Money, ethics, elephants, and home

Dear President Biden,

Sort of similar to my way-too-recent decision to read most all of the articles about global warming that I come across, I’ve been making myself read most all of the articles about Afghanistan that I come across. It’s been a lot. Obviously it’s nothing at all like being there or having some responsibility for figuring out how the hell to mitigate the horrors there, but it’s a heavy, heavy topic that’s hard to stay with.

Early on in the ramped up coverage stemming from your brutally precipitous pullout, I started keeping an eye out for someone who was connecting the basic “follow the money” dots regarding our invasion of Afghanistan and decades long presence there. It wasn’t until yesterday when Paul Waldman was talking about how messed up it is that the conniving shysters who lied about the war in Afghanistan for 20 years are the ones being tapped to hold forth on the situation now (he used more polite language than this) that I saw someone spell it out plainly:

““Even focusing on the failures of the Afghan government lets us off the hook,” (Matt) Duss told me. “When we’re talking about corruption, the biggest beneficiaries are U.S. multinationals.” Indeed, another recent government report found that between 2011 and 2019 we spent nearly $100 billion on private contractors in Afghanistan.

Do you think the corporations that have been feeding at that trough for 20 years were eager to have U.S. involvement end? And might we be skeptical of the opinions of people who serve on the boards of those companies?”

Ding, ding, ding….

For days now, I’ve had the name “Halliburton” pinging around in my head, feeling quite certain that they, and US multinationals like them, kept the war going and wondering what the hell happened that they decided it was time to cut bait. Essentially, I don’t think you decided to get out of Afghanistan (let alone so brutally precipitously) if there wasn’t some change in the money deal lurking deep in the background.

I asked the other day if you were trying to prove something or if you just panicked and I still wonder about those dynamics, but I also think it’s highly likely that something shifted in the financial calculus to drive your decision and its timing and I want to know what that something is.

Sadly, however, even if the full picture of the whole sordid, greed-fueled mess, becomes known, I don’t think it would stop the next such situation. As long as there are calculating shysters and tragedies to exploit, we will remain vulnerable to the kind of decision-making Barbara Lee was warning US about when she took the incredibly brave position of voting against granting G.W. broad war-powers to invade Afghanistan. In other words, unless human beings undergo some heretofore-unimaginable shift in our ethical make-up, this is the sort of history that will keep repeating itself until the end of time.

And still, I’m grateful that Duss, Waldman, and no doubt many others, have called it out, if for no other reason, than I find it crazy-making when the elephants in the room aren’t being named.

Before I let you go, there’s another elephant that’s so obvious maybe she doesn’t really need naming, but that I feel compelled to call out – while it’s horrible that so many Afghanis in mortal danger are trapped, and will remain trapped, in Afghanistan, it’s beyond awful that they are now desperate to leave the only homes they’ve known, their families, their communities.

The other day during a press conference someone asked Psaki why you go home to Delaware so often and she replied with something to the effect of “because it’s his home and he loves it there.”


May we all be safe in our homes, in our communities, in our countries.
May we be willing to follow the money.
May we somehow strengthen our collective ethics.
May we accept that if we don’t, we are doomed to stay trapped in cycles of greed and destruction.

Tracy Simpson

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