STOP THE WARS:Thoughts on Afghanistan

Lately I’ve been reading Oliver Stone’s and Peter Kuznick’s The Untold Story of U.S. History. It’s a terrific read.  In fact, I gave hardback copies to all the members of my family for Christmas. The book’s final chapter on the Obama administration devotes lots of space to Afghanistan. In brief, here’s what it says:

There is no way the U.S. can “win” in Afghanistan. In fact, no one knows what “winning” might mean. That’s because the exact purpose of continued presence in Afghanistan is unclear. Originally, it was to dislodge the al Qaeda brain trust and fighters from the country. Now, we’re told, fewer than 100 such “terrorists” remain there. Most al Qaedans are now based in Pakistan. So the mission has morphed into preventing the Taliban from regaining control of the country. Most likely, the real reason for hostilities is Afghanistan’s vast mineral resources which are of supreme interest to multinational mining corporations.

In any case, the U.S. continues its military operations that impoverish not only the Afghan people, but our own country.  In other words, the United States is pouring vast sums of money down a rat hole – money that could be better used to address problems at home. It’s amazing that Republicans and Democrats alike are calling for austerity measures here while wasting trillions (!) there on a hopeless cause. If they truly want to balance the budget, STOP THE WARS!

For its part, the Karzai government is hopelessly corrupt. The would-be president was “elected” by a massively fraudulent process recognized as such by practically all observers. Graft constitutes the very purpose of seeking office in Afghanistan. Bribery is a way of life. Banking scandals involving Karzai’s relatives have rocked the country and enriched his family.  At one point, Karzai even threatened to join the Taliban.

Meanwhile, President Obama has lacked the courage and integrity to own his position as Commander in Chief and stop the war. Virtually everyone outside his hawkish Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, and Generals Petraeus and McChrystal has advised him to do so. Yet Obama’s obsequiously deferred to the military brass at every turn, and has doubled down on a losing cause with troop surges and waffling on withdrawal deadlines.

All of this reveals the genius and success of Osama bin Laden’s strategy to repay the United States for its crimes against the Muslim world. The day after 9/11 bin Laden enumerated those transgressions quite clearly. They had nothing to do with “hating our freedom.” Instead he pointed to more than eight decades of the West’s exploiting the political economy of the former Ottoman Empire, to unqualified U.S. support of Israel in its oppression of the Palestinians, and to its desecration of Muslim holy places of Mecca and Medina by stationing foreign troops there following the First Gulf War.

Bin Laden wreaked his havoc in New York and in Washington’s Pentagon for a reported cost of $50,000. That’s what preparation and implementation cost to hijack those airplanes and fly them into the World Trade Center and Pentagon. In response, the United States has fought two illegal wars at the cost of more than $4 trillion, bankrupting itself in the process. It has disgraced itself by violating international law in its refusal to prosecute the war criminals responsible for such atrocities.

The U.S. has also shredded its own Constitution by suspending habeas corpus, routinely violating the 4th Amendment’s protections against unlawful search and seizure, and claiming the right to execute even its own citizens without trial. Additionally, the United States has also lost any claim to its alleged “exceptionalism” by its practices of torture and rendition and by routinely employing brutal death squads in Iraq and Afghanistan and their remotely controlled counterparts in its programs of drone assassinations in at least five countries. In the meantime, bin Laden’s strategy has American soldiers killing themselves more efficiently than their al-Qaeda enemies.

In other words, on an investment of $50,000 bin Laden has brought the U.S. economy to its knees, undermined its self-confidence, defeated the U.S. military, and has ruined the reputation of a country once widely admired throughout the world. And the bleeding continues; the returns are still coming in. So much for the protection of “defense” budgets currently shelling out more than a billion dollars each day!

What to do about such suicidal madness? It’s as simple as one, two three: (1) STOP THE WARS.  (2) Reinvest in U.S. infrastructure and job programs the millions wasted each day fighting Afghanistan’s heroic people who polls show want the U.S. out of their country. (What we call “terrorists” are defending their own borders from foreign invaders and brutal occupiers. They are the very people our government organized and funded as “freedom fighters” when they were terrorizing the Russians with the same tactics now being used against U.S. troops.) (3) Reconfigure U.S. military policy, cutting the Pentagon’s budget by at least 50% so that its purpose becomes defending our borders rather than the interests of multinational corporations which couldn’t care less about the United States or its people.

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Mike Rivage-Seul's Blog

Emeritus professor of Peace & Social Justice Studies. Liberation theologian. Activist. Former R.C. priest. Married for 45 years. Three grown children. Six grandchildren.

