Opinion | I Fought in Afghanistan. I Still Wonder, Was It Worth It? – The New York Times

Mr. Kudo is a former Marine captain who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He is working on a novel about the Afghanistan war.

Credit…Illustration by Nicholas Konrad/The New York Times; photograph by Getty Images

“When President Biden announced on Wednesday that the United States would withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021, he appeared to be finally bringing this “forever war” to an end. Although I have waited for this moment for a decade, it is impossible to feel relief. The Sept. 11 attacks took place during my senior year of college, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that followed consumed the entirety of my adult life. Although history books may mark this as the end of the Afghanistan war, it will never be over for many of my generation who fought.

Sometimes there are moments, no more than the span of a breath, when the smell of it returns and once again I’m stepping off the helicopter ramp into the valley. Covered in the ashen dust of the rotor wash, I take in for the first time the blend of wood fires burning from inside lattice-shaped mud compounds, flooded fields of poppies and corn, the sweat of the unwashed and the wet naps that failed to mask it, chicken and sheep and the occasional cow, the burn pit where trash and plastic smoldered through the day, curries slick with oil eaten by hand on carpeted dirt floors, and fresh bodies buried shallow, like I.E.D.s, in the bitter earth.

It’s sweet and earthy, familiar to the farm boys in the platoon who knew that blend of animal and human musk but alien to those of us used only to the city or the lush Southern woods we patrolled during training. Later, at the big bases far from the action, surrounded by gyms and chow halls and the expeditionary office park where the flag and field grade officers did their work, it was replaced by a cologne of machinery and order. Of common parts installed by low-bid contractors and the ocher windblown sand of the vast deserts where those behemoth bases were always located. Relatively safe after the long months at the frontier but dull and lifeless.  . . . “

Peter Beinart | Let’s Cut Our Ridiculous Defense Budget – The New York Times

Mr. Beinart is a contributing opinion writer who focuses on politics and foreign policy.

“President Biden loves spending money. Last month, he signed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan to stimulate the economy. Now he’s pushing the $2 trillion American Jobs Plan to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure. He vows to follow that with the American Families Plan to improve health care, child care and education, which could cost billions or trillions more.

The more money Mr. Biden tries to spend, the more loudly critics ask where he’s getting it. He borrowed the funds for the stimulus. He wants corporations to pay for the infrastructure plan. With every legislative battle, finding the money grows harder. All of which raises a question: Will Mr. Biden try to cut defense?

Early reporting suggests that his administration’s first budget, which is expected later this spring, may not reduce military spending at all. That’s particularly remarkable given that, according to the Center for International Policy, today’s military budget, adjusted for inflation, is far higher than the post-World War II average.

It’s not as if there aren’t places to cut. In 2016, Bob Woodward and Craig Whitlock of The Washington Post disclosed that, according to an internal study, the Defense Department could save $125 billion over five years simply by trimming its distended bureaucracy. The department, the study found, employed close to 200,000 people in property management alone. After a summary of the report became public, Mr. Woodward and Mr. Whitlock noted, the Pentagon “imposed secrecy restrictions on the data making up the study, which ensured no one could replicate the findings.” It remains the only federal agency that has never passed an audit.” . . .

David Lindsay Jr.

David Lindsay Jr.Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:

The writer would like to see the Biden Administration cut the military budget by 33%. We would still be spending twice as much as China, but would have to forgo many unneeded nuclear carriers, submarines, and stealth aircraft. CT would have learn to make some non-military hardware. We need to build back better, as the Biden team likes to say, so we have something here that is worth protecting, instead of an oligarchy of billionaires.

Their Lawsuit Prevented 400,000 Deportations. Now It’s Biden’s Call. – The New York Times

 
 

“Cristina Morales got the news that she was going to lose her legal right to live and work in the United States via text. The news devastated Morales. But the texts from her friends arrived while Morales, who was then 37, was at the Catholic school where she ran the after-school program. She believed that part of her job was to create a safe place for children, so she said nothing about her despair at work. “You need to have a happy face,” she told me. “No matter how bad you feel.”

Morales kept up the pretense in the car with her family on the way home. As her 11-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter sang in the back seat, she swallowed her tears and tried not to look at her husband. Their children had no idea that Morales was not an American citizen. She and her husband didn’t talk about her status because they didn’t want to taint the kids’ lives with fear. Only a handful of people knew that Morales was a beneficiary of a program called Temporary Protected Status (T.P.S.), which allows some immigrants to reside in the United States while their home countries are in crisis. About 411,000 immigrants had T.P.S. in 2020. More than half of them came from El Salvador, like Morales. The rest emigrated from Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria or Yemen.

Less than a year after President Donald Trump took office, his administration began to dismantle the program. Over the course of eight months in 2017 and 2018, the Department of Homeland Security ordered the departure of 98 percent of T.P.S. recipients by canceling the designation for every country except Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen. In a January 2018 news release, the Department of Homeland Security announced Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s decision to terminate T.P.S. for El Salvador, stating that “the original conditions” that prompted the designation in 2001 “no longer exist.” That’s when Morales received the life-changing texts.” . . .

