Category Archives: Afghanistan

Afghan Troops say Taliban are Brothers and War is “not really our fight”

The world is waiting anxiously to see whether the U.S. and Afghan governments and the Taliban will agree to a one-week truce that could set the stage for a “permanent and comprehensive” ceasefire and the withdrawal of U.S. and other foreign occupation forces from Afghanistan. Could the talks be for real this time, or will they turn out to be just another political smokescreen for President Trump’s addiction to mass murder and celebrity whack-a-mole?

If the ceasefire really happens, nobody will be happier than the Afghans fighting and dying on the front lines of a war that one described to a BBC reporter as “not really our fight.” Afghan government troops and police who are suffering the worst casualties on the front lines of this war told the BBC they are not fighting out of hatred for the Taliban or loyalty to the U.S.-backed government, but out of poverty, desperation and self-preservation. In this respect, they are caught in the same excruciating predicament as millions of other people across the greater Middle East wherever the United States has turned people’s homes and communities into American “battlefields.”

In Afghanistan, U.S.-trained special operations forces conduct “hunt and kill” night raids and offensive operations in Taliban-held territory, backed by devastating U.S. airpower that kills largely uncounted numbers of resistance fighters and civilians. The U.S. dropped a post-2001 record 7,423 bombs and missiles on Afghanistan in 2019.

But as BBC reporter Nanamou Steffensen explained (listen here, from 11:40 to 16:50), it is lightly-armed rank-and-file Afghan soldiers and police at checkpoints and small defensive outposts across the country, not the U.S.-backed elite special operations forces, who suffer the most appalling level of casualties. President Ghani revealed in January 2019 that over 45,000 Afghan troops had been killed since he took office in September 2014, and by all accounts 2019 was even deadlier.

Steffensen travelled around Afghanistan talking to Afghan soldiers and police at the checkpoints and small outposts that are the vulnerable front line of the U.S. war against the Taliban. The troops Steffensen spoke to told her they only enlisted in the army or police because they couldn’t find any other work, and that they received only one month’s training in the use of an AK-47 and an RPG before being sent to the front lines. Most are dressed only in t-shirts and slippers or traditional Afghan clothing, although a few sport bits and pieces of body armor. They live in constant fear, “expecting to be overrun at any moment.” One policeman told Steffensen, “They don’t care about us. That’s why so many of us die. It’s up to us to fight or get killed, that’s all.”

In an astonishingly cynical interview, Afghanistan’s national police chief, General Khoshal Sadat, confirmed the troops’ views of the low value placed on their lives by the corrupt U.S.-backed government. General Sadat is a graduate of military colleges in the U.K. and U.S. who was court-martialed under President Karzai in 2014 for illegally detaining people and betraying his country to the U.S. and U.K. President Ghani promoted him to head the national police in 2019. Steffensen asked Sadat about the effect of high casualties on morale and recruitment. “When you look at recruitment,” Sadat told her, “I always think about the Afghan families and how many children they have. The good thing is there is never a shortage of fighting-age males who will be able to join the force.”

In the final interview in Steffensen’s report, a policeman at a checkpoint for vehicles approaching Wardak town from Taliban-held territory questioned the very purpose of the war. He told her, “We Muslims are all brothers. We don’t have a problem with each other.” “Then why are you fighting?” she asked him. He hesitated, laughed nervously and shook his head in a resigned manner. “You know why. I know why. It’s not really our fight,” he said.

So why are we all fighting?

The attitudes of the Afghan troops Steffensen interviewed are shared by people fighting on both sides of America’s wars. Across the “arc of instability” that now stretches five thousand miles from Afghanistan to Mali and beyond, U.S. “regime change” and “counterterrorism” wars have turned millions of people’s homes and communities into American “battlefields.” Like the Afghan recruits Steffensen spoke to, desperate people have joined armed groups on all sides, but for reasons that have little to do with ideology, religion or the sinister motivations assumed by Western politicians and pundits.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice discontinued the State Department’s annual report on global terrorism in 2005, after it revealed that the first three years of the U.S’s militarized “War on Terror” had predictably resulted in a global explosion of terrorism and armed resistance, the exact opposite of its stated goals. Rice’s response to the report’s revelations was to try to suppress public awareness of the most obvious result of the U.S.’s lawless and destabilizing wars.

Fifteen years later, the U.S. and its ever-proliferating enemies remain trapped in a cycle of violence and chaos in which acts of barbarism by one side only fuel new expansions and escalations of violence by the other side, with no end in sight. Researchers have explored how the chaotic violence and chaos of America’s wars transform formerly neutral civilians in country after country into armed combatants. Consistently across many different war zones, they have found that the main reason people join armed groups is to protect themselves, their family or their community, and that fighters therefore gravitate to the strongest armed groups to gain the most protection, with little regard for ideology.

In 2015, the Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC), interviewed 250 combatants from Bosnia, Palestine (Gaza), Libya and Somalia, and published the results in a report titled The People’s Perspectives: Civilians in Armed Conflict. The researchers found that, “The most common motivation for involvement, described by interviewees in all four case studies, was the protection of self or family.”

In 2017, the UN Development Program (UNDP) conducted a similar survey of 500 people who joined Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab and other armed groups in Africa. The UNDP’s report was titled Journey To Extremism in Africa: Drivers, Incentives and the Tipping-Point for Recruitment. Its findings confirmed those of other studies, and the combatants’ responses on the precise “tipping-point” for recruitment were especially enlightening.

“A striking 71%,” the report found, “pointed to ‘government action’, including ‘killing of a family member or friend’ or ‘arrest of a family member or friend’, as the incident that prompted them to join.”  The UNDP concluded, “State security-actor conduct is revealed as a prominent accelerant of recruitment, rather than the reverse.”

The U.S. government is so corrupted by powerful military-industrial interests that it clearly has no interest in learning from these studies, any more than from its own long experience of illegal and catastrophic war-making. To routinely declare that “all options are on the table,” including the use of military force, is a violation of the UN Charter, which prohibits the threat as well as the use of force against other nations precisely because such vague, open-ended threats so predictably lead to war.

But the more clearly the American public understands the falsehood and the moral, legal and political bankruptcy of the justifications for our country’s disastrous wars, the more clearly we can challenge the absurd claims of warmongering politicians whose policies offer the world only more death, destruction and chaos. Trump’s blundering, murderous Iran policy is only the latest example, and, despite its catastrophic results, U.S. militarism remains tragically bipartisan, with a few honorable exceptions.

When the U.S. stops killing people and bombing their homes, and the world starts helping people to support and protect themselves and their families without joining U.S.-backed armed forces or the armed groups they are fighting, then and only then will the raging conflicts that U.S. militarism has ignited across the world begin to subside.

Afghanistan is not the United States’ longest war. That tragic distinction belongs to the American Indian Wars, which lasted from the founding of the country until the last Apache warriors were captured in 1924. But the U.S. war in Afghanistan is the longest of the anachronistic and predictably unwinnable neoimperial wars the U.S. has fought since 1945.

As an Afghan taxi driver in Vancouver told me in 2009, “We defeated the Persian Empire in the 18th century. We defeated the British in the 19th century. We defeated the Soviet Union in the 20th century. Now, with NATO, we are fighting 28 countries, but we will defeat them too.” I never doubted him for a minute. But why would America’s leaders, in their delusions of empire and obsession with budget-busting weapons technology, ever listen to an Afghan taxi driver?

Can the “World’s Second Superpower” Rise From the Ashes of Twenty Years of War?

UK protest against iraq war February 15, 2003. (Credit: Stop the War Coalition)

February 15 marks the day, 17 years ago, when global demonstrations against the pending Iraq invasion were so massive that the New York Times called world public opinion “the second superpower.” But the U.S. ignored it and invaded Iraq anyway. So what has become of the momentous hopes of that day?

The U.S. military has not won a war since 1945, unless you count recovering the tiny colonial outposts of Grenada, Panama and Kuwait, but there is one threat it has consistently outmanoeuvred without firing more than a few deadly rifle shots and some tear gas. Ironically, this existential threat is the very one that could peacefully cut it down to size and take away its most dangerous and expensive weapons: its own peace-loving citizens.

During the Vietnam war, young Americans facing a life-and-death draft lottery built a powerful anti-war movement. President Nixon proposed ending the draft as a way to undermine the peace movement, since he believed that young people would stop protesting the war once they were no longer obligated to fight. In 1973, the draft was ended, leaving a volunteer army that insulated the vast majority of Americans from the deadly impact of America’s wars.

Despite the lack of a draft, a new anti-war movement—this time with global reach—sprung up in the period between the crimes of 9/11 and the illegal U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003. The February 15th, 2003, protests were the largest demonstrations in human history, uniting people around the world in opposition to the unthinkable prospect that the U.S. would actually launch its threatened “shock and awe” assault on Iraq. Some 30 million people in 800 cities took part on every continent, including Antarctica. This massive repudiation of war, memorialized in the documentary We Are Many, led New York Times journalist Patrick E. Tyler to comment that there were now two superpowers on the planet: the United States and world public opinion.

The U.S. war machine demonstrated total disdain for its upstart rival, and unleashed an illegal war based on lies that has now raged on through many phases of violence and chaos for 17 years. With no end in sight to U.S. and allied wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Syria, Palestine, Yemen and West Africa, and Trump’s escalating diplomatic and economic warfare against Iran, Venezuela and North Korea threatening to explode into new wars, where is the second superpower now, when we need it more than ever?

Since the U.S. assassination of Iran’s General Soleimani in Iraq on January 2nd, the peace movement has reemerged onto the streets, including people who marched in February 2003 and new activists too young to remember a time when the U.S. was not at war. There have been three separate days of protest, one on January 4th, another on the 9th and a global day of action on the 25th. The rallies took place in hundreds of cities, but they did not attract nearly the numbers who came out to protest the pending war with Iraq in 2003, or even those of the smaller rallies and vigils that continued as the Iraq war spiralled out of control until at least 2007.

Our failure to stop the U.S. war on Iraq in 2003 was deeply discouraging. But the number of people active in the U.S. anti-war movement shrank even more after the 2008 election of Barack Obama. Many people did not want to protest the nation’s first black president, and many, including the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, really believed he would be a “peace president.”

While Obama reluctantly honored Bush’s agreement with the Iraqi government to withdraw US troops from Iraq and he signed the Iran nuclear deal, he was far from a peace president. He oversaw a new doctrine of covert and proxy war that substantially reduced U.S. military casualties, but unleashed an escalation of the war in Afghanistan, a campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria that destroyed entire cities, a ten-fold increase in CIA drone strikes on Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, and bloody proxy wars in Libya and Syria that rage on today. In the end, Obama spent more on the military and dropped more bombs on more countries than Bush did. He also refused to hold Bush and his cronies responsible for their war crimes.

Obama’s wars were no more successful than Bush’s in restoring peace or stability to any of those countries or improving the lives of their people. But Obama’s “disguised, quiet, media-free approach” to war made the U.S. state of endless war much more politically sustainable. By reducing U.S. casualties and waging war with less fanfare, he moved America’s wars farther into the shadows and gave the American public an illusion of peace in the midst of endless war, effectively disarming and dividing the peace movement.

Obama’s secretive war policy was backed up by a vicious campaign against any brave whistleblowers who tried to drag it out into the light. Jeffrey Sterling, Thomas Drake, Chelsea Manning, John Kiriakou, Edward Snowden and now Julian Assange have been prosecuted and jailed under unprecedented new interpretations of the WWI-era Espionage Act.

With Donald Trump in the White House, we hear Republicans making the same excuses for Trump—who ran on an anti-war platform—that Democrats made for Obama. First, his supporters accept lip service about wanting to end wars and bring troops home as revealing what the president really wants to do, even as he keeps escalating the wars. Second, they ask us to be patient because, despite all the real world evidence, they are convinced he is working hard behind the scenes for peace. Third, in a final cop-out that undermines their other two arguments, they throw up their hands and say that he is “only” the president, and the Pentagon or “deep state” is too powerful for even him to tame.

Obama and Trump supporters alike have used this shaky tripod of political unaccountability to give the man behind the desk where the buck used to stop an entire deck of “get out of jail free” cards for endless war and war crimes.

Obama and Trump’s “disguised, quiet, media-free approach” to war has inoculated America’s wars and militarism against the virus of democracy, but new social movements have grown up to tackle problems closer to home. The financial crisis led to the rise of the Occupy Movement, and now the climate crisis and America’s entrenched race and immigration problems have all provoked new grassroots movements. Peace advocates have been encouraging these movements to join the call for major Pentagon cuts, insisting that the hundreds of billions saved could help fund everything from Medicare for All to the Green New Deal to free college tuition.

A few sectors of the peace movement have been showing how to use creative tactics and build diverse movements. The movement for Palestinians’ human and civil rights includes students, Muslim and Jewish groups, as well as black and indigenous groups fighting similar struggles here at home. Also inspirational are campaigns for peace on the Korean peninsula led by Korean Americans, such as Women Cross the DMZ, which has brought together women from North Korea, South Korea and the United States to show the Trump administration what real diplomacy looks like.

There have also been successful popular efforts pushing a reluctant Congress to take anti-war positions. For decades, Congress has been only too happy to leave warmaking to the president, abrogating its constitutional role as the only power authorized to declare war. Thanks to public pressure, there has been a remarkable shift. In 2019, both houses of Congress voted to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen and to ban arms sales to Saudi Arabia for the war in Yemen, although President Trump vetoed both bills.

