What better way to insulate the White House, the Defense Department, and the State Department from the glare of media scrutiny than by publication of a scathing profile the leading general in Afghanistan, Stanley McChrystal?
Clearly, General McChrystal crossed the line which should come as a surprise to no one, but has he become a shield, or protective agent, for new revelations about war in Afghanistan? It is not the first time the general has done so. It is also crucial to highlight the untenable effront to the commander-in-chief these remarks suggest, but it is equally important to take note of other news that has come from Afghanistan in the past three days alone, news that should take center stage.
In the last three days alone, two major reports have surfaced. First, CBS News announced on Friday the awarding of $190 million contract by the State Department to a subsidiary of Blackwater, now XE, to “provide security services” in Afghanistan, so hundreds of contractors who were forced out of Iraq in recent months have now been conveniently relocated to greener pastures in Afghanistan.
Then, late Monday night, comes word from the BBC, that a congressional subcommittee report finds, after several months of investigation, that “tens of millions of dollars” are being paid to Afghan forces only to end up in the pockets of Taliban warlords. The US taxpayer money is being paid to the warlords, in effect, to provide protection for military contractors working in Afghanistan.
The congressional investigation asserts that members of local government, and police are being bribed along with the Taliban to ensure convoys safe passage. As the BBC article contends, too, “One of the security companies in question is alleged to be owned by two cousins of the Afghan President Hamid Karzai.”
So, when the media focus moves from nonstop coverage of the oil spill in the gulf of Mexico to calls for General McChrystal to step down, news of nearly $200 million more of taxpayer money being funneled into Afghanistan, over the coming months, for “protective security services,” as well as the millions of US government money being paid to the Taliban to protect private security firms in Afghanistan will be essentially lost in the shuffle.
Not lost, however, is the biblical corruption, and visible sense of outrage by inhabitants of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, as well as the world community that can only agree now with the wisdom of another general, Smedley D. Butler, from the 1930’s, who said, quite astutely, that “war is a racket.” The only progress made in the past seventy years is that the press has become even more adept at cooperating with the Pentagon is covering its tracks.
Willingly or otherwise, the press has become another enabler of war.
JAYNE LYN STAHL is a widely published poet, essayist, playwright, and screenwriter, member of PEN American Center, and PEN USA.