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Peter van Buren

America’s Real Loss of Prestige and Leadership Abroad

Because we traded the smooth talking guy for the clumsy boob with no manners, it is popular to bleat that America has given up its role as leader of the free world, to say other nations don’t respect us anymore, or look to us for moral guidance — in the extreme, that we are no longer that shining city on the hill we see ourselves as.

What such cliches overlook is that not everyone in the free world is as blind as a typical American op-ed writer. Some in fact see past who the current Spokesmodel of Democracy in the White House is, and look to what America actually does. And what it does is often not pretty, and when revealed suggests our nation is and has been morally bankrupt a lot longer than the Trump administration has been in charge.

One of the more recent revelations of what much of the world already knew comes, again, via Wikileaks, America’s conscience.
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Cornerstone of Afghan Reconstruction Effort — Roads — is Near-Total Failure

One of the planned cornerstones of the 15+ year Afghan Reconstruction Effort was to be an extensive, nationwide network of roads.

The United States’ concept was roads would allow the Afghan economy to flourish as trade could reach throughout the country, security would be enhanced by the ability to move security forces quickly to where they were needed, and that the presence of the roads would serve as a literal symbol of the central government’s ability to extend its presence into the countryside.

The Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) released its audit of the Department of Defense’s and USAID’s $2.8 billion investment in Afghanistan’s road infrastructure.
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How Soon Before Armed Drones Are Overhead in America? Time Now.

Protocols exist allowing the president to select American citizens, without a whit of due process, for drone killing.

Only overseas, he says, but you can almost see the fingers crossed behind his back. Wouldn’t an awful lot of well-meaning Americans have supported an aerial drone killing in San Bernardino, or at the Pulse club in Orlando? Didn’t many support using a robot to blow up a suspect in Dallas?
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How I Was Blacklisted at CNN, and How Easily America Goes to War Now

It was about two years ago to the day I was blacklisted at CNN.

I don’t want to remind them they were sadly wrong, but they were. So write this off however you prefer, but understand that we were lied to again to drag us again into an open-ended war in Iraq-Syria. Last time it was Bush and those missing Weapons of Mass Destruction. This time is was Obama and saving the Yazidi people from genocide.

Wait, what? Who are the Yazidis? How they get us back into Iraq?

Ah, how fast time flies.

Two years ago a group of Yazidis, a minority spread across Iran, Iraq and Turkey, were being threatened by a group called ISIS few American were focused on. Obama declared a genocide was about to happen, and the US had to act. US officials said they believed that some type of ground force would be necessary to secure the safety of the stranded members of the Yazidi group. The military drew up plans for limited airstrikes and the deployment of 150 ground troops.
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Afghan Maintenance Program You Pay For Wastes $423 Million

So, Afghanistan. America’s longest and wackiest war will soon enter its 16th year, and is scheduled to run through the next administration, as no one can remember why the US is fighting there anymore and so no one knows when this thing is over. Did we win yet? How would we know?

None of that matters of course, because plenty of American contractors are in their 16th year of getting filthy rich, thanks to extraordinary amounts of money being spent with no effective oversight by the Department of Defense. Let’s have the latest example.

Our friends at the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) are the poor b*stards charging with keeping track of all this waste. Once upon a time the point of an Inspector General was to point things out to upper management, like generals or Congress, so problems could be addressed. In 2016, the point of the Inspector General is to be ignored because no one in Washington actually cares to fix anything.
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Hidden Mics as Part of Government Surveillance Program

In another example of multi-dimensional clash among the Fourth Amendment, privacy, technology, and the surveillance state, hidden microphones that are part of a broad, public clandestine government surveillance program that has been operating around the San Francisco Bay Area have been exposed.

The FBI planted listening devices at bus stops and other public places trying to prove real estate investors in San Mateo and Alameda counties are guilty of bid rigging and fraud. FBI agents were previously caught hiding microphones inside light fixtures and at public spaces outside an Oakland Courthouse, between March 2010 and January 2011.
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Film Review: National Bird Looks Deeply in the Drone War’s Abyss

National Bird, a new documentary by filmmaker Sonia Kennebeck, co-produced with Errol Morris and Wim Wenders, is a deep, multilayered, look into America’s drone wars, a tactic which became a strategy which became a post-9/11 policy. To many in Iraq, Afghanistan and throughout the world, America’s new national symbol is not the bald eagle, but a gray shadow overhead armed with Hellfire missiles.
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