Category Archives: Taliban

Will a Biden Foreign Policy Make a Difference for the World?

The “left” rationalization for collaborating with the neoliberal wing of the democrat party is premised on the argument that a win for the national Democrat candidate translates into better possible policy outcomes for the “people” and nation. More importantly though, they assert, Trump’s defeat will alter the rightist trajectory of U.S. politics away from what they refer to as Trump’s neofascist inclinations.

I will not attempt to address this argument here. I have dealt with this cartoonish and idealistic conception of fascism in other places. I have also raised questions with my friends in the left regarding the basis of their confidence that Biden and the neoliberal class forces he represents are in possession of any ideas or policies that will address the irreconcilable contradictions of the late stage of monopoly capitalism known as neoliberalism.

Of course, on this last question, the response from my materialist friends is sentimental gibberish about holding someone’s feet to the fire.

Here I just want to briefly focus on the very simple question that many in the global South are raising in connection with the upcoming U.S. elections. And that is, if Biden wins, what might the people of the global South expect from a Biden Administration? To examine that question, I believe that the Afghanistan situation and the process for arriving at the current peace talks between the Taliban, the Afghanistan government and the United States offers some useful indicators for how that question might be answered.

The Trump Anti-War Feign

Defying the popular conception of Republicans as the party of war, and to the surprise of an incredulous Democratic Party and liberal media, candidate Trump told his supporters and the world that pulling the U.S. out of “endless wars” would be a major priority for his administration if elected.

This claim was mocked by the Clinton campaign partly because it upset the carefully constructed narrative prepared by her campaign to paint Trump as a dangerous pro-war threat because of his inexperience and unstable character. Not that the Clinton campaign was projecting itself as Anti-war, especially with the powerful pro-war economic interests that were coalescing around her campaign. Objectively, there was a ruling class consensus that increased spending on the military and militarism was going to be a central component of U.S. global policies going forward. Trump’s rhetoric was seen as a threat, even if he was not serious about following through once he became president.

After Trump’s surprising win and before he could focus on addressing Afghanistan and the reinvasion of Iraq that occurred during Obama’s second term, a manufactured crisis with Syria was presented to him that politically required a military response.

The box in which his generals and the intelligence agencies placed him on Syria would characterize the contentious and contradictory relationship between Trump and those elements of the state throughout his presidency, even after he signaled his support for militarism with the submission of record increases in military spending.

From North Korea and NATO to withdrawing U.S. personnel from Syria, the Democrats and some members of his own party conspired to oppose any changes that might threaten the deeply entrenched agenda of the military-industrial-intelligence complex.

However, the efforts to undermine any progress toward extricating the U.S. from the 19-year quagmire of Afghanistan on the part of Democrats represented a new low in cynicism and moral corruption.

The Normalized Quagmire of Afghanistan

Shortly after the Trump Administration began, it broke with longstanding policy of not talking directly to Taliban. Administration representatives engaged in a series of covert, but direct talks, without the knowledge and participation of their supposed ally, the Afghan government.

By early 2019, the Administration’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, initiated a series of overt direct talks with the Taliban in Doha. The government of India and many elements within the foreign policy establishment were either opposed to direct talks with Taliban or were reticent.

In those talks, Khalilzad had to address the Taliban’s demand for complete withdrawal of U.S. troops and the U.S. demand that the Taliban guarantee that Afghanistan would not be used as a base for terrorism.

Other important issues that had to be included in a framework for discussion and eventual agreement included the issue of a ceasefire, prisoner exchanges and the sensitive issue of inter-Afghan talks, because the Taliban did not recognize the legitimacy of what they saw as a U.S. puppet government.

The talks with the Taliban, and an important meeting in Moscow in April 2019 between the U.S., Russia and China, resulted in an “agreement in principle” announced at the end of August 2019.

It was agreed in principle that the issues of a U.S. withdrawal, a ceasefire, and the knotty issue of inter-Afghan negotiations would be discussed in a follow-up meeting to be scheduled for February 2020. A significant diplomatic victory that was largely ignored in the U.S. press.

The February 2020 meeting in Doha resulted in a signed agreement to engage in a peace process.

The agreement reflected the various steps that the Taliban, U.S., and Afghan sides were expected to address during the negotiations: The U.S. demand that the Taliban are to prevent their territory from hosting groups or individuals who might threaten the U.S. and their allies; the Taliban demand for a timeline for the withdrawal of all U.S. and coalition forces; and the commencement of talks between the Afghan government and Taliban forces at the conclusion of U.S. military withdrawal and the establishment of a comprehensive cease-fire.

On March 10, the UN Security Council gave the U.S.-sponsored resolution supporting the deal their unanimous blessing. But rhat was not the end of the story. Unfortunately, for Democrats, peace and a diplomatic victory for Trump had to be contested.

Powerful forces in the state and foreign policy community opposed the February agreement. Publicly, they couched their concerns in security terms related to terrorism. They argued that it is only through increase military pressure that the Taliban would denounce al-Qaeda and agree to verifiably sever links with the group.

But the terrorism concern was only a subterfuge. President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan, along with his close Indian allies, did not want to see any U.S. military withdrawal. Other elements in the U.S. state were focused on the estimated one trillion dollars in precious metals that are currently unexploited in that country. And there was the Chinese issue and their Belt and Road initiative (BRI). Maintaining U.S. forces in the region would not only potentially make those precious resources available to U.S. companies but would also serve as a block to the BRI path through Central Asia.

Those elements and President Ghani were in a panic. National reconciliation and peace represented a real threat to their interests. The solution? Another domestic psyop.

Democrats sacrifice Peace for Politics

By the end of June, a disinformation campaign was launched by New York Times and was quickly followed up by the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal that focused on lurid but unsubstantiated reports of the Russians paying bounties to Taliban soldiers to kill U.S. personnel.

In typical fashion, “anonymous sources” were quoted. The reasons why the Russians would engage in this activity and why the Taliban who had essentially defeated the U.S. needed further incentives to fight the U.S. were marginal to the story. It was the headlines that were needed in order to evoke the emotional and psychological response that good propaganda has as its objective. Reason is a casualty when the objective is short-term confusion.

In this case, the objective was to evoke an outcry from the public, to be followed with legislation undermining Trump’s ability to withdraw U.S. personnel from the country and, if possible, to scuttle the process until after the election, if at all.

On cue, Democrat Congressman Jason Crow teamed up with Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney (daughter of the former vice president) to prohibit the president from withdrawing troops from Afghanistan.

And when Trump refused to take the bait and undermine his own peace process, Joe Biden accused Trump of “dereliction of duty” and “continuing his embarrassing campaign of deference and debasing himself before Vladimir Putin.”

Afghan Deception is not only Harbinger of Things to Come Under Biden

On September 12th, despite the machinations of the Democrats and other state forces, the Taliban and Afghan government representatives met in Doha to enter the difficult discussions on how to finally bring a resolution to the U.S. war and occupation of their country.

Neoliberals accuse Trump of cynically calculating every decision based on his own needs while neoliberals only operate from a pristine moral position. According to CNN, the peace agreement “was signed in February — at all costs with the goal of helping Trump fulfill his long-stated campaign promise of removing American troops from Afghanistan.”

If Trump was only concerned about his reelection, and there is no doubt that was a major consideration for most of his decisions, how do we characterize the moves made by the corporate press in collusion with the Democrats and Biden campaign — an objective concern for the security of the U.S.?