David Lindsay Jr.Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:

Thank you Marcela Valdes for a complicated and depressing but well reported story. Just yesterday, I called for closing the US border to all illegal immigration, and yet, in this article, you reminded me of all the damage we did in Central America in the last 50 years in the name of anti-communism. There is plenty of blood on our hands, and in many ways, we contributed mightily to the failed states that now push thousands of their people to seek safety here. This story, much of which I once knew, as a young resister to the war in Vietnam and and critic of our support of fascists in Central and South America. The extraordinary problem, is how do you fix such broken countries, when our money and support was often part of the problem, not the solution. We need, perhaps, to set some limit to how many refugees from the south we will accommodate, while making generous, our commitment to restoring order and democracy in these states whose failure we were partly responsible for.

David Lindsay Jr is the author of the Tay Son Rebellion about 18th century Vietnam, and blogs at InconvenientNews.Net.

Christopher Landau | The Real Reason for the Border Crisis – The New York Times

Mr. Landau served as U.S. ambassador to Mexico from 2019 to 2021.

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Credit…Matt Black for The New York Times

“Once again, a humanitarian crisis is engulfing our southern border, as tens and potentially hundreds of thousands of migrants arrive from Mexico, Central America and around the world in the hope that the Biden administration will let them in and let them stay.

The new administration has certainly given them — and the human smugglers who profit from their journeys — a basis for such hope: The administration declared that it would stop most deportations (a decision since blocked by a Federal District Court), halted construction of the border wall, announced new “priorities” that sharply limit immigration enforcement, stopped expelling unaccompanied minors under health-related authority invoked during the pandemic and began to phase out the Migrant Protection Protocols that helped prevent abuse of our asylum system and end the last surge of family units across the border.

As the most recent U.S. ambassador to Mexico, I am not at all surprised by the border surge: It is a reprise of the humanitarian crisis that engulfed the border shortly after President Andrés Manuel López Obrador took office in Mexico in December 2018. His administration also came into office pledging to adopt a more “humane” approach toward migration and wound up unleashing an inhumane situation at the border. It was only after President Donald Trump threatened to impose tariffs on cross-border trade that the Mexican government reversed course, and from then on the two countries cooperated closely to reduce the flows of third-country migrants across Mexico.

But the biggest factor driving such flows has gone largely unaddressed: the willingness and ability of American employers to hire untold millions of unauthorized immigrants. The vast majority of the people are coming here for the same reason people have always come here: to work (or to join their families who are here to work).” . . .

Opinion | The Death Cleaner – The New York Times

Video by Louise Monlaü      Ms. Monlaü is a documentary filmmaker.

“Death is Donovan Tavera’s business. For nearly 20 years, Tavera has been a forensic cleaner in Mexico City, providing families of the deceased with the solace of a clean home. For mourning families, his services become integral to their healing process. The short documentary above, filmed before the pandemic, considers what it means to wash away what’s left after someone dies.”

US to Send Millions of Covid-19 Vaccine Doses to Mexico and Canada – The New York Times

“The United States plans to send millions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Mexico and Canada, the White House said Thursday, a notable step into vaccine diplomacy just as the Biden administration is quietly pressing Mexico to curb the stream of migrants coming to the border.

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said the United States was planning to share 2.5 million doses of the vaccine with Mexico and 1.5 million with Canada, adding that it was “not finalized yet, but that is our aim.”

Tens of millions of doses of the vaccine have been sitting in American manufacturing sites. While their use has already been authorized in dozens of countries, including Mexico and Canada, the vaccine has not yet been approved by American regulators. Ms. Psaki said the shipments to Mexico and Canada would be essentially be a loan, with the United States receiving doses of AstraZeneca, or other vaccines, in the future.” . . .

The Intelligence on Russia Was Clear. It Was Not Always Presented That Way. – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — Representative Jason Crow listened during a classified briefing last summer while a top intelligence official said that Russia was hurting Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s campaign to help President Donald J. Trump.

Mr. Crow, Democrat of Colorado, held up an intelligence agency news release from days earlier and demanded to know why it said nothing about Russia’s plans.

“‘When are you going to come out publicly and correct this record?’” Mr. Crow recalled asking the official, William R. Evanina. “‘Because there’s a massive disconnect between what is in your news releases and what you’re saying publicly — because of the pressure of the president.’”

A report released Tuesday made clear that the intelligence community believed that Russia had long attacked Mr. Biden for the benefit of Mr. Trump. But throughout 2020, senior officials bowed to Mr. Trump’s hostility toward any public emphasis of the threat from Russia, and they offered Congress and the public incomplete or misleading portraits of the intelligence on foreign influence in the election.” . . .

Opinion | The F-35 Fighter: Too Pricey to Fail – The New York Times

The editorial board is a group of opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate and certain longstanding values. It is separate from the newsroom.

