Zaman Stanizai is professor of Mythological Studies at the Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara.
"The Pentagon knowingly sells this deadly stalemate to the American people as progress to cover up the military's hidden agenda of "fight till victory" camouflaged as "peace through strength." This is why 58% of the American public believes that the war in Afghanistan is winnable while at the same time 56% believe in a drastic drawdown and withdrawal of U.S. troops out of Afghanistan as soon as possible."
"But for the military peace doesn't yield any dividends especially when peace breaks up in the middle of a ‘good' war. For the military there is an inherent conflict of interest in waging wars with money, adventure, and opportunity for rapid promotion, fame, and excitement as dividends."
"The patriotism of many sincere Americans is questioned when they suggest supporting our troops by brining them home. Yet those who support them ‘unequivocally' ignore their miseries after they return. Of particular concern is the true loss of American lives that the high rate of suicide and attempted suicides conceals."
We Must Wage War on War to Keep the Republic Public
Aug 30, 2011
As the euphoria of Bin Laden's death dies down, voices are raised to consider the mission accomplished and begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. Since the cause has been removed, the effect should cease to exist as well. Yet the recent top-level Pentagon and CIA shake-ups are indicative of a more aggressivemilitary stance in Afghanistan. At the same time there are reports that the Taliban insurgency has grown significantly amid Pentagon claims of "tangible progress." The so-called "total security incidents" were approximately the same in the Oct. 2010-Mar. 2011 period as in the previous one of 2009-2010."(1)
The Pentagon knowingly sells this deadly stalemate to the American people as progress to cover up the military's hidden agenda of "fight till victory" camouflaged as "peace through strength." This is why 58% of the American public believes that the war in Afghanistan is winnable while at the same time 56% believe in a drastic drawdown and withdrawal of U.S. troops out of Afghanistan as soon as possible.(2)
But for the military peace doesn't yield any dividends especially when peace breaks up in the middle of a ‘good' war. For the military there is an inherent conflict of interest in waging wars with money, adventure, and opportunity for rapid promotion, fame, and excitement as dividends.
The reputation of the U.S. military is damaged by the increasingly higher number of corruption incidences reported recently in the media among the rank and file. From the psy-ops, to the kill teams, and now the bribery scandals in which the military has virtually become a partner in crime.
Lower rank military officers act upon publicly stated sentiments of their hard-line superiors, like Defense Secretary Robert Gates: "This is precisely the kind of pressure we believe will lead to reconciliation and reintegration" (3) of the Taliban with intense vengeance as seen the pictures of Rolling Stone magazine;(4) proving that the horror of Bagram and Abu Ghraib may have not only been a case of a few bad apples, but a whole rotten barrel. A case in point is that of an Afghan contractor Noor Alam who pleaded guilty in federal court in Chicago to bribing Illinois National Guardsman Army Maj. Christopher West, head of operations on Bagram Air Base for $27,000 to direct contracts to the Alam's Northern Reconstruction Organization. "Alam was promptly contracted to supply the base with bunkers and barriers, a contract that netted Alam's company more than $1 million."(5) The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the case is part of a broader inquiry into fraudulent military contracts in which West has admitted taking tens of thousands of dollars in bribes from other Afghan contractors.(6)
Michael Hastings recently revealed in his Rolling Stone article: "A U.S. Army general in Afghanistan ordered soldiers specializing in ‘psychological operations' to manipulate visiting members of Congress into providing more troops and funding for the war." "How do we get these guys to give us more people?" he demanded. "What do I have to plant inside their heads?"(7)
In the Rolling Stone article, Lt. Col. Michael Holmes says that he was ordered by Gen. William Caldwell, a three-star general in charge of training Afghan troops, to perform psychological operations on visiting VIPs. When he refused, he was officially reprimanded. Caldwell seemed more eager to advance his own career than to defeat the Taliban. "We called it Operation Fourth Star."(8)
The U.S. military's eagerness to derail any attempt for a peaceful resolution in order to prolong the war gives credence to a once easily dismissed speculation that Bin Laden may have been ‘allowed' to slip away under circumstances where American forces had mastery over land and air. It is argued that Bin Laden provided the necessary pretext for the U.S. military to invade two strategically important countries from where two vast world trade regions—the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea—can be controlled—some might say a better trade value than the two World Trade Center towers. The building of the largest U.S. embassy in Baghdad and military bases in Afghanistan validates the argument.
