War tourists

The McClatchy blog, Nukes and Spooks reports:

Amongst the swirl of soldiers, diplomats and contractors at America’s largest military bases in Afghanistan are congressional delegations, CODELs as they are often called. Members of Congress and their staffs come through, take a lot of photos with various commanders and ask questions that frankly could have been answered in Washington, all over a matter of no more than a couple days. Then they head back home. The trips are as much about theater as substance. The photos make their way onto campaign materials and the visits serve as the foundation for the questions they pose to commanders when they eventually testify on Capitol Hill. As in, “Gen. McChrystal, during my visit to Afghanistan, I learned….”

The latest VIP visitor was President Obama who spent six hours in Afghanistan over the weekend. The stated purpose was to meet with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai. But somehow the photo op with the troops made the front page of today’s New York Times.

A couple weeks ago, the State Department Inspector General released a report that found that department personnel spend so much time greeting the scores of congress members who come to visit, they don’t have enough time to do their jobs.

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