Now Congress is working on bills to explicitly prohibit an unauthorized war on Iran. These bills prove that public pressure can move Congress, including a Republican-dominated Senate, to reclaim its constitutional powers over war and peace from the executive branch.

Another bright light in Congress is the pioneering work of first-term Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who recently laid out a series of bills called Pathway to PEACE that challenge our militaristic foreign policy. While her bills will be hard to get passed in Congress, they lay out a marker for where we should be headed. Omar’s office, unlike many others in Congress, actually works directly with grassroots organizations that can push this vision forward.

The presidential election offers an opportunity to push the anti-war agenda. The most effective and committed anti-war champion in the race is Bernie Sanders. The popularity of his call for getting the U.S. out of its imperial interventions and his votes against 84% of military spending bills since 2013 are reflected not only in his poll numbers but also in the way other Democratic candidates are rushing to take similar positions. All now say the U.S. should rejoin the Iran nuclear deal; all have criticized the “bloated” Pentagon budget, despite regularly voting for it; and most have promised to bring U.S. troops home from the greater Middle East.

So, as we look to the future in this election year, what are our chances of reviving the world’s second superpower and ending America’s wars?

Absent a major new war, we are unlikely to see big demonstrations in the streets. But two decades of endless war have created a strong anti-war sentiment among the public.  A 2019 Pew Research Center poll found that 62 percent of Americans said the war in Iraq was not worth fighting and 59 percent said the same for the war in Afghanistan.

On Iran, a September 2019 University of Maryland poll showed that a mere one-fifth of Americans said the U.S. “should be prepared to go to war” to achieve its goals in Iran, while three-quarters said that U.S. goals do not warrant military intervention. Along with the Pentagon’s assessment of how disastrous a war with Iran would be, this public sentiment fueled global protests and condemnation that have temporarily forced Trump to dial down his military escalation and threats against Iran.

So, while our government’s war propaganda has convinced many Americans that we are powerless to stop its catastrophic wars, it has failed to convince most Americans that we are wrong to want to. As on other issues, activism has two main hurdles to overcome: first to convince people that something is wrong; and secondly to show them that, by working together to build a popular movement, we can do something about it.

The peace movement’s small victories demonstrate that we have more power to challenge U.S. militarism than most Americans realize. As more peace-loving people in the U.S. and across the world discover the power they really have, the second superpower we glimpsed briefly on February 15th, 2003 has the potential to rise stronger, more committed and more determined from the ashes of two decades of war.

A new president like Bernie Sanders in the White House would create a new opening for peace. But as on many domestic issues, that opening will only bear fruit and overcome the opposition of powerful vested interests if there is a mass movement behind it every step of the way. If there is a lesson for peace-loving Americans in the Obama and Trump presidencies, it is that we cannot just walk out of the voting booth and leave it to a champion in the White House to end our wars and bring us peace. In the final analysis, it really is up to us. Please join us.

Teflon Lies and Mowing Lawns: The Afghanistan Papers

Afghanistan is a famous desert for empires, a burial ground which has consumed those in power who thought that extra fortification and trading most might benefit them.  It remains a great, and somewhat savage reminder about those who suffer hubris, overconfidence and eagerness in pursuing their agendas.  But the country has also served another purpose: a repository for the untruths of those who invaded it.

That said, the normative sense does not always keep pace with the actual; people might well insist that they loathe being lied to but that is no guarantee for altering conduct or votes.  The US citizen has been the recipient of mendacity on the republic’s foreign engagements since President Thomas Jefferson decided to expand its operations against the Barbary pirates in Europe.  There have been deceptions, concoctions and fabrications to either justify an intervention or justify the continuation of US garrisons in foreign theatres.  Cometh the empire, cometh the military presence.

Since US forces were deployed after September 11, 2001 ostensibly to defeat the Taliban and al-Qaeda, the US has lost 2,400 personnel, seen the deaths of over a hundred thousand Afghans and expended, through Congress, $137 billion in reconstruction funds.  Some $1 trillion has been spent in the military effort. A note from the Congressional Research Service from January 31 this year, despite toeing the line, had to concede that, while “most measures of human development have improved […] future prospects of those measures remain mixed in light of a robust Taliban insurgency and continued terrorist activity.”

The Afghanistan Papers, as they have now come to be known, should have stimulated something more than it did.  Run as a set of interviews in the Washington Post in December from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), they are filled vignettes of confusion, incompetence and indifference.  The interviews feature an imperium in a mess, dithering, muddled, and in need of a purpose.  At times, there is an astonishing freshness that only comes with being frank.

SIGAR, the main oversight body responsible for examining the US operation in Afghanistan, has released nine reports in its “Lessons Learned” series.  The seventh report, for instance, notes “the difficulty of reintegrating ex-combatants during an active insurgency in a fragile state.”  The words of the executive summary are almost brutal in their common sense.  “In Afghanistan, we found that the absence of a comprehensive political settlement or peace agreement was a key factor in the failure of prior reintegration programs targeting Taliban fighters.”

From September 2016 comes another report detailing “Corruption in Conflict“.  Ambassador Ryan Crocker’s words feature prominently.  “The ultimate point of failure of our efforts… wasn’t an insurgency.  It was the weight of endemic corruption.”  The report identified five pertinent grounds that affected the entire effort: the presence of corruption that “undermined the US mission in Afghanistan by fuelling grievances and channelling support to the insurgency”; the direct contribution by the US to corruption; a slowness to recognise the scale of the problem; the trumping of “strong anticorruption actions” in favour of security and political goals and the conspicuous lack of “sustained political commitment” in anticorruption efforts.

The picture sketched by the Post is one of dysfunction and even deceit in the planning process.  As with any policy that demands many hands and many tiers, the grunts and diggers are bound to have a different view to those seated behind desks either in Kabul or Washington. The SIGAR project also saw criticism from over 400 insiders on the deepening nature of US involvement in a project without success or end.  “With a bluntness rarely expressed in public,” notes the paper, “the interviews lay bare pent-up complaints, frustrations and confessions, along with second-guessing and backbiting.”

Distant wars fall victim to attention deficit syndrome.  Geography dispels interest.  The enemy is there, away from any reckoning.  Whether a Taliban fighter is killed, or a school girl in Kabul educated, is irrelevant to the purchase of groceries of a shopper in Wisconsin.  Few American voters have a concept of where the country is, seeing any deployment of forces in the most abstract of terms.  The idea that US forces are there is only as relevant as the idea that they might serve some purpose to repel evil and shore up the interests of the country.  Other factors rarely count.

The budgeting feature behind the war is also a matter that confines it to the periphery.  Being part of “emergency supplementary spending”, the issue rarely finds scope for debate and discussion in the broader issues of Congressional spending.  The US political establishment, in other words, shows little interest in this bit of nastiness in the Middle East.  As an editorial in the Christian Century put it, “The war, in short, has little effect on most Americans’ lives.”

Not even President Donald Trump has been able to arrest this tendency, despite being very much of the view that US forces should be reined back from various theatres of operation.  The objectives of his administration in Afghanistan entail “achieving a peace agreement that ensures Afghan soil is never used again by terrorists against the United States, its allies, or any country that allows American troops to return home.”  Politics is often not only the art of the possible but the vague.

Besides, he has had impeachment proceedings to battle, a process which has served to draw attention away from the less appealing, let alone competent nature, of US foreign policy when it comes to overthrowing governments and finding suitable substitutes.  On the issue of Afghanistan, Republicans and Democrats are to blame, both united by the strand of shoddiness that characterises imperial engagements that look increasingly doddering in their nature.  Nation building is a near impossible exercise, and remains the exception that proves the rule.

The default position of US foreign and military policy in its Trump phase, then, is “mowing the lawn”, an expression bequeathed to us by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.  This entails measures of brutal violence to keep the enemy in check as “every now and then, you have to do these things to stay on top of it so that the threat doesn’t grow, doesn’t resurge.”  A solid retreat, then, from the bricks and mortar of state-building.

An Eyewitness to  the Horrors of the US “Forever Wars” speaks out

Kathy Kelly and Maya Evans walk with children at the Chamin-E-Babrak refugee camp in Kabul, Afghanistan, January 2014. (Abdulhai Darya)

The 2003 “shock and awe” bombing of Iraq had finally stopped. From the balcony of my room in Baghdad’s Al Fanar Hotel, I watched U.S. Marines moving between their jeeps, armored personnel carriers, and Humvees. They had occupied the street immediately in front of the small, family-owned hotel where our Iraq Peace Team had been living for the past six months. Looking upward, a U.S. Marine could see enlarged vinyl photos of beautiful Iraqi children strung across balconies of our fifth-floor rooms. We silently stood on those balconies when the U.S. Marines arrived in Baghdad, holding signs that said “War = Terror” and “Courage for Peace, Not for War.” When she first saw the Marine’s faces, Cynthia Banas commented on how young and tired they seemed. Wearing her “War Is Not the Answer” T-shirt, she headed down the stairs to offer them bottled water.

From my balcony, I saw Cathy Breen, also a member of the Iraq Peace Team, kneeling on a large canvas artwork entrusted to us by friends from South Korea. It depicts people suffering from war. Above the people, like a sinister cloud, is a massive heap of weapons. We unrolled it the day the Marines arrived and began to “occupy” this space. Marines carefully avoided driving vehicles over it. Sometimes they would converse with us. Below, Cathy read from a small booklet of daily Scripture passages. A U.S. Marine approached her, knelt down, and apparently asked to pray with her. He placed his hands in hers.

April Hurley, of our team, is a doctor. She was greatly needed in the emergency room of a nearby hospital during the bombing. Drivers would only take her there if she was accompanied by someone they had known for a long time, and so I generally accompanied her. I’d often sit on a bench outside the emergency room while traumatized civilians rushed in with wounded and maimed survivors of the terrifying U.S. aerial bombings. When possible, Cathy Breen and I would take notes at the bedsides of patients, including children, whose bodies had been ripped apart by U.S. bombs.

The ER scenes were gruesome, bloody and utterly tragic. Yet no less unbearable and incomprehensible were the eerily quiet wards we had visited during trips to Iraq from 1996 to 2003, when Voices in the Wilderness had organized 70 delegations to defy the economic sanctions by bringing medicines and medical relief supplies to hospitals in Iraq. Across the country, Iraqi doctors told us the economic war was far worse than even the 1991 Desert Storm bombing.

In pediatrics wards, we saw infants and toddlers whose bodies were wasted from gastrointestinal diseases, cancers, respiratory infections and starvation. Limp, miserable, sometimes gasping for breath, they lay in the arms of their sorrowful mothers, and seemingly no one could stop the U.S. from punishing them to death. “Why?” mothers murmured. Sanctions forbade Iraq to sell its oil. Without oil revenues, how could they purchase desperately needed goods? Iraq’s infrastructure continued to crumble; hospitals became surreal symbols of cruelty where doctors and nurses, bereft of medicines and supplies, couldn’t heal their patients or ease their agonies.

In 1995, UN officials estimated that economic sanctions had directly contributed to the deaths of at least a half-million Iraqi children, under age 5.

Kathy Kelly with children in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 2016 (Provided photo)

The economic war continued for nearly 13 harsh and horrible years.

Shortly after the Marines arrived outside of our hotel, we began hearing ominous reports of potential humanitarian crises developing in Baghdad and other major Iraqi cities. A woman who had been in charge of food distribution for her neighborhood, under the “Oil for Food” program, showed us her carefully maintained ledger books and angrily asked how all who had depended on the monthly food basket would now feed their families. Along with food shortages, we heard alarming reports about contaminated water and a possible outbreak of cholera in Basra and Hilla. For weeks, there had been no trash removal. Bombed electrical plants and sanitation facilities had yet to be restored. Iraqis who could help restore the broken infrastructure couldn’t make it through multiple check points to reach their offices; with communication centers bombed, they couldn’t contact colleagues. If the U.S. military hadn’t yet devised a plan for emergency relief, why not temporarily entrust projects to U.N. agencies with long experience of organizing food distribution and health care delivery?

Cathy, who is a nurse, Dr. April Hurley, and Ramzi Kysia, also a member of our group, arranged a meeting with the civil and military operations center, located in the Palestine Hotel, across the street from us. An official there dismissed them as people who didn’t belong there. Before telling them to leave, he did accept a list of our concerns, written on Voices in the Wilderness stationery.

The logo for our stationery reappeared a few hours later, at the entrance to the Palestine Hotel. It was taped to the flap of a cardboard box. Surrounding the logo were seven silver bullets. Written in ball-point pen on the cardboard was a message: “Keep Out.”

In response, Ramzi Kysia wrote a press release headlined: “Heavy-handed & Hopeless, The U.S. Military Doesn’t Know What It’s Doing In Iraq.”

Kathy Kelly holds Shoba at the Chamin-E-Babrak refugee camp in Kabul, Afghanistan, in January 2014, a few days after the child had been saved from a burning tent, during a fire that destroyed much of the camp. (Abdulhai Darya)

In 2008, our group, renamed Voices for Creative Nonviolence, was beginning a walk from Chicago to the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis. We asked Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid to speak at a “send-off” event. He encouraged and blessed our “Witness Against War” walk  but then surprised us by saying he had never heard us mention the war in Afghanistan, even though people there suffered terribly from aerial bombings, drone attacks, targeted assassinations, night raids and imprisonments. Returning from our walk, we began researching drone warfare, and then created an “Afghan Atrocities List,” on our website, carefully updating it each week with verifiable reports of U.S. attacks against Afghan civilians.

The following year, Joshua Brollier and I headed to Pakistan and then Afghanistan. In Kabul, Afghanistan, we were guests of a deeply respected non-governmental organization Emergency, which has a Surgical Centre for War Victims there.

