July 14, 2012

Common sense argument: Manchin is right about Afghanistan | Bluefield Daily Telegraph

Common sense is something that has been sorely lacking in Washington in recent months. And common sense would suggest that America shouldn’t be spending $94 million to upgrade the electrical grid in Afghanistan one week after thousands of West Virginia and Virginia residents were left in the dark without power and water.

Instead, we should be using that money to improve our own electrical grid, or at least to build new roads, bridges or schools back home, as correctly argued on the Senate floor last week by U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. And it is a good common sense argument shared by a growing number of Americans.

Why are we rebuilding Afghanistan, and not America? Why are we building new roads, bridges, schools and electrical systems in Afghanistan and Iraq, but not in America? It simply makes no sense. And the administration that is doing this is the same president who promised four years ago that he would quickly end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“So I thought: ‘How could I explain this back (home)?” Manchin said on the Senate floor last week. “We’re providing reliable power to the Afghans when nearly 200,000 West Virginians spent a week without electricity, lost all their food, and suffered in nearly 100-degree heat? When our country is losing tens and hundreds of billions of dollars because of power outages?”

We agree. It is troubling to learn that the administration is spending $94 million to upgrade the electrical grid in Afghanistan when that money could be put to better use right here in the outage-prone mountains of southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia.

Yes, charity is important. Helping other countries is important. But do you help build other countries while ignoring a growing state of disrepair in your country? We are not building new roads, bridges and electrical grids in America. Just imagine what that $94 million could do right here in Mercer County. We could complete our bridge to nowhere, and have a usable segment of the King Coal Highway near Bluefield. Instead, we are wasting $94 million in Afghanistan — the same country that harbored the terrorist mastermind responsible for the deadly Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on America.

Even more baffling is the fact that the $94 million contract will be used to upgrade an electrical transmission and power station in Afghanistan that was already funded by U.S. taxpayer dollars in the 1970s, according to Manchin. But guess what? It wasn’t properly maintained by the Afghans. So now we are paying all over again to rebuild it. Ridiculous.

“This facility wasn’t maintained in the 70s, in the 80s, in the 90s or in the 2000s — what makes us think that it will be maintained now?” Manchin added last week. “I can’t say it enough: if you build a bridge in West Virginia, we won’t blow it up. If you build a school, we won’t burn it down. In fact, we will be very appreciative. And if you help us invest in a more reliable electric system, we will use that power to make this country stronger, to power this nation’s economy, and to provide good-paying jobs.”

We agree. Send that $94 million to America instead. Send it to West Virginia. We’ll use it to build a usable segment of the King Coal Highway in Mercer County.

Let’s invest in America first. Once we have our own financial house in order, and once we have upgraded our own roads, bridges, schools and electrical grids, then we can help our neighbors in need in other parts of the world.

By:  Editorial