I have previously written about the waste of billions of dollars by the government without any significant discipline for government officials. We have become accustomed to reports of unimaginable corruption and waste in Afghanistan from bags of money delivered to officials to constructing huge buildings to be immediately torn down to buying aircraft that cannot be used. Yet even with the disclosure of our useless campaign against poppy production where we continued to spend billions because no one had the courage to end or change the program, no action was taken against a single individual. Billions simply evaporate and nothing happens, even with public outcry. Now, the John Sopko, special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction (SIGAR), has revealed that the government spent $43 million to build a gas station in Afghanistan that should have cost roughly $500,000. As before, it is not clear why there has not been a long list of federal officials suspended pending both potential criminal and civil charges.
Our close ally, Egypt, continues to lay waste to free speech this month with the absurd sentencing of a Facebook user to three years in jail for simply putting Mickey Mouse ears on a picture of president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. Amr Nohan was charged with an “attempt to overthrow the regime” for the comical Facebook posting and tried in a military court.
There is an interesting story coming out of CBS this week where the network has refused to air advertisements for Truth by Sony Pictures Classics. The problem is that the film starring Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford places CBS in a negative light in exploring the network controversy over airing the 2004 news story on former President George W. Bush’s military service record. The story was discredited and CBS fired producer Mary Mapes. Anchor Dan Rather later retired from CBS. [For full disclosure, I worked for CBS as an on-air analyst with Rather and thought very highly of him in our work on the Bush v. Gore coverage].
By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
The realpolitik in the Levant changed significantly upon the entry of the Russian Government into the foray. Russia announced recently it would assist the Assad Government in Syria as well as Kurdish forces in fighting what it perceives to be a mutual threat to Russia by ISIS. It has interest in maintaining the Assad government, which has long established ties with Moscow. In the past weeks the Russian military established operational bases in Syria and began a heavy program in supplying material and personnel.
Now, the Russian leadership announced it was working on providing weapons to Iraqi Kurds fighting ISIS through the Iraq Government. This shows a clear departure from the politics in the region where the focus was upon the United States to provide the Iraqis with defense abilities. Yet, this has proven to be ineffective due to the rapid expeditionary campaign launched against the people and government of Iraq by ISIS. It was almost an embarrassment when the United States surprised the world with the announcement of ISIS’ threat after it was six months into its war effort against Iraq and Syria and went so far as to claim that despite the loss of 25% of Iraq’s territory and ISIS forces advancing within several dozen miles of Iraq’s capital, the situation was under control and was not an existential threat to the nation.
Now, in the vacuum of a serious effort on behalf of the west to address the ISIS problem, other than airstrikes and millions of dollars recruiting and training a handful of Syrian volunteers, Russia is emerging to fulfill the void left behind. Russia will gain both in terms of influence in credibility in the area as a result.
It would seem a straightforward journalistic piece when Susan Keating at PEOPLE Magazine decided to inform readers that Congressman Steve Russell, R-Okla., and others were questioning the qualifications and training of the first women to pass the Army Ranger school. Russell has asked the secretary of the Army for documentation pertaining to the passage of 1st Lt. Shaye Haver and Capt. Kristen Griest after he said various sources complained that (in direct contradiction of official Army statements) the women were given help in passing the rigorous tests. Keating, however, has been attacked as “anti-woman” for writing the story in a strong backlash as the Army denies all of the allegations.
Russian Ambassador Sergey Andreev has caused an outcry in Poland after stating that Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939 was an act of self-defense prompted by the failure of the Poles to join a coalition against Hitler. It was a bizarre claim was not only politically disastrous but historically moronic. The Russians have often omitted from their accounts of the heroic Russian war with Germany that they were first and foremost an ally of Hitler and sought to carve up Europe with him. it was only when Hitler betrayed Stalin that the Russians fought against Germany in its invasion.
Marine Lance Cpl. Gregory T. Buckley, 21, of Oceanside, N.Y., died Aug. 10 in Garmsir, Afghanistan, while supporting combat operations. He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force. There is an incredibly disturbing story in the New York Times this week where soldiers have reported being told by American officials to ignore the rape and abuse of Afghan boys at a base by Afghan officers so not to interfere with a cultural practice. The boys were brought to the base to be raped as part of what Afghans call bacha bazi, literally “boy play.” Lance Cpl. Gregory Buckley Jr. told his father that he would lay on his bunk at night and listen to the screaming of the boys as they were sexually abused by Afghan officers. Buckley went to his superiors and was allegedly told not to interfere. Buckley was later shot to death by an Afghan policeman at the base in 2012.