Filippo, a sturdy young nurse from Italy who was close to completing three terms of service with Emergency, welcomed us. As he filled a huge backpack with medicines and supplies, he described how the hospital personnel managed to reach people in remote villages who have no access to clinics or hospitals. The trip was relatively safe since no one had ever attacked a vehicle marked with the Emergency logo. A driver would take him to one of Emergency’s 41 remote first aid clinics. From there, he would hike further up a mountainside and meet villagers awaiting him and the precious medicines he carried. In a previous visit, after he had completed a term in Afghanistan, he said people had walked four hours in the snow to come and say goodbye to him. “Yes,” he said, “I fell in love.”

How different Filippo’s report was from those compiled in our Afghan Atrocities List. The latter tells about U.S. special operations forces, some of the most highly trained warriors in the world, traveling to remote areas, bursting into homes in the middle of the night, and proceeding to lock the women in one room, handcuff or sometimes hogtie the men, rip apart closets, mattresses and furniture, and then take the men to prisons for interrogation. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch filed chilling reports about torture of Afghan prisoners held by the U.S.

In 2010, two U.S. Veterans for Peace, Ann Wright and Mike Ferner, joined me in Kabul. We visited one of the city’s largest refugee camps. People faced appalling conditions. Over a dozen, including infants, had frozen to death, their families unable to purchase fuel or adequate blankets. When the rain, sleet and snow came, the tents and huts become mired in mud. Earlier, I had met with a young girl there whose arm had been cut off, her uncle told me, by a U.S. drone attack. Her brother, whose spine was injured, huddled under a blanket, inside their tent, visibly shaking.

Opposite the sprawling refugee camp is a huge U.S. military base. Ann and Mike felt outraged over the terrible contrast between the Afghan refugee camp with a soaring population of people displaced by war, and the U.S. base housing military personnel who had ample supplies of food, water, and fuel.

Most of the funds earmarked by the U.S. for reconstruction in Afghanistan have been used to train and equip Afghan Defense and Security forces. My young friends in the Afghan Peace Volunteers (APV) were weary of war and didn’t want military training. Each of them had lost friends and family members because of the war.

In December 2015, I again visited Emergency’s Surgical Centre for War Victims in Kabul, joined by several Afghan Peace Volunteers. We donated blood and then visited with hospital personnel. “Are you still treating any victims of the U.S. bombing in Kunduz?” I asked Luca Radaelli, who coordinates Emergency’s Afghan facilities. He explained how their Kabul hospital was already full when 91 survivors of the U.S. attack on the Kunduz hospital operated by Médecins Sans Frontières were transported for five hours over rough roads to the closest place they could be treated, this surgical center. The Oct. 15 attack had killed at least 42 people, 14 of whom were hospital staff.

Kathy Kelly and Voices in the Wilderness delegation with Afghan Peace Volunteer friends in Bamyan, Afghanistan, in 2010 (Hakim Young)

Even though Kunduz hospital staff had immediately notified the U.S. military, the U.N., and the Afghan government that the U.S. was bombing their hospital, the warplane continued bombing the hospital’s ER and intensive care unit, in 15-minute intervals, for an hour and a half.

Luca introduced our small team to Khalid Ahmed, a former pharmacy student at the Kunduz hospital, who was still recovering. Khalid described the terrible night, his attempt to literally run for his life by sprinting toward the front gate, his agony when he was hit by shrapnel in his spine, and his efforts to reassemble his cell phone — guards had cautioned him to remove the batteries so that he wouldn’t be detected by aerial surveillance — so that he could give a last message to his family, as he began to lose consciousness. Fortunately, his call got through. His father’s relatives raced to the hospital’s front gate and found Khalid in a nearby ditch, unconscious but alive.

Telling his story, Khalid asked the Afghan Peace Volunteers about me. Learning I’m from the U.S., his eyes widened. “Why would your people want to do this to us?” he asks. “We were only trying to help people.”

Images of battered and destroyed hospitals in Iraq and Afghanistan, and of hospital personnel trying nevertheless to heal people and save lives, help me retain a basic truth about U.S. wars of choice: We don’t have to be this way.

Admittedly, it’s difficult to uproot entrenched systems, like the military-industrial-congressional-media-Washington, D.C., complex, which involves corporate profits and government jobs. Mainstream media seldom help us recognize ourselves as a menacing, warrior nation. Yet we must look in the mirror held up by historical circumstances if we’re ever to accomplish credible change.

The recently released “Afghanistan Papers” criticize U.S. military and elected officials for misleading the U.S. public by covering up disgraceful military failures in Afghanistan. Pentagon officials were quick to dismiss the critiques, assuring an easily distracted U.S. public that the documents won’t impact U.S. military and foreign policy. Two days later, UNICEF reported that more than 600 Afghan children had died in 2019, because of direct attacks in the war. From 2009 through 2018, almost 6,500 children lost their lives in this war.

Addressing the U.S. Senate and Congress during a visit to Washington, D.C., Pope Francis voiced a simple, conscientious question. “Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society?” Answering his own question, he said: “the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood.”

What are the lessons learned from the rampage, destruction and cruelty of U.S. wars? I believe the most important lessons are summed up in the quote on Cynthia Banas’s T-shirt as she delivered water to Marines in Baghdad, in April, 2003: “War Is Not the Answer”; and in an updated version of the headline Ramzi Kysia wrote that same month: “Heavy-handed & Hopeless, The US. Military Doesn’t Know What It’s Doing” -in Iraq, Afghanistan or any of its “forever wars.”

• Originally published by National Catholic Reporter

Work of Necessity, Work of Choice

At age 11, Saabir Gulmadin began chopping wood to support his family. Now 18, he earns about $1.50 US (120 Afghanis) for every 56 kg of wood he splits. It takes him 2 to 3 hours.

“Is the work hard on your body?” I ask.

“Ohhh, yes,” he says, without hesitation.

“Where does it hurt?”

Saabir raises his right hand to give his thin upper arm a couple of squeezes.

Saabir supports the 8 Pashtun family members in their home in Kabul, Afghanistan. His father died from an illness when Saabir was 6, and by age 8, Saabir was working in the streets, transporting items in a wheelbarrow.

A few days ago, the House of the Afghan Parliament approved a law on the protection of children, but it only addresses, in principle, children age 5 and younger. At least a quarter of Afghan children ages 5 to 14 work. With no social safety net, few avenues exist for families to meet basic needs. Given the decades of war, extreme poverty, and the highest number of drug addicts in the world, families in Afghanistan who have lost their breadwinner are often left with two choices: send a child out to work or join the 219 million forcibly displaced migrants, seeking food and physical safety.

A group of Afghan high school and university students, the Afghan Peace Volunteers (APVs), is taking a step to increase families’ financial security with a program that teaches Afghan teenagers a trade. Instead of calling for a blanket ban on child labor, they believe that if a youth is taught a trade to earn money for food and other necessities, this training may in fact enable that youth to stay in school.

Having studied at the APVs’ Street Kids School for almost two years, Saabir recently joined a course to learn how to repair cell phones. In past years, students at the Street Kids School would receive a monthly food ration of rice, lentils, oil, and other basic food items if they regularly attended the school’s nonviolence and literacy classes, but the APV youth coordinators have decided to shift from running the food distribution program to offering training in livelihood skills.

Twenty-one self-selected students from the Street Kids School age 13 and older, and 3 family members of younger students, are taking the repair course at the private Gharejestan University in Kabul.

During a recent class, some students brought their own cell phones to class, and as in the US, could not resist checking messages as the instructor talked about “factory reset” and “safe mode.” Mohammad Haidary, age 16, sat in the front of the classroom, listening attentively and asking questions. During the first two weeks, Mohammad has learned the parts of a cell phone, the problems that arise when a SIM card is faulty, and how improper language settings can turn recognizable speech in SMS messages to a series of squares and question marks.

Like Saabir, Mohammad started working young, at about age 9 or 10, joining Hazara family members in weaving carpets at home. He is taking the cell phone repair course because he wants to be able to repair his own phone if something goes wrong, or the phones of his friends. The repair shops charge high prices for a simple problem, he says. He also believes he’ll be able to find a better job and be able to keep attending school. “It takes me a month, together with my family members, to weave a carpet,” Mohammad says, often working all day and therefore unable to attend school. “But with the repair of mobile phones, I don’t have to use the whole day, and the income is higher.”

Mohammad values having his own phone to review school lessons shared digitally by his teachers and to listen to downloaded English audio lessons. He agrees with the transition from providing food gifts to teaching a trade: “I may be able to find a job in the future, and that will, in fact, enable me to have an income. . . . With that income, I can also, then, meet my food needs.”

Saabir Gulmadin, left, works with a fellow Street Kids School student during a cell phone repair course at Gharejestan University.

Among the youngest in the repair course is Gul Mohammad Jamshadi, 14, from the Uzbek ethnic group. The cut off is age 13, in part because Afghans would be unlikely to trust in him for a repair if he were much younger.

Gul Mohammad started selling bread in a bakery when he was 8. Now he works in a provisions shop, earning 200 Afghanis per week, about $2.50 US. This weekly pay is just double the cost of what a Kabul repair shop charges to replace a phone charger.

Gul Mohammad Jamshadi, left, solders parts to a motherboard. Mohammad Haidary, wearing a hat, works to his left.

Gul Mohammad works to support his mother, his unmarried sister, and himself. His elder brother was killed, and his father has passed away. He says he doesn’t have the tools or phone parts to practice at home what he learns in class, but he studies his course book.

If children like himself had a choice, Gul Mohammad thinks it better that they be able to study instead of having to work, better if the government would ensure that the needs of children were met. He values an education and doesn’t want to join the estimated 1.6 million addicts in the country. When the course ends, Gul Mohammad plans to work part time repairing phones while continuing in school. “If I don’t study, I could become like some people who stop studying and become addicts and who can’t find any job to support their families.”

US’ Afghan War: Imperialism’s Limit exposed

US Afghanistan War reveals imperialism’s limit. It’s, as Mao said decades ago, a paper tiger. The war is the evidence.

The just published The Washington Post report – “The Afghanistan Papers: A secret history of the war, At war with the truth”, (by Craig Whitlock, December 9, 2019) – carries the story of this limit. It’s, to some, a story of corruption. To another section, the war is mismanaged, which is inefficiency, wrong planning, etc. But, the root of the failure is in the deep: Imperialism’s characteristic.

The 18 years long war with nearly $1 trillion taxpayers’ money is costlier as the US people lost 2,300 of their citizens – US troops. More than 20,000 US troops were injured in the war. And, since 2001, more than 775,000 US troops have deployed to Afghanistan. Three US presidents — George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump — and their military commanders tried/are trying to win the Afghan war.

Citing the WaPo report, Slate in its report “The War in Afghanistan was Doomed from the start, The main culprit? Corruption” (by Fred Kaplan on December 9, 2019) said:

The war in Afghanistan has been a muddle from the beginning, steered by vague and wavering strategies, fueled by falsely rosy reports of progress from the battlefield, and almost certainly doomed to failure all along.

This is the inescapable conclusion of a secret U.S. government history of the war — consisting of 2,000 pages, based on interviews with more than 400 participants — obtained and published by The Washington Post on December 9, 2019 after years of legal battles to declassify the documents.

Written by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, an agency created by Congress in 2008 to investigate waste and fraud, the report, titled Lessons Learned, is the most thorough official critique of an ongoing American war since the Vietnam War review commissioned in 1967 by then – Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.

The Afghan War Doc, if it may be dubbed in this way, is a significant document for studying imperialism that exposes its inner working system, its character and a number of its weaknesses. It’s not only an exposure of the national security bureaucracy of the state waging the war; it’s also a revelation of the state – the way the state perceives, thinks, analyzes, calculates, plans, acts. It points its fingers to the politics and political process of the state involved before pointing fingers to the national security bureaucracy; because this bureaucracy can’t move a millimeter in any direction without directives from any faction of the political leadership of the state, and all the factions of the political leadership move along the routes the political process permits.

Citing the WaPo report, the Slate report said: The war has been “built on ignorance, lies, and counterproductive policies.”

No state intentionally or deliberately wages war on ignorance, lies and counterproductive policies. The state machine’s inherent process produces ignorance, lies, etc. It means somewhere in the machine lies are produced, ignorance is manufactured, and the machine perceives lies, etc. are beneficial to it. Where’s this “somewhere”? How it survives and operates with lies, corruption, etc.? The bourgeois politicians, academia, its theoreticians don’t look into this “somewhere”, into this process of manufacturing ignorance, lies, corruption.

Slate said in its report:

Central to the current war effort — and to its failure — was corruption. [….] The United States failed because the billions of dollars we poured into the country only made Afghanistan’s corruption worse.

A state machine, most powerful in today’s world as is widely perceived, fails to check corruption in the machine it has constructed in the land – Afghanistan – it’s waging its longest war! It’s a “riddle” – money poured to win a war, and the money is eating out the war-effort. The state fails to manage either money or war. In spite of this fact of failure, the state dreams to dictate the world!

The WaPo report said:

[S]enior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth […] making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.

It was lying to the taxpayers, the citizens employing the officials to carry on duties the citizens entrusted to the officials. And, the state can’t control the lying business. It’s the state’s failure – a few persons employed by the state were misleading the state and the entire body of the taxpayers, and the state is not a lifeless identity as there are hundreds of intelligent persons including veteran politicians. And, the state machine is not separate from these persons – officials and political leaders in charge of the affairs. Alternatively, there’s something else behind this deliberate job of “deviating” from truth, if it’s deviation, if not usual practice, which is not. Any of the two is serious failure, fatal ultimately, if this – deviation from truth – is the case.

