15 Million Merits Quotes

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In the absence of alternatives the State Department had taken up Unocal’s agenda as its own. Whatever the merits of the project, the sheer prominence it received by 1996 distorted the message and meaning of American power. American tolerance of the Taliban was publicly and inextricably linked to the financial goals of an oil corporation. There were by now about 1.5 million Afghan war dead, dating back to the Soviet invasion. The land was desolate, laced with mines. The average life expectancy for an Afghan was about forty-six years. The country ranked 173 out of 175 countries on the United Nations human development index.42 Yet the few American officials who paid attention to Afghanistan at all talked as if it was a tax-free zone ripe for industrial revival, a place where vocational education in metallurgy could lead to a political breakthrough.
Steve Coll (Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan & Bin Laden from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001)