Monday, January 29, 2007

Thoughts of Afghanistan...

There is a strange propensity that seems to run right through the blogiverse. Yeah, my hand is up as being guilty as well.

It begins with an idee fixe that suits a particular point of view, a political stance. It becomes, after a time, an inability to apply the central principle to a similar event or situation.

I had a discussion some while back about the relative “reliability” of news sources. I have both weekly and daily tours that I do through the internet media. That includes google news as well as specific stops (The Independant, NYT, WaPo, The Economist, Time etc). GoogleNews is useful for finding “topics du jour” that have not reached the three or four pages that comprises Granny Herald’s “international pages”. In that discussion I rather rashly (or so Robert from Robertopia thought) opined that there were stories that FoxNews either failed or consciously refused to cover.

There is a case in point in this morning’s Herald. It is a story that seems (judging by the level of coverage) to have originated from Canada though the by-line of the Herald story is the Telegraph in London. There is no sign of it thus far in the US media as yet. So, for a start I shall be keeping an eye out for this story there, and particularly the slant that it takes.

There is also a parallel between this story and another that was among the “idee fixe” blogiverse cliches that eminate especially from the US right wing during the past two or three years.

The “corruption in the UN”, Food for Oil scandals, that were synonymous with Kofi Annan are now hopefully going to be consigned to the dustbins of history. At least, that is, until the UN under its new leadership treads on the toes of certain of the leading members. But that is not the subject that I want to follow. It is the one side of the idea I want to follow. A very large part of that accusation and political attitude toward the UN and Anan came from mismanagement and corrupt practices in the Iraq Food for Oil programme. That many of those involved in the corruption and fraud were from the same nations as those making the accusations (Australia’s Wheat Board is a marvellous case in point) is quietly and conveniently glossed (whitewashed?) over. But please, leave the detail there because the connection is a principle rather than the muck. The principle is –
People - including me, the news media, you the reader – are much less prepared to present or to listen to news that runs against our preconceptions than that which supports those preconceptions.

Yes, it is very little more than a recycled version of “confirmation bias”. Exactly.

So, how does that connect with the Herald story? Well, here is it as published in the Melbourne Age.

Corrupt police and tribal leaders are stealing big amounts of reconstruction aid that is intended to improve the lives of ordinary Afghans and turn them away from the Taliban.

Defence officials in the United States and Britain estimate that up to half of the aid in Afghanistan is not reaching the right people.

NATO forces say some Afghan police are guilty of corruption and will steal the aid if it is handed out. Tribal and mosque elders have also been accused of seizing goods, including building materials and fuel, and selling them in markets.

A Pentagon official said thousands of cars and trucks intended for use by the Afghan police had been sold instead.

Last week, the US and European Union announced plans to spend another £7 billion ($A17.7 billion) on help for Afghanistan, of which £1.5 billion will go on reconstruction.

The article concludes –

A joint report by the Pentagon and the US State Department, circulated to congressional committees last month, concluded that the Afghan police force was corrupt to the point of ineffectiveness. One Pentagon official said that police officers had stolen and sold at least half of the equipment supplied by the US.

Now, if I google “Afhan aid corrupt” I should flick something out from US news sources? Yes? No?

No. Not a sausage. There is much about the success of the various aid and development programmes and more especially the changes that result from the military intervention. There is much about the Talib and the problems that the religious fundamentalists are causing. There is very little written on the actual “success” in the rebuilding of the Afghanistan.

That latter point is a continual cri de couer (about both Afghanistan and Iraq) of the right hand side of the blogiverse. I understand why that is. They have to keep the faith. They have to bolster their own beliefs as much as they do try to persuade others of the right, rather than the liberal, right.

And now the news that US/Europe (or is it NATO now?) is throwing another seven billion pounds (in money, not avoirdupois) into the Afghani warlords’ pockets.

And where is the outcry about corruption and waste in those aid programmes?

Update -

A passing thought... The additional aid funding, if all of it reaches Afghanistan, represents -

A 50% increase in income per head of population

a 60% in GDP (over 2005 estimate)

Base numbers from CIA World Factbook and AUD:USD of 0.75

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