The documents, according to the WaPo, were generated by a federal project examining the root failures of the longest armed conflict in US history. The US government tried to shield the identities of the vast majority of those interviewed for the project and conceal nearly all of their remarks. The WaPo won release of the documents under the Freedom of Information Act after a three-year legal battle. It took three years and two federal lawsuits for the WaPo to pry loose 2,000 pages of interview records. US officials constantly said they were making progress. They were not, and they knew it. It shows bourgeois state is not inherently and always transparent. State machine serving a class can never be always transparent. Moreover, who decides what to release publicly or not? Isn’t it a group of officials? Marxist political scientists already discussed this issue – role of executive – many times. Thus, they – the officials – stand above taxpayers, citizens.

The documents show:

  1. Bush and Obama had polar-opposite plans to win the war. Both were destined to fail.
  2. Despite vows the US wouldn’t get mired in “nation-building” in Afghanistan, it has wasted billions doing just that. The US has allocated more than $133 billion to build up Afghanistan — more than it spent, adjusted for inflation, to revive the whole of Western Europe with the Marshall Plan after World War II. An unidentified former State Department official told government interviewers in 2015: “The timeframe for creating a strong central government is 100 years, which we didn’t have.”
  3. The US flooded the country with money — then ignored the graft it fueled.
  4. Afghan security forces, despite years of training, were dogged by incompetence and corruption.
  5. The US war on drugs in Afghanistan has imploded at nearly every turn.
  6. The US government has not carried out a comprehensive accounting of how much it has spent on the war, but the costs are staggering.
  7. US officials acknowledged that their war strategies were fatally flawed.

“We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan — we didn’t know what we were doing,” Douglas Lute, a three-star Army general who served as the White House’s Afghan war czar during the Bush and Obama administrations, told government interviewers in 2015. He added: “What are we trying to do here? We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking.”

“If the American people knew the magnitude of this dysfunction . . . 2,400 lives lost,” Lute added, blaming the deaths of US military personnel on bureaucratic breakdowns among Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department.

So, it’s found:

  1. Lack of knowledge! [Unbelievable in the case of the state widely perceived as the most powerful in the world.]
  2. No comprehensive war plan! [Also unbelievable.]
  3. No accounting! [How much money the taxpayers spent behind inspectors to check with spending? A lot.]
  4. The US people were not aware of the real picture. What’s the level of transparency, accountability, and the media claiming to be free? [The WaPo’s legal struggle to get the documents is evidence of “free” flow of info, and the decisive role of the executive branch.]
  5. A breakdown within the system of Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department – a system with elected politicians and employed persons.

Then, what does this signify? Is it a powerful, vibrant, working system? Only fools keep trust on this machine, which appears, with a shortsighted view, very powerful, but very weak to its core in the long-term.

Since 2001, the US Defense Department, State Department and US Agency for International Development (USAID) have spent or appropriated between $934 billion and $978 billion, according to an inflation-adjusted estimate calculated by Neta Crawford, a political science professor and co-director of the Costs of War Project at Brown University. These figures do not include money spent by other agencies including the CIA and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“What did we get for this $1 trillion effort? Was it worth $1 trillion?” Jeffrey Eggers, a retired Navy SEAL and White House staffer for Bush and Obama, told government interviewers. He added, “After the killing of Osama bin Laden, I said that Osama was probably laughing in his watery grave considering how much we have spent on Afghanistan.”

The documents, the WaPo report said, also contradict a long chorus of public statements from US presidents, military commanders and diplomats who assured the US taxpayers year after year that they were making progress in Afghanistan and the war was worth fighting.

The report said:

Several of those interviewed described explicit and sustained efforts by the US government to deliberately mislead the public. They said it was common at military headquarters in Kabul — and at the White House — to distort statistics to make it appear the United States was winning the war when that was not the case. [Emphasis added.]

‘Every data point was altered to present the best picture possible,’ Bob Crowley, an Army colonel who served as a senior counterinsurgency adviser to US military commanders in 2013 and 2014, told government interviewers. ‘Surveys, for instance, were totally unreliable but reinforced that everything we were doing was right and we became a self-licking ice cream cone.’ [Emphasis added.]

John Sopko, the head of the federal agency that conducted the interviews, acknowledged to The Post that the documents show ‘the American people have constantly been lied to. [Emphasis added.]

Diplomats and envoys from this state constantly advise Third and Fourth World countries to be factual regarding all aspects of life in these countries. Do they have any moral ground for delivering this sort of sermon? Neither the mainstream politics nor the MSM in these countries raise this question when these diplomats shower sermons; even a group of the organizations and persons claiming to be anti-imperialist feel shy to raise the question.

The interviews are the byproduct of a project led by Sopko’s agency, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), the agency the US Congress created in 2008 to investigate waste and fraud in the war zone. Reports SIGAR produced, said WaPo, were “written in dense bureaucratic prose and focused on an alphabet soup of government initiatives, left out the harshest and most frank criticisms from the interviews.”

The reports omitted the names of more than 90 percent of the people interviewed. While a few officials agreed to speak on the record to SIGAR, the agency said it promised anonymity to everyone else it interviewed to avoid controversy over politically sensitive matters.

James Dobbins, a former senior US diplomat who served as a special envoy to Afghanistan under Bush and Obama, told government interviewers: “[W]e clearly failed in Afghanistan.”

The WaPo obtained hundreds of pages of previously classified memos about the Afghan war that were dictated by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld between 2001 and 2006. Dubbed “snowflakes” by Rumsfeld and his staff, according to the WaPo, “the memos are brief instructions or comments that the Pentagon boss dictated to his underlings, often several times a day. Most of his snowflake collection — an estimated 59,000 pages — remained secret.”

Bourgeois state business is mostly secretive until it gets pressure to act in another way although its propaganda machine relentlessly sings the opposite song.

The report said:

Fundamental disagreements went unresolved. Some U.S. officials wanted to [….] to reshape the regional balance of power among Pakistan, India, Iran and Russia.

No confusion in finding a great game – an imperialist strategy.

The interviews reveal US military commanders’ struggle to identify their enemy and the logic behind their war:

Was al-Qaeda the enemy, or the Taliban? Was Pakistan a friend or an adversary? What about the Islamic State and the bewildering array of foreign jihadists, let alone the warlords on the CIA’s payroll?

According to the documents, the US government never settled on an answer.

As a result, in the field, U.S. troops often couldn’t tell friend from foe.

They thought I was going to come to them with a map to show them where the good guys and bad guys live,” an unnamed former adviser to an Army Special Forces team told government interviewers in 2017. “It took several conversations for them to understand that I did not have that information in my hands. At first, they just kept asking: ‘But who are the bad guys, where are they?’

The view wasn’t any clearer from the Pentagon.

“I have no visibility into who the bad guys are,” Rumsfeld complained in a September 8, 2003, snowflake. “We are woefully deficient in human intelligence.”

It seems the machine is blind. And, it’s not the war machine that appears blind, but the state running the war machine. And, in ultimate analysis, the state machine and the war machine are not separate identities. In actual sense, the machine isn’t blind; it has no alternative other than acting blindly. And, humans direct the machine. So, the flaw is not of the machine. It’s the human identities that have to act in that way.

During the peak of the fighting from 2009 to 2012, the report said, “US lawmakers and military commanders believed the more they spent on schools, bridges, canals and other civil-works projects, the faster security would improve. Aid workers told government interviewers it was a colossal misjudgment, akin to pumping kerosene on a dying campfire just to keep the flame alive.”

One unnamed executive with the USAID guessed that 90 percent of the money they spent was overkill: “We lost objectivity. We were given money, told to spend it and we did, without reason.”

Many aid workers blamed the US Congress for what they saw as a mindless rush to spend.

One unidentified contractor told government interviewers he was expected to dole out $3 million daily for projects in a single Afghan district roughly the size of a US county. He once asked a visiting congressman whether the lawmaker could responsibly spend that kind of money back home: “He said hell no. ‘Well, sir, that’s what you just obligated us to spend and I’m doing it for communities that live in mud huts with no windows.’”

The huge aid that Washington spent on Afghanistan also gave rise to historic levels of corruption.

In public, US officials insisted they had no tolerance for graft. But they admitted the US government looked the other way while Afghan power brokers – allies of Washington – plundered with impunity.

Christopher Kolenda, an Army colonel who deployed to Afghanistan several times and advised three US generals in charge of the war, said that the Afghan government led by President Karzai had “self-organized into a kleptocracy” by 2006 – and that US officials failed to recognize the lethal threat it posed to their strategy.

Kolenda added, “Foreign aid is part of how” the Afghan kleptocrats “get rents to pay for the positions they purchased.”

Kolenda told government interviewers: “Kleptocracy, however, is like brain cancer; it’s fatal.”

By allowing corruption to fester, US officials told interviewers, they helped destroy the popular legitimacy of the Afghan government they were fighting to prop up. With judges and police chiefs and bureaucrats extorting bribes, many Afghans soured on democracy and turned to the Taliban to enforce order.

“Our biggest single project, sadly and inadvertently, of course, may have been the development of mass corruption,” Crocker, who served as the top US diplomat in Kabul in 2002 and again from 2011 to 2012, told government interviewers.

In China, the US had almost the same experience with Chiang while they – Chiang and the US – were fighting the Chinese people under the leadership of Mao.

Year after year, US generals have said in public they are making steady progress on the central plank of their strategy: to train an Afghan army and police force capable of defending the country without foreign help.

In the interviews, however, US military trainers described the Afghan security forces as incompetent, unmotivated and rife with deserters. They also accused Afghan commanders of pocketing salaries — paid by US taxpayers — for tens of thousands of “ghost soldiers.”

More than 60,000 members of Afghan security forces have been killed, a casualty rate that US commanders have called unsustainable, said the report.

A US military officer estimated that one-third of police recruits were “drug addicts or Taliban.” Yet another called them “stealing fools” who looted so much fuel from US bases that they perpetually smelled of gasoline.

With this force, imperialism can’t win its war.

The report said:

Afghanistan became the world’s leading source of opium. The US has spent about $9 billion to fight the problem over the past 18 years, but Afghan farmers are cultivating more opium poppies than ever. Last year, Afghanistan was responsible for 82 percent of global opium production, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. Former officials said almost everything they did to constrain opium farming backfired. Douglas Lute, the White House’s Afghan war czar from 2007 to 2013, said: “I thought we should have specified a flourishing drug trade – this is the only part of the market that’s working.”

Bravo, enterprise with drug trade! And, they instruct and accuse many countries about drug dealings.

The report finds:

US never figured out ways to incorporate a war on drugs into its war against al-Qaeda. By 2006, US officials feared that narco-traffickers had become stronger than the Afghan government and that money from the drug trade was powering the insurgency.

Their drug-war is an amazing story: At first, Afghan poppy farmers were paid by the British state to destroy their crops, which only encouraged them to grow more the next season. Later, the US government eradicated poppy fields without compensation, which only infuriated farmers and encouraged them to side with the Taliban.

An intelligent brain they have!

US military officials, according to the report, have resorted to an old tactic from Vietnam – manipulating public opinion. In news conferences and other public appearances, those in charge of the war have followed the same talking points for 18 years. No matter how the war is going, they emphasized that they were making progress.

Rumsfeld had received a string of unusually dire warnings from the war zone in 2006. After returning from a fact-finding mission to Afghanistan, Barry McCaffrey, a retired Army general, reported the Taliban had made an impressive comeback: “[W]e will encounter some very unpleasant surprises in the coming 24 months.” “The Afghan national leadership are collectively terrified that we will tip-toe out of Afghanistan […] and the whole thing will collapse again into mayhem,” McCaffrey wrote in June 2006. Two months later, Marin Strmecki, a civilian adviser to Rumsfeld, gave the Pentagon chief a classified, 40-page report stuffed with worse news. It said “enormous popular discontent is building” against the Afghan government because of its corruption and incompetence. It also said that the Taliban was growing stronger, thanks to support from Pakistan, a US ally.

Yet with Rumsfeld’s personal blessing, the Pentagon buried the bleak warnings and told the public a very different story.

In October 2006, Rumsfeld’s speechwriters delivered a paper – “Afghanistan: Five Years Later.” Overflowing with optimism, it highlighted more than 50 promising facts and figures, from the number of Afghan women trained in “improved poultry management” (more than 19,000) to the “average speed on most roads” (up 300 percent).

“Five years on, there is a multitude of good news,” it read. “While it has become fashionable in some circles to call Afghanistan a forgotten war, or to say the United States has lost its focus, the facts belie the myths.”

Rumsfeld thought it was brilliant.

“This paper,” he wrote in a memo, “is an excellent piece. How do we use it? Should it be an article? An Op-ed piece? A handout? A press briefing? All of the above? I think it ought to get it to a lot of people.”

His staffers made sure it did. They circulated a version to reporters and posted it on Pentagon websites. Generals followed their boss: Present picture of “progress” in the war front.

Thus, they market “facts”, and groups of politicians in countries rely on them.

During US’ Vietnam War, it was the same story. The report recollected:

US military commanders relied on dubious measurements to persuade Americans that they were winning.

Most notoriously, the Pentagon highlighted ‘body counts,’ or the number of enemy fighters killed, and inflated the figures as a measurement of success.

In Afghanistan, with occasional exceptions, the U.S. military has generally avoided publicizing body counts. […] [T]he government routinely touted statistics that officials knew were distorted, spurious or downright false.

