Afghanistan is No Threat to America

by DAVE LINDORFF

American foreign policy is moving from the absurd to the ludicrous.

Back in 2002, President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney managed to snooker the people of the United States, or at least a large number of us, into believing that Iraq, a pathetic Third World country ruled by a corrupt tin-pot dictator, was a grave danger to America, akin to Hitler and Nazi Germany in 1940. We learned how absurd that claim was when two hundred thousand American troops backed by the mightiest air force the world has ever seen, slammed into the country in March, 2003, and the Iraqi military simply folded up, and the Saddam regime along with it.

Now, President Obama appears ready to make an even more absurd claim, namely that the gravest threat facing this nation is posed by the country of Afghanistan. Now I’ll grant that Afghanistan, with a population of 33 million, is at third bigger than Iraq, which had a population of 24 million, at least until the US invasion and occupation led to the death of over a million of Iraqis. But aside from that, Afghanistan, a land-locked nation that lies between Iran and Pakistan, is far weaker and more primitive even than Iraq.

By any measure except population, Afghanistan suffers in comparison to Iraq. It has no air force at all. It barely has an army. Most of its people are illiterate and live in rural areas. Its people are extremely poor—among the poorest in the world. In many ways, Afghanistan is actually less a country than a region populated by a variety of feuding tribes—tribes that have different languages and cultures and even different racial backgrounds.

Do we really believe that this desperately poor and war-torn nation poses an existential threat—or any threat at all—to the US?

Oh please.

Okay, we know that there is a gang of mostly Arab terrorists going by the name of Al Qaeda that is hiding out in eastern Afghanistan, and that its leaders have allied this organization with the Taliban—the ousted rulers of Afghanistan who were pushed out of the capital of Kabul by US forces in 2001 following the 9-11 attacks. But since that relatively easy military incursion, all the US and its 34,000 troops in Afghanistan have managed to accomplish, besides installing a crooked puppet regime in the capital city, has been to create more and more hatred for the US as an occupying power, by killing large numbers of Afghan civilians through brutal raids on villages and by use of overwhelming and inherently indiscriminate airpower and remote-controlled missile-equipped drone aircraft.

Based upon the ludicrous premise that Afghanistan is the biggest military threat facing the US today, our new president, Barack Obama, is preparing to send another 30,000 US troops to that country, effectively doubling the number of American soldiers already there. Inevitably, this will mean more killing and more anger towards America among the local population.

Al Qaeda members, meanwhile, have largely moved away from the battle to Pakistan, a much larger nation to the east of Afghanistan, which raises the question: What the hell are we trying to do in Afghanistan?

Let’s get it straight. No Afghan has ever, to my knowledge, harmed the United States. I’m not sure most Afghanis, if they could scrape together the money to go to the US, would even know where this country is. (Okay, most Americans probably couldn’t tell you where Afghanistan is, either, but at least we have libraries, and computers, which the geographically challenged can turn to in order to locate the place. That’s not true for the people of Afghanistan, who have neither.)

For eight years, America has been attacking and destroying a country that is about as dangerous a threat to America as is Mali, or Haiti, or the Comoros Islands.  If Obama follows through and doubles the number of troops fighting over there, it will just make this whole policy twice as stupid.

I’m sorry. I know Al Qaeda is a nasty gang, well funded by sources in Saudi Arabia, and well trained in the fine arts of terrorism by the CIA, which back in the day saw the group as a good proxy for harassing Soviet troops that were occupying Afghanistan. But if eight years of constant war by US troops in Afghanistan has been unable to stop or even seriously undermine Al Qaeda, I cannot understand the logic of doubling down on the bad bet.

