Documents obtained by the Washington Post related to the U.S. war in Afghanistan were released on Monday, detailing dysfunction in the U.S. government’s management of the war as well as criticism of war efforts made by top officials in the Bush and Obama administrations.
Sarah Kreps, professor of government and international relations at Cornell University, is an expert on defense budgeting and is the author of “Taxing Wars: The American Way of War Finance and the Decline of Democracy.” She says that while Americans knew about rising casualties resulting from the war in Afghanistan, they were unaware of the financial cost and corruption exposed by the Afghanistan Papers.
“The newly released information reveals the enormous disconnect between what the civilian and military leadership knew about the war and what the public knew, especially when it comes to how much it cost and how that money was spent.
“Americans knew about the mounting casualties. What’s revealed in this trove of documents is the patterns of spending. Total money spent became a metric for success but was unmoored from actual measures of progress, relatively unaccounted for by Congress, and fanned the flames of corruption.
“Back in 2009 when President Obama was publicly declaring the end of the blank check, some members of Congress proposed a war tax that would create a sense of shared sacrifice and close the gap between the conduct of conflict and the cost to the public. The mainstream of both parties derided the idea, but these documents show that this sort of tax would have forced more debate about what we now know was a pattern of largely unaccountable war spending.”