The Austin Chronicle

The Hightower Report

By Jim Hightower, July 22, 2011, News

What Are We Doing in Afghanistan?

America's long, long war in Afghanistan has drained more than 1,500 precious lives and about a half-trillion dollars from our country. But, finally, this enormous outlay paid off with the capture and killing of that al Qaeda demon, Osama bin Laden, who attacked America and was the reason our military went into Afghanistan.

Oh, wait – Osama wasn't in Afghanistan, was he? He was comfortably ensconced in Pakistan, whose leaders are supposedly our allies. And it wasn't the costly Afghan war effort that got bin Laden, it was old-fashioned spy work, culminating in a raid involving a small team of Navy Seals, a dog, and two helicopters.

So why have two presidents and a decade of Congresses dumped so many lives and so much money into a country that poses no threat to us? Hardly a powerhouse, Afghanistan is an impoverished, anarchic, largely illiterate land of ancient tribal factions and fractious warlord fiefdoms. They have no desire or ability to attack us.

The only reason we're given for being in Afghanistan is that we must keep al Qaeda terrorists from establishing bases there. But – like bin Laden – al Qaeda left this country years ago and now operates transnationally in Pakistan, Yemen, Uzbekistan, and elsewhere, including England and Germany.

Yet we're told we must continue to pour American lives and dollars into Afghanistan. But ... why? To create a central, democratically elected government with a 300,000-member army and police force, we're told. But why? To stabilize the country, they say. But, why? To keep al Qaeda out, they repeat, closing the endless loop of a Kafka-esque rationalization.

Yes, President Obama has finally started a slow withdrawal of U.S. troops, but that will take at least three years, more than $300 billion, and untold numbers of shattered lives. The question remains: Why?

Bachmann's Earner Overdrive

If you find it necessary to declare on national television that "I am a serious person," you're probably not.

Meet Michele Bachmann. She's currently running for president but suffering a few credibility problems. One is that she keeps creating her own fanciful version of history. For example, she recently bewildered Iowa voters by asserting that the Founding Fathers had magnanimously included every American in the nation's new government: "It didn't matter the color of [people's] skin," she marveled. "It didn't matter whether they were of a higher class or a lower class; it made no difference." Seriously.

Indeed, Bachmann plowed straight ahead into a fantasy about the Founders' glorious work to free the slaves. She insisted that these wealthy, white, slave-owning men "worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States." Seriously.

No surprise, then, that the congresswoman also invents her own personal history. While she unsparingly attacks "Washington's spending addiction," she apparently doesn't own a mirror. It turns out that her husband's counseling clinic has received thousands of dollars in state and federal grants. Oh, she dodges, those tax dollars didn't come to us. Seriously? Yes, she explains, the money went to train our clinic's employees – as though that's not a subsidy for their business. Then there is the $260,000 in subsidies for her family's farm. Oh, she dissembled, that went to my father-in-law, adding that, "I have never gotten a penny from the farm." Seriously? But wait, she's listed as a partner in the farm, and her financial disclosure forms report that, in fact, she has received $105,000 in income from it.

Bachmann says she wants to take government back – and, in all seriousness, it looks like she's already clawing back her piece of it.

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