Wrapping up Iraq and Afghanistan

It seems like the collective psyche is determined to suppress memories of Iraq and Afghanistan as our involvement of those two countries continues to diminish.   Everyone culpable for the horrendous mistakes are safely ensconced as professorsdistinguished fellowships, think tank hacks, etc. apparently none the worse the wear for managing the biggest American foreign policy disaster in generations (maybe ever).

The Obama administration decided long ago that ‘looking backwards’ wouldn’t be helpful so there will be no consequences for those who failed us.  But we are, at least, starting to see a fuller accounting of what exactly was done in our name.

Money was thrown away in vast quantities.  I guess we knew this but the Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction released a new report recently.  Waste, fraud, abuse.  Rinse, lather, repeat.

Over in Afghanistan, ISAF has decided not to report data about Taliban attacks any more.  It used to but a recent report included a data entry error which significantly changed the findings of the report.

That’s unfortunate for a couple of reasons.  First, assuming the data was worthwhile, an accident in reporting (even with the embarrassment of having to admit it) shouldn’t lead to the conclusion that the way to avoid future such incidents is simply to not make future reports public.

If the data isn’t worthwhile (and that’s ISAF’s official reasoning for not publishing future reports) then you shouldn’t continue collecting that data (which ISAF is doing – but why if they say it’s not accurate?) AND you should find metrics which do work.

And then there’s the word which must never be spoken:  torture.

Jane Mayer writes about the need for the Administration to share the findings of the still classified report about U.S. government torture.  There’s a 300 page summary report of the program that was apparently damning enough to convince the next head of the CIA to conclude that he was misled about the effectiveness of the program.  Others have gone further:

Colorado’s Senator Mark Udall stressed, “Inaccurate information on the management operation and effectiveness of the C.I.A.’s detention-interrogation program was provided by the C.I.A. to the White House, the D.O.J., Congress, and the public. Some of this information is regularly and publicly repeated today by former C.I.A. officials, either knowingly or unknowingly. And although we now know this information is incorrect, the accurate information remains classified, while inaccurate information has been declassified and regularly repeated.”

Since prosecutions are out of the question, the least the administration can do is release the report so we can all know what’s been done in our name.  It’s also another datapoint for why the CIA needs to have its operational arm stripped out of it.  No president needs (or should have) a private, unaccountable army.

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