Lawmakers like Carl Levin (D-Mich.) "have grown increasingly concerned with the political clout of a generation of younger, often press-savvy military commanders."(9) Even the President is outflanked and outmaneuvered by these celebrity generals with status: "McChrystal and his strong ally, Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the U.S. Central Command, are quotable stars in today's modern media; their wartime budgets not only are large but also give them exceptional discretion that is the envy of their foreign policy partners in the State Department."(10) Reminiscent of the Soviet era, military officers appear as guest ‘experts' on the media-turned-Pentagon mouthpiece to advocate war and imbedded reporters distort images to shape the perception of a glorified war, distracting the American public from the true cost of war.
Our career diplomat, Richard Holbrooke was weary of the "structural similarities between Afghanistan and Vietnam" and opposed the military ‘surge.' "Reconciliation—that was what he was working toward in Afghanistan, and building up the civilian and political side that had been swamped by the military," Marton recalled. "The whole policy was off-kilter, way too militarized."(11)
With Richard Holbrooke and George Mitchell out of the picture President Obama is surrounded by generals will undermine his whole foreign policy agenda. As Obama is considering a substantial draw-down from Afghanistan, the military is dragging its feet and Secretary Gates essentially contradicts the President when he says: "There will be no rush to the exits."(12) This is the threat of the military-industrial-congressional complex President General Eisenhower had warned us about in his farewell address. Congress's failure to pass the "Afghanistan Exit and Accountability Act" is an indication that President Eisenhower's warning has not been heeded.
The patriotism of many sincere Americans is questioned when they suggest supporting our troops by brining them home. Yet those who support them ‘unequivocally' ignore their miseries after they return. Of particular concern is the true loss of American lives that the high rate of suicide and attempted suicides conceals. According to Aaron Glantz's award-winning investigative report more Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans "are dying here than when they were in uniform."(13) Add to this the catastrophic injuries including PTSD and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), the substantially higher incidence of spousal and substance abuse resulting in thousands of broken families and more than 9,000 unemployed war veterans,(14) one can easily conclude that we are not winning this war.
If the terrorists had one aim, it was without a doubt to end the U.S. imperial hegemony that spends twice the amount of the next 25 countries combined. This is not a mere sloganeering, but what Katrina vanden Heuvel calls "a veritable empire of bases."(15)
According to a bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, there are approximately 865 US military bases around the world—over 1,000 if those in Iraq and Afghanistan are included.(16) These bases cost the American taxpayer $250 billion a year(17) and generates tremendous amount of resentment from the locals where protests holds signs that read: "U.S. TROOPS SEXUAL TERRORISTS." In Afghanistan where Karzai's government is presently being coerced into agreeing to the building of more American bases, resentment to the American presence is spreading beyond ‘the Pashtun south.'
Back home there is the biggest heist in history, the $6.6 billion missing cash the Pentagon cannot account for. "Throughout the Iraq war hundreds of millions of dollars were nefariously taken by contractors, Iraqi officials and even U.S. military personnel through graft, theft and extortion."(18) Al Jazeera puts the corrected figure of the heist at $18.7bn - three times more than the reported $6.6 billion. "There is a lot of money missing during the first American administration of Iraqi money in the first year of occupation…. The Bush administration flew in a total of $20 billion in cash into the country in 2004. This was money that had come from Iraqi oil sales, surplus funds from the UN oil-for-food programme and seized Iraqi assets."(19) According a Los Angeles Times report "the US government was supposed to safeguard the stash under a 2004 legal agreement it signed with Iraq,"(20) hence making Washington responsible for the cash that has disappeared. The estimated $10 billion a month(21) cost of war and the ‘reverse Robinhood' of corporate capitalism that has burdened Americans with $16.4 trillion national debt casts a long shadow over the future of this nation.