If the US wants to defeat Al Qaeda, it needs to enlist the support of the governments of the countries where Al Qaeda is operating, and it needs to eliminate the outside financial support for Al Qaeda. The first prong of this strategy would require convincing the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan to get serious about driving out Al Qaeda. That should not be difficult. If we stopped killing Afghanis, and if we stopped firing rockets into the sovereign nation of Pakistan, killing innocent Pakistanis in the process, and massively insulting the government of Pakistan, and if we instead offered aid to both countries, contingent upon their taking serious action to eliminate Al Qaeda, we would quickly see these foreign intruders in both countries driven out.  As to the second prong, why is the US continuing to treat Saudi Arabia as a valued ally if it continues to allow wealthy Saudis to sent financial support to Al Qaeda? Yes Saudi Arabia is a major provider of oil to the US, but the US is the major supplier of arms to the government of Saudi Arabia. It’s easy to see where the US could tighten the screws to end the flow of money to terrorists.

And then there is this: The Vietnam War destroyed the presidencies of Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson. The Iraq War destroyed the presidency of George Bush.  Obama, if he orders an expansion of the war in Afghanistan, and thus takes ownership of that conflict, will be well on the way to destroying his own presidency.

DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based journalist. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now available in paperback edition). His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net

 

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
September 01, 2015
Mike Whitney
Return to Crisis: Things Keep Getting Worse
Michael Schwalbe
The Moral Hazards of Capitalism
Eric Mann
Inside the Civil Rights Movement: a Conversation With Julian Bond
Pam Martens
How Wall Street Parasites Have Devoured Their Hosts, Your Retirement Plan and the U.S. Economy
Jonathan Latham
Growing Doubt: a Scientist’s Experience of GMOs
Fran Shor
Occupy Wall Street and the Sanders Campaign: a Case of Historical Amnesia?
Joe Paff
The Big Trees: Cockburn, Marx and Shostakovich
Randy Blazak
University Administrators Allow Fraternities to Turn Colleges Into Rape Factories
Robert Hunziker
The IPCC Caught in a Pressure Cooker
George Wuerthner
Myths of the Anthropocene Boosters: Truthout’s Misguided Attack on Wilderness and National Park Ideals
Robert Koehler
Sending Your Children Off to Safe Spaces in College
Jesse Jackson
Season of the Insurgents: From Trump to Sanders
August 31, 2015
Michael Hudson
Whitewashing the IMF’s Destructive Role in Greece
Conn Hallinan
Europe’s New Barbarians
Lawrence Ware
George Bush (Still) Doesn’t Care About Black People
Joseph Natoli
Plutocracy, Gentrification and Racial Violence
Franklin Spinney
One Presidential Debate You Won’t Hear: Why It is Time to Adopt a Sensible Grand Strategy
Dave Lindorff
What’s Wrong with Police in America
Louis Proyect
Jacobin and “The War on Syria”
Lawrence Wittner
Militarism Run Amok: How Russians and Americans are Preparing Their Children for War
Binoy Kampmark
Tales of Darkness: Europe’s Refugee Woes
Ralph Nader
Lo, the Poor Enlightened Billionaire!
Peter Koenig
Greece: a New Beginning? A New Hope?
Dean Baker
America Needs an “Idiot-Proof” Retirement System
Vijay Prashad
Why the Iran Deal is Essential
Tom Clifford
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident: a History That Continues to Resonate
Peter Belmont
The Salaita Affair: a Scandal That Never Should Have Happened
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Cycle of Crises
Andrew Levine
Viva Trump?
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Behind the Congressional Disagreements Over the Iran Nuclear Deal
Lawrence Ware – Marcus T. McCullough
I Won’t Say Amen: Three Black Christian Clichés That Must Go
Evan Jones
Zionism in Britain: a Neglected Chronicle
John Wight
Learning About the Migration Crisis From Ancient Rome
Andre Vltchek
Lebanon – What if it Fell?
Charles Pierson
How the US and the WTO Crushed India’s Subsidies for Solar Energy
Robert Fantina
Hillary Clinton, Palestine and the Long View
Ben Burgis
Gore Vidal Was Right: What Best of Enemies Leaves Out
Suzanne Gordon
How Vets May Suffer From McCain’s Latest Captivity
Robert Sandels - Nelson P. Valdés
The Cuban Adjustment Act: the Other Immigration Mess
Uri Avnery
The Molten Three: Israel’s Aborted Strike on Iran
John Stanton
Israel’s JINSA Earns Return on Investment: 190 Americans Admirals and Generals Oppose Iran Deal