Two months after the Russia bounty story, the Clinton News Network (CNN) floated another bounty story. This time it was the Iranians! And almost four months after the original bounty story, NBC news reported that no one has been able to verify the story.

But one story that can be reasonably argued is that for the people of the world subjected to U.S. state criminality, the reoccupation of the Executive Branch by the democrats will not bring any change in U.S. behavior. Both parties support the imperatives of U.S. imperialism reflected in Trump’s 2017 National Security Strategy that centers an adversarial relationship with Russia and China and committed to maintaining U.S. global hegemony. Both parties supported the obscene increases in military spending, with Biden promising that he will spend even more!

The rightist character of the Democratic Party is such that at their national convention the alignment of right-wing neocons and neoliberals is not even being hidden.

So, while the fear is supposed to be around a further growth of “fascist” forces represented by Trump domestically, for the people of the world the real fascism of anti-democratic, brutal regimes supported by the U.S., murderous sanctions, starvation in Yemen, and right-wing coups in support of fascist forces in Honduras, Brazil and Venezuela will continue unabated.

This is precisely why from the perspective of oppressed nations and peoples’ in the global South, it should not be surprising that some might see progressive and radical support for either colonial/capitalist party as an immoral and counterrevolutionary position.

The post Will a Biden Foreign Policy Make a Difference for the World? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Will a Biden Foreign Policy Make a Difference for the World?

The “left” rationalization for collaborating with the neoliberal wing of the democrat party is premised on the argument that a win for the national Democrat candidate translates into better possible policy outcomes for the “people” and nation. More importantly though, they assert, Trump’s defeat will alter the rightist trajectory of U.S. politics away from what they refer to as Trump’s neofascist inclinations.

I will not attempt to address this argument here. I have dealt with this cartoonish and idealistic conception of fascism in other places. I have also raised questions with my friends in the left regarding the basis of their confidence that Biden and the neoliberal class forces he represents are in possession of any ideas or policies that will address the irreconcilable contradictions of the late stage of monopoly capitalism known as neoliberalism.

Of course, on this last question, the response from my materialist friends is sentimental gibberish about holding someone’s feet to the fire.

Here I just want to briefly focus on the very simple question that many in the global South are raising in connection with the upcoming U.S. elections. And that is, if Biden wins, what might the people of the global South expect from a Biden Administration? To examine that question, I believe that the Afghanistan situation and the process for arriving at the current peace talks between the Taliban, the Afghanistan government and the United States offers some useful indicators for how that question might be answered.

The Trump Anti-War Feign

Defying the popular conception of Republicans as the party of war, and to the surprise of an incredulous Democratic Party and liberal media, candidate Trump told his supporters and the world that pulling the U.S. out of “endless wars” would be a major priority for his administration if elected.

This claim was mocked by the Clinton campaign partly because it upset the carefully constructed narrative prepared by her campaign to paint Trump as a dangerous pro-war threat because of his inexperience and unstable character. Not that the Clinton campaign was projecting itself as Anti-war, especially with the powerful pro-war economic interests that were coalescing around her campaign. Objectively, there was a ruling class consensus that increased spending on the military and militarism was going to be a central component of U.S. global policies going forward. Trump’s rhetoric was seen as a threat, even if he was not serious about following through once he became president.

After Trump’s surprising win and before he could focus on addressing Afghanistan and the reinvasion of Iraq that occurred during Obama’s second term, a manufactured crisis with Syria was presented to him that politically required a military response.

The box in which his generals and the intelligence agencies placed him on Syria would characterize the contentious and contradictory relationship between Trump and those elements of the state throughout his presidency, even after he signaled his support for militarism with the submission of record increases in military spending.

From North Korea and NATO to withdrawing U.S. personnel from Syria, the Democrats and some members of his own party conspired to oppose any changes that might threaten the deeply entrenched agenda of the military-industrial-intelligence complex.

However, the efforts to undermine any progress toward extricating the U.S. from the 19-year quagmire of Afghanistan on the part of Democrats represented a new low in cynicism and moral corruption.

The Normalized Quagmire of Afghanistan

Shortly after the Trump Administration began, it broke with longstanding policy of not talking directly to Taliban. Administration representatives engaged in a series of covert, but direct talks, without the knowledge and participation of their supposed ally, the Afghan government.

By early 2019, the Administration’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, initiated a series of overt direct talks with the Taliban in Doha. The government of India and many elements within the foreign policy establishment were either opposed to direct talks with Taliban or were reticent.

In those talks, Khalilzad had to address the Taliban’s demand for complete withdrawal of U.S. troops and the U.S. demand that the Taliban guarantee that Afghanistan would not be used as a base for terrorism.

Other important issues that had to be included in a framework for discussion and eventual agreement included the issue of a ceasefire, prisoner exchanges and the sensitive issue of inter-Afghan talks, because the Taliban did not recognize the legitimacy of what they saw as a U.S. puppet government.

The talks with the Taliban, and an important meeting in Moscow in April 2019 between the U.S., Russia and China, resulted in an “agreement in principle” announced at the end of August 2019.

It was agreed in principle that the issues of a U.S. withdrawal, a ceasefire, and the knotty issue of inter-Afghan negotiations would be discussed in a follow-up meeting to be scheduled for February 2020. A significant diplomatic victory that was largely ignored in the U.S. press.

The February 2020 meeting in Doha resulted in a signed agreement to engage in a peace process.

The agreement reflected the various steps that the Taliban, U.S., and Afghan sides were expected to address during the negotiations: The U.S. demand that the Taliban are to prevent their territory from hosting groups or individuals who might threaten the U.S. and their allies; the Taliban demand for a timeline for the withdrawal of all U.S. and coalition forces; and the commencement of talks between the Afghan government and Taliban forces at the conclusion of U.S. military withdrawal and the establishment of a comprehensive cease-fire.

On March 10, the UN Security Council gave the U.S.-sponsored resolution supporting the deal their unanimous blessing. But rhat was not the end of the story. Unfortunately, for Democrats, peace and a diplomatic victory for Trump had to be contested.

Powerful forces in the state and foreign policy community opposed the February agreement. Publicly, they couched their concerns in security terms related to terrorism. They argued that it is only through increase military pressure that the Taliban would denounce al-Qaeda and agree to verifiably sever links with the group.

But the terrorism concern was only a subterfuge. President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan, along with his close Indian allies, did not want to see any U.S. military withdrawal. Other elements in the U.S. state were focused on the estimated one trillion dollars in precious metals that are currently unexploited in that country. And there was the Chinese issue and their Belt and Road initiative (BRI). Maintaining U.S. forces in the region would not only potentially make those precious resources available to U.S. companies but would also serve as a block to the BRI path through Central Asia.

Those elements and President Ghani were in a panic. National reconciliation and peace represented a real threat to their interests. The solution? Another domestic psyop.

Democrats sacrifice Peace for Politics

By the end of June, a disinformation campaign was launched by New York Times and was quickly followed up by the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal that focused on lurid but unsubstantiated reports of the Russians paying bounties to Taliban soldiers to kill U.S. personnel.

In typical fashion, “anonymous sources” were quoted. The reasons why the Russians would engage in this activity and why the Taliban who had essentially defeated the U.S. needed further incentives to fight the U.S. were marginal to the story. It was the headlines that were needed in order to evoke the emotional and psychological response that good propaganda has as its objective. Reason is a casualty when the objective is short-term confusion.

In this case, the objective was to evoke an outcry from the public, to be followed with legislation undermining Trump’s ability to withdraw U.S. personnel from the country and, if possible, to scuttle the process until after the election, if at all.