Since 2001, an estimated 157,000 people have been killed in the war in Afghanistan. This includes Afghan civilians and security forces, humanitarian aid workers, Taliban fighters and other insurgents, US military contractors, journalists and media workers, US military personnel, NATO and coalition troops.

A person identified only as a senior National Security Council official said there was constant pressure from the Obama White House and Pentagon to produce figures to show the troop surge of 2009 to 2011 was working, despite hard evidence to the contrary, said the report.

“It was impossible to create good metrics. We tried using troop numbers trained, violence levels, control of territory and none of it painted an accurate picture,” the senior NSC official told government interviewers in 2016. “The metrics were always manipulated for the duration of the war.”

Even when casualty counts and other figures looked bad, the senior NSC official said, the White House and Pentagon would spin them to the point of absurdity. Suicide bombings in Kabul were portrayed as a sign of the Taliban’s desperation, that the insurgents were too weak to engage in direct combat. Meanwhile, a rise in US troop deaths was cited as proof that American forces were taking the fight to the enemy.

In other field reports sent up the chain of command, military officers and diplomats took the same line. Regardless of conditions on the ground, they claimed they were making progress.

“From the ambassadors down to the low level, [they all say] we are doing a great job,” Michael Flynn, a retired three-star Army general, told government interviewers in 2015. “Really? So if we are doing such a great job, why does it feel like we are losing?”

Bob Crowley, the retired Army colonel who served as a counterinsurgency adviser in Afghanistan in 2013 and 2014, told government interviewers “truth was rarely welcome” at military headquarters in Kabul.

“Bad news was often stifled,” he said. “There was more freedom to share bad news if it was small – we’re running over kids with our MRAPs [armored vehicles] – because those things could be changed with policy directives. But when we tried to air larger strategic concerns about the willingness, capacity or corruption of the Afghan government, it was clear it wasn’t welcome.”

John Garofano, a Naval War College strategist who advised Marines in Helmand province in 2011, said military officials in the field devoted an inordinate amount of resources to churning out color-coded charts that heralded positive results.

But, Garofano said, nobody dared to question whether the charts and numbers were credible or meaningful.

“There was not a willingness to answer questions such as, what is the meaning of this number of schools that you have built? How has that progressed you towards your goal?” he said. “How do you show this as evidence of success and not just evidence of effort or evidence of just doing a good thing?”

Other senior officials said they placed great importance on one statistic in particular, albeit one the US government rarely likes to discuss in public.

“I do think the key benchmark is the one I’ve suggested, which is how many Afghans are getting killed,” James Dobbins, the former US diplomat, told a Senate panel in 2009. “If the number’s going up, you’re losing. If the number’s going down, you’re winning. It’s as simple as that.”

What are these: War-facts? Is this the way public is informed? Is this the way public are informed in a “free” society that claims fostering of free flow of information? Why facts are manipulated? It’s the fear of public, and public opinion. Imperialism fears public and public opinion, at home and abroad.

Ryan Crocker, former ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq, told the investigators in a 2016 interview, “You just cannot put those amounts of money into a very fragile state and society, and not have it fuel corruption.” He added that the same thing happened in Iraq, where corruption is “pandemic and deeply rooted” and where “it’s hard to see how a better political order can ever be established.”

A big problem, Crocker said, was a perennial “American urge,” when intervening in a foreign conflict, to “start fixing everything as fast as we can.” Pouring in billions of dollars, and that flows in the pockets of the powerful. The report estimates that 40 percent of US aid to Afghanistan was pocketed by officials, gangsters, or the insurgents.

Sarah Chayes, who served as an adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and who lived in Afghanistan for several years, told the investigators in 2015 that the problem was rooted in Washington. A major obstacle here, she said, was the “culture” in the State Department and the Pentagon, which focused on building relationships with their counterparts abroad. Since Afghan officials at all levels were corrupt, officials feared that going after corruption would endanger those relationships.

Chayes also said it was a big mistake to be “obsessed with chasing” the Taliban, to the point of neglecting the country’s political dynamics. We didn’t realize that many Afghans were “thrilled with the Taliban” for kicking corrupt warlords out of power. Instead, we aligned ourselves with the warlords, on the adage that “the enemy of our enemy is our friend”—and, as a result, further alienated the Afghan people and further enriched the corrupt powers, which in turn further inflamed the anti-government terrorists.

It’s a question that why a political leadership was moving in the way while a number of officials were identifying the problem realistically: Neglecting the political dynamics?

In September 2009, as the Obama administration was debating a new policy toward the Afghanistan war, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified at a Senate hearing that the main problem “is clearly the lack of legitimacy of the government” in Kabul.

Senator Lindsey Graham pushed the issue. “We could send a million troops, and that wouldn’t restore legitimacy in the government?” he asked.

“That is correct,” Mullen replied. The threat of corruption, he added, “is every bit as significant as the Taliban.”

Around this same time, during the closed-door National Security Council sessions, Mullen was urging then-president Obama to create a counterinsurgency strategy based on helping the Afghan government win the hearts and minds of its people – not addressing how to do this, if the government lacked legitimacy.

Almost all of Obama’s advisers sided with Mullen, a notable exception being then-vice president Joe Biden, who thought counterinsurgency wouldn’t work.

It’s impossible for imperialism to win hearts and minds of a people against whom it wages war while it depends on corrupt allies.

When General David Petraeus became commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan in 2010, he appointed an anti-corruption task force. Sarah Chayes was one of its members. The task force concluded that corruption, from Kabul on down, was impeding the war effort and that the U.S. should cut off aid to the entire network of corruption. Petraeus sympathized with the findings, but he needed then-Afghan president Karzai’s cooperation to fight the war at all, and so he rejected the recommendation.

Top of Form

Bottom of Form

However, the Pentagon released a statement saying there has been “no intent” by the department to mislead Congress or the public.

On October 11, 2001, a few days after the US started bombing the Taliban, a reporter asked Bush: “Can you avoid being drawn into a Vietnam-like quagmire in Afghanistan?”

“We learned some very important lessons in Vietnam,” Bush replied confidently. “People often ask me, ‘How long will this last?’ This particular battlefront will last as long as it takes to bring al-Qaeda to justice. It may happen tomorrow, it may happen a month from now, it may take a year or two. But we will prevail.”

“All together now – quagmire!” Rumsfeld joked at a news conference on November 27, 2001.

“The days of providing a blank check are over. . . . It must be clear that Afghans will have to take responsibility for their security and that America has no interest in fighting an endless war in Afghanistan,” said then-president Barack Obama, in a speech at the US Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

“Are we losing this war? Absolutely no way. Can the enemy win it? Absolutely no way,” said Army Major General Jeffrey Schloesser, commander of the 101st Airborne Division, in a news briefing from Afghanistan.

But, what does the reality say today?

  1. Afghanistan is a quagmire for the US.
  2. Lessons from Vietnam have not been learned by the US.
  3. US hirelings in Afghanistan are failing to take responsibility of their security.
  4. US is not winning its Afghan War.

The questions are

  1. Why imperialism is failing to learn the Vietnam-lesson?
  2. Why imperialism is bogged down in its Afghan-quagmire?
  3. Why imperialism’s hirelings are failing to take charge of its security?
  4. Why imperialism is embedded with its Afghan-corruption?
  5. Why such manipulation of facts while presenting Afghan-picture to its public?

The brief answer to the questions is: These are part of imperialism’s working mechanism, which its economic interests define.

It can’t move away despite rationality tells differently. Imperialism has its own rationality, which is fundamentally different from rationality of other economic interests. It has to depend on its hirelings. It can’t depend on others. That’s because of economic interests. Moreover, the way taxpayers see reality is completely different from the way imperialism sees. Imperialism’s way of looking at incidents and processes are determined by its interests; and it’s impossible for imperialism to ignore its interests, which makes it impossible to act differently. And, this doesn’t depend on personal choice/preference or characteristics of this or that political leader.

Imperialism’s Afghan War is not a war conducted by the US only. There’s involvement of other NATO powers. Keeping this – the NATO’s Afghan War – in mind helps perceive the imperialist system’s involvement and failure in the country. It’s not the US’ war only. It’s imperialism’s war against a people; and a war, which is part of imperialism’s world strategy.

The failures, the lies, the manipulation with facts, the “non”-understanding with political dynamics are not of a few persons/generals/bureaucrats/politicians, or of a single imperialist country. It’s part of a political process that connects a particular type of economic interest ingrained among armaments industry, military contractors, suppliers of military hardware, lobbying firms, political interests bent on dominating others for self-interests, and thus making a system with complex connections, a system based on particular characteristics of an economy.

Only a people politically organized and mobilized can change this course of imperialism if imperialism is correctly identified with all its characteristics. And, in today’s world, it’s difficult to perceive any people’s struggle without taking into consideration imperialism’s anti-people role.

Zombie NATO Is Obsolete; Militarists Try To Revive It Through Expanded Targets

NATO leaders’ meeting at The Grove hotel and resort in Watford, north of London, on December 4, 2019 (Al Drago for The New York Times)

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) held an abbreviated two-day meeting this week in London on its 70th anniversary. On display was a zombie alliance that is bitterly divided on multiple issues and has lost its purpose for existing. Rather than recognizing it is time to end this obsolete military alliance, they decided to expand their activities, search for a purpose and conduct a study to determine their strategy.

NATO is a cold war relic, an anti-Soviet tool continuing to exist 40 years after the Soviet Union ended. NATO was created one month after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in September 1945, with 12 members. This was ten years before the formation of the Warsaw Pact, which was founded on May 14, 1955.  NATO was not formed to combat the Soviet Union’s Warsaw Pact, although that was the previous excuse used for its existence.

When President Trump campaigned for office he correctly declared NATO was obsolete, but then he reversed course in April 2017. As president, he has pressured the 29 member-countries to increase their military spending. Between 2016 and 2020, NATO’s budget increased by $130 billion – twice as much as Russia’s total annual military spending. NATO members are expected to contribute two percent of their gross domestic product to the military.  NATO’s total budget is 20 times that of Russia and five times that of China.

It is time for the US to withdraw from NATO and for the alliance to disband. It serves no useful purpose and is a cause of global conflicts and militarism.

NATO meeting, President Donald Trump, right, and President Emmanuel Macron on March 3, 2019. (Credit: Al Drago for The New York Times)

Internal Conflicts: An Alliance That Cannot Agree On The Definition Of Terrorism

NATO shortened its summit because internal divisions threatened to blow up the meeting.

On December 3, before the meeting, Trump and French President Emanuel Macron held a testy joint press conference. Macron told The Economist last month that NATO was suffering “brain death” because of the poor US leadership under Trump. Trump called Macron’s comments “very insulting” and “very, very nasty.” Macron and Trump are also at odds over Trump’s handling of the military conflict between Turkey and Syria, what to do with captured foreign Islamic State fighters and a trade dispute.

A late Tuesday video showed world leaders ridiculing Trump at the summit. Trump abandoned plans for a Wednesday news conference and branded the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, “two-faced.” He cut short his attendance at the summit avoiding the final press conference.

While combating terrorism is one of NATO’s supposed tasks, Macron said: “I’m sorry to say that we don’t have the same definition of terrorism around the table.” Macron warned that “not all clarifications were obtained and not all ambiguities were resolved”. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to hold up efforts to protect the Baltics against Russia unless the alliance branded the Kurdish militias as “terrorists.” He later backed off and allowed NATO to go forward with increasing battalions on Russia’s borders to “protect Poland and the Baltic region” against fanciful threats from Russia.

NATO is facing four crisis areas. First, a deep political crisis including quarrels among the leading military members, accusations, and substantial differences of strategy and purpose. There is also a legal crisis as it consistently operates outside – indeed in violation of – its own goals and purposes and in violation of the United Nations Charter. Third, a moral crisis resulting from its wars against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria…all catastrophes that caused unspeakable suffering, death, and destruction to millions. And, finally, an intellectual crisis, as an echo chamber alliance that sings only one tune: There are new threats, we must arm more, we need new and better weapons and we must increase military expenditures.

NATO protest in Washington, DC, April 2019

NATO’s Search For A Purpose

Rather than facing the fact that they are no longer serving a useful purpose, and despite their internal conflicts, NATO leaders did manage to pull together a final declaration.

Their declaration pointed the way to NATO expanding its military forces on a global scale that will result in creating instability and military conflicts to justify their existence. NATO has a history of brutal military attacks, including the brutal bombing and destruction of the former Yugoslavia and the Balkans in the late 1990s, regime-change wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, where it still has troops. And, the destruction of Libya that has left the country in chaos. NATO also worked with the United States in the violent coup in Ukraine in 2014.

NATO is playing its role as a military force that supports the US national security agenda. It continues to target Russia as “a threat to Euro-Atlantic security.” In reality, NATO creates that conflict by expanding eastward and putting weapons, bases, and troops along the Russian border. This violated a promise made by Secretary of State James Baker to the final Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev. In a February 1990 meeting, Baker said three times that NATO would not expand, “not one inch eastward.”  NATO’s expansion has been a major provocation in generating the New Cold War with Russia.

NATO is planning Defender 2020 the third-largest military exercise in Europe since the Cold War ended. Some 37,000 troops from 15 NATO nations will be involved including some 20,000 US troops who will be flown from their bases in the United States. Scott Ritter points out the costs associated with these exercises against Russia are considerable, along with the cost of raising, training, equipping and maintaining forces in the high state of readiness needed for short-notice response to an imagined attack by Russia. This is part of increasing confrontations along Russia’s borders, where a total of 102 NATO exercises were held in 2019.

