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Page 6
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Public Misled on Afghanistan War

By John Ketwig

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The Washington Post recently (December 10, 2019) exposed that the Pentagon has, for the last 18 years, systematically misled Congress and the American public about the war in Afghanistan at a cost of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars. Afghanistan has been left a smoldering pile of rubble, with more than 111,000 dead and the Taliban controlling 70% of the country, far more than when the Americans invaded back in 2001. Meanwhile, suicides among active-duty military personnel are at epidemic rates, surpassing the numbers of GIs killed in combat over the past few years. Suicides among veterans, although only rarely reported to the federal government or VA authorities in most American communities, are also soaring. The usual number of veteran suicides is 22 per day, or more than 8,000 per year.

The wars in the Middle East and Africa are funded separately from the Defense Budget, and are estimated to have cost American taxpayers approximately $5.6 trillion to date. The costs related to militarism and war now cost America more than a trillion dollars a year, which Congress deftly camouflages by borrowing most of the money. Our children and grandchildren will pay it back, they assume, just like college students are expected to pay back their student loans. It seems the Department of Defense (DOD) has cooked the books on every measurement of progress, or the lack of it, regarding the war in Afghanistan. The Pentagon currently employs approximately 600,000 contractor companies, and more contractor employees (3814) than GIs (2400) have died in Afghanistan. Those numbers include the young GIs electrocuted in faulty showers or poisoned by the foul smoke from burn pits constructed by Halliburton, but the company, now operating under a variety of different names, has paid no penalty. In today's America, the ultimate status symbol is not a Rolex watch or a Rolls-Royce in the driveway. It is a defense contract, a license to steal!

On the home front, untold billions of dollars-worth of surplus, or unneeded, high-tech vehicles and equipment have been donated to local police forces across the nation, allowing hometown cops to squelch public protest in communities from Portland, Oregon to Ferguson, Missouri. Meanwhile, our current National Debt is over $22 Trillion!

In 2019, the American people will pay more than $67 billion in interest on that debt. For the very first time in history, Congress demanded an audit of the Department of Defense, to be completed by 2014, then 2017. Not surprisingly, that audit failed because the Pentagon's records were "riddled with so many bookkeeping deficiencies, irregularities, and errors that a reliable audit was simply impossible." One independent study exposed $21 Trillion (NOT a misprint!) missing, lost in "unaccountable adjustments" by the army alone from 1998 to 2015.

When Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez mentioned it, she was ridiculed. A carefully camouflaged provision of the 2012 defense budget authorization bill erased all domestic laws limiting propaganda. In effect, there are now no limits to what the Pentagon, the State Department, or the Office of Management and Budget might tell the American public. In the year 2015, the army's total budget was $122 billion, but the Treasury Department made a cash deposit of $794.8 billion to the army's account, and the army's accounts receivable account showed bills due of $929.3 billion. No one in government has questioned this. The 2016 OIG (Office of the Inspector General) annual report concluded that the missing and unexplained trillions of dollars were the result of the DOD's "failure to correct system deficiencies." Next time the family checkbook doesn't balance, try using that excuse with your mortgage company. The simple truth is, like the reports of impending victory in Afghanistan, the Pentagon's books are systematically cooked to drive the DOD's budgets ever higher, while extreme corruption, waste and fraud are concealed.

The military adventure in Afghanistan has lasted nearly 18 years under 17 different commanding generals. There is no prospect of victory, but the lies and expenses, and the death and destruction, will continue into the foreseeable picture. A few years ago, West Point discontinued ethics classes. I can't help wondering if, in their place, they are teaching corruption and profiteering at West Point?

John Ketwig is a Vietnam veteran, the author of the best-selling Vietnam memoir …and a hard rain fell, and the recently released Vietnam Reconsidered: The War, the Times, and Why They Matter.

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