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Credit…Illustration by The New York Times; photograph, via Getty Images

“Last week, the new head of the House Armed Services Committee, Representative Adam Smith, said in an interview that the F-35 fighter jet was a “rathole” draining money. He said the Pentagon should consider whether to “cut its losses.” That promptly set off another round of groaning about the most expensive weapon system ever built, and questions about whether it should — or could — be scrapped.

Conceived in the 1990s as a sort of Swiss army knife of fighter jets, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter was meant to come as a conventional fighter for the Air Force, as a carrier-based fighter for the Navy and as a vertical-landing version for the Marines. The problems, and there were lots of them, set in early. All three versions of the plane ended up at least three years behind schedule, and sharing less than a quarter of their parts instead of the anticipated 70 percent. Many of those already built need updates; hundreds of defects are still being corrected; the jet is so expensive to maintain that it costs around $36,000 per hour to fly (compared to $22,000 for an older F-16). At the current rate, it will cost taxpayers more than $1 trillion over its 60-year life span.

So, kill the monster and start looking for alternatives? Or declare it too big to fail and make the best of it?” . . .

Max Frankel | The Real Trump-Russia Quid Pro Quo – The New York Times

Mr. Frankel was the executive editor of The Times from 1986 to 1994.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

“Collusion — or a lack of it — turns out to have been the rhetorical trap that ensnared President Trump’s pursuers. There was no need for detailed electoral collusion between the Trump campaign and Vladimir Putin’s oligarchy because they had an overarching deal: the quid of help in the campaign against Hillary Clinton for the quo of a new pro-Russian foreign policy, starting with relief from the Obama administration’s burdensome economic sanctions. The Trumpites knew about the quid and held out the prospect of the quo.

Run down the known facts about the communications between Russians and the Trump campaign and their deal reveals itself. Perhaps, somewhere along the line, Russians also reminded the Trump family of their helpful cooperation with his past financial ventures. Perhaps, also, they articulated their resentment of Mrs. Clinton for her challenge as secretary of state to the legitimacy of Mr. Putin’s own election. But no such speculation is needed to perceive the obvious bargain reached during the campaign of 2016.

Early on, emissaries of the Russian oligarchs sent word of their readiness to help embarrass and undermine the Clinton candidacy. And in June 2016, the Russians lured the Trumpites to a meeting in Trump Tower with a promise of “dirt” against Mrs. Clinton only to use the meeting to harp on their hunger for sanctions relief. As the Trump family openly acknowledged, the Russians spoke at that meeting of a desire to again allow Americans to adopt Russian children. Since the adoptions were halted to retaliate against the American sanctions, it required no dictionary to interpret the oligarchs’ meaning: “dirt” for sanctions relief.

That relief and a warm new relationship with Russia were then freely discussed in public and in private. There was even an effort to concoct a grand diplomatic bargain by which the Russians would be allowed to legalize their seizure of the Ukrainian Crimea. Michael Cohen and other Trump advisers promoted the idea of letting the Russians “lease” the seized territory for up to 100 years so as to sanitize the reciprocal lifting of the sanctions that Mr. Obama had imposed to punish the land grab.”

David Lindsay: I missed this story, but it appeared today, 3/10/21, in a small piece in the NYT that a court dismissed a Trump law suit charging defamation, regarding this op-ed above.

 The sentence above about offering to allow adoptions to resume is confusing to this reader. Perhaps it is used an example that the Russians offered as many benefits as they could think of, if the Trumpsters would promise to remove the economic sanctions, that were hurting Putin and his group.

The message though is still clear, as expressed in the subtitle of that Frankel op-ed: “The campaign and the Kremlin had an overarching deal: help beat Hillary Clinton for a new pro-Russian foreign policy.”

Here is the link to the NYT story of today

Brazil’s Covid Crisis Is a Warning to the Whole World, Scientists Say – The New York Times

Manuela Andreoni, Ernesto Londoño and 

“RIO DE JANEIRO — Covid-19 has already left a trail of death and despair in Brazil, one of the worst in the world. Now, a year into the pandemic, the country is setting another wrenching record.

No other nation that experienced such a major outbreak is still grappling with record-setting death tolls and a health care system on the brink of collapse. Many other hard-hit nations are, instead, taking tentative steps toward a semblance of normalcy.

But Brazil is battling a more contagious variant that has trampled one major city and is spreading to others, even as Brazilians toss away precautionary measures that could keep them safe.

On Tuesday, Brazil recorded more than 1,700 Covid-19 deaths, the highest single-day toll of the pandemic.” . . .

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
Reply to : @Ed Watters
Not a necessarily a good idea to suspend the vaccine patents. Your motives sound pure, but who will work to create the next vaccines, when the next pandemic hits, after you expropriate all their patent rights? Your idea might be biting the hand that feeds you. With the Defense Production Act, the Biden team can force many things, but is expected to be reasonable in the demands it places on companies and workers. Your point of helping the world is a strong one. It will probably be in our interest, to expand production and distribution to help cover the world’s population, because of the threat of variants from mutations.