Earlier this month, NATO said they’d formally rejected a Russian request to prohibit installing missiles previously banned under the now-defunct Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in Europe. The Russian request was made directly by President Putin, who fears “a new arms race” following both Moscow and Washington pulling out of the landmark 1988 INF treaty. Despite the facts, NATO blames Russia for the demise of the INF treaty. The French president brought out the reality: “Today would everyone around the table define Russia as an enemy? I do not think so.”

At this year’s summit, the NATO leaders “for the first time” discussed China as a collective security challenge. Prior to the meeting, CNN reported that NATO was falling in line with the anti-China strategy of the United States as NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance needed to start taking into account that China is coming closer to us.’” He pointed to China “‘in the Arctic, … Africa, … investing heavily in European infrastructure and of course investing in cyberspace.”

Despite Stollenberg’s push to make China a target of NATO, their members could only agree on a  declaration that said: “China’s growing influence and international policies present both opportunities and challenges.” NATO members know that China is a benefit to the economy of their nations and that the Belt and Road Initiative connecting China to Europe through the Middle East and Africa is likely to be the defining source of economic growth this century.

NATO has also joined President Trump’s call for the militarization of space, declaring “space an operational domain for NATO” in their declaration.  Related to this, they also pledged to increase their “tools to respond to cyber attacks.”

In April we reported that NATO seeks to expand to Georgia, Macedonia and Ukraine as well as spreading into Latin America with Colombia joining as a partner and Brazil considering participation (not coincidentally, these two nations border Venezuela).

NATO is also bringing nuclear weapons to the Russian border. The Washington Post reported, “A recently released — and subsequently deleted — document published by a NATO-affiliated body has sparked headlines in Europe with an apparent confirmation of a long-held open secret: some 150 US nuclear weapons are being stored in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey.” Raising questions: Under whose control are these weapons held? Are host countries permitted access to US nuclear weapons? Are the host nations informed? Do NATO’s practice deployments involve nuclear bombs and missiles? The Brussels Times reported this summer that  “In the context of NATO, the United States [has deployed] around 150 nuclear weapons in Europe.”

NATO’s search for a purpose has led to a fundamental strategic review of the alliance’s purpose. Members know their mission is unclear and their purpose is questionable.

NATO protest in Italy

70 Years Of Destruction Is Enough, Time To End NATO

The 70th anniversary of NATO is an opportunity to honestly examine the history of NATO destabilization, wasteful military spending, and destructive military attacks. It is also an opportunity for people to urge the end of NATO. On April 4, 2019, NATO foreign ministers met in Washington, DC to celebrate its 70th anniversary, peace and justice activists held a week of actions in protest, disrupting meetings, shutting down an entrance to the State Department and taking the streets. This past week there was a large anti-NATO protest in London.

Scott Ritter believes NATO is as good as dead writing “NATO is on life-support, and Europe is being asked to foot the bill to keep breathing life into an increasingly moribund alliance whose brain death is readily recognized, but rarely acknowledged.”

Ajamu Baraka of Black Alliance for Peace declares: “Today [NATO] is the militarized arm of the declining but still dangerous Pan- European Colonial/capitalist project, a project that has concluded that the stabilization of the world capitalist system and continued dominance of U.S. and Western capital can only be realized through the use of force.”

It is time to demand an end to this destructive alliance as a step toward ending white supremacy, colonization, the destructive military-industrial complex, and the exploitative capitalist economy.

Proposed Withdrawal of US Troops in Syria

President Trump has stated his intent to withdraw US troops from Syria on several occasions since March 2018. Each time politicians from both the Democratic and Republican parties, supported by the corporate-controlled media, have, based on US imperial interests, vehemently challenged the withdrawal proposal. These folks also based their opposition to withdrawal on their supposed concerns for the Syrian Kurds. Unfortunately they have shown far less concern about the welfare of Iraqis, Libyans, Yemenis, Afghanis and Palestinians among many other populations suffering terribly due in part to US actions.

It is a telling commentary that few of the so-called elite US political/military/media leaders have raised any concerns about the immorality and blatant illegality of US interventions in Syria and elsewhere. These elite act to advance their own interests and the short-term interests of the US empire, actions that are really counterproductive in the long term. They believe the US can violate international law with impunity since they view it as being the exceptional nation. How has our nation descended to this immoral level?

The US corporate media has played a major role in this descent as it keeps the US public ignorant or misinformed about foreign affairs. For example, few Americans understand that the US and allies such as Saudi Arabia and Israel have long wanted to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad whom they viewed as an ally of Iran.

U.S. General Wesley Clark, former Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO, said that when he was visiting the Pentagon a few weeks after 9/11 he was told of a plan to take out seven nations (Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran) over five years. The US failures in Iraq certainly changed the timetable.

This U.S. goal regarding Syria was also openly discussed back in 2005 in an interview with President Assad by CNN host Christiane Amanpour. She said:

Mr. President, you know the rhetoric of regime change is headed towards you from the United States. They are actively looking for a new Syrian leader. They’re granting visas and visits to Syrian opposition politicians. They’re talking about isolating your diplomatically and, perhaps, a coup d’etat or your regime crumbling. What are you thinking about that?

In late March 2007 McClatchy News reported the George W. Bush administration had instituted a campaign months earlier to isolate and embarrass Assad. Some officials feared that the campaign’s goal was to destabilize Syria and possibly to overthrow the Syrian leader.

In 2011 the Washington Post reported that WikiLeaks provided US State Department cables showing US funding began as early as 2006 for forces inside and outside Syria working to oust Assad. The funding was allocated for this work until at least through September 2010. Clearly the US was hardly an innocent bystander, but was meddling in the internal affairs of another nation, something that it condemns when another country is even rumored to do it here.

As stated above, the US was not alone in its desire to oust Assad. Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel also wanted to seen Assad gone for their own reasons. In particular, Qatar was angry because of Assad’s 2009 rejection of a pipeline from Qatar reaching to the Mediterranean via Syria. The US also saw that this pipeline and Qatari gas could be used to lessen European reliance on Russian natural gas and thus weaken Russia. A dissolution of Syria would also fit well with the Israeli goal (the Yinon Plan) of breaking up surrounding Arab nations into smaller states that don’t present any challenge to Israel’s goal of regional hegemony.

Besides military means, the U.S. has used groups like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in Syria and elsewhere (e.g., Ukraine and Venezuela). For those not familiar with NED, in 1991 NED’s first president, Allen Weinstein, said: “a lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA”.

More detail about NED was provided by Jonah Gindin and Kirsten Weld who remarked in the January/February 2007 NACLA Report on the Americas:

Since [1983], the NED and other democracy-promoting governmental and nongovernmental institutions have intervened successfully on behalf of ‘democracy’—actually a very particular form of low-intensity democracy chained to pro-market economics—in countries from Nicaragua to the Philippines, Ukraine to Haiti, overturning unfriendly ‘authoritarian’ governments (many of which the United States had previously supported) and replacing them with handpicked pro-market allies.

During its war crimes in the Middle East, including the illegal effort to oust the Assad government, the US has shown little to no concern about the welfare of the Arab populations who have suffered incredibly. In addition, the fighting has devastated Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen and Syria as well as the hopes for a decent life for their populations.

It’s past time for the US elite to renounce US imperialism with its immorality, crimes against humanity, killing and destruction and to pay reparations to its victims. The US must also stop being a rogue state and join the community of nations.

Greater Middle East Project of Chaos

Destination Afghanistan was known as the big easy back in the halcyon days of the late 1960s. Hippies from throughout the affluent West hitchhiked to the capital, Kabul, where crash pads and hashish were cheap, and the locals were tolerant. Life appeared to be mellow in the scenic shadow of the Hindu Kush Himalayans. That was then.

Now Afghanistan is engulfed in year 18 of the forever US war with no end in sight. The war has gotten so old – the longest in US history – that the Pentagon PR flacks changed the code name from Operation Enduring Freedom to Operation Freedom’s Sentinel to spruce up its image.

Half of Kabul is now in rubble. Music, education for girls, and cultivation of opium poppies are prohibited in areas controlled by the former US-allied Taliban. US-backed warlords in the rest of this devastated land supply the majority of the world’s illicit heroin, visiting a plague of drug addiction on nearby Iran, China, and Russia – official US enemies – and on the ghettos, rural wastelands, and hipster dens of the West. US attempts at “reconstruction” of Afghanistan have cost $117 billion, eclipsing the price tag of the entire Marshall Plan for Europe.

So why is the US still in Afghanistan? The official explanation has something vaguely to do with the arch villain Osama bin Laden from Saudi Arabia who was last holed up in Pakistan before reportedly being assassinated by US special forces and unceremoniously dumped into the sea eight years ago.

Max Blumenthal’s The Management of Savagery (Verso, 2019) provides a far more cogent explanation for the US wars in Afghanistan along with Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Libya, and Syria with Iran on the to-do list (and may be on the war list by the time this article gets posted). Savagery reads like a real-life whodunit tracing the shadowy back channels of the CIA, FBI, DIA, and NSA piping jihadists around the greater Middle East to create chaos only to find their assets turning against them. Besides being well written, the analysis of the maturation of the neoliberal imperial project by the world’s sole remaining superpower illuminates the current bi-partisan consensus for militarism.

The politics of chaos

 The collapse of the Soviet Union left a geopolitical power vacuum and an opportunity for the US to more aggressively exert its imperial will. The ensuing politics of chaos produced some strange bedfellows: “human rights” thinktanks with Gulf monarchies, anti-Semites with Zionists, the US security state with jihadists, and neoconservatives with establishment liberals.

Bin Laden, according to Savagery, had a master plan to create “full chaos” in the greater Middle East, which he believed would precipitate the collapse of local regimes so that the culture of jihad could supersede them. Dovetailing this scenario was the neocon plan for regime change in regional states not subservient to US dictates and Israeli expansion. “In the global war bin Laden envisioned,” Blumenthal reports, “these [US] foreign policy fanatics would make the perfect partners.” Leading the charge were neocon Republicans like John Bolton and Elliot Abrams with the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), later to be joined by liberal Clinton Democrats.

Both foreign jihadists and domestic militarists needed a precipitating incident, what the PNAC envisioned as a “catastrophic and catalyzing event.” That came with 9/11. Blumenthal finds credence that the US government likely had some foreknowledge of the attacks, but accuses some Truthers of inadvertently running interference “for the imperialist power they claimed to disdain” by “omitting any historical discussion of the American government’s relationship with the forces directly implicated in the attacks.”

The Authorization for the Use of Military Force was passed just five days after 9/11 as a joint resolution of Congress with only one dissenting vote. “Congress thus voluntarily abdicated its constitution authority and,” according to Blumenthal, “gave its blessing to America’s forever war.” The Patriot Act followed a month later, “granting the executive branch unprecedented wartime powers to investigate and prosecute Americans.”

The neocons and the alt-right have been able to mainstream anti-Muslim politics in the US. Meanwhile the liberal “responsibility to protect” (R2P) doctrine has created popular support for forever war “by weaponizing the discourse of human rights to justify the use of force against governments that resisted the Washington consensus.” The R2P liberals achieved what the right could not.

“In the era of Russiagate, when so many liberals cling to institutions like the FBI and NATO as guardians of their survival,” Blumenthal explains, “the dastardly record of America’s national security mandarins has been wiped clean.” The forever wars are “marketed to the Western public as clinical exercises in freedom-spreading” with a “dual layer patina of patriotic hoopla [for the right] and humanitarian goodwill [for the liberals].”

The refugee crises coming out of the Middle East, generated by the forever wars and accompanying economic sanctions (more accurately, illegal unilateral coercive measures), have consequently fueled xenophobia both in the US and abroad. This, in turn, has fostered an ascendant wave of rightists. “Trump’s election,” Blumenthal contends, “would not have been possible without 9/11 and the subsequent military interventionism conceived by the national security state.”  The national security state did not arise with Trump, but “has maintained a steady continuity between successive administrations.”

Unwanted refugees are not the only inconvenient byproduct of the forever wars in the greater Middle East. The US security state’s alliance with jihadists to overthrow the Soviet-friendly government in Afghanistan – a pattern which is has been repeated in each subsequent Middle Eastern misadventure – has created a “disposal problem” of what to do with these US-armed combatants.

For Americans, the tragedy of 9/11 was just the most dramatic example of the “disposal problem.” “The plague of international jihadism that the United States helped to unleash through its covert interventionism in Cold War-era Afghanistan,” Blumenthal warns, “was to expand and metastasize…”

The neoliberal imperial project, a symbiotic association of liberal “military humanism” and right-wing straight-up militarism, is now showing signs of undoing according to Blumenthal:

Through covert operations and overt invasions, America’s national security state had destabilized entire regions, from the Levant to North Africa, unleashed a migration crisis of unprecedented proportions onto Europe and spurred an inevitable right-wing backlash that was unraveling the neoliberal consensus they sought to protect.

Critical reviews

In a critical review of Savagery, Louis Proyect finds himself “in agreement” on Afghanistan and Libya but not on Syria. Proyect rejects the analysis that the purpose of the US is or ever was regime change of the Assad government in Syria: “with the regime still intact, it might be obvious that this was never the goal.”  Proyect dismisses what otherwise the purpose of the US war effort might be with a “let’s leave that aside.” In contrast, regime change is the central thesis of Blumenthal’s book.

 Proyect accuses Blumenthal of being “one of Assad’s biggest supporters on the left,” though a reading of Savagery would suggest Blumenthal is not an apologist for the governments targeted by the US for regime change. In an interview after his recent visit to Syria, Blumenthal commented: “Whether or not Syria is a dictatorship or a police state; I would not dispute that at all.” Rather, the focus of Savagery is on the policies and actions of the US and its allies, the deleterious effects it has had on the people of the region, and the blowback it has had at home.

