In Afghanistan. We are the tourists.

The Tourist is PassiveImage by B Tal via Flickr

Air Force Reserve Major Richard C. Sater was activated for a one-year tour of duty in support of the war on terrorism in May 2003. He was initially assigned to 4th Air Force, March Air Reserve Base, California. In September 2003, he deployed to Afghanistan for seven months in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, assigned first to Combined Joint Task Force 180 at Bagram Air Base; and later to Combined Forces Command-Afghanistan, Kabul. He kept a journal during the deployment, from which the following is extracted. On the civilian side, he has been a college professor of English and the arts and a classical music announcer for a National Public Radio affiliate station.

Notes from a JournalAfghanistan, 11 Sept 2003-7 Apr 2004 was published in War, Literature & the Arts Journal (public domain material). Richard C. Sater is currently a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force Reserve.

I know nothing about their calendar. But then, so much of the culture here remains absolutely foreign to me.

We are the tourists.

We employ local Afghan men to work on our posts and camps. Hundreds every day, skilled (carpenters, masons, electricians) and unskilled. They work always under guard, a bored junior-ranked soldier or airman seated close by to keep an eye out for sedition. But there is none. The men need work and, in exchange, endure our ignorance.

Bearded black, swarthy, as thin and hard as want, their utter commonness in Afghanistan still seems exotic to me. They wear the traditional loose-fitting robe called a khalat and equally loose-fitting trousers that match; a rolled felt hat, a pakol; a patterned square scarf, and a fringed wool blanket that serves as cloak and protection from dust and winter’s instructive cold.

I can’t even speak to them beyond “salaam,” which equals hello, and “tasha­kor,” approximating thanks. The men will return my gaze but rarely my smile.

I watch them; they regard me with similar curiosity. Sometimes, guilty, I will show them my camera and raise my eyebrows, a mute question. May I? They shrug, nod. My greedy machine snaps the images with more clarity than I can decipher when I view the pictures later, each worth a thousand untranslatable words.

Their faces reflect the bewildering hard times they live in. They could be a hundred years old or a thousand, though many of those I see are probably younger than I. These are handsome men, dignified men, resigned to traveling a hard road. We have pledged something better. Schools, clinics, clean water, jobs, a stable and safe country, a viable national army that will protect it. The men mark the days—twenty-four hours by anyone’s calendar—and wait for us to keep the promise.

No amount of book-learning will fill the chasm between what I understand about this place and what truly is.

Rodearmel v. Clinton: Dismissed

On October 29 the three-judge panel composed of Karen Lecraft Henderson, Reggie B. Walton and James Robertson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted the US Government’s motion to dismiss Rodearmel v. Clinton “pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and denies FSO, David Rodearmel’s cross-motion for summary judgment.

The plaintiff, David Rodearmel, a Foreign Service Officer in the United States Department of State (State Department), brought suit against the defendants, Hillary Clinton in her official capacity as Secretary of State and the State Department, alleging that Clinton’s appointment and continuance in office as Secretary of State violates article I, section 6, clause 2 of the United States Constitution.

The court’s ruling says “we dismiss the complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.”

The allegations:

Count I: “Clinton’s appointment and continuance in office as U.S. Secretary of State violates [the Ineligibility Clause]” and that he “is suffering and will continue to suffer significant, irreparable harm by reason of Defendant Clinton’s unconstitutional appointment and continuance in office.”

Count II: Rodearmel alleges that the defendants “are violating [his] rights under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by depriving [him] of his property right to continued employment as a U.S. Foreign Service Officer at the U.S. Department of State without due process of law.”

The ruling says in part:

“Rodearmel’s general interest as a citizen in the constitutionality of Clinton’s appointment does not give him standing. Nor does his employment as a Foreign Service Officer provide a basis for standing. He points to no specific duty or responsibility he has as a Foreign Service Officer that has been impaired—or even affected—by Clinton’s appointment.”

“Assuming Clinton unconstitutionally holds office as Secretary of State, it does not follow that a Foreign Service Officer generally serving under, taking direction from and reporting to Clinton performs an unconstitutional act thereby, especially in the absence of any allegation that his service is in any way different from what it was under Clinton’s predecessors in office.”

