One interesting fact is lost in all the discussion ongoing about the Ukraine/Crimea/Russia/US imbroglio ongoing, and that is the money question. The bible tells us that where your treasures are is where your heart is, and the same has to be true about nations and how they spend their treasures, too. Let’s take a look at how the United States is spending its treasures abroad in its foreign policy adventures.
The number is being tossed around that the United States has spent somewhere in the region of $5 billion dollars in the Ukraine since 1992—exact amounts and exact dates are vague but the USG hasn’t seen fit to deny the reports— most on ‘democracy promotion’.* This does not include any black budget funds—secret spook money–spent in Ukraine which funding is apt to be sizeable lately. Exactly how that money has been spent can’t be said from the information given, but judging from such records as exist most of it has been spent on electoral politics type things, the orange and now brown revolutions, and if you looked at how American political campaigns spend money you’d have a pretty good idea of how the money has been spent. The money gets given to politicians and spent by them on PR and parties. There is nothing left to show for all the money spent on a political campaign—the money doesn’t stick around and leave anything behind. Same has to be true of our $5 billion in the Ukraine—the Ukrainians will have no schools, no highways, no power plants and electric lines, no educated professionals, nothing for all that money.
On the other hand, this country has been at war in Afghanistan since 2002. Afghanistan is one of the three or four poorest countries in the entire world, and needs everything rebuilt or replaced from almost four decades of continuous war. It has been universally acknowledged that part of our war effort in that country is to provide aid and reconstructive funds to where our opponents the Taliban lose popular support and that this aid is a critical component of our war effort. It is also universally acknowledged that aid is cheaper than US military forces—a common statistic is that it costs $1.5 million per year to station a GI in Afghanistan. Greg Mortenson** claims to be able to build a school for $50,000 in Afghanistan. One GI-year equals 30 schools built, and we have tens of thousands of GI’s there every year. You can take the preceding statistics with the appropriate amount of salt, but you can’t dispute Afghanistan’s dire poverty and need. That’s obvious. Seems equally obvious that if we are at war in that country, between our moral obligations to assist the folks in that country hurt by our war there combined with the strategic necessity for aiding those folks in that country we would be spending some fair amount of aid assistance change in that country.
Numbers say otherwise. Nonmilitary aid and assistance to Afghanistan, by all US agencies was:
FY 2002–$708 million
FY 2003–$556 million
FY 2004—$1254 million
FY 2005—$1534 million
FY 2006—$845 million
FY 2007–$1603 million
FY 2008–$1893 million
FY 2009–$2298 million
FY 2010—$3519 million
These numbers are from the SIGAR Report to Congress, 7-30-2010. I have subtracted military assistance funds and anti drug expenditures from the aid figures for these fiscal years, as I consider the first a direct expenditure for war prosecution and the second largely a fraud of no real assistance to the average Afghan. The figure on $5 billion on aid to the Ukraine comes from Paul Blumenthal’s 3-7 article in Huffington Post., and covers the 1992-present time period, as does Mike Whitney’s 2-12 CounterPunch article. The only useful expenditure in the Ukraine from what I could tell in the HP article was $200 million on Chernobyl cleanup.
We didn’t spend $5 billion in aid to Afghanistan sum total in our first five years of war there. Add the numbers and see for yourself. And those first five years were the time-critical years for our ever succeeding in that country in our war there, too. Matters of up-front timing are life and death for car crash victims and wars both. On the other hand, we’ve been happy to give away that much to Ukrainian politicians since 1992. We’ll spend more on Ukrainian political shenanigans than we spent on essential humanitarian and war-prosecution necessary aid in the first five years of war in Afghanistan. And it looks like we aren’t near done spending there in the Ukraine yet either. Hellfire, from all accounts we are in the middle of one hell of a spending spree there right now. We maybe might be getting close on quitting spending in Afghanistan, at least maybe for the time being, because Karzai has pissed Official DC off too much. Damned ingrate.
So follow the money, rubes. We aren’t serious about the war in Afghanistan and we never have been or we’d have spent more money on aid to the country and its peoples so that our war effort could have ever had a chance of working and we never did. We’d rather spend money overseas on stupid white politicians who will presumably stay good and bought and do our government’s bidding. We don’t give a shit about the welfare of Afghans and we don’t give a shit about the welfare of Ukrainians either, even if they are white and European. Unless they are politicians like ours, of course, because they need our help you know. All the dollar figures are out in the open and they always have been and if you’ve never read them before well it’s just because the Washington Post and the NYT and all their media kith don’t think you hicks need to know them. That’s our government, and that’s us too. Or way too many of us, nowadays, at any rate. Hey Rube! Step Right Up!!
Daniel N. White can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Israel Shamir, in CounterPunch, 2-24, claims that Kiev is awash in new $100 bills, of a type not yet seen in Moscow. I’m sure these funds aren’t showing up on the Fed balance sheets yet and may, like other black budget monies, never show up.
**Much as I hate to trash someone in the mountaineering fraternity, Mortenson, for all his fame and popularity, is a liar in important aspects of what he writes about. See the Jon Krakauer pieces on the web.