John Kerry, back before he was a pompous windsurfing Senate apologist for American empire, back when he wore his hair long and was part of a movement of returned US military veterans speaking out against the continuation of the Vietnam War, famously asked the members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at a hearing, “How do you ask a man to be the last one to die for a mistake?”
That was 1971, and the Vietnam War continued to drag on for two more years, with more Americans dying, and with many more Vietnamese being killed, until finally the last US combat troops were gone. But even then the fighting continued, with the Army of South Vietnam armed and financed by the United States, until April 30, 1975, when the last resistance ended and Vietnam was liberated and reunified and finally at peace.
During those two terrible years between Kerry’s statement and the end of US combat operations, American soldiers stationed in Vietnam knew that the war was lost, and knew they were there for no reason other than keeping President Nixon from looking like he had lost a war, particularly as he faced re-election during the campaign year of 1972. There was, understandably, massive resort to drugs, including marijuana, opium, heroin, LSD and others, as well as alcohol. There was the fragging of commanding officers who were too aggressive about sending their troops into danger. There was insubordination and insurrection and there was desertion.
Now consider the situation in Afghanistan. Once again a war has been lost by the US, this time to forces far weaker and more poorly organized than the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese army. Once again American troops are being asked to keep fighting for a mistake — this time the 2001 fantasy of the Bush/Cheney administration that it could make a client state out of Afghanistan, a mistake that President Obama doubled down on after taking over the White House, when he called Afghanistan the “good war” and committed another 30,000 troops there, plus ordering up an aggressive kill campaign of night raids, assassinations and the heavy use of pilotless armed drone aircraft.
The difference this time is that these troops are hearing their commander in chief tell the American public that he is going to end the whole thing at the end of 2014 (assuming of course that he is still commander in chief then). He is saying that the war, now opposed by almost three-fourths of the American people according to recent polls, will be ended in two and a half more years no matter what the situation is on the ground in Afghanistan.
The American forces in Afghanistan know they have already lost the war there. And they also know that as the drawdown of troops begins from that war-torn country, they will be hit harder and harder by the Taliban and other forces trying to take back the country from the US and from the compradore leaders who have been serving as the lackeys to the US. They know too that as soon as the last of them has boarded the last plane out, or perhaps even earlier, the current corrupt Afghan leadership will be hopping a commercial flight out too, to join their money in Switzerland or Abu Dhabi or some other safe haven, and the Taliban will come marching into Kabul to take over from them.
How much worse must those soldiers feel than the US soldiers in Vietnam, who at least didn’t have an end-point held out in front of them to taunt them. Today’s American soldiers and Marines in Afghanistan fight staring at a surrender date at which point all their fighting and killing and dying and being will be acknowledged as having been in vain. The American soldiers in Vietnam in 1971 or 1972 could at least pretend that after they left, the South Vietnamese government might at least try to fight on and establish itself.
In Afghanistan, the soldiers being ordered to fight on can have no such illusions. Soldiers in the Afghan army and police, whom US forcers are training, supposedly to be able to take over from them, are turning their guns on the Americans with alarming frequency. Just today, the Pentagon cited, as “good news” (!), word that Afghan security services had disrupted 160 planned attempts by their uniformed countrymen to kill US soldiers and marines.
That’s gotta be a downer if you wear a US uniform over there.
I predict that the next two and a half years of pointless war in Afghanistan will be a terrible scene of drug abuse (there’s no shortage of opium and heroin in the country, perhaps the leading producer of the drug in the world), of terrible carnage of civilians as increasingly automated remote killing methods are employed to make up for the lack of motivation among the troops, and of US casualties, as the Taliban resistance grows increasingly confident of its power and its impending victory.
The “government” of Afghanistan, meanwhile, knowing its days are numbered, will be preparing its exit, with money spirited out of the country, while the police and army, knowing that they will ultimately pay a deadly price for serving the US master, and too poor to buy their way out of the country, will increasingly turn on American forces, or simply switch to what they know will be the ultimate winning side. This is all totally predictable.
The end, then, is not in question.
The only question is, why on earth would we here in America allow this disaster to drag on for another two and a half years, just to provide cover for our current failed crop of political and military leaders?
Dave Lindorff is a founder of This Can’t Be Happening and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He lives in Philadelphia.