On cue, Democrat Congressman Jason Crow teamed up with Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney (daughter of the former vice president) to prohibit the president from withdrawing troops from Afghanistan.

And when Trump refused to take the bait and undermine his own peace process, Joe Biden accused Trump of “dereliction of duty” and “continuing his embarrassing campaign of deference and debasing himself before Vladimir Putin.”

Afghan Deception is not only Harbinger of Things to Come Under Biden

On September 12th, despite the machinations of the Democrats and other state forces, the Taliban and Afghan government representatives met in Doha to enter the difficult discussions on how to finally bring a resolution to the U.S. war and occupation of their country.

Neoliberals accuse Trump of cynically calculating every decision based on his own needs while neoliberals only operate from a pristine moral position. According to CNN, the peace agreement “was signed in February — at all costs with the goal of helping Trump fulfill his long-stated campaign promise of removing American troops from Afghanistan.”

If Trump was only concerned about his reelection, and there is no doubt that was a major consideration for most of his decisions, how do we characterize the moves made by the corporate press in collusion with the Democrats and Biden campaign — an objective concern for the security of the U.S.?

Two months after the Russia bounty story, the Clinton News Network (CNN) floated another bounty story. This time it was the Iranians! And almost four months after the original bounty story, NBC news reported that no one has been able to verify the story.

But one story that can be reasonably argued is that for the people of the world subjected to U.S. state criminality, the reoccupation of the Executive Branch by the democrats will not bring any change in U.S. behavior. Both parties support the imperatives of U.S. imperialism reflected in Trump’s 2017 National Security Strategy that centers an adversarial relationship with Russia and China and committed to maintaining U.S. global hegemony. Both parties supported the obscene increases in military spending, with Biden promising that he will spend even more!

The rightist character of the Democratic Party is such that at their national convention the alignment of right-wing neocons and neoliberals is not even being hidden.

So, while the fear is supposed to be around a further growth of “fascist” forces represented by Trump domestically, for the people of the world the real fascism of anti-democratic, brutal regimes supported by the U.S., murderous sanctions, starvation in Yemen, and right-wing coups in support of fascist forces in Honduras, Brazil and Venezuela will continue unabated.

This is precisely why from the perspective of oppressed nations and peoples’ in the global South, it should not be surprising that some might see progressive and radical support for either colonial/capitalist party as an immoral and counterrevolutionary position.

The post Will a Biden Foreign Policy Make a Difference for the World? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Listening to our Anger and Angst

The family of a killed protester demand fair distribution of bread (Credit: Tolo News)

COVID-19 is clarifying a significant source of global anger and angst: inequality.

At the start of the COVID-19 crisis, Afghanistan had 300 ventilators, only one ventilator for every 110,000 Afghans.

As a medical physician, I gasped, my heart racing at the dilemma of who gets the ventilator. What if I was near death with serious COVID-19?

The head of a global vaccine alliance advised that “nobody is safe unless everybody is safe”, saying, “This is a global problem that needs a global solution and we have to all work together.”

But in many countries, the pandemic has stripped naked our systems, revealing how our economic and political elite value profit and power over human lives.

Though the Afghan government has been reporting higher GDPs over the past years, COVID-19 has exposed how GDPs don’t reflect the sort of economy all citizens need to survive with dignity.

GDPs say nothing about how governments and corporations treat their people and workers. COVID-19 has.

During Afghanistan’s lockdown, angry and hungry folk in Ghor province protested that corrupt government officials had redirected foreign food aid to themselves. They clashed with the police. Seven persons were killed.

During Minneapolis’ lockdown, George Floyd was stopped, and under the forceful knee of a policeman, he was suffocated and killed. Like the people of Ghor, the people of the U.S. are braving the virus to protest.

These incidents shock us into grieving at our outrageously meaningless systems. Yes, Hans Anderson, even the children can see that the emperors have no clothes! We all wish to echo Floyd’s “I can’t breathe!”

Our inter-connected human spirit responds. Some of us sigh heavily. Some cry. Some scream. Others slow down to take deep breaths. All of us wish for close friends who understand.

It helps to be present with one another, listening until our rage begins to transform into systemic change.

Rising Inequality, Anger and Angst Everywhere

Likewise, in people protests across the world over recent years, citizens have shouted, “Enough!” People have had enough of their political elite taking their money, then giving excuses, lying, berating the people, threatening them and imprisoning them.

People are demanding an end to the outdated premise that the “kings and rulers” are superior and all-knowing. They no longer wish to submit to the obsolete narrative that governments are always good, and the people are always bad.

We’ve seen through the illogical math of one President or Prime Minister behaving as if he or she is more intelligent or more moral than 34 or 340 million or 7.7 billion other human beings.

I think this unequal disparity is one reason why in 2018, Afghans reported the lowest positive experiences in the world, and why that year, anger seemed ‘contagious’, with more than one fifth of adults across the planet admitting to feeling angry, the highest percentage recorded by the Gallup Emotions Report since 2005.

And now, COVID-19 has given us the unique opportunity to share this anger as a human family.

Afghan Peace Volunteers distributing COVID food relief in May 2020 to 96 of the APVs’ “Borderfree Street Kids School” students (Credit: Dr. Hakim)

We Can Heal Together By Insisting On Equal Treatment For All

Primatologist and conservationist Jane Goodall said, “One of the lessons learnt from this crisis is that we must change our ways. If we do not do things differently, we are finished. We can’t go on very much longer like this.” She was referring to how we treat the environment and animals with absolute disrespect.

So, learning from COVID-19, we can each resolutely insist on equal policies for all members of our human family, whether in our personal lives, through protests, writing, art, music or other creative ways.

When the late Stephane Hessel was 93 years old, he called us to “Indignez-vous! Cry Out! Time for Outrage!”

To help Afghans, Americans and every human at the wrong end of the police or militaries, global citizens can insist on de-militarization, disarmament and the diversion of annual war trillions to take care of the climate, food, water, shelter, healthcare and education.

When a recent UN report showed that the Taliban and the U.S.-backed Afghan government forces had killed Afghan civilians in record numbers, we can respond by insisting on the same for Afghans as for George Floyd: arrest the Taliban and the U.S.-backed Afghan government, rather than allowing them to negotiate “peace deals” for power.

A banner in an alley as a memorial to the APVs’ Sajaad and two other youth killed in the explosion (Credit:  Dr. Hakim)

On the evening of 27th of February in a residential area where I live in Kabul, explosive devices attached to two bicycles exploded in a small alley, killing Sajad, one of our street kid students who was selling vegetables. Ironically, Sajaad’s death was just two days before the U.S. and Taliban signed their touted “peace deal”, not in Afghanistan, but in Qatar, with no Afghans involved, not even their acquiescent President Ghani.

I heard waves of wailing from my neighborhood, which were cries from the relatives and family members of Sajaad and other children who were killed.

