Trump was Wrong About the Troops

I went out with some guys distributing bricks of cash myself. The things were plastic wrapped and sealed -- you couldn't have stolen any without stealing the whole brick, or cutting it open in a very obvious way. Accountability was always in force. You personally signed for every brick you took, and you had to get signatures from the Iraqis you turned it over to. If they later claimed not to have gotten it, that would be the end of the gravy train for them. But it also would have resulted in an intense investigation of the last guy who had positive control of the money, and his unit mates.

Of course tons of that money got stolen, once the Iraqis had custody of it. Just like any tribal leader who is "a river to my people," a lot of the river gets routed into his own fields. Plenty of the money got stolen. It just didn't get stolen by us.

Here a special operator tells his own version of the same story.
In 2008, while deployed as a special operator in western Afghanistan, I led a team of fifteen marines and nearly seven hundred Afghan commandos stationed on a remote firebase near the Iranian border. We were almost entirely reliant on an operational fund, something akin to cerp. We used these funds to buy our food and fuel and to hire local Afghan tribesmen to provide base security. Hundreds of thousands of dollars passed through our hands. Our position was in no way unique. Every special-operations team in Afghanistan managed the same kinds of funds. Once, when security in the village just outside our gate became a problem, one of the marines I worked with negotiated a deal with the local village elders to use our operational fund to convert an abandoned Olympic-size, Soviet-era swimming pool into a reservoir to irrigate several acres of parched fields. Within a few weeks, those fields were ready for planting, and the threat to our base had disappeared.

Two and a half million American men and women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the Center for Public Integrity, some hundred and fifteen military personnel since 2005 have been convicted of committing theft, bribery, or contract-rigging crimes, involving a total of fifty-two million dollars. This is a disappointing fact, but it does not cancel out the ingenuity shown by the soldiers, many of them only in their twenties, who have ethically managed budgets equivalent to that of a small town or medium-sized business.
He goes on to talk about what he wished Trump had discussed instead. But Trump can't talk about those things, because he doesn't know anything about them.


Ymar Sakar said...

Trump would understand the tribes of Iraq, more than the US military.

People of his generation, either conformed or they sold out or they went for the alternative cultural revolution. Trump obviously didn't go the Hippie, Institutional infiltration route. Business bribes to go along to get along, sounds like conforming. But now that he is old and grumpy, conformism with American mainstream norms, isn't so useful any more. Especially since US cultural noms are mainstream crazy now.

Ymar Sakar said...

Reverting to a feudalistic tradition of allowing US strategic corporals and sergeants to hire Iraqis directly, ally with Tribes directly, and spend the Money Directly, without involving the Iraqi federal and local government status quo tribes, would have made a huge difference.

But government money, taken from the people, isn't often used efficiently. It's just given to another government, and waste happens on both sides. Just like why Africa still has problems, even with the foreign aid.

The US government's tendency to use money to buy up local US educational institutions, when used in Iraq, has the same kind of corrupt and evil effect.

The US cannot spread republic values or even a democracy to the ME, because the US itself has problems orders of magnitude greater than the ones found in Iraq. The US cannot fix or save itself, and thus had little chance of fixing or saving another nation. To reverse this fate, requires reversing cause and effect. The Fate of Afghanistan, the ME, and Iraq would need to be reversed first.

Anonymous said...

Fifty-two million sounds like "millions of millions of dollars," to me. There have been reports that far more went missing, at one point up to 2.3 trillion.

I think these numbers are exaggerated. A lot of it was ultimately documented. And, procedures were put in place to better track the spending. I have never definitively heard that a full accounting was made, but our procedures were definitely sharpened.

However, I attended a fraud seminar, where a guy explained how people (Americans) involved in the supply chain noticed that supervision was lax, and thought they could take advantage of the situation. The audit process eventually caught up with them, which is how they were caught and prosecuted. That does not tell me they were all caught.

The criminal behavior, and subsequent prosecution, of some people does not in any way mean that all of our service personnel were criminals: it does for a fact mean that our government from time to time has management problems.


Tom said...

From time to time? Are we talking about the same government?


Ymar Sakar said...

Corruption under Bush II was contained, for obvious reasons.

If the recorded is mixing in 2008 to 2016, then there's a problem. Because at that point, the heads of the VA and all the rest, were either corrupt or in on it. Half the Demoncrats on the Senate Defense committees, have Democrat military complex connections, bribery chains, and what not networked in.