Contrast that with the precarious state of the re-privatization of the Republic that Bill Moyers sums up as follows: "The escalating, accumulating power of organized wealth is snuffing out everything public, whether it's public broadcasting, public schools, public unions, public parks, public highways."(22)
It's time to reflect and reshape our fogged perception, as the mission of ‘war against terrorism' is rapidly becoming the illusion it was the success of a single intelligence operation aimed at a target, i.e. ‘Bin Laden' instead of a tactic, i.e. ‘terrorism,' proved that the nearly ten-year-long war was a waste of lives, time, and resources. Whether Bin Laden was an imminent threat to our security or a bogyman shouldn't matter any more.
If there is going to be a collapse of the American empire, it will only be because through our indifference we became the foot soldiers for a misguided foreign policy licensed by American exceptionalism that tramples on others. There are no military solutions to political problems. Modern military trains the youth to take the life of another as the rite of passage. This primitive mindset contrasts starkly with our technological achievements. We must wage war on war as a rite of passage for the collective whole to sustain peace and nurture the human soul so that we can keep the Republic public.
- Tom Hayden. "U.S. Military Admits: We Don't Understand Afghan Insurgency" The Peace and Justice Resource Center - The Peace Exchange Bulletin, May 13, 2011.
- Pew Research Center. June 15-19, 2011. N=1,502 adults nationwide. Margin of error ± 3.5.
- Jeremy Scahill. "Killing Reconciliation," The Nation, November 15, 2010.
- Mark Boal. "The Kill Team," Rolling Stone, April 14, 2011.
- The Associated Press, "Afghan contractor bribed Illinois Guardsman" – The Chicago Tribune, May 12, 2011.
- Frank Main. "Afghan contractor guilty of paying $27,000 bribe to Illinois Guardsman," The Chicago Sun Times - Staff Reporteremail@example.com May 12, 2011.
- Michael, Hastings. "Another Runaway General: Army Deploys Psy-Ops on U.S. Senators," Rolling Stone, FEBRUARY 23, 2011.
- Jon Walker. "Army Psy-Ops Revelation Bears Striking Resemblance to Military-Industrial Complex Lobbying," FDL, February 24, 2011.
- David Rogers. "Who's in charge: Generals or President Obama?" POLITICO, 12/6/09.
- David Rogers. "Who's in charge: Generals or President Obama?" POLITICO, 12/6/09.
- Nicholas D. Kristof. "What Holbrooke Knew," New York Times, May 14, 2011.
- The Associated Press. "Gates: No Rush For U.S. Troops To Leave Afghanistan," NPR, June 4, 2011.
- Aaron Glantz "Death Toll For Vets – Back Home" Queena Kim's interview on Off-Ramp KPCC.org May 27, 2011 with Glantz based on his book, The War Comes Home: Washington's Battle against America's Veterans.
- Bob Woodruff (et al.) "Coming Home Homeless: The New Homeless Among Veterans" Washington, December 26, 2010 based on an interview with Christiane Amanpour on ABC's ThisWeek.
- Katrina vanden Heuvel. "Around the Globe, US Military Bases Generate Resentment, Not Security." The Nation. June 14, 2011.
- Hugh Gusterson. "Empire of bases." Atomic Scientists. March 10, 2009.
- Anita Dancs. (edit. Miriam Pemberton) "The Cost of the Global U.S. Military Presence." Institute for Policy Studies, July 2, 2009.
- Jonathan W. Flickr. "The greatest theft ever? The curious case of $6.6 billion missing from Iraq reconstruction funds." Interview with Patt Morrison. KPCC, June 14, 2011.
- Jane Arraf. "Missing Iraq cash ‘as high as $18bn.'" Al Jazeera English June 19, 2011.
- Paul Richter. "Missing Iraq money may have been stolen, auditors say." Los Angeles Times, June 13, 2011.
- The Pentagon estimates the cost of war at $5.6 billion a month, but The Peace and Justice Resource Center, Culver City, CA (tomhayden.com) quoting senior members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee estimates the cost at $10 billion a month.
- Bill Moyers. "Bill Moyers on His Legendary Journalism Career: Democracy Should Be a Brake on Unbridled Greed and Power" interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now.org June 8, 2011.