Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Afghanistan Calling!


Ten plus years ago, the United States (oops, NATO) invaded Afghanistan and quickly won the war against the militarily (technologically) inferior Taliban government. Taliban fighters fled to Pakistan. Washington and allies followed their victory by quickly losing the occupation challenge. As W. Bush and allies invaded Iraq, the Taliban crept back from Pakistan and undid the US war victory. So, some 250,000 troops (mostly US) and contractors (US-paid) still occupy that much-invaded but never truly conquered country.

Alexander the Great invaded twice (330 and 327 BC) and soon died in Iraq of “Baghdad tummy.” Some 20+ centuries later the English unlearned Alex’s lesson. They marched (big mistake) on Kabul. They took losses and finally withdrew in frustration.

In the 21st Century, the Soviets spent a decade of failure trying to subdue CIA-backed Afghans. Washington cheered and its generals thought they could do better than the Soviets. But after ten years of occupation, the UN reported higher civilian and military casualty rates than in preceding years — and with no clear road to meeting any realistic goals. The West set out to build “our kind of third world nation” – one with a bare façade of democracy, like elections that pass minimal scrutiny.

Similar to the Vietnam scenario of the 160s and 70s, US forces trained vast numbers of local cops and troops – some of whom don’t enjoy fighting potential brothers; others occasionally use their training and weapons to kill US and NATO soldiers.

Once again, (Vietnam?) nation-building re-entered the US vocabulary. Fighting goes with making an infrastructure and inculcating modern values like women’s rights, but the military comes first, so Afghan women wait – and their babies die prematurely at world record rates for lack of care (funding). Some still get stoned for offenses (acting like women) that confound westerners. Indeed, Afghanistan has always confounded the invaders from afar.

We obviously have a more rational society. Look at the facts. Despite overwhelming public disapproval, Congress between 2001-2008 allocated some $100 million a day for military purposes in Afghanistan. But all the NATO countries combined to cough up a whopping $7 million a day for non-military aid.

Congress feeds $120+ billion a year into the Afghan operation – far more than the Afghan national budget — so that we can show results: Tens of thousands of wounded and dead. No NATO control. Our President there (Hamid Karzai) may win a place in the Guinness Book of Records for corruption. Under his supposed rule elections proved his country had copies US democracy: low turn out and vote-rigging – like Florida in 2000.

Our ten years of paying for and training Afghan cops and spooks have also produced other dubious results unless one favors hanging detainees by their hands, beating them with cables, and twisting “their genitals until the prisoners lose consciousness.”

The NY Times, citing a UN report (Oct. 10), stated that such torture occurs systematically at “these sites run by the Afghan intelligence service and the Afghan National Police.”

NATO officials admit they knew of the abuses and in the summer stopped sending prisoners to some of the torture sites. But they did not make it public. US officials denied knowledge and continued to pour money into the very system that produced the routine torture.

Did US trainers close their eyes and ears? Or did US complicity coincide with possible benefits “from information obtained from suspects who had been tortured?” (New York Times, October 11, 2011)

The UN Convention Against Torture prohibits the transfer of a detained person to the custody of another state where there are substantial grounds for believing that the detainee is at risk of torture.

“Use of interrogation methods, including suspension, beatings, electric shock, stress positions and threatened sexual assault is unacceptable by any standard of international human rights law,” the report said (Alissa J. Rubin, New York Times, October 11, 2011). Did someone in the US command forget to read that?

US collaboration with other allies like Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Colombia and El Salvador have raised similar issues (2006 RAND Corporation report), but when it comes to war it’s “allies first, UN conventions second.”

October 7 marked the 10th anniversary of the invasion. Afghanistan has not achieved stability. In September, a suicide squad attacked near the U.S. embassy in Kabul. Under NATO occupation, opium production has increased – up 60% next year according to experts. President Obama, who received detailed reports on the non-progress, faces the dilemma posed to all Presidents who want to pull out but can’t. He hears Republicans – even those who demand he withdraw — in the upcoming election campaign shouting: “He’s weak. He lost the war.”

Like those in Luis Buñuel’s “The Exterminating Angel,” US presidents feel trapped by circumstances of their political reality – or political stupidity.

If he does withdraw now Obama will have nothing to show for all the death and destruction, not even the impending Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline, due to commence in 2012 and start oil flow in 2014. Without NATO forces there, forget it!

A year before elections, Presidents do what’s good for their re-re-elections.  These choices do not coincide with what’s good for the poor dogs fighting that war – or for the American psyche.

Saul Landau’s WILL THE REAL TERRORIST PLEASE STAND UP plays Nov 2 at Pomona College and Nov. 9 at University of North Carolina. For DVDs go to Counterpunch publiShed his BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD

SAUL LANDAU’s A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD was published by CounterPunch / AK Press.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians
Steve Early
In Bay Area Refinery Town: Berniecrats & Clintonites Clash Over Rent Control
Kristine Mattis
All Solutions are Inadequate: Why It Doesn’t Matter If Politicians Mention Climate Change
Peter Linebaugh
Ron Suny and the Marxist Commune: a Note
Andre Vltchek
Sudan, Africa and the Mosaic of Horrors
Keith Binkly
The Russians Have Been Hacking Us For Years, Why Is It a Crisis Now?
Jonathan Cook
Adam Curtis: Another Manager of Perceptions
Ted Dace
The Fall
Sheldon Richman
Come and See the Anarchy Inherent in the System
Susana Hurlich
Hurricane Matthew: an Overview of the Damages in Cuba
Dave Lindorff
Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled
Chandra Muzaffar
Cuba: Rejecting Sanctions, Sending a Message
Dennis Kucinich
War or Peace?
Joseph Natoli
Seething Anger in the Post-2016 Election Season
Jack Rasmus
Behind The 3rd US Presidential Debate—What’s Coming in 2017
Ron Jacobs
A Theory of Despair?
Gilbert Mercier
Globalist Clinton: Clear and Present Danger to World Peace
James A Haught
Many Struggles Won Religious Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Dear Fellow Gen Xers: Let’s Step Aside for the Millennials
Tom Clifford
Duterte’s Gambit: the Philippines’s Pivot to China
Uri Avnery
The Peres Funeral Ruckus
Reyes Mata III
Scaling Camelot’s Walls: an Essay Regarding Donald Trump
Raouf Halaby
Away from the Fray: From Election Frenzy to an Interlude in Paradise
James McEnteer
Art of the Feel
David Yearsley
Trump and Hitchcock in the Age of Conspiracies
Charles R. Larson
Review: Sjón’s “Moonstone: the Boy Who Never Was”