Afghan Bling! There's gold in them thar hills!

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Just as John McCain was telling Gen. David Petraeus how worried he is that the US is going to leave Afghanistan before u201Cthe jobu201D is done, the General’s head dropped onto the desk in front of him: had he passed out from ennui? McCain had the same effect on the American electorate in 2008. Petraeus blamed it on not having had breakfast, but, in any case, the US government seems intent on having Afghanistan for lunch — and what a rich meal that is going to be! According to a piece by James Risen in the New York Times, there’s gold in them thar hills!

u201CThe United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.u201D

Risen, reporting the views of US officials, goes on to write that the lode is u201Cso big and include[s] so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world.u201D

The face of a nearly forgotten figure, Paul Wolfowitz, rises up from the mists of the past, promising that the oil riches of Iraq would ensure no unusual outlays from the US Treasury for postwar reconstruction:

u201CWe’re dealing with a country that could really finance its own reconstruction… The oil revenues of that country [Iraq] could bring between 50 and 100 billion dollars over the course of the next two or three years. Now, there are a lot of claims on that money, but that’s — we’re not dealing with Afghanistan that’s a permanent ward of the international community. We are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction and relatively soon.u201D

As Sarah Palin would put it: and how’s that Iraq-will-pay-for-itself idea workin’ out for ya?

Eight years later, we are dealing with Afghanistan, u201Ca permanent ward of the international community,u201D i.e. a US colony, but Wolfie’s words have gone down the Memory Hole conveniently located near every neocon’s work station.

Afghanistan, says an internal Pentagon memo, could become u201Cthe Saudi Arabia of lithiumu201D — a prospect that, if the Saudi kleptocracy is replicated on Afghan terrain, bodes ill for the people of that country. Given the truth of this alleged discovery — one that is by no means a new one, by the way — such an outcome certainly seems all too likely. A look [.pdf] at Afghanistan’s mining laws — coincidentally just recently formulated and passed — confirms this suspicion:

u201CArticle 4: Ownership of Minerals

u201C(1) All naturally occurring Minerals and all Artificial Deposits of Minerals on surface or subsurface of the territory of Afghanistan or in its water courses (rivers and streams) are the exclusive property of the State.

u201C(2) Mineral operations shall be conducted in Afghanistan by the State. A Person can also carry out mining operations by obtaining a License or Authorization in accordance with the provisions of this Law.u201D

This is a perfect set-up for corruption. Licenses are granted by the Afghan Ministry of Mines, formerly headed up by Muhammad Ibrahim Adel, who was dumped by the Karzai regime after being accused by the US of accepting a $30 million bribe from the Chinese for a copper mining franchise. His crime, of course, was that he accepted a bribe from the wrong people: his successor won’t make the same mistake.

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Justin Raimondo [send him mail] is editorial director of and is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard and Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement.

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