Monday, December 7, 2009

Giving Iraq Stuff Needed In Afghanistan

 Visions of the U.S. military hastily escaping Saigon ending our commitment to the Vietnam war were disgusting as we saw one helicopter after another dumped ungraciously into the sea to make room for a horde of escaping U.S. civilian workers and Vietnamese refugees.

Those 1975 newsreel visions came to mind today as we learn the U.S. military is giving away equipment from its departing bases to the Iraqis that is much needed by our troop commanders in Afghanistan.

The report filed by the Washington Post said the equipment is passenger vehicles, generators and other items worth up to $30 million from each of the estimated 250 installations we are turning over to the Iraqi government. In some cases, the Iraqi army is stealing the remaining fixtures such as beds and plumbing articles for their own personal use.

Furthermore, it is authorized by the Pentagon which has tweaked its policy but still caught flat-footed in what I would consider a scandal the Bush administration agreed to in a status of forces agreement for our troop withdrawal.

The report also points out that in many cases, the cost of transporting the equipment and facilities to Afghanistan is more expensive than the items themselves.

But the underlying thrust of the policy is outrageous. While some of our troops are forced to drive 15-year-old vehicles with bald tires in the rugged Afghan provicinces, Iraqis are driving brand new SUVs given to them free by Uncle Sam.

According to the Post:

Officials involved say the approach has triggered arguments in the Pentagon over whether the effort to leave Iraqis adequately equipped is hurting the buildup in Afghanistan. Officials in the U.S. Central Command, which oversees both wars, have balked at some proposed handovers, and previously rejected an approach that would have granted base commanders even greater leeway.
U.S. commanders in Iraq say they have been judicious in assessing what equipment to earmark for donation. Alan F. Estevez, a deputy undersecretary of defense, wrote in an e-mail that "an important and vital goal is to leave behind fully functioning bases to the Government of Iraq to enable Iraq's civil capacities."
But a U.S. military official critical of the process said the new regulations allow too much latitude to commanders, provide little oversight and fail to account for the urgent need of American forces in Afghanistan, which need the same kinds of items that the troops in Iraq are leaving behind. 

Under federal law, government agencies must demonstrate that equipment they wish to donate is not needed by other U.S. agencies. If that criterion is met, equipment can be donated in exchange for "substantial benefits" to the United States.

In this case, it means goodwill to the Iraqi government and plundering by its rank and file.

Meanwhile, the only winners in the Afghan surge is the equipment contractors our government pays top dollars to produce. The military-industrial combine as President Eisenhower feared wins again. We can ill afford this nonsense.

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