I’m sure you’ve heard about the $65 million. Or was it $86 million? Or was it even more? You know, the funds the Pentagon sunk into that hotshot plane it was preparing for its Afghan drug interdiction program. You haven’t?
Well, as Megan Rose reported at ProPublica, with its “electro-optical infra-red video capacity,” that counternarcotics plane was supposed to lend a significant hand in surveilling and disrupting the Afghan heroin trade. Only one small problem. That single plane never made it out of a warehouse in Delaware or flew a mission in Afghanistan, whatever its cost (which the Pentagon was typically incapable of tracking), and when it was recently offered for sale at auction, no one wanted to put down a red cent for it. And lest you think of that as a bizarre anomaly, consider, as Rose points out, the $3 million patrol boats for Afghanistan the Navy purchased that never made it out of Virginia or the 20 planes for the Afghan air force that the Pentagon spent a mere $486 million on, even though they never flew and finally brought in just $32,000 as scrap metal. Or think for a moment about the more than $65 billion (yep, billion!) that went into the woeful Afghan military, an inept force long mentored by the U.S. military that remains filled with “ghost soldiers” and plagued by soaring casualties and staggering desertion rates. Or since America’s war zones have, in these years, been sinkholes of corruption, just recall the $43 million gas station built by the Pentagon in the middle of an Afghan nowhere, or the similarly infamous “highway to nowhere,” or the state-of-the-art U.S. military headquarters in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, that doubled in cost to $25 million while under construction and was never used, or the $1.2 billion to $1.6 billion in cash that was somehow stolen from the U.S. in Iraq, which itself was just a drop in the bucket, given the $60 billion lost to waste and fraud in that particular morass of a war zone. And mind you, that’s just to start down a list of catastrophic “investments” in this country’s wars.
If you consider them in this fashion, don’t they start to seem like gigantic scam operations? Yet, as TomDispatch regular William Hartung often makes clear at this site, all of that’s just icing on the cake. The real zone of corruption doesn’t lie in Afghanistan or Iraq but in a five-sided building in Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., where, as Hartung explains today, American taxpayer dollars disappear regularly into the coffers of various giant weapons-makers or into the pockets of their CEOs and top officials. War, it turns out, is the ultimate domestic scam and your tax dollars are its heart and soul. Worse yet, in a Washington endlessly riven by conflict, by the inability of more or less anyone to agree on anything, there is but one true bipartisan subject: the Pentagon. Into it, the representatives of both embattled parties couldn’t be happier or more eager to pour yet more money.
In normal terms, 16 years later, the war on terror should be seen as a disaster, but as Hartung explains, in terms of funding the Pentagon (and the crew of warrior corporations that are its heart and soul), it has been a sterling financial success story from 9/12 on