That night, COVID-19 was already moving rapidly across the world, as I journaled my feelings below:

Death is my neighbour in Afghanistan,

a living hell for mourners nearby,
screaming,
unable to separate themselves away from love.
They raged with torrents of regret
over words said and unsaid,
deeds done and not done,
struck by unacceptable grief.
On this life-draining evening,
I was heating up leftovers for dinner
when I heard two blasts.
They were ‘small’ compared to others I’ve heard before,
so I dismissed them
as “gas cylinder incidents”??
This is the 5th night
of a 7-day ‘reduction in violence’ agreed upon
by the Orwellian1 US/Taliban ‘peace-makers’.
But, such deals have never created a people’s economy
where teenagers like 16-year-old Sajaad,
one of our Borderfree street kid students,
needn’t sell vegetables
along the alley where he was killed tonight.
The Mother of All Bombs2 and her bomblets
are provoking revenge,
everywhere.
In furious retaliation,
across deforested and climate-changed swathes of dust,
multi-national opponents buy, improvise, plant and trigger
all warps of explosive devices.
No ‘bomb’ is small,
because every weapon is manufactured
and paid for by us the human species,
Every munition is a pre-designed coffin
sold at a handsome, psychotic3 price,
fuelling wails.
While we heal from our grief,
we can daily dismantle
our ‘normal’ ways of making money,
protecting ourselves,
and obeying our status quo or symbols.
In our being and feeling,
thinking and doing,
studying and working,
quietly or out in the streets,
we can decisively choose
to recover meaning.

  1. Stars and Stripes had reported, “Talks between the two sides continued for most of 2019 as American bombs (a record 7423) were dropped.”
  2. In 2017, Trump threw the “Mother of All Bombs” over some caves and tunnels of Achin, a bomb that experts said would “vaporize anyone within 300 meters, while those in a one kilometer radius would be left deaf.”
  3. When Trump met Pakistan’s Prime Minister, he thought he sounded merciful when he taunted, “I could win that (Afghan) war in a week. I just don’t want to kill 10 million people.”

9/11 Truth: Under Lockdown for Nearly Two Decades

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.

— H.L. Mencken, In Defense of Women, 1918

As the global pandemic grips world attention, completely unnoticed by mainstream media was the release of a final report of an academic study pertaining to another previously calamitous event of international significance. On March 25th, the conclusion of a four year investigation by researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks was published which determined that the collapse of World Trade Center Building 7 on September 11th, 2001 was not caused by fire. The peer-reviewed inquiry was funded by Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth, a nonprofit organization composed of more than 3,000 building architects and engineers who are a signatory to the group’s formal appeal calling for a new investigation into the three — not two — WTC skyscrapers destroyed on 9/11. The researchers infer that the collapse of Building 7 was actually the result of a controlled demolition:

The principal conclusion of our study is that fire did not cause the collapse of WTC 7 on 9/11, contrary to the conclusions of NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) and private engineering firms that studied the collapse. The secondary conclusion of our study is that the collapse of WTC 7 was a global failure involving the near-simultaneous failure of every column in the building.

With or without a pandemic, it is likely corporate media would have ignored the study anyway, just as they have anything that contradicts the official story of 9/11. However, it is notable that many have drawn parallels between the COVID-19 outbreak and the 9/11 attacks based on the widespread changes to daily life as a result of the crisis going forward. Already there is talk of nationwide lockdowns as a “new normal” with many rightly expressing concerns over civil liberties, press freedoms, the surveillance state, and other issues just as there were following 9/11. By the same measure, a false dichotomy is being established by political gatekeepers in order to silence those who dare challenge the official account as to how the coronavirus began. It is a stigmatization that is all too familiar to those who have never believed the conventional narrative that 19 Arab hijackers loyal to Osama bin Laden armed only with box-cutters were solely responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on that fateful day.

There is a common misconception that to believe in so-called “conspiracy theories” is to somehow lose sight of the bigger picture or systemic problems. Behind this phenomenon is a mistakenly presumed conflict between understanding the broader, overarching system versus the sinister motives of those in power who administer it — when they are inextricably linked. Political scientist Michael Parenti, who drew the ire of many of his fellow left-wing colleagues for his work on the Kennedy assassination, refers to it in his lecture “Understanding Deep Politics” as a perceived incompatibility between “the structural and the functional.” The anti-conspiracists wrongly assume that the more impersonal or wider the lens, the more profound an analysis. By this logic, the elite are absolved of conscious intent and deliberate pursuit of nefarious self-interest, as if everything is done by incidental chance or out of incompetence. Not to say efficacy applies without exception, but it has become a required gesture to disassociate oneself from “conspiracies” to maintain credibility — ironically even by those who are often the target of such smears themselves.

This applies not only to mainstream media and academics, but even leading progressive figures who have a mechanical, unthinking resistance to assigning intent or recognizing the existence of hidden agendas. As a result, it disappears the class interests of the ruling elite and ultimately assists them in providing cover for their crimes. With the exception of the Kennedy assassination — coincidentally the subject of a new epic chart-topping song by Bob Dylan — nowhere has there been more hostility to ‘conspiracism’ than regarding the events of 9/11. Just as they assailed Parenti, David Talbot and others for challenging the Warren Commission’s ‘lone gunman’ theory, leading figures on the left such as Noam Chomsky and the late Alexander Cockburn railed against the 9/11 Truth movement and today it is often wrongly equated with right-wing politics, an unlikely trajectory given it occurred under an arch-conservative administration but an inevitable result of the pseudo-left’s aversion to “conspiracies.” If polls are any indication, the average American certainly disagrees with such elitist misleaders as to the believability of the sham 9/11 Commission findings, yet another example of how out-of-touch the faux-left is with ordinary people.

A more recent example was an article by left-wing journalist Ben Norton proclaiming that to call 9/11 a false flag or an “inside job” is “fundamentally a right-wing conspiracy”, in complete disregard of the many dedicated truther activists on the left since its inception. Norton insists the 9/11 attacks were simply “blowback”, or an unintended consequence of previous U.S. foreign policy support for the mujahideen in Afghanistan against the Soviets during the 1980s which later gave birth to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Norton argues “Al-Qaeda’s unofficial strategic alliance with the US eventually broke down” resulting in 9/11 as retaliation, completely overlooking that Washington was still supporting jihadist factions during the 1990s in Bosnia (two of which would be alleged 9/11 hijackers) and Kosovo in the Yugoslav wars against Serbia, even while the U.S. was ostensibly pursuing bin Laden for the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998 and the USS Cole in 2000.

A 1997 Congressional document by the Republican Policy Committee (RPC) throws light on how Washington never discontinued its practice in Afghanistan of using jihadist proxies to achieve its foreign policy goals in the Balkans. Although it was a partisan GOP attack meant to discredit then-U.S. President Bill Clinton, nevertheless the memo accurately presents how the U.S. had “turned Bosnia into a Militant Islamic Base”:

In short, the Clinton administration’s policy of facilitating the delivery of arms to the Bosnian Muslims made it the de facto partner of an international network of governments and organizations pursuing their own agenda in Bosnia: the promotion of Islamic revolution in Europe. That network not only involves Iran but Brunei, Malaysia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan (a key ally of Iran), and Turkey, together with front groups supposedly pursuing humanitarian and cultural activities. For example, one such group about which details have come to light is the Third World Relief Agency (TWRA), a Sudan-based, phoney humanitarian organization which has been a major link in the arms pipeline to Bosnia. TWRA is believed to be connected with such fixtures of the Islamic terror network as Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman (the convicted mastermind behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing) and Osama Bin Laden, a wealthy Saudi émigré believed to bankroll numerous militant groups…

It was also in Bosnia where a raid was conducted in 2002 by local police at the Sarajevo branch of a Saudi-based purported charitable organization, Benevolence International Foundation, which was discovered to be a front for Al-Qaeda. Seized on the premises was a document, dubbed the “Golden Chain“, which listed the major financial sponsors of the terrorist organization to be numerous Saudi business and government figures, including some of Osama bin Laden’s own brothers. By the 9/11 Commission Report’s own admission, this same fake Islamic charity “supported the Bosnian Muslims in their conflict with Serbia” at the same time as the CIA.