A critique in the Times Literary Supplement, from a liberal “humanitarian imperialism” point of view, kvetches:

It is easy to blame the United States for many of the world’s ills: easy because of the availability of evidence. It is also easy to overstate your case, with misleading or one-sided examples – the trap that Max Blumenthal falls into in The Management of Savagery.

Which raises the question of why, given “the availability of evidence,” the TLS and its co-conspirators in the corporate media unerringly fall into the opposite trap of being sycophants of the Empire? Why have they failed to connect the dots, as Blumenthal has, and shown “how America’s national security state fueled the rise of Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Donald Trump”?

War: Ruinations and Ruminations

Ruinous and deadly wars throughout history should have given people everywhere down through the ages cause and pause for thinking about what has happened and why it has happened. While many people presumably have and continue to do just that, what they know and understand is usually controlled by their nation’s power elite. That is never more the case than in America from its beginning and continuing. The power elite (aka the ruling class) in the “Devil’s Marriage” between Corporate America and Government America that make up America’s corpocracy essentially control what most Americans know and understand about what the corpocracy has done, is doing, and plans to do next.1 As if that sort of exploitative wrongdoing were not enough, the power elite’s evildoing is ruining America and the world.2 America, as the world knows, is the greatest threat to peace.3

This article wrenches itself free of America’s corpocracy and gives readers an unvarnished review and examination of America’s wars since the time America “was born in the womb of war.” In one of my books I wrote about America’s “oldest professions,” warring and spying.4 If they are allowed to continue, one or more forms of doomsday will visit humanity later this century as some experts forecast.5 To rescue the future, America first needs to rescue itself from its power elite. In my newest book, “911!” I spell out in detail a rescue plan and who need to be the rescuers.6

The purpose of this article is straightforward: to make a convincing argument that war is neither unavoidable nor just nor inevitable. I start by “enlisting” (that word is not really meant to have military connotations) the “reinforcement” (ditto the first parenthetical) of luminaries down through the ages and what they have said against war. Following them, I am on my own with the support of my research and analysis to present my argument full blown. I end by giving my explanation for why war happens, why it seems to be inevitable and why it need not be inevitable.

Luminaries Against War Down Through the Ages

It is more rather than less discouraging to know that many notable people down through the ages have voiced their disapproval of and disgust over the habit called war. If the “voices heard” in this section of the article had instead been a roaring cheer for war, this article might never have been written!

Edward Abbey: Anarchism is not a romantic fable but the hardheaded realization, based on five thousand years of experience, that we cannot entrust the management of our lives to kings, priests, politicians, generals, and county commissioners.

Alfred Adler: To all those who walk the path of human cooperation war must appear loathsome and inhuman.

Aeschylus: In war, truth is the first casualty.

Aesop: Any excuse will serve a tyrant.

Anonymous: A great war leaves a country with three armies: an army of cripples, an army of mourners, and an army of thieves.

Issac Asimov: Violence is the first refuge of the incompetent.

Major General Smedley Butler. War is a racket.

Albert Camus: We used to wonder where war lived, what it was that made it so vile. And now we realize that we know where it lives…inside ourselves.

Bennett Cerf: The Atomic Age is here to stay–but are we.

Agatha Christie: One is left with the horrible feeling now that war settles nothing; that to win a war is as disastrous as to lose one.

Clarence Darrow: True patriotism hates injustice in its own land more than anywhere else.

Bob Dylan: Come you masters of war. You that build all the guns. You that build the death planes. You that build the big bombs. You that hide behind walls. You that hide behind desks. I just want you to know I can see through your masks.

Barbara Ehrenreich: No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell raising remain the true duty of patriots.

Albert Einstein: War is an act of murder.

Abraham Flexner: Probably, no nation is rich enough to pay for both war and civilization. We must make our choice; we cannot have both.

Benjamin Franklin: There never was a good war or a bad peace.

Chris Hedges: The failure to dissect the cause of war leaves us open for the next installment.

Herodotus: In peace sons bury fathers, but war violates the order of nature, and fathers bury sons.

Martin Luther King, Jr.: Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek but a means by which we arrive at that goal.

John Lennon: All we are saying is give peace a chance.

Basil O’Connor. The world cannot continue to wage war like physical giants and to seek peace like intellectual pygmies.

Anne O’Hare McCormick: Today the real test of power is not capacity to make war but capacity to prevent it.

Charles Eliot Norton: The voice of protest…is never more needed than when the clamor of fife and drum…is bidding all men…obey in silence the tyrannous word of command.

George Orwell: Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. War is peace.

Harry Patch, Last surviving WWI soldier: War is organized murder, and nothing else.

Alexander Pope: O peace! how many wars were waged in thy name.

Ayn Rand: Do not ever say that the desire to “do good” by force is a good motive. Neither power-lust nor stupidity is good motives.

Jeannette Rankin: You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake.

Bertrand Russel: War does not determine who is right, only who is left.

Antoine De Saint-Exupery: War is not an adventure. It is a disease. It is like typhus.

Butler Shaffer: In this war – as in others – I am less interested in honoring the dead than in preventing the dead.

Bruce Springsteen: Blind faith in your leaders or in anything will get you killed.

President Donald J. Trump: From the first day I entered the political arena, I made it clear that I did not want to fight these endless, senseless wars.

Charles V of France: Name me an emperor who was ever struck by a cannonball.

Howard Zinn: We need to decide that we will not go to war, whatever reason is conjured up by the politicians or the media, because war in our time is always indiscriminate, a war against innocents, a war against children.

Say and think what you will about President Trump, I do not recall any of his predecessors publicly having made similar statements and then tried to back them up with executive orders. Any US president must be very careful in opposing the “deep” state or risk being assassinated. Recall what happened and why to JFK!7

About America’s Wars: Unavoidable and Just?
A Critique of its Wars

I answer here these two questions for each of America’s seven overt wars that I discuss. Was it avoidable? Was it just?  The first criterion is self-explanatory. The second could be ambiguous without an explanation. The criterion of justness is preferable to that of legality because the foundation of all law is a consideration of what is just and moral behavior. Moral behavior is doing what is right. Immoral behavior is doing what is wrong. Simple as that.

Born in the Womb of War: The American Revolution

The “Founding Fathers” founded nothing. They invaded a land already occupied and slowly began slaughtering the occupants. The invaders were America’s original wrongdoing and evildoing power elite. They mostly descended from England, a belligerent and imperialistic country that endlessly pursued war such as its 100-year war with France.8

These original power elite of America were already creatures of habit and heritage and clearly in no mood to kowtow to King George, so they started America’s first war. It was a totally avoidable and unjust war. To be sure, they presented King George a long list of grievances in their Declaration of Independence, but by signing it they had no intention of relying on state craft to seek a nonviolent resolution. Their “olive branch” petition sent later to the King, moreover, was clearly insincere and the King knew it, since he got it after he was sent the Declaration of Independence.9

Seeking a settlement with “Mad King George” would not have been as ludicrous as it may seem. His troops, fighting far away on foreign soil would never have prevailed in the long run even if they had won. Instead, they would have eventually dissolved from exhaustion, lack of resources, and sense of futility in the face of continued resistance and civil disobedience from the colonists. The American Revolution was thus a Pyrrhic victory for the revolutionaries, leaving over 25,000 of them dead and as many wounded, and predisposing the new nation to a future of warring as a habitual means to further its own colonizing and global exploitation.10

Civil War

The late historian Howard Zinn made it clear in his writings that President Lincoln provoked the attack on Fort Sumter that launched the Civil War not with the primary purpose of freeing the slaves but to make sure to maintain the ability to expand the nation’s territory and with it, greater markets and resources.11  Lincoln, in other words, was an early practitioner of imperialism by deadly military means.

The very Lincoln memorialized in the nation’s capital was also a racist as he clearly indicated in a speech he gave in Charleston:

I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races—and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.12

Whatever his motives might have been, and whether he spoke with a forked tongue depending on the audience, his decision to start the Civil War was deadly, unnecessary, and morally outrageous. Moreover, he prevented the balkanization of America into two smaller Americas each too small to wreak havoc, ruin and death on the rest of the world at the hands of America’s power elite over the ensuing centuries.

WWI

WWI was a result of multiple causes; namely, idiotic revenge over the assassination of the archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary and his wife Sophie in Sarajevo on June 28th, 1914, rivalries among imperialistic nations along with their lust for more international prestige and more global territory, and mediocre leaders who let the war happen, a war that left 10 million soldiers from the involved countries dead.13

WWII

That Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and Germany declared war on the U.S. are two tragic and memorable incidents that undoubtedly lead many people to believe that WWII was unavoidable and just. Not according to Zinn, though, who raised and answered several key questions. Was the U.S. involvement for the rights of nations to independence and self-determination? To save the Jews? Against racism? For democracy? No, not at all based on his review of the evidence. The U.S. involvement in WWII had no such high-minded purposes, and Zinn concluded that WWII proved the no war can be just.14  Zinn’s research along with many others’ historical accounts of WWII provide clear-cut evidence that FDR deliberately provoked Japan into attacking and knew the attack would prompt Germany into immediately declaring war on the U.S., which they did do.15

Appalling, too, is the fact that America’s power elite were profiting from financing and helping to rearm Hitler’s war machine after it was depleted by WWI.16  What is even more unforgivable is the U.S.’s atomic bombing of two populous cities in Japan, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The bombings, the first of their kind and the last so far on human beings, were totally unnecessary. Our government knew that Japan was prepared to surrender before the bombings, but our government bombed anyway to scare its newly created enemy, Russia.17

Fourteen countries were neutral during WWII.18 Not the U.S., where war is a racket!

Vietnam War and the Unprecedented Carnage

That the French left Vietnam after 10 futile years of trying to colonize it should have been a clear signal to our government that any attempt to dominate the country would also be doomed to failure.  But our power elite, licking their chops over the prospect of securing a gateway into the markets and riches of Southeast Asia, and motivated to stop the spread of Communism, ignored the signal.

It is so ironic and so sad that Ho Chi Min, who deserved to be the beloved leader of a unified Vietnam, emulated America’s Declaration of Independence in writing one for a unified Vietnam, which we did everything atrociously possible to prevent, yet a unified Vietnam nation eventually prevailed.19

The U.S. warriors and their cheerleading imperialists went berserk in ravaging Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. Here is an absolutely horrifying tally of the losses to innocent countries and their peoples:

“–Seventy-five percent of South Viet Nam was considered a free-fire zone (i.e., genocidal zones).

–Over 6 million Southeast Asians killed (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia).

–Over 64,000 U.S. and Allied soldiers killed.

–Over 1,600 U.S. soldiers, and 300,000 Vietnamese soldiers remain missing.

–Thousands of amputees, paraplegics, blind, deaf, and other maiming created.

–13,000 of 21,000 of Vietnamese villages, or 62 percent, severely damaged or destroyed, mostly by bombing.

–Nearly 950 churches and pagodas destroyed by bombing.

–350 hospitals and 1,500 maternity wards destroyed by bombing.

–Nearly 3,000 high schools and universities destroyed by bombing.

–Over 15,000 bridges destroyed by bombing.

–10 million cubic meters of dikes destroyed by bombing.

–Over 3,700 US fixed-wing aircraft lost.

–36,125,000 US helicopter sorties during the war; over 10,000 helicopters were lost or severely damaged.

–26 million bomb craters created, the majority from B-52s (a B-52 bomb crater could be 20 feet deep, and 40 feet across).

–39 million acres of land in Indochina (or 91 percent of the land area of South Viet Nam) were littered with fragments of bombs and shells, equivalent to 244,000 (160 acre) farms, or an area the size of all New England except Connecticut.

–21 million gallons (80 million liters) of extremely poisonous chemicals (herbicides) were applied in 20,000 chemical spraying missions between 1961 and 1970 in the most intensive use of chemical warfare in human history, with as many as 4.8 million Vietnamese living in nearly 3,200 villages directly sprayed by the chemicals.

–24 percent, or 16,100 square miles, of South Viet Nam was sprayed, an area larger than the states of Connecticut, Vermont, and Rhode Island combined, killing tropical forest, food crops, and inland forests.

–Over 500,000 Vietnamese have died from chronic conditions related to chemical spraying with an estimated 650,000 still suffering from such conditions; 500,000 children have been born with Agent Orange-induced birth defects, now including third generation offspring.

–Nearly 375,000 tons of fire balling napalm was dropped on villages.

–Huge Rome Plows (made in Rome, Georgia), 20-ton earthmoving D7E Caterpillar tractors, fitted with a nearly 2.5-ton curved 11-foot wide attached blade protected by 14 additional tons of armor plate, scraped clean between 700,000 and 750,000 acres (1,200 square miles), an area equivalent to Rhode Island, leaving bare earth, rocks, and smashed trees.

–As many as 36,000,000 total tons of ordinance expended from aerial and naval bombing, artillery, and ground combat firepower. On an average day U.S. artillery expended 10,000 rounds costing $1 million per day; 150,000-300,000 tons of UXO remain scattered around Southeast Asia: 40,000 have been killed in Viet Nam since the end of the war in 1975, nearly 70,000 injured, and 20,000 Laotians have been killed or injured since the end of the war

–7 billion gallons of fuel were consumed by U.S. forces during the war.

