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If it’s Independence Day, then you can count on John McCain to be bunkered down in a remote outpost of the Empire growling for the Pentagon to unleash airstrikes on some unruly nation, tribe or gang. This July the Fourth found McCain making a return engagement to Kabul, an arrival that must have prompted many Afghans to scramble for the nearest air raid shelter.
From the press room at NATO command, McCain announced that “none of us could say we are on a course to success here in Afghanistan.” The senator should have paused for a reflective moment and then called for an end to the war. Instead, McCain demanded that Trump send more US troops, more bombers and more drones to terrorize a population that has been riven by near constant war since the late 1970s.
McCain’s martial drool is now as familiar as the opening notes to the “Law & Order” theme song. What may surprise some, however, is the composition of the delegation that signed up to travel on his frequent flier program, notably the presence of two Democratic Senators with soaring profiles: Sheldon Whitehouse and Elizabeth Warren. Whitehouse, the former prosecutor (aren’t they all?) from Rhode Island, has lately taken a star turn in the role of chief inquisitor of suspected Russian witches in the Senate intelligence committee hearings. Perhaps he finally located one selling AK-47s to the Taliban to replace the guns they’d gotten from the CIA. (We now know that it’s the Saudis–not the Russians–who have been covertly funneling money to the Taliban, though don’t expect the Trump to impose any sanctions on the Kingdom of the Head-choppers.)
For her part, Warren largely echoed McCain’s bellicose banter that Trump needs to double down militarily to finish off the Taliban, the impossible dream. No real surprise here. To the extent that she’s advanced any foreign policy positions during her stint in the senate, Warren has been a dutiful supplicant to the demands of AIPAC and the Council on Foreign Relations, rarely diverging from the neocon playbook for the global war on Islam. Warren’s Afghan junket is a sure sign of her swelling presidential ambitions. These days “national security” experience is measured almost exclusively by how much blood you are willing to spill in countries you know almost nothing about. It didn’t take long for Warren to matriculate to the company position.
Most Americans have no idea why we are in Afghanistan; it’s the longest running Fake War in American history. Some, as many as 20 percent according to a Gallup Poll, have no idea that we are still in Afghanistan. Osama Bin Laden and Mullah Omar are both long dead. The shattered remnants of Al Qaeda have fled to Pakistan and parts unknown. Hamid Karzai has come and gone. For the last six months, the US hasn’t even troubled itself to send an ambassador to Kabul.
A kind of convenient cultural amnesia has set in, abetted by a compliant press corps that has largely decamped from the Hindu Kush and now treats Afghanistan as if it is some kind of interstellar region, where photographers are occasionally dispatched to snap eerie debris clouds from the detonation of MOAB bombs. It’s no wonder that the few Americans who continue to support the war cling to the delusion that Afghanistan orchestrated the 9/11 attacks. It is the War that Time Forgot.
Nothing better illustrates the eclipse of US global power than the fact that Afghanistan refuses to be subjugated or even managed, despite 16 years of hard-core carnage. Since the first US airstrikes hit Kandahar in October 2001, more than 150,000 Afghan civilians have been killed. Still Afghanistan resists imperial dictates. Even after Obama’s shameful troop surge in 2010, an escalation that went almost unopposed by the US antiwar movement, the Taliban now retains almost as much control of the country as it did in 2001. And for that Afghanistan must be punished. Eternally, it seems.
As for Trump, in his quest to privatize as much of the federal government as possible the president is still apparently entranced with the idea of turning over much of the Afghan operation to military contractors. As McCain and Warren were issuing their war cries from Kabul, Trump and Company huddled with Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater Security, and billionaire financier Stephen Feinberg, owner of DynCorp, on how to replace US troops with mercenaries from their training camps.
Give Trump some credit. His war plan is refreshingly vacant of moral posturing. Instead he views the war through a greedily