for not cooperating with Americans against Al Qaeda. Now in the secret talks that has been going on, it is coming out from their side that they agree they will get rid of their country of such people. It was never wise for them to keep them in their country in first place, or at least handed them over once the horrific attacks happened. Although they say if they had gotten proofs from west, they would have done so. But anyway, 12 years too late.

    Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 5:17 pm | Permalink
  12. ThatGuy wrote:

    Carter gave the green light against the socialist-leaning Afghan regime to offset the loss of the Shah’s regime in Iran. I don’t think the Soviets would have taken Pakistan, as they historically backed India in the wars between the two, with the U.S. supporting/influencing Pakistan.

    Hassan, do you have any statistics to back this stuff up? Everyone realizes the Taliban had local support (I mentioned above that the pre-invasion regime faced criticism for being seen as non-Islamic), but they never controlled the entirety of the country, and the parts that they did control lived under a draconian system.

    You also ignore how urban Afghans lived before the Soviet invasion, which is what EBDoug is correctly pointing out in the first post. For the region, it was pretty progressive, and the initial insurgency and subsequent mujaheddin was supported by Iran and Pakistan before U.S. weapons or aid became involved. This wasn’t Christian/Communist colonizers ganging up to mess with a Muslim country. It was the two global powers (who fought by proxy pretty much everywhere) and Afghanistan’s Muslim neighbors all wrecking up the place.

    Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 8:05 pm | Permalink
  13. Hassan wrote:

    Soviets needed warm water access, and Pakistan was next, Afghanistan is landlocked.

    No I do not have scientific survey backing this, so you can keep thinking what you want to think. As I said I have first hand experience walking and living among people, and talking to them.

    Taliban did not come after invasion nor when Soviets left. They came 4-5 year later. They controlled about 2/3rd of country and had support from Pashtuns.

    As far as urban population of Afghanistan goes, as I said that was minority yet powerful segment (hence visible to west) of society. And this was the same across muslim countries almost. If you care to look at historic media (TV dramas/movies/news) of 60/70s of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey and Egypt etc, you would think that majority of population is like that. These were after effects of colonization. And pendulum was swung quite to the left, lates 70s (Iranian revolution), 80s (afghan war) shifted pendulum quite to the right. But as I said majority was in middle, and I think equilibrium is perhaps gradually coming in those two countries.

    In contrast Turkey I think is also reflecting true nature of society, Ataturk when imposed secularism on it, and banned many islamic significant practices, oppressed majority. Now you can see Turkey is quite moderate Islamic country, neither left most nor right most.

    Egypt also voted for muslim brotherhood (which is moderate if you consider other parties from right contesting elections).

    Pakistan was same, where urban extreme liberal minority was controlling, and then during General Zia (80s) it became moderate to right. It is still unstable in terms of who controls the country, but people on street are overwhelmingly moderate (moderate in muslim world context).

    I am not accusing of US involvement in 80s wrong, as it was in US strategic interest to not get USSR expanded. But to suggest US should not have intervened because Russia colonizing Afghanistan is good for Afghanistan is pathetic.

    Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 10:35 pm | Permalink
  14. Iron Knee wrote:

    Hassan brings an important point of view. We should not be arguing over whether what he is saying is true or not. He is telling us what the Muslims he knows believe about Afghanistan. And personally, I think that is just as valid (if not more so) that what we believe about Afghanistan (since almost everything reported by the US media about Afghanistan is utter bullshit).

    Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 1:45 am | Permalink
  15. ebdoug wrote:

    I’ve always been interested in Hassan’s point of view. I did think that the Taliban evolved from the hard line teachings of the Saudi Arabia mercenaries, I.E. Osama bin Laudin and his followers. And at present there are many outside of Kabul who have never heard of 9/11 (our Tower of Babel, but that is another subject)
    There is not the education of the people outside Kabul that would allow the people to understand that the Americans are there to protect their rights of education, medical care, etc.
    Turkey is definitely secular and a wonderful example of a country who stood up to the imperialism of the UK.
    I started my studies of the Muslim countries when my boys were in Little League. My friend is wife of a Pakistan Doctor. Her father Muslim ran the railroads in India until partition and the move to Pakistan. She, herself had gone to school in France, I believe and had her Masters. I watched while her boys sat the bench because they were brilliant and not the sons of the local Red Necks. They planned to both become doctors, but I’ve lost track of them. I was so angry and couldn’t do anything because my son was on the team. But it got me reading. Like the ignorant Afghans, most of this country doesn’t know that the Muslim Religion worships Abraham of the Old Testament. They don’t realize the Muslim Religion as an evolution of the Jewish Religion and see it as totally foreign like the Buddhist or Hindu.
    And I will someday read “Killing of the Cranes”.

    Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 5:17 am | Permalink
  16. Don wrote:

    I’m with IK. I very much appreciate Hassan’s point of view, especially when he expands his thoughts and ideas as he has in this thread.

    In point of fact, I appreciate all of those who contribute openly and honestly to this blog. Happy New Year to all of you.

    Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 2:59 pm | Permalink
  17. PATRIOTSGT wrote:

    Well said Hassan. I know from my travels that there are many western misconceptions about the Muslim world. Most of those misconceptions come from a guided media campaigns to shape a point of view for some political goals. There is also propaganda from those in power on the Muslim side to further their political goals including building mistrust and hatred for westerners, but education and access to global media are big deterrents to that manipulation.
    In my travels I met many Iraqi’s who were grateful for the efforts of the people, soldiers and contractors trying to help, but confused as to our foreign policy. In Afghanistan they were wary hearing from one side that our ultimate goal was to colonize, but seeing some benefits from our presence in building schools, providing security etc. Citizens of both countries genuinely seemed to have deep appreciation for the individual efforts, while being skeptical of our government’s intentions.
    Hassan is correct in that try as we may, we don’t understand that culture and how could we. But we as a nation seem to keep thinking that because we are so smart and technologically advanced we know everything. Banking, IT, War machines, transportation, space travel, etc are one thing, but really understanding a culture as diverse and rich as the Muslim community is completely different. Even if you are educated in Muslim history and culture, you can’t truly understand it unless you are a Muslim from that community.

    Thanks Hassan and Happy New Year to all the PI readers and contributors1

    Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 6:18 pm | Permalink
  18. ebdoug wrote:

    “a new poll says that 17% of the public support the Afghan war.” This is a great statistic because 97% of the public supported invading Iraq in March of 2003.

    Thursday, January 2, 2014 at 6:55 am | Permalink
  19. Jon wrote:

    How long were the Soviets in Afghanistan? The most recent time, I mean. The period during which we supported the Taliban because, “The enemy of our enemy is our friend.”

    Oh, and how’d that work out?

    Friday, January 3, 2014 at 2:39 pm | Permalink
  20. ebdoug wrote:

    Re: Iraq. In 2003 Tommy Franks did not want to invade Iraq until the borders were secure against Al-Qaida. Saddam Hussein had always kept the borders secure against the extremists. (See the humorous movie “Blackboard”) Baby Bush said “We invade now.” Tommy Franks retired.
    Now the city of Fallujah has been taken over by the Invading Al-Qaida. The residents are fleeing for their lives. We let Al-Qaida in.
    And we have no responsibility for our actions??????????? Just like Afghanistan. We play God, then abandon the residents.

    Saturday, January 4, 2014 at 8:21 pm | Permalink