–If there was space for all 6,000,000 names of Southeast Asian dead on the Vietnam Wall in Washington, DC, it would be over 9 sobering miles long, or nearly 100 times its current 493-foot length.”20

This carnage was encouraged by the diabolically evil Henry Kissinger, then Secretary of State and National Security Advisor. “Kill anything that moves” he once told General Alexander Haig.21

Just think for a moment about the unprecedented carnage of Vietnam caused by the U.S. No nuclear bombs were dropped on that helpless, innocent nation and its neighbors, yet over 6 million Southeast Asians were killed by the bloodthirsty U.S.22 “Only” about 199 thousand people were killed by the two U.S. atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.23 If justice were to be served instead of being a travesty, any living perpetrators of the Vietnam War would be permanently locked up in solitary confinement.

Afghanistan and Iraqi Wars

Nothing more need be added to this finding: Early in December of 2016 CODEPINK conducted “The People’s Tribunal on the Iraq War.” Two days of testimony and documentation provided indisputable evidence: Afghanistan and Iraq were invaded not to combat terrorism but to gain control of hydrocarbon resources.”24

More Questions About War

Self Defense?

Would not a war of self-defense unravel the argument that no war is unavoidable or just? No, the best defense against modern warfare initiated against the U.S. is prevention through the U.S. having the right kind of foreign policies in place over time. Unfortunately, the administrator of our foreign policy, the Department of State, is a subsidiary of the Department of Defense War. Foreign policies are militant military policies.

Conscription?

Would the draft have been abolished after Vietnam if the government was convinced that all future military interventions must be just or avoidable? No, the draft was abolished precisely because the government knew future military interventions could not meet these two standards and more protests on the magnitude of those against the Vietnam War would surely follow.

Exemptions?

The more just and avoidable a war would there not be few exemptions granted from battle? No, in any American war to date the elite have avoided it like a plague. And how many politicians have gone into battle? They are spineless creatures that send others to their graves. They ought to be the pall bearers for every person killed from their wars and then held accountable.

Popularity?

If a particular war were just or unavoidable, besides not abolishing the draft, there would be very few conscientious objectors, draft dodgers or deserters. But just the opposite happened during WWII and Vietnam, the last war relying on conscription. During WWII there were roughly 21,000 deserters (one was executed) and 45,000 conscientious objectors.25 During Vietnam, there were nearly 420,000 deserters.26

Amnesty?

If a particular war were just or necessary, its warrior-in-chief would not have granted conditional or unconditional pardons or amnesty to war resistors over the years. Yet in the 20th century over 1,000 draft dodgers during WWII were pardoned by President Truman; Vietnam War draft resisters and deserters were offered clemency by President Ford; and hundreds of thousands of Vietnam War draft dodgers were given unconditional pardon by President Carter. Perhaps even warriors-in-chief can have pangs of doubt or guilt over sending young men unnecessarily to battle.27

Humanitarian?

What about military interventions for humanitarian reasons, to prevent massacres and to liberate people from ruthless despots, for example? Americans learn in their youth from school textbooks that America always has good intentions towards other nations.28  But that is sheer propaganda deliberately foisted by the power elite on the rest of us to protect their own self interests. No war can be legitimized as well-intentioned and humanitarian. To quote Einstein once again, “War cannot be humanized. War can only be abolished.”29 Finding and using a genuinely humane intervention requires creative diplomacy and a moral conscience, not military might.

Wars do not liberate civilians from oppressors. Wars kill the civilians, and tyrants in their lands often follow by ruling puppet regimes that suit the self-interests of America’s power elites. Throughout history wars on the average have killed more civilians than combat soldiers. The civilian casualty rate rose to 85% of all casualties during the Iraq War and probably is approaching 100% from drone killings wherever the drones drop bombs.30

The power elite profit more not by defeating the enemy, but by keeping the war winless and endless.

Morally Just?

I would think that only a psychopath or a diehard war rationalizer would argue that war is moral. How can any war justify such universal values as caring for others, fairness and justice gleaned from a search through time and places by a lawyer turned ethicist (an odd switch)?31

What about the lesser standard for behavior, the law that the corpocracy ignores, such as Articles 1 and 3 of the Constitution; 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th Amendments; all laws protecting human nature such as homicidal laws against murder; and international laws such as the 1928 Kellogg–Briand Peace Pact? I would think only people like the U.S. president’s legal counsel would make the legal case for war, torture, and the like.

MAD: The Safety Valve?

The ultimate war is nuclear war. One insane rationale for stockpiling nuclear warheads and threatening to use them in escalating international conflicts is called “MAD,” or mutually assured destruction.32 Would not a sane policy require making peace treaties instead?

Born to Kill?

Ever hear of a newborn baby with a weapon clutched in its tiny hand? We must learn why to kill and how to kill other human beings. If killing were instinctive, our species would either be extinct by now or substantially depleted. Were it natural, there would be neither PTSs nor suicides.

Here is what a former Army ranger had to say about the crucial role of military training in learning to kill: “Military training is fundamentally an exercise in overcoming a fear of killing another human.”33  This enterprising ranger subsequently formed a consulting group, “Killology Research Group,” a bunch of “Warrior Science Group consultants dedicated to protecting our families and our children and to the strong defense of our country.”34  Nothing surprises me anymore.

And that is why I was not surprised to read later how the military came up with the idea to tell its soldiers the Vietnamese were sub-humans so the Vietnamese could be killed without any guilt or remorse.  Soldiers were told the Vietnamese were “gooks, slants, slopes, and anything to make the soldiers think the Vietnamese were not humans.”

Think about it. Our government takes our youth, often under-privileged and poorly educated, and turns them into killers so that politicians can stay in office and the business drivers of the corpocracy can keep on driving and thriving, not dying.

About War as an Act of Murder

Its First Implication

I have no basis for disputing Albert Einstein, one of the world’s most brilliant minds, who claimed that “war is an act of murder.” If you agree, are you prepared to accept the implication that the people who promote war, that the people who provide the means for war and that the people who authorize war are surrogate murderers? And should they not be incarcerated for the rest of their lives as international war criminals instead of being honored?

A Second Implication

Silent Americans are a dependable prop for America’s power elite. Silent Americans thus become the accomplices of America’s international war criminals. If justice were to be served, should not silent Americans share the blame?

Yet Another Implication

We are all warriors.  When America is at war, whether an official or unofficial war, it is being carried out in our name, “America,” not in the names of those members of the power elite who actually are responsible for starting and sustaining the war. America’s wars, in other words, are our wars, whether we like it or not, whether we are silent or not. When little children are bombed to smithereens by our bombs, we are the bombers. Loved ones who survive blame America.

Why War?

What causes war and is war inevitable?

War boils down to behavior, what people do when they tolerate, promote, prepare for, authorize or execute war. Behavior always has two interacting causes, the person and the person’s context, or situations, circumstances and conditions that influence what the person does. By far the most influential part of the context of the corpocracy’s power elite are their countless props that they create for themselves. I call them props because they prop up the power elite’s power. Without their props the power elite would be powerless and there would be no more wars by them. Not being held accountable for their international war crimes is one of the stronger props. I devote a whole chapter in my book, “911!”, to enumerating and explaining all the props, and most of my plan for rescuing America from its power elite focuses on legally and peacefully removing all the props.35

A different explanation of war’s inevitability is given by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts, a former high-level official in the Reagan administration who subsequently has studied and explained America’s corpocracy even more than I have done. He attributes the inevitability of war to the power elite’s ideology of manifest destiny of ruling the world.36 While their ideology does indeed influence their resulting war-oriented behavior, singling out and seeking to counter or end any ideology would be futile. Ideologies are strongly held beliefs that have hardened into concrete. Concentrating on eliminating their ideological belief of manifest destiny would be akin to trying to chisel away several thousand people encased in concrete!

In Closing

If we can accept seven U.S. wars as an acceptable sample of all wars, then no war is either unavoidable or just.

There are two ways to end war. One, knock down the numerous props supporting the power elite so that a “power rectangle,” not a “power triangle,” represents the distribution of power.37 Two, let doomsday in one form or another end war and everything else. If the first doesn’t happen, the second one will.

  1. Brumback, GB. The Devil’s Marriage. Break Up the Corpocracy or Leave Democracy in the Lurch. Author House, 2011.
  2. Brumback, GB. “Real America, an Endangering and Endangered Ruination”, Dissident Voice, March 28; OpEdNews, March 29; Headline News, March 29; PopularResistance.Org Daily Digest, March 31; Greanville Post, April 2; Transmedia Service, April 6; Uncommon Thought Journal, April 8, 2016.
  3. Post Editorial Board. U.S. Is the Greatest Threat to World Peace: Poll. New York Post, January 5, 2014.
  4. Brumback, GB. America’s Oldest Professions: Warring and Spying, Create Space Independent Publishing Platform, 2015.
  5. Spratt, D. & Dunlap, I. “Existential Climate Related Security Risks: A Scenario Approach”, BT Policy Paper, May 2019.
  6. Brumback, GB. “911!”, Independent Self-Publishing, 2019 (readers can go to Amazon Books, enter “Gary Brumback’s “911!” book” and continue until “Look Inside).
  7. See the following references regarding JFK’s assassinations: Fetzer, J. JFK and RFK: The Plots that Killed Them, The Patsies that Didn’t. Voltairenet.org, June 13, 2010; Roberts, PC. JFK Turned to Peace and was Assassinated. Institute for Political Economy, July 20, 2018; and also, Talbot, D. The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government. Harper Perennial, 2016.
  8. Wikipedia. List of Wars Involving England.
  9. Wikipedia. The Olive Branch Petition.
  10. Wikipedia. United States Military Casualties of War.
  11. Zinn, H. A People’s History of the United States, Harper Perennial, 2005.
  12. Ibid. p.
  13. Zinn, H. Howard Zinn on War, Seven Stories Press, 2000.
  14. Zinn, H. A People’s History of the United States,  Harper Perennial, 2005.
  15. See, e.g., Dietrich, D. “The Pearl Harbor Deception”, American Patriot Friends Network, December 2008; Petras, J. “Provocations as Pretexts for Imperial War: From Pearl Harbor to 9/11”, Global Research, August 3, 2014; and, Swanson, D. “The Ancient Mythical Rites of Pearl Harbor Day”,. OpEdNews, December 5, 2018.
  16. See, e.g., Dobbs, M. “Ford and GM Scrutinized for Alleged Nazi Collaboration”, The Washington Post, November 30, 1998; and, Paul, J. & Kuznick, P. “D-Day: How the U.S. Supported Hitler’s Rise to Power”, Therealnews.com, June 8, 2019.
  17. Kohls, GG. Dr. “The Hiroshima Myth. Unaccountable War Crimes and the Lies of US Military History”, Global Research, July 31, 2013.
  18. Chepkemoi, J. “Countries Who Remained Neutral in World War II”, World Atlas, July 26, 2018.
  19. Alpha History. “Ho Chi Minh’s Declaration of Independence (1945)”, Alpha History, undated.
  20. Wilson, SB.  “Remembering All the Deaths from All of Our Wars”, Counterpunch, May 27, 2016.
  21. Branfman, F. “The 10 Most Ghoulish Quotes of Henry Kissinger’s Gruesome Career”, Salon, February 13, 2016. For more literature about Mr. Kissinger try this sampling: Anderson, JL.”Does Henry Kissinger Have a Conscience?” The New Yorker, August 20, 2016; Branfman, F. “The New Face of Evil: Why Henry Kissinger is Still Relevant Today”, OpEdNews, April 23, 2013; Falk, R. On (Not) Loving Henry Kissinger, TRANSCEND Media Service, May 23, 2016; and, Hitchens, C. The Trial of Henry Kissinger, Twelve, 2012.
  22. Wilson, SB. Op. Cit.
  23. atomicarchives.com. “The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki”, Atomicarchives, undated.
  24. Behan, R. “Yes, It was Blood for Oil: Codepink Nails the Truth About George Bush’s Wars”, OpEdGeneralNews, December 17, 2016.
  25. The estimate of WWII deserters is from Wikipedia The estimate of conscientious objectors during WWII is from the Living Libraries of the University of California at Irvine.
  26. Giraldi, P. “Deserters, Traitors and Resistors: A Long Tradition of Those Who Walked Away From War”, Huff Post, September 22, 2014.
  27. For President Truman’s decision, see Crotty, R. “The Draft Dodgers of 1944”, National Archives, September 16, 2010. For President Ford’s decision see Bates, M. “President Ford’s Clemency Program for Draft Dodgers and Deserters”, Free Republic, December 27, 2006. For President Carter’s decision see Lescaze, L. “President Pardons Viet Draft Dodgers”, The Washington Post, January 22, 1977.
  28. Fitzgerald, F. “America Revised: History Schoolbooks in the Twentieth Century”, Little Brown & Company, 1979.
  29. Einstein, A. Original source unknown.
  30. Eckhardt, W. “Civilian Deaths in Wartime,” Security Dialogue, 2008 (1), 89-98.
  31. Josephson, M. “Teaching Ethical Decision-Making and Principled Reasoning. Ethics: Easier Said than Done”, 1988, 1, 27-33.
  32. Noble, S. Anarchy and Near-Term Extinction, Dissident Voice, June 18, 2014.
  33. See Killology Research Group. A Warrior Science Group Partner.
  34. Ibid.
  35. Opcit. “911!” See Chapter 5, Pp. 53-74 for a thorough discussion of the power elite’s props.
  36. Roberts, PC. “Why War Is Inevitable,” OpEdNews, May 26, 2014.
  37. Opcit. “911!” My discussion of the power triangle and power rectangle as symbols for the distribution of power in a nation see Pp. 3-4 and 104-105.