It cannot go without mentioning that the common link between Al-Qaeda and subsequent extremist groups like ISIS/Daesh and Boko Haram is the doctrine of Wahhabism, the puritanical sect of Sunni Islam practiced in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and founded in the 18th century by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, the religious leader who formed an alliance with the founder of the first Saudi state, Muhammad bin Saud, whose descendants make up the House of Saud royal family. The ultra-orthodox teachings of Wahhabism were initially rejected in the Middle East but reestablished by British colonialism which aligned with the Saud family in order to use their intolerant strain of Islam to undermine the Ottoman empire in a divide-and-conquer strategy. In a speech to the House of Commons in 1921, Winston Churchill admitted the Saudis to be “intolerant, well-armed and bloodthirsty.”

This did not stop the British from supporting the House of Saud so long as it was in the interest of Western imperialism, an unholy alliance which continues to this day. However, U.S.-Saudi relations did come under scrutiny when the infamous 28 redacted pages of the December 2002 report of the “Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities before and after the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001” conducted by the Senate and House Select Committees on Intelligence were finally disclosed in 2016. The section revealed not only the numerous U.S. intelligence failures in the lead-up to the attacks but the long suspected culpability of Saudi Arabia, whose nationals were not the focus of counterterrorism because of Riyadh’s status as a U.S. ally. The declassified pages show that some of the hijackers, 15 of them Saudi citizens, received financial and logistical support from individuals linked to the Saudi government, which FBI sources believed at least two of which to be Saudi intelligence officers. One of those Saudi agents received large payments from Princess Haifa, the wife of Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, a stipend from the latter’s bank account which inevitably went from the go-betweens to the sleeper cell.

A key member of the House of Saud and then-Saudi Ambassador to the U.S., Prince Bandar has such a long and close relationship to the Bush family he was given the nickname “Bandar Bush.” For obvious reasons, when the congressional joint inquiry report was first published in 2003, the 28-page portion on the Saudi ties to the attacks was completely censored at the insistence of the Bush administration. Yet the Bush family’s connection to the Gulf state kingdom is not limited to the ruling monarchy but includes one of the petrodollar theocracy’s other wealthiest families— the bin Laden family itself. While Michael Moore’s film Fahrenheit 9/11 mostly whitewashed the real conspiracy of 9/11it did reveal that numerous unquestioned members of the bin Laden family were given special treatment and suspiciously evacuated on secret flights out of the U.S. shortly after the attacks in coordination with the Saudi government.

The Bush-bin Laden connection goes all the way back to the beginning of George W. Bush’s business career prior to his political involvement in 1976 with the founding of an oil drilling company, Arbusto Energy, whose earliest investors included a Texas businessman and fellow reservist in the Texas Air National Guard, James R. Bath, who oddly enough was the American liaison for Salem bin Laden, Osama’s half brother. To put it differently, the bin Laden family and its construction fortune helped finance Bush’s start in the oil industry, a relationship that would continue through the 1990s with Harken Energy, later the recipient of an offshore oil contract in Iraq’s reconstruction alongside Dick Cheney’s Halliburton. The Bush dynasty’s financial ties to both the Saudi royals and bin Laden family went on as co-investors in the Carlyle Group private equity firm where the elder Bush’s previous government service contacts were exploited for financial gain. In fact, on the morning of 9/11, Bush Sr. just happened to be attending a Carlyle business conference where another bin Laden sibling was the guest of honor in what we are supposed to believe is another astounding coincidence. Just days later, Shafiq bin Laden would be spirited off on a chartered flight back to Saudi Arabia in an exodus overseen by Prince Bandar himself.

Osama bin Laden himself also got an evacuation of sorts when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001. It was legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh who first reported that bin Laden and thousands of other Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters were suspiciously allowed to escape to Pakistan in an evacuation dubbed the ‘airlift of evil.’ This was corroborated in a leaked 2009 Hillary Clinton State Department email published by WikiLeaks regarding a Senate report on the Battle of Tora Bora and bin Laden’s escape where Clinton advisor Sidney Blumenthal is shown discussing the controversial airlift as having been requested by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and approved by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney — but don’t dare call it a conspiracy:

Gary Berntsen, the head of the CIA armed operation in eastern Afghanistan, is a major source for the report. I am in contact with him and have heard his entire story at length, key parts of which are not in his book, Jawbreaker, or in the Senate report. In particular, the story of the Kunduz airlift of the bulk of key AQ and Taliban leaders, at the request of Musharaff and per order Cheney/Rumsfeld, is absent.

 Could it have anything to do with just a few years earlier the Taliban visiting Texas when Bush was Governor to discuss with the Unocal Corporation the construction of a gas pipeline through Afghanistan into Pakistan? It is also well known that the Pakistani government and its Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI) had supported the Taliban for decades and during the 1980s had been the CIA’s main conduit for supplying arms to the Afghan mujahideen, including bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri’s Maktab al-Khidamat, the organizational precursor to Al-Qaeda. As shown in the documentary 9/11: Press for Truth, little in their relations changed in the years between the Afghan-Soviet war and 9/11, as ISI director Mahmud Ahmed was reportedly busted wiring $100,000 to alleged hijacker ringleader Mohamed Atta not long before the WTC attacks. Throughout 2001 both before and after 9/11, General Ahmed had repeatedly visited the U.S. and met with top Pentagon and Bush administration officials, including CIA Director George Tenet, making Prince Bandar not the only figure to have been caught financing the operation and where a direct line can be drawn between the White House and the hijackers.

While Bandar has thus far eluded justice, one year after the release of the 28 pages a lawsuit was filed on behalf of the families of the victims against the government of Saudi Arabia which presented new evidence that two years prior to the attacks in 1999, the Saudi Embassy paid for the flights of two Saudi agents living undercover in the U.S. to fly from Phoenix to Washington “in a dry run for the 9/11 attacks” where they attempted to breach the cockpit and test flight security. This means the Saudi government was likely involved in planning the attacks from the very beginning, in addition to providing the subsidies and patsy hijacker personnel for the smokescreen of blaming Al-Qaeda and making bin Laden the fall guy, whose links to 9/11 are tenuous at best. After all, the “confession” from supposed planner Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was extracted only after his being water-boarded 183 times while bin Laden himself initially denied any role in the attacks before questionable videos were released of his admittance.

The Saudi nationals who participated in the hijacking rehearsal were posing as students. However, the Sunni dictatorship was not the only country conducting a mass espionage operation in the U.S. prior to 9/11 under such a front. In the first half of 2001, several U.S. federal law enforcement agencies documented more than 130 different instances of young Israelis impersonating “art students” while aggressively trying to penetrate the security of various government and military facilities as part of a Mossad spy ring. Several of the Israelis were found to be living in locations within the near vicinity of the hijackers as if they were eavesdropping on them. The discovery of the Israeli operation raised many questions, namely whether Mossad had advanced knowledge or involvement in 9/11. Ironically, Fox News of all places was one of the few outlets to cover the story in a four-part series which never re-aired and was eventually scrubbed from the network website.