3 thoughts on “STOP THE WARS:Thoughts on Afghanistan”

  1. The clear winner in any war is in my view the few who make trillions out of its financing, investment and production of the weapon and operation of same.
    In that sense America and the European moguls (started) and won the 2nd WW, Korea and Vietnam Iraq Afghan wars…plus suppliers (to both sides) like IBM, Ford, Gm Ge, Morgan, Melon and Rothschilds etc. That is why there is a likelihood of war with Iran or…pick a -stan…it stimulates and sustains business. The cannon fodder dont count except in employment stats. The 2nd WW and Hiroshima was a boon for all the pigs at the trough. Presidents are mostly stooges.
    In a press conference later with Gen Eisenhower speaking of Americas “power for good” he was asked what was meant by America’s power for good. After a long pause he answered “I dont know”.
    I would suggest as step one the pope would refuse the sacraments and excommunicate all Catholic war participants. Forget about the “just war” malarkey…and concentrate on the number of angels on pin-heads!



  2. I believe very strongly, that, to not question your government is unpatriotic. On that score I give you high marks. Having said that, and to quote former Senator and Ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.”

    A few facts then to consider:

    1. The planning and execution of 9-11 cost an estimated $500,000, not $50,000 as you claim (see 9-11 Commission Report).

    2. More than three million people work for the Department of Defense. Another three million are employed by the defense industry directly and indirectly. If we cut the Pentagon budget by 50 percent as you suggest, three MILLION more people would be unemployed. Say what you want about the DOD, it’s a HUGE and highly successful, government jobs program.

    3. The potentially “vast mineral wealth” in Afghanistan is not of “supreme interest to U.S. multi-nationals.” China and India are the only two countries that have made any significant moves towards securing mining rights. Anyone who know anything about mining or Afghanistan and its security situation will tell you that such extraction operations are years, if not decades away from breaking ground and prospects are speculative at best. The U.S. did not invade Iraq for oil and we didn’t invade Afghanistan for minerals.

    4. This Afghan war has cost about $1.2 trillion in 11 years. That’s a lot to be sure, but merely a drop in the bucket when you consider our national debt is over $16 trillion. This year the US Government will spend close to $120 billion on Afghanistan operations. The 2012 deficit was just over $1 trillion dollars. So, how does ending the war “balance the budget?” Where does the other almost $900 billion come from? Even if you halved the DOD budget ($600 billion in 2012), as you suggest and ended the war in Afghanistan, you’d be about $600 billion short of a balanced budget. Oh, and you’d have 3 million new people making federal unemployment claims.

    5. Our economy produces about $16 trillion worth of activity every year. Our government has a national debt of about $16 trillion too. That’s not very different than a person who earns $100,000 a year having a home mortgage for $100,000 or even $100,000 in credit card debt. Except the US Government can print its own money, which happens to be the global reserve currency. This is all to say that, though these wars may have been expensive, they haven’t bankrupted us. Not even close.

    6. The 2009 presidential election in Afghanistan was admittedly flawed. Maybe more than 1 million fraudulent ballots were stuffed into ballot boxes. Even if you take away a million votes from Karzai however, he still garnered more votes than the rest of the presidential field –combined. He was also required to get over 50 percent of the vote constitutionally to avoid a run off election, which is hard to do when there are more than 20 candidates in the field. Bill Clinton only got 43 percent of the vote in 1992 and he was only running against George H.W. Bush and Ross Perot. Karzai’s electoral success, despite the allegations of fraud, makes him a much more legitimate, democratic leader than Fidel Castro, Vladimir Putin or, take your pick of authoritarian rulers.

    7. Finally, it seems to me that it would be very easy for someone who has never served their country in uniform or in a overseas mission to label a country they’ve never even visited like Afghanistan a “rat-hole” and dismiss the plight of more than 30 million Afghans (half of whom are under the age of 18) to find a sustainable peace a avoid a return to brutal Taliban rule as a “hopeless cause.” To do so however, in my view, does a great disservice to our men and women in uniform and our diplomats oversees who, everyday, risk their lives to protect the freedoms we all enjoy as Americans. Still, I’m proud to live in a country like ours where dissent and questioning of government is not only tolerated but celebrated and strongly protected. In that vein, I hope you will continue to ask important questions of your government, just please be a bit more mindful with your facts.


    1. Dear BRS:
      1. I think my point remains whether the cost of 9/11 was $50,000 or $5 million.
      2. Justification of a military budget of more than a billion dollars a day as a federal jobs program??? Illegally invading sovereign states and killing more than a million people — a jobs program??
      3. Is there any association between Afghanistan’s danger to the mining efforts of the multinationals you reference and the fact that they are intimately associated with the country’s invaders?
      4. My point wasn’t about balancing the budget but about freeing up money for constructive rather than destructive projects like the illegal wars.
      5. Our “representatives” want us to think social programs bankrupt us, but that these illegal and unnecessary wars do not!


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