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THE TIMES LEADER www.timesleader.com
MONDAY, MAY 28, 2012
Long Afghanistan saga now entering new stage
RESIDENT Barack Obama’s dramatic arrival in Kabul aboard Air Force One under the cover of darkness was fitting finale to the cloak-anddagger operation that eliminated Osama bin Laden a year earlier. The trip also marked a symbolic beginning of the end of American intervention in Afghanistan. Obama offered clarification of the U.S. aim in coming years as troops withdraw, opening the door to regional powers playing a role. During the brief visit the United States and Afghanistan signed the much-awaited strategic partnership agreement. Afghanistan’s national security adviser described the pact as “providing a strong foundation for the security of Afghanistan, the region and the world, and is a document for the development of the region.” Of course, he’s right in
so far as this pact removes the ambiguity surrounding America’s post-2014 posture in Afghanistan, not only for Kabul, but also for New Delhi where there’s been growing concern about implications for regional stability after American withdrawal. Washington’s new message will have particular resonance in India and Pakistan as ties between the two South Asian neighbors remain the most important fault line in shaping Afghanistan’s future. As Washington and Kabul turn a new page in the Afghanistan saga, New Delhi should be keen to take this opportunity to become a more credible actor in its neighborhood. Washington has played its hand. It’s up to New Delhi to respond adequately. Khaleej Times Dubai, United Arab Emirates
QUOTE OF THE DAY “Because we have done so well, because we have been a big part of preventing another attack on U.S. soil, it is easier for people to forget we’re here.” Maj. George Kraehe The New Mexico Army National Guard officer has participated in 20 26.2-mile marathons as part of an effort to remind Americans of the approximately 2.2 million U.S. service members who’ve seen duty in the Middle Eastern war zones. More than 6,300 of them have died.
Afghan work remains
N AGREEING TO provide substantial, ongoing help to Afghanistan after the last NATO-led forces, including our own, leave at the end of 2014, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard is on the right track. Her pledge of $300 million to the $4.1 billion fund U.S. President Barack Obama is creating for the Afghan National Army after the allies withdraw is among the largest from any of the countries fighting in Afghanistan. It also provides a timely signal that, though we are on our way out of the country, we remain
committed to doing whatever we can to ensure it never again becomes a haven for terrorism. The sacrifice of the 33 Australians killed in Afghanistan, as well as the 200 who have been wounded, demands no less. That said, there is a need for caution and realism about what lies ahead. For all the hope surrounding the 2014 deadline and the ability of Afghans to fight their own war, the prospects remain challenging. Much has been achieved in Afghanistan. But much remains to be done.
overwhelming. Both Canada and Afghanistan benefited in many ways from this country’s military efforts. Afghanistan did not revert to being a refuge for the terrorists of al-Qaida – the primary reason for the war. Millions of girls went to school who otherwise would not have, and women assumed roles in the Afghan parliament. But girls and women are still being jailed for such “moral crimes” as fleeing rape, abuse or underage marriage. And the Afghan National Army is far from ready to keep the country secure from the violent zealotry of the Taliban. The Globe and Mail, Toronto
PRASHANT SHITUT President and CEO/Impressions Media MARK E. JONES JOSEPH BUTKIEWICZ Editorial Page Editor Vice President/Executive Editor
A NOTE to politicians and public administrators: When you say “We have an unwritten policy,” you are saying “We have an oxymoron.” When you say “We have an unwritten policy” involving hiring people or doling out money for travel expenses, you are saying “we are morons.” It’s an oxymoron because an “unwritten policy” in dealing with tax money is no policy at all. Try it at work. Assure your boss you landed an “unwritten contract” with a client. Have your kids tell teachers they fulfilled the assignment with an “unwritten essay.” Ask the cop writing the speeding citation for an “unwritten ticket” you will pay with an “unwritten check.” And it’s moronic because in this, Our Age of Endless Corruption, the stupidity of “unwritten policies” has been laid bare. How many public officials need to go to prison before someone sees the correlation of “unwritten” and “abused”? There are times when invoking an “unwritten policy” is innocuous enough. “I have an unwritten policy against dating co-workers,” say, or “I have an unwritten policy of not eating raw sushi from a hot dog street stand on sweltering summer days.” But there was nothing innocuous when Wilkes-Barre’s city officials recently told reporter Terrie Morgan-Besecker that money is met-
MARK GUYDISH COMMENTARY ed out for council travel expenses through an “unwritten policy.” And the alleged policy for meal money is inane: Give each person a flat rate of up to $93 per day for meals, no questions asked, no receipts required. The three-day conference started with a free lunch and ended after a free breakfast? Here’s $93 a day. The taxpayer-funded conference fee included meals? Here’s $93 a day. You ordered off Wendy’s dollar menu while the other councilman had lobster tail at Café Tres Cher? Here’s $93 a day, for each of you. My favorite quote from Morgan-Besecker’s exposé? Councilman Bill Barrett justifying the need for lunch money even if the meal was included: “Lunch was provided at most, but it was very hit or miss. I haven’t always had the best experience with those. There would be certain things out on the floor, but when you get there, there’s nothing there.” Two thoughts: 1) Get there in time for the meal; 2) If you are there on time and they are out of food, demand they give you what taxpayers bought. I have a third thought about where the phrase “there’s nothing there” applies, but it would be a below- the-belt (or more exactly, an above the neck) insult of Barrett.