The Israeli “art student” mystery never gained traction in the rest of the media, much like another suspicious case in the “Dancing Israelis”, a smaller group of Mossad spies posing as furnishing movers who were arrested in New Jersey on the morning of 9/11 taking celebratory pictures with the twin towers burning in the background of the Manhattan skyline. The five men were not only physically present at the waterfront prior to the first plane impact but found with thousands of dollars in cash, box-cutters, fake passports, and Arab clothing after they were reported for suspicious behavior and intercepted at the Lincoln tunnel heading into Manhattan. Initially misreported as Arabs by the media, the men were connected to Mossad by an FBI database and held for five months before their deportation to Israel while the owner of the front moving company fled to Jerusalem before further questioning. It should be noted that if Israel were to have participated in a ‘false flag’ attack on the U.S., it would not have been the first time. During the Six-Day War in 1967, the Israeli Air Force and Navy launched an unprovoked attack on the USS Liberty, a U.S. Navy spy ship that was surveilling the Arab-Israeli conflict from international waters in the Mediterranean, an “accidental” assault which killed 34 Americans in an attempt to blame Egypt and provoke U.S. intervention.

If Israel turned out to be co-conspirators with the Saudis, it too is not as unlikely a scenario as it may seem. Wrongly assumed to be sworn enemies, it is an open secret that the two British-created states have maintained a historical covert alliance since the end of World War I when the first monarch of the modern Saudi state, King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, defeated his rival the Sharif of Mecca who opposed the Balfour Declaration. Authored by British Foreign Secretary Lord Balfour and presented to Zionist leader Baron Rothschild, the 1917 letter guaranteed a Jewish homeland in Palestine by colonization with European Jews. Once Sharif was out of  the way, the Zionist movement had the green light to move forward with its colonial project. Although Ibn Saud publicly opposed Zionism, behind the scenes he negotiated with them through an intermediary in his advisor, British agent St. John Philby, who proposed a £20 million compensation to the Saudi king for delivering Palestine to the Jews.

Ibn Saud communicated his willingness to compromise in a 1940 letter from Philby to Chaim Weizmann, the president of the World Zionist Organization and later the first Israeli president. However, Philby himself was an anti-Zionist and sabotaged the plan by leaking it to other Arab leaders who voiced their vehement opposition and it was only after this exposure that the Saudi king claimed to have turned down the bribe, something the Zionists would only solicit if they thought he would accept. Ever since, the ideologies of Saudi Wahhabism and Israeli Zionism have been center to the West’s destabilization of the Middle East which contrary to misperceptions was not uniquely plagued by conflict historically more than the Occident until the West nurtured Salafism and Zionism. Predictably, discussing either the Saudi or Israeli role in 9/11 has been strictly forbidden in corporate media, since both are among Washington’s geo-strategic allies and each hold immense lobbying power over large media institutions.

Less than five months after 9/11, Bush notoriously declared the nations of Iran, Iraq and North Korea as comprising an “axis of evil” in his 2002 state of the union address. In reality, the phrase is better suited to describe the tripartite of Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the U.S. government itself who are likely the real trio of conspirators behind 9/11. The infamous choice of words were attributed to neoconservative pundit and Bush speechwriter, David Frum, who claimed to have taken inspiration from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “a date that will live infamy” speech given the day after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. It was a continuation of a theme present in the manifesto of the neoconservative cabal authored one year prior to 9/11 — “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” by the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) think tank, whose members included Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and Jeb Bush. The strategic military blueprint called for a massive increase in U.S. defense spending in order to “fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theatre wars” before ominously predicting:

The process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event — like a New Pearl Harbor.

Ten members of PNAC would be subsequently appointed to positions in the Bush White House where their vision of a “new Pearl Harbor” conveniently materialized. Then again, there is plenty of evidence that Pearl Harbor itself was a ‘false flag’, or that U.S. intelligence and President Franklin D. Roosevelt had foreknowledge of an impending Japanese attack on the naval base in Oahu, Hawaii, on December 7th, 1941. As pointed out by the film Loose Change, it is probable that Roosevelt allowed it to happen on purpose in order to win public support for a U.S. entry into the European theatre of World War II, a move opposed by a majority of Americans prior to the ‘surprise’ Japanese attack. Given what is known about Pearl Harbor and the abandoned Operation Northwoods, which proposed both fabricating and committing terrorist attacks on civilian aircraft to be pinned on Fidel Castro in order to justify a U.S. invasion of Cuba in 1962, there are no grounds to assume that such false flag operations were ever phased out of military procedure before 9/11 or since.

Loose Change also made a useful historical analogy between 9/11 and the Reichstag fire, the 1933 arson attack on the German parliament building that occurred a month after Adolf Hitler was inaugurated as Chancellor and pinned on a 24-year old half-blind Dutch communist named Marinus van der Lubbe. While there is no denying the incident was used as a pretext by the Nazi regime to consolidate power and suspend law and order, there is still a heated debate between historians as to whether van der Lubbe was the real culprit. However, it was coincidentally in 2001 when a group of historians uncovered evidence that a Nazi stormtrooper who died under mysterious circumstances in 1933 had previously confessed to prosecutors that members of Hitler’s Storm Detachment had set fire to the edifice under orders from paramilitary leader Karl Ernst, lending credence to the widely held suspicion that it was a Nazi-engineered ‘false flag’ all along.

Most Americans are unaware that a similar coup d’etat nearly took place during the same year in the United States in an attempt to remove President Franklin D. Roosevelt and install an authoritarian government modeled on Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany as part of a scheme hatched by an inner circle of right-wing bankers otherwise known as the the ‘Business Plot.’ It was a conspiracy that only became public after it was heroically thwarted by a whistleblower, a decorated Marine Corps veteran turned anti-imperialist, Major General Smedley Butler, after he was recruited to form the junta. Incredibly, one of the prominent business figures implicated in the putsch was none other than future Connecticut Senator Prescott Bush, George H.W. Bush’s father and George W. Bush’s grandfather, who at the time was the director and shareholder of a bank owned by German industrialist and prominent Nazi financier Fritz Thyssen seized by the U.S. government under the Trading with the Enemy Act.

After his transformation, in 1935 Smedley Butler famously penned War is a Racket and there is perhaps no better phrase that would sum up the so-called ‘War on Terror’ today. Not only did the American Reichstag fire of 9/11 trigger a domestic police state transformation that overrode the U.S. constitution in an American equivalent of the 1933 Enabling Act and the Heimatschutz (“homeland protection”) defense forces with the passing of the USA-Patriot Act and founding of the Department of Homeland Security, but it fulfilled the prophecy of political scientist Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations in a face-off between Islam and Christianity abroad. The prediction that religion and culture would be the primary source of geopolitical conflict in the post-Cold War world was an apocalyptic paradigm envisioned by right-wing orientalist philosophers like Huntington and Bernard Lewis which the PNAC neocon ideologues put into practice. Today, the ongoing COVID-19 crisis appears likely to have similar broad and long-term political, social and economic consequences and those who have doubts about the official explanation for the pandemic can hardly be blamed for their distrust given this history unless the lessons of 9/11 have gone unlearned.

The Taliban Scores a Coup

It threatened to disappear under the viral haze of COVID-19, but February 29 saw representatives from the US and Taliban, loftily acknowledged as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, sign the “Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan”.  After two decades of conflict, the agreement sets in motion the process that should see American troops leave Afghanistan within 14 months.  Initially, 8,600 troops will leave over a 135-day period; the balance is set to do so after 9 months.

