Monday, June 14, 2010

Gen. Petraeus' Gold Mine

As the war in Afghanistan worsens, its American proprietors have suddenly discovered that, far from being a quagmire, the country is a jackpot of "nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits...far beyond any previously known reserves."

Trumpeted in a front-page New York Times story, quoting Gen. David Petraeus no less, this "revelation" comes at a time when, the Washington Post points out, "Bad news from Afghanistan came in a steady stream last week," including increasing casualties and corruption as the "perception that the clock is ticking on the U.S. mission pushes Karzai toward building and defending his own family network, and favoring aides who can talk to Pakistan--and maybe the Taliban--over those close to the United States."

This juxtaposition of bad news on the ground and pie in the sky leads to a skepticism encapsulated by Marc Ambinder of The Atlantic in a blog post headline, "The Mineral Miracle? Or A Massive Information Operation?"

The Times story tells us, "The vast scale of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth was discovered by a small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists...

"While it could take many years to develop a mining industry, the potential is so great that officials and executives in the industry believe it could attract heavy investment even before mines are profitable, providing the possibility of jobs that could distract from generations of war."

The unpersuaded observer will be pardoned for suspecting that this sudden transformation of America's Afghan mess into a 21st century version of Sutter's Mill may be meant to "distract" us from almost nine years and counting of an endless war that is growing worse by the week.

From this perspective, the "news" that Afghanistan may provide lithium for American laptops and BlackBerrys looks more like another Oil Spill than a Gold Rush.

Update: As skeptical as outside observers might be about their mineral bonanza, Afghanis are excited to the point of figuring out how much they will get--$34,482.76 for each man, woman and child--as President Karzai's spokesman pooh-poohs the idea that the Taliban and local warlords might decide to cut themselves in for a larger share.

In a country where nothing is ever what it seems to be, that may pass for a government promise of socialized mining to surpass proceeds from the drug trade.

1 comment:

Blakenator said...

This is one of those "discoveries" that the NY Times made about twenty years after the rest of the world. Hell, the Chinese are already digging. This "revelation" is propaganda, pure and simple. Look for the neo-con men to claim it as U.S. property, after all the years we've spent there, we surely have the rights to it, they will say. While we go around the world making enemies, the Chinese are going around the world making deals.