Underreported: Another troop surge, double standard in executive appointments
By Aditya Ganapathiraju
February 23, 2009

Troops ordered to Afghanistan

President Obama has ordered 17,000 more soldiers and Marines to Afghanistan in what Bloomberg News described as the “first phase of deployments to ramp up the U.S. presence in Afghanistan.”

Obama asked Gen. David McKiernan, the commander in Afghanistan, what the troops were going to be used for but got “no coherent answer,” so Obama agreed to just more than half the amount of troops requested, a White House source told Gareth Porter of Inter Press Service. McKiernan had originally called for 30,000 troops.

While he remains “absolutely convinced” that military means alone cannot solve the problems of Afghanistan and the Taliban, Obama called Afghanistan “still winnable” and said the escalation of troops was part of a “comprehensive strategy” toward “achievable goals in Afghanistan,” in a Feb. 17 press release.

Last week, the U.N. reported a 39 percent increase in civilian deaths in 2008 from 2007.

In addition to safety concerns escalating in Afghanistan, Clancy Chassay of The Guardian reported that millions of dollars of donor aid, allocated to fix places like the Kabul hospital, which has no running water or heat, are “missing.” Local health officials alleged that foreign consultants from the United States and Germany as well as the U.N. and other aid agencies are involved in mismanagement and corruption.

Defense lobbyist picked for top Pentagon post

“Everyone will acknowledge that we have set up the highest standards ever for lobbyists not working in the administration,” President Obama said at a recent press conference, in reference to his efforts to close the revolving door between government officials and lobbyists.

Despite that pledge, Obama has appointed Bill Lynn, a former defense industry lobbyist at Raytheon — one of the nation’s largest military contractors — to deputy defense secretary (confirmed by the Senate 93-4).

The “Revolving Door Ban” Obama signed as an executive order soon after his inauguration prohibits lobbyists from serving in government within two years of their roles as lobbyists, but Lynn has been granted a special waiver by the administration based on “circumstances relating to national security,” an Office of Management and Budget official told Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.

Grassley criticized the nomination by pointing to Lynn’s role as chief financial officer at the Pentagon under the Clinton administration, asserting that, “he advocated very questionable accounting practices that were not in the public interest.”

Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington chided the administration for the repeated appointments of lobbyists. A White House spokesman responded that, “even the toughest rules require reasonable exceptions.”

According to The Washington Times, there have been nearly two dozen executive-level appointments of registered federal lobbyists.

Reach columnist Aditya Ganapathiraju at news@dailyuw.com.