Expanding the mission

Expanding The Mission

by digby

What's wrong with this picture?

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said on Saturday that her department planned to triple the number of its agents in Afghanistan, in part to curb the smuggling of cash out of the country.

The number of agents will increase to 77 by April, from the current 25, said Ms. Napolitano, who is in Afghanistan for a two-day visit to inspect border crossings and meet with President Hamid Karzai and the country’s commerce and interior ministers.

Ms. Napolitano said that bulk cash smuggling, in which billions of dollars have been taken out of Afghanistan in recent years, was one focus of her trip. The United States Embassy estimates that $10 million a day leaves Afghanistan bound for Dubai, much of it the proceeds from illicit activities and corruption. Millions more are believed to be smuggled through Pakistan and other border crossings.

According to a secret cable released by WikiLeaks, Ahmed Zia Massoud, a former Afghan vice president, visited the United Arab Emirates in 2009 carrying $52 million in cash. Mr. Massoud has denied the report.

The additional agents are to help with the transition from military to civilian control of border crossings and the training of Afghanistan’s fledgling customs service, which is charged with stopping the flow of illicit funds out of the country.

“Border protection will lead to customs revenues and legitimate trade,” she said. “Then Afghanistan will have money for social services and education.”

Am I the only one who thinks it's extremely odd that we are sending "Homeland Security" agents to Afghanistan? Don't we have a military that's tasked with these sorts of chores? And if it's just a "loan" of certain specialists, why is Janet Napolitano making the announcement instead of the proper foreign service or military spokesperson? Afghanistan isn't in her portfolio --- at least I didn't think it was. I thought we were going to keep the new Homeland Security forces here in the ... homeland.

That's all rhetorical, of course, since it's been obvious for decades that many of our allegedly "domestic" agencies like the DEA and the ATF are really para-military organizations which are deployed all over the world. But it looks as though we aren't even going to pretend anymore that there's a separation between the two. And that means that we have created yet another sacred police/military budget item that will be nearly impossible to scale back.

That doesn't even count the state and local police agencies all over the country. We spend huge sums of money on this stuff, some of which is probably justified. But we aren't even allowed to look at it or discuss what's working and what isn't. It just keeps getting bigger and bigger with virtually no accountability.

If they really cared about deficit reduction instead of gutting the social safety net, this would be a huge discussion right now. As you can see by that chart, the government has borrowed a lot of money to pay for the wars and the interest on that debt is growing in leaps and bounds.And yet there's no discussion of raising taxes to pay for them. Unlike social security, which has been contributing more to the government than it takes out for decades now, the wars are getting more and more expensive. And yet we seem to be heading toward a huge debate about cutting social security with this huge expansion of police and military barely mentioned.

Maybe we should start calling the defense budget an entitlement and Homeland Security a stimulus.

Update: Check out this tale of life in the new police state over at Susie's place. They don't even have to wear a uniform anymore. I guess if any white guy tells you to stop doing something, you'd better assume he's a cop and do as you're told.