Second favorite quote? City Clerk Jim Ryan guessing why the “unwritten policy” provides a flat per diem meal rate: “I believe the reason was it was a sense of fairness, that everyone follow the same standard and had the same amount of per diem. That way somebody was not getting more than someone else by having a higher-cost meal.” Note that at no point was the taxpayer mentioned, as in: “We wanted to be fair to taxpayers, so we reimbursed only if meals weren’t included in the conference fee, and only after council members submitted receipts, and we posted the receipts online to be as transparent as possible.” Arguably, Ryan is just following whatever pathetic “unwritten policy” he inherited from the anonymous nonwriters. Which is the inherent failure of an “unwritten policy.” No one penned it, so no one can take credit or blame. No one can point to it in deciding whether it was followed. No one can sift through meeting minutes and see when it was formally adopted. And no one can amend or change it because it doesn’t physically exist. And to the Wilkes-Barre Council members and other public officials asking why I’m not mentioning all the good things they do, the answer is simple. I put that stuff in an unwritten column. Mark Guydish can be reached at 829-7161 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Australian, Sydney
Canada does its part
ANADIAN PRIME Minister Stephen Harper was once accused by the Liberals of improvising the war in Afghanistan, as if one could script a decade-long war ahead of time. He has now announced an end to the Canadian military mission as of March 31, 2014. It is the right thing to do, at the right time. Enough is enough – until the next one. The fatigue in this country with the loss of life of Canadian soldiers, the intermittent progress, the government corruption, the obstacles that never seem to diminish, such as Pakistan playing both sides, and the enormous financial burden, is
For the record, unwritten policies are for morons
LETTERS FROM READERS
Nation’s naval heritage well worth preserving
t 6:19 a.m. May 1, 1898, Commodore George Dewey, onboard the protected cruiser Olympia, gave the order “You may fire when ready, Gridley.” Several hours later the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay, Philippine Islands, was destroyed. This victory was symbolic of the United States entry upon the world stage as a rising world power. In February 1958, the Olympia was decommissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, whereupon it was rehabilitated via private donations and moored at the end of Market Street, Philadelphia. This vessel was not only involved in the battle of Manila Bay. In 1919 it brought back to the United States the remains of the Unknown Soldier from Europe and in 1921 it transported U.S. Army troops returning to the United States from Russia, where they served with an allied expeditionary force in Archangel and Murmansk. Sadly, this grand old vessel is in jeopardy. It requires about $10 million in renovations in order to keep it afloat. Other-
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Congress should quit cutting where it counts
wise, the Olympia might be scrapped or sunk. Recently, I read that the USS Iowa will be preserved. Other vessels preserved are the USS Wisconsin, Missouri, Alabama and North Carolina. The British government is spending $42 million to preserve the HMS Victory, Lord Nelson’s flagship at the battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Most foreigners I’ve met have a keen interest in their nation’s history. But here we don’t seem to care. It might be symbolic of national decline. Let’s hope the Olympia is not consigned to a watery grave.
understand our nation’s budget is out of control and has gotten worse, mostly during the 2002-08 era. It seems Congress has only one agenda: cut Social Security and Medicare. And with a cut in the Farm Bill, it will jeopardize funding to feed our children in favor of low taxes on the rich 1 percent, increasing the number of children who go to bed hungry. Increased military spending has to stop. We are the most powerful country in the world; we do not have to spend trillions to promote democracy around the globe. Congress has to concentrate on bringing back manufacturing to this country and promoting job growth so we can generate more tax dollars, rather than have the highest unemployment rate in more than 60 years. Eliminate work visas longer than two years for our huge influx of the Hispanic population. Feed our children first, because there should not be one child in this country who cannot get nutritious daily meals.
F. J. Keller Hanover Township
Frederick Galade McAdoo
The Wilkes-Barre Times Leader 05-28