The Doha ceremony was attended by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Taliban deputy leader Mullah Baradar, a person said by former CIA Operations Officer Douglas London to be of “little influence or authority” serving as “convenient window dressing”.  The ink from the US side for the signature was supplied by US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.  Conspicuously absent, and much in recognition of the failings of that institution, was the NATO-backed Afghan government.  Nor was the Taliban present in the joint US-Afghan declaration.  The results of that say much about the sheer will power, not to mention staying power, of Taliban negotiators.  It was they who insisted not to be part of any instrument acknowledging the legitimacy of the Afghan government.

In sum, both instruments lay out various steps for the Taliban, US and Afghan government to take.  The Taliban are to prevent their territory from hosting groups or individuals who might threaten the US and their allies; the US is to draft a timeline for the withdrawal of all US and coalition forces; the Afghan regime and the Taliban are to commence peace talks at the conclusion of the withdrawal, with the parties ultimately developing the basis for a permanent and comprehensive cease-fire.

Having stolen the show, the Taliban has merely promised to engage in talks with the Afghan government about a lasting peace; cunningly, even brashly, they have refused to specifically renounce resorting to violence in achieving their aims.  It will be hard to refute the claim that they have their opponents on the run and intend keeping it that way.

The deal will be another etching on the long list of agreements made in the cemetery of imperial failure.  Afghan resistance can rightly claim the scalps of many, including Britain and the Soviet Union.  Afghan president Ashraf Ghani has approved the release of 1,500 Taliban prisoners in exchange of 1,000 government troops.  The decree signed by Ghani noted that the prisoners will be released within 15 days “with 100 prisoners walking out of Afghan jails everyday.”  The US-Taliban agreement intends for the release of up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners.

The joint US-Afghan declaration, for its part, has the Afghan government promising to “participate in a US-facilitated discussion with Taliban representatives on confidence building measures, to include determining the feasibility of releasing significant numbers of prisoners on both sides.”

On March 10, the UN Security Council gave the US-sponsored resolution supporting the deal their unanimous blessing, deeming it one of the “significant steps towards ending the war” and promising to provide “sustained support” in negotiations to achieve peace.  It also spoke of “the willingness of multiple countries to facilitate or convene intra-Afghan negotiations in order to achieve political settlement and a permanent and comprehensive cease-fire.”

But this vote of confidence does not detract from the possibility that the US will still maintain a presence, or that conflict will continue.  The US-Afghan joint declaration, for instance, takes the position that the withdrawal of US forces will eventuate on the “Taliban’s fulfilment of its commitments.”

Those barracking for some continuing US footprint are many, though the years have taken their toll.  Paul D. Miller, formerly of the National Security Staff for both President George W. Bush and Barack Obama, sees inadequacies and threats in the brokered deal.  Tear up the agreement, he urges in Lawfare; al-Qaeda is likely to return in force and find a place of, if not hospitality then certainly sanctuary.  “President Trump and his successor should scrap the deal and increase military pressure until the Taliban publicly denounces al-Qaeda and agreed to verifiably sever links with the group.”  US commitments were “clear, specific and measurable”; those of the Taliban, lacking in detail, means of enforcement and verification.

Miller’s view that the US remain is based on a certain contempt for the US public and, it must be said, the armed forces.  To maintain the imperium, you need to ignore the former, at least to a certain extent, and use the latter.  The troop presence is not large, expensive or costly in terms of casualties.  “There is no mass anti-war movement.  The American people are not sick of the war: They are hardly even paying attention to it.”

London concurs on most points.  He sees the Taliban with the same conviction that took US forces to Afghanistan in the first place.  The agreement “naively relieves the Taliban from renouncing [ties to terrorist groups] or expelling them outright.”

Others nurse the maybes and the tormenting hypotheticals.  Lawrence J. Korb, who in 2010 was engaged in negotiating efforts on ending the war in Afghanistan, rued the lost chances of the Bush administration in 2002 to annihilate the Taliban.  “It compounded the problem by simultaneously expanding its objective from defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan to nation-building.” This train of thought is persistent in US strategic thinking: insurgents are somehow foreign and not indigenous, lacking local support; they can be culled, restrained or eliminated altogether.

There is little doubt that the resilient, seemingly indestructible Taliban will take greater heart in the entire process than the cheerleaders for empire.  They have resumed operations against their enemy with enthusiasm.  The unpopular central government is negotiating from a position of profound weakness.

Even Korb, despite lamenting lost opportunities, felt that it was no longer a conflict the US should contend with. “Just as America did not make it out better than France in Vietnam, it is time for its officials to realize that America will not make it out any better than the British or Soviets in Afghanistan – no matter how long it tries to stay.”

Operation Endless War: The Fog of Afghanistan

A funny thing happened on the way to remote Central Asia following the events of 9/11.  The militarists who spawned this modern “crusade,” the invasion of Afghanistan, decided to call it “Operation Infinite Justice.”  Unfortunately for the philosophers at the Pentagon and their neo-con-liberal friends, this initial title was a resounding failure; further, it was also a telling mis-step foreshadowing the unspectacular disaster that this conflict would soon become and, to this very day, remains, as the third Afghan War administration now considers the Taliban to be legitimate international negotiating partners, just like in the pre-9/11 Clinton era.

The operational phrase itself, “Infinite Justice,” only lasted for the remarkably brief span of 2 weeks before the W. Bush administration stepped down from God’s throne to re-label their exercise in post-9/11 revenge “Operation Enduring Freedom.”  So, what was wrong with a little “Infinite Justice”?  Just about everything.  On the optics side, it was completely offensive to the greater Islamic community, not least because of its crusaderly air of infinite presumption:  “Bad optics, meet even worse manners!”  What were the “War on Terror” architects thinking?  Not very clearly, apparently.  In retrospect, the “Infinite Justice” hiccup was the first sign that the Afghan War project would not end well — if, indeed, it would ever end at all…

However, this operational name fiasco links to something more than mere foggy-headed thinking by Pentagonal metaphysicians; it underscores the deep interconnectedness of the W. Bush and Clinton administrations in the so-called “War on Terror.”

On August 20, 1998, in the midst of the Monica Lewinsky crisis, President Clinton authorized simultaneous cruise missile strikes against “non-state actors” in both Sudan and Afghanistan.  These attacks were code-named “Operation Infinite Reach.”  From a functionally nominal point of view, “Infinite Reach” was the etymological precursor to the ill-fated and bunglingly thought-out “Infinite Justice.”  On a policy level, “Infinite Reach,” despite its oxymoronically limited objectives, set up several key precedents for not only the following Bush administration, but the Obama and Trump administrations as well.

The cruise missile strikes hit an al-Qaeda training facility in Khost, Afghanistan, and the El-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum, which was reported to be manufacturing precursor chemicals for chemical weapons use.  Interestingly enough, “Infinite Reach” was explicitly framed as a “pre-emptive” attack; pre-emption, of course, would move on to become the doctrinal signature of Iraq-Attack-Two, with “curve-balled” intelligence about alleged Iraqi WMD playing the role of Exhibit A.  In another foreshadowing, the intelligence on the Sudanese pharmaceutical plant has proven to be just another curve-ball.  The twin attacks were also justified with reference to an “imminent threat” from al-Qaeda, the same language used most recently by Trump officials to frame the drone strike against Iran’s General Qassem Soleimani at the Baghdad airport.

