By Eric Margolis
After nine years of war in Afghanistan, costing over $100 billion in taxpayer money and 700 American lives, the full truth about this murky conflict remains elusive.
The government and media have colluded to paint the picture of a noble, patriotic, heroic, flag-waving American crusade in Afghanistan that is, alas, very far from reality. As the 19th century cynic Ambrose Bierce pointedly observed of patriots – “the dupe of statesmen; the tool of conquerors.”
And now we are being told by senior administration officials that al-Qaida’s new base and center of activity is…wait for it…in Yemen!
If that’s the case, why are 150,000 US and dragooned NATO troops still in Afghanistan? CIA chief Leon Panetta recently admitted there were no more than 50 al-Qaida personnel in Afghanistan.
What, then, are American and NATO troops doing there? The oil and gas of the nearby Caspian Basin and a desire to exclude China from the resource-rich region seems a likely answer.
Three interesting reports about Afghanistan emerged in Washington last week.
First, a political whitewash issued by the Obama White House claiming the war was going well and some US troops might be withdrawn next year. This ‘don’t worry be happy’ summary was trumpeted by the pro-war New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and other members of the government-friendly US media.
US generals spoke of “progress” in Afghanistan, whatever that means, as US forces were conducted a brutal campaign around Kandahar to crush resistance to the occupation and punish communities that supported Taliban.
Second, the Red Cross issued a grim report showing that Afghans were suffering widespread malnutrition and serious health problems after nearly a decade of Western occupation. So much for US-led nation-building.
Third, there were leaks about a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), the combined findings of all 16 US intelligence agencies. This key intelligence report is explosive and may not be fully revealed.
The NIE reportedly asserts that the Afghan War, now costing over $13 billion monthly, is at best stalemated; at worse, Western occupation forces are on the defensive and their vulnerable supply lines increasingly threatened. Taliban is expanding its sphere of control, particularly in northern Afghanistan.
Afghan president Hamid Karzai, who was installed into power by CIA, put it bluntly last year, saying the US-led war was “ineffective apart from causing civilian casualties.”
The new NIE may also restate a 2007 report that found Iran had no nuclear weapons program. The pro-war party in Washington is desperately trying to prevent its release or get the report altered.
Frustrated American generals and politicians, facing a failing war and the prospect of ruined careers, are blaming Pakistan for the war they cannot win.
There is not an iota of concern in Washington for Pakistan’s national interests, well-being, sovereignty, or the explosive problems in its Pashtun and Baluchi tribal regions. Washington wants Pakistan to follow orders, pure and simple. That’s why the US is paying Islamabad $2 billion per annum. Sepoys of the Raj are supposed to obey.
There seems almost no understanding in Washington that the US put a gun to Pakistan’s head in 2001 and has since been forcing it to follow policies inimical to Pakistan’s national interest and popular will.
It’s amusing watching Washington blast poor old Hamid Karzai in Kabul for corruption while the US is furiously bribing many top officials and generals in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Not to mention US collaboration with Afghanistan’s top heroin kingpins and communist war criminals. Pretty sordid stuff that will one day come out and cause a furor, just as CIA’s involvement in the Laotian and Central American drug trade did.
Last week came news that US air, land, and mercenary forces would penetrate ever deeper into Pakistan. WikiLeaks show that Pakistan’s feeble, mendacious, US-sustained government is quietly backing deeper US military involvement and targeted killings of Pakistanis.
The Pentagon is gripped by the misconception that “safe havens” in Pakistan are fueling resistance to western occupation. During the Vietnam War, the Pentagon was similarly convinced that eradicating communist safe havens in Cambodia and Laos were the key to victory. They were not. Invading them spread the war while weakening the US military position.
The so-called Pakistani safe havens are really all part of Pashtun tribal homelands that were sundered by the British imperialists in the 19th Century. Pashtun don’t recognize today’s Afghan-Pakistan artificial border. Taliban is not an invading army; it is mostly composed of local farmers and herdsmen who straddle the border.
Most Americans know less than nothing about Afghanistan or South Asia and have absolutely no comprehension of its complexities, size, or politics. The few that do, like experts in the State Department and CIA, are not listened to.
CIA, whose role is to supply the president with unbiased information, has become deeply politicized and biased. Thank President Ronald Reagan for this. The yes-men he installed at CIA told him and subsequent presidents what they wanted to hear.
This process culminated during the Bush administration when the CIA’s sycophantic Director, George Tenet, validated all the lies about Iraq to please the president and vice president – culminating in Tenet’s shameful ‘slam-dunk’ assurances that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
Today, CIA has become an active participant in the Afghan War, with its own little army of mercenaries and renegades, and an air force of Predator and Reaper drones.
The over-militarization of US foreign policy continues. What next? Will the Department of Agriculture get its own little army and air force? The State Department is already edging into a combat role in Iraq.
CIA’s reporting on the war has become seriously tainted by institutional bias and career concerns.
Wars are wonderful for career advancement. But you can’t fight a war and remain objective. As a result, Obama is getting a lot of bad information from people with axes to grind. He certainly is not listening to the people who know.
President Obama declared last week that the US would continue fighting al-Qaida in Afghanistan. He is clearly not telling Americans the truth.
Instead, we got a ludicrous scare campaign from the Obama administration about nuclear threats to US cities that was as dishonest and shameless as the mushroom cloud alarms of Condoleezza Rice. President Obama’s advisors on Afghanistan should be hiding in their cellars, not us.
The war’s brutality and destruction are growing. US forces around Kandahar are blowing up or bulldozing houses, assassinating suspected Taliban sympathizers and using mass reprisals against the civilian population. Death squads are hard at work murdering those suspected of backing Taliban and opposing western occupation.
Similar “pacification” tactics were used to break the resistance of the Iraqi city of Fallujah, a third of which was razed by US Marines. The Soviets employed similar tactics during their ten-year occupation of Afghanistan.
The same tactics were developed by Israel during its occupation of the West Bank, including giant security walls chopping up the landscape, blowing up houses, and night raids against suspects.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon is in something of a panic over America’s longest war. How can a bunch of lightly-armed mountain tribesmen in turbans fighting only part-time battle the world’s most powerful armed forces to a standstill?