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Deeper in the muddy

Arlington Advocate

Guest commentary: Ever deeper in the big muddy

By Thea Paneth

Thu Dec 03, 2009, 06:30 AM EST

Arlington, Mass. - In 1968, Pete Seeger performed “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy” on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Initially, the performance was censored by CBS for being “political,” but public outcry eventually led to a televised performance.

“…Waist deep! Neck deep! Soon even a Tall Man’ll be over his head, we’re Waist deep in the Big Muddy! And the big fool says to push on!”

The song was true for its time during the Vietnam War — a war that lasted 12 years, cost more than 58,000 U.S. lives and more than 3 million South East Asian lives (Vietnamese, Cambodian and Laotian) and cost around $600 billion.

Unfortunately, the song lyrics are as true today in relation to the current U.S. wars as they were 41years ago.  

The expected escalation in Afghanistan will not “finish the job.” For more than eight years, the job has been, variously, to “get Al Qaeda,” “get Bin Laden,” “nation-building,” and helping Afghan women and children. Al Qaeda has left Afghanistan, Bin Laden is still at large and the general situation in Afghanistan is disastrous, especially for women and children. According to Malalai Joya, who is called the bravest woman in Afghanistan, the situation for Afghan women is as bad as ever, and the US/NATO occupation is the “same donkey with a new saddle” due to the warlords who are in power. 

Today, Afghanistan has the distinction of being the second most corrupt country in the world according to Transparency International and the United States is paying protection monies to the Taliban to move supplies through dangerous territory, effectively arming the “enemy.”

Since 2003, about two-thirds of nearly $30 billion in aid has been routed through foreign consultants, companies and organizations. The net result is that aid money never reached the people who need it most. 

To understand the impact of the 30 years of unending war including the US/NATO occupation on the Afghan people, look at these facts:

  • Afghanistan has the highest infant mortality rate in the world
  •  9 million Afghans live on less than $1 a day (population approximately 28 million)
  • 70% of the population lacks clean water
  • Lack of adequate health care including sanitation – 90% of the population lacks proper sanitation
  • 80% of the population lacks electricity

The war is expanding across the border from Afghanistan to Pakistan. In Karachi, murderous drone bombing attacks are being carried out by the CIA and by the paramilitary contractor Blackwater (also known as Xe and U.S. Training Center). They are killing people with such careless impunity (17 “insurgents” and 600 bystanders killed thus far) that military intelligence officers are speaking out against the practice. Pakistan is a volatile, nuclear-armed nation. As citizens, we should be very concerned by such covert, destabilizing bombing campaigns and illegal, unconstitutional paramilitary programs that are killing people with our tax dollars and in our names and expanding the war-front to another nation. 

The war in Afghanistan has cost the United States $232.4 billion thus far, with escalation costs of an additional 40,000 troops costing an estimated $30 to 51 billion/year or approximately $750,000 per soldier. The war in Iraq has cost the United States $703.2 billion. The total cost of these wars is nudging $1 trillion. These are supplemental budget appropriations, apart from a military budget that is roughly $1 trillion per year.

Arlington taxpayers have contributed well over $200 million for the total cost of these wars. We all know that the upcoming year holds yet another budget shortfall for our town (approximately $4 million) as general and health insurance costs continue to rise, tax revenues continue to decline and state aid to cities and towns is cut. We cannot afford these continuing wars; we need fiscal relief in the form of tax dollars flowing back to our communities from the federal government. There has been plenty of money for war and bailing out Wall Street financiers while ordinary citizens in communities across the nation are getting the short end of the stick. 

Arlington United for Justice with Peace has consistently criticized the war policies that began under the Bush Administration and are continuing under the Obama Administration. These wars are costing lives and bankrupting our nation. There is a growing danger that escalating the wars, particularly in Pakistan, will lead to much more devastating “blowback” than 9/11.







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