At the time, “Infinite Reach” was judged a “success” by a suddenly fawning Press that otherwise had fangs dripping with blood over the Lewinsky scandal.  Despite the rather obvious “Wag the Dog” optics of the operation, a Newsweek article at the time (August 30, 1998) went so far as to say that Clinton “looked presidential again,” just as the mainstream press has praised Trump on each occasion that he’s authorized cruise missile strikes against Syrian “targets” over dubious claims of chemweaps use by the al-Assad government.  The Newsweek article goes on to quote then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: “we are involved in a long-term struggle,” another familiarism from the “War on Terror” — or “terra,” as Bush Junior always, and un-ironically, pronounced it.  Clinton himself is quoted as saying “our target was terror,” while the Newsweek staff writers specifically place their piece in the context of “the war on terrorism.” The entire scaffolding for the soon-to-be “War on Terror,” then, was already in place during Clinton’s second term.  Clinton even set up phase two of the coming conflict, the invasion of Iraq, by signing into law “regime change” as official United States policy towards Iraq on Halloween, 1998.  Spookily enough, the Regime Changelings have been with us ever since, haunting…

It is worth noting, in this connection, that the Clinton administration initially welcomed the Taliban with open arms (so to speak) when they rose to still-contested power in that geopolitical expression of a country known as Afghanistan.  There once was a pipeline deal with a fossil fuel company called Unocal that the Clintonites were presumably quite eager to cash in on by dealing with the upsurgent Taliban, back in 1996.  As unlucky fate would have it, the deal fell through when the Taliban rejected the Unocal bid in favor of an offer for the same by an Argentinian outfit called Bridas, apparently on the advice of — who would have guessed? — Osama bin Laden, the ex-pat Saudi son-of-a-billionaire, himself.  Of course, this story may be the Thousand and First Arabian Night’s Tale, or even the Arab-Afghan Night’s nine-eleventh one…

The Clinton administration, by the way, never officially recognized the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan; in fact, only 3 countries did:  Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and, of course, Pakistan, where the Taliban was born and raised.  However, much like the Trump administration today, the Clinton regime then recognized the Taliban as the “non-state actors” in charge of the country, loosely defined.  The recent Trump deal with the Taliban is entirely Clintonesque, and is as fuzzy as it is lukewarm.

But to return to the foggy “Infinite,” as the mathematicians say:  the Barack Obushma administration managed to extend the poor promise of “Infinite Reach” to Libya and Syria, with predictably disastrous results.  Not only do these wars not end well:  they seemingly never end at all.  With all due respect to the Neo-fascist flu now known as the “novel Coronavirus,” the United States has been suffering from an absurdly serious case of Roman Legionnaires disease for decades, with no cure in sight.  Coughing, sneezing, wheezing; wizening yet not wisening, epidemiologists everywhere should take precautionary note:  War is not just a symptom of the disorder, but most likely the cause…

Crimes in Afghanistan: Fatou Bensouda’s Investigative Mission

It seemed an unlikely prospect.  The International Criminal Court has tended to find itself accused of chasing up the inhumane rogues of Africa rather than those from any other continent.  It has also been accused of having an overly burdensome machinery and lethargy more caught up with procedure than substance.  Critics fearing a behemoth snatching soldiers from the armed forces of various states could rest easy, at least in part.

Law tends to be a manifestation of power and international law, in particular, tends to be a manifestation of consensus.  And the powerful rarely give their consent in matters of trying crimes against humanity when it comes to their own citizens.  Qualifications and exemptions abound, often cited with a certain sneer.

This explains the sheer fury and curiosity caused by the decision of the ICC’s Appeals Chamber on March 5 authorising Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to proceed with an investigation into alleged crimes committed in Afghanistan from 2003.  The interest was not merely in the commission of crimes by any one force: the Taliban and various “armed groups”, members of the Afghan armed forces and “alleged crimes by the US Forces and the CIA” featured.  But the actions of US and Afghan forces was bound to arouse much interest, given a UN report alleging more killings in the first three months of 2019 than attributed to the Taliban.  (The figures, respectively, were 227 civilians killed by insurgent groups and 305 deaths caused by Afghan and international forces.)

The initial decision of the Pre-Trial Chamber II (April 12 2019) had gone against the Prosecutor’s efforts that had commenced in November 2017.  While the pre-trial chamber accepted that the brief established a reasonable basis to consider crimes that fell within the jurisdiction of the ICC, time had elapsed since the preliminary examination in 2006 and the evolving political scene in Afghanistan.

As ever, the jurisdiction of war crimes and crimes against humanity is a political thing: to authorise such an investigation, in the words of the 2019 media release, would have diverted “valuable resources prioritizing activities that would have better chances to succeed.”  Nor had cooperation with the Prosecutor been forthcoming in Afghanistan itself.  It was a decision that caused a fair share of consternation among human rights critics and activists.  One question kept being asked:  Had the ICC folded before pressure from the Trump administration?

The argument of pressure was a hard one to dispel.  In 2019, the Trump administration announced that it would revoke or deny visas to any members of the ICC connected with investigating alleged war crimes by US personnel in Afghanistan.  That body, charged US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, was “attacking America’s rule of law,” an interesting formulation suggesting how partial that rule can be for a certain country.

Despite this backdrop of intimidation, the Appeals Chamber had a change of heart.  According to presiding judge Piotr Hofmański, “The prosecutor is authorised to commence an investigation into alleged crimes committed on the territory of Afghanistan since May 1, 2003, as well as other alleged crimes that have a nexus to the armed conflict in Afghanistan.”  The pre-trial chamber had erred in identifying “additional considerations” as to whether the prosecutor could proceed with the investigation.  It was not for the body to consider “the interests of justice” as part of that authorisation, merely whether there was “a reasonable factual basis to proceed with an investigation, in the sense of whether crimes have been committed, and whether potential cases(s) arising from such an investigation appear to fall within the Court’s jurisdiction.”

Pompeo was sufficiently incensed by the decision to call the ruling a “truly breathtaking action by an unaccountable, political institution masquerading as a legal body.”  He also had the prospects of peace on his mind, considering the ruling disruptive given that it came “just days after the United States signed a historic peace deal on Afghanistan.”

Resistance against the ICC from the United States is far from new.  Henry Kissinger feared it, and said so, suggesting it would preside in thuggish majesty and impunity citing universal jurisdiction as its basis of operation.  His views were rebuked by former Nuremberg war crimes prosecutor Benjamin B. Ferencz.  “The innocent,” he remarked pointedly, “need not fear the rule of law.”

But fear and loathing for the ICC has been a recurrent theme.  In 2018, then national security adviser John R. Bolton, famed for his opposition to international institutions, insisted that the US would not “cooperate with the ICC.  We will provide no assistance to the ICC.  And we certainly will not join the ICC.  We let the ICC die on its own.”

Such a view sits in that particularly odd canon of US political thinking that dismisses aspects of international law – notably those involving breaches of human rights – as matters of convenience and sentiment.  Such a view holds that Washington’s enemies deserve trial and punishment at the hands of international law; alleged offences by US forces should be a matter of US jurisdiction.

It also bucks the idea put forth by US prosecutor Robert H. Jackson at the Nuremberg war crimes trials in November 1945 that international tribunals are not products “of abstract speculations nor … created to vindicate legalistic theories.”  Jackson’s enunciated views would see US officials participate, extensively, in the creation of tribunals in the Balkans and Rwanda.  Indeed, as Ferencz observed in 2001, numerous former presidents of the American Society of International Law and the American Bar Association acknowledged that “it would be in the best interests of the United States and its military personnel of the United States to accept” such a body.

While it is hard to see the US surrendering any soldiers for trial before judges of the ICC, the very acceptance that it has jurisdiction to investigate alleged crimes committed by such personnel enlarges its traditional and cautious scope.  International law has seen a turn up for the books.

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?

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.

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.