The Court further says that “We note that Rodearmel remains employed by the State Department as a Foreign Service Officer and his future loss of that position—whether by actual discharge or resignation under circumstances constituting constructive discharge—is entirely speculative. Thus, any injury to Rodearmel’s property right in continued employment, to the extent such a right exists, is not “actual or imminent” and does not support his standing. Lujan, 504 U.S. at 560 (internal quotations omitted). To the extent he
has a property right in the “terms and conditions” of his employment and assuming thm to Courtese include the right not to be required to violate the Constitution, Rodearmel’s claim fails because, as noted, he has not asserted any action he either has taken or must take that is itself alleged to be unconstitutional.”

I guess I was wrong; we did not have to wait for 2012. Read the decision here.

Related Item:
Civil Action No. 09-171: Rodearmel v. Clinton | October 29, 2009
Memorandum Opinion.

Related Post:

U.N. Can’t Account for Millions Sent to Afghan Election Board

Afghan Elections 2009 (Kandahar City) / Électi...Image by Canada in Afghanistan / Canada en Afghanistan via Flickr

By T. Christian Miller and Dafna Linzer, ProPublica – October 29, 2009 9:15 am EDT | Reprinted under Creative Commons license)

The United Nations cannot account for tens of millions of dollars provided to the troubled Afghan election commission, according to two confidential U.N. audits and interviews with current and former senior diplomats. (Read both [1] audits [2].)

As Afghanistan prepares for a second round of national voting, the documents and interviews paint the fullest picture to date of the finances of the election commission, which has been accused of facilitating election fraud and operating ghost polling places. The new disclosures also deepen the questions about the U.N.’s oversight of money provided by the United States and other nations to ensure a fair election in Afghanistan.

“Everybody kept sending money” to the elections commission, said Peter Galbraith, the former deputy chief of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan. “Nobody put the brakes on. U.S. taxpayers spent hundreds of millions of dollars on a fraudulent election.” Galbraith, a deputy to the senior U.N. official in Afghanistan, was fired last month [3] after protesting fraud in the elections.

The audits come as President Barack Obama is struggling to craft a war policy for Afghanistan that would establish a stable government in a country with few democratic traditions. Senior aides have made clear that Obama will not commit to sending additional troops until there is a legitimately elected government in Kabul. On Wednesday, insurgents stormed [4] a housing compound primarily occupied by U.N. election officials, killing eight people, including two election workers.

Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission initially reported that President Hamid Karzai had won the majority of votes in the August election. A recount was ordered after another U.N.-backed panel uncovered evidence of widespread fraud. After weeks of prodding from the Obama administration, Karzai agreed last week to a runoff.

The U.N. audit reports, which are near completion but still in draft form, are likely to fuel debate over the Afghanistan election commission’s ability to carry out the new round of voting. Karzai’s challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, has suggested he may boycott the elections unless Karzai dismisses the chairman and two other commissioners.

In interviews, senior U.S. and U.N. officials said that U.N. leaders had ignored warnings as far back as 2007 that the election commission was a pro-Karzai body with few internal controls.

Another top official in the U.N.’s Afghanistan mission, Robert Watkins, acknowledged in an interview that some commission employees had contributed to the fraud in the first round of voting.

“It’s clear that some of the people” working for the commission at the polling centers “were complicit in fraud,” Watkins said. “Some of the staff hired were not working in the best interests of impartial elections.”

But Watkins said the United Nations is working to improve the commission’s performance in the runoff. He said the U.N. planned to slash the number of poll workers and blackball any that may have been implicated in fraud in the August elections.

As of April 2009, the U.N. had spent $72.4 million supporting the commission, with $56.7 million of that coming from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the audit said. Total election costs are now estimated at greater than $300 million, with the U.S. providing a third to half the total funding, according to one senior U.N. official familiar with the elections process.

The draft audit reports indicate that as many as one-third of payroll requests from the Afghan commission to the United Nations included “discrepancies,” such as incorrect names or amounts.

In another instance, the U.N. Development Program paid $6.8 million for transportation services in areas where no U.N. officials were present. Auditors found that the development agency had “inadequate controls” over U.S. taxpayer money used to fund the commission.

Continue reading here.

Related Item:
U.N. Development Agency Audit of Afghan Elections and Development Spending
Original Document (PDF)