Thursday, March 19, 2015

$2.2 Billion Down the Crapper

This from an internal audit of Canada's aid program to Afghanistan.
The internal government audit of what has been the largest aid program in Canadian history concluded the $2.2 billion we spent yielded very mixed results, many of them disappointing in the extreme.
Yes there were some notable achievements, particular in education and health services, but nothing like the long-term impact Ottawa hoped would come from this huge infusion of aid, one that diverted hundreds of millions of dollars away from assistance projects in other very poor countries.
I wrote about Afghanistan's education system before:
It is now 2013. As late as last November the education system (the main symbol of NATO's mission against the Taliban) completely failed to even have places for 42% of Afghanistan's school-age children. For the rest, it is a "common complaint" that many "teachers" are frauds, collecting a salary for some warlord narco-gangster. Finally, many of these schools (staffed by placeholders or genuine teachers or whatever) have no long-term funding.
So take whatever that internal audit says about our school building with a grain of salt. As for the rest, it's been a cluster-fuck. The question is "Why?"
Now, it is worth remembering that this was a truly massive Canadian undertaking, and yet, we floundered in southern Afghanistan because we didn't know what we were doing in a country we never could comprehend.
We didn't know what we were doing. We didn't understand the Afghans or their country. And, I'll add, we didn't care. Ask yourselves how many people you know who were interested in the results of our non-lethal spending in Afghanistan? How many people do you think would condemn the people of Afghanistan for ingratitude if they heard them complaining about our development initiatives? Then, ask yourself how Paul Martin (who devastated the Canadian welfare state) or stephen harper (who needs no introduction) were supposed to care about Afghans when they clearly didn't give a shit about Canadians?

Some more snippets from the article:
Yet after spending all that money and energy, as well as the blood of those killed and wounded protecting this humanitarian operation, we pulled our aid presence when we departed militarily in 2011.
The Harper government left all the work — on schools, medical clinics, even the showpiece irrigation work connected to the large, "signature project" Dahla Dam — to be picked up by the Americans.
But the handover was never properly handled, the audit says. The U.S. had other priorities and there was not enough support "to keep this strategic Canadian legacy alive."
Pure carelessness. Evidence of not giving a shit.
The almost inescapable conclusion is that Canada was as naive in departing Kandahar province as it was in accepting the military mission there in the first place.
My own view, shared by many others, is that central to Canada's problem was an overconfident, relentless boosterism around this mission that was encouraged, even demanded, throughout by Ottawa.
"We went into a complex country without a proper strategy and this was a major problem. And there was over-optimism so we were not looking at the status of the insurgency," Nipa Banerjee, who ran our aid there between 2003 and 2006, told Canadian Press this week.
In later years, the sunny Canadian outlook often astonished even NATO allies.
Chris Alexander, then our senior diplomat in Kabul and now the minister of citizenship and immigration, is remembered in one British memoir as "among the most persuasive of the optimists, and in many ways the golden boy of the effort in Afghanistan … a formidable operator who never let much check his unquenchable optimism."
I think by now its perfectly clear that Chris Alexander is the textbook definition of a psychopath. It's pretty bizarre isn't it? Chris Alexander dismissed torture of Afghan civilians as a non-issue. If any Afghans subsequently came to Canada after his tenure there he'd be the guy happily calling them deadbeat chiselers as he cut their health care benefits. Alexander was obviously too well informed to believe in his own sunny prognostications, he was just being a team player with a bunch of other psychopathic, callous monsters.
One dark irony of this period was that the Conservative government and other ardent supporters of the war often criticized the media for being too pessimistic in its Afghan coverage.
The reality is most media were far too pliant and unquestioning of a military-civilian mission that, with rare exceptions, hid behind the false-confidence curtain dictated by Ottawa.
This is an all too common problem. No matter how delicately you treat these garbage-brained, murderously incompetent, or just plain murderous criminal scum, they'll bray, and whine and blubber that you're being unfair to them. Chris Alexander and stephen harper deserve to be in prison cells, not sitting in limousines grumbling about the insufficiently chipper news reports about their various blunders.
Understandably, many Canadians want to put that far-off war behind us and forget. But we simply can't ignore the lessons learned about the cost of our simplistic over-optimism if we're to avoid similar mistakes in Iraq or other campaigns to come.
I think it's difficult for Canadians to forget about things they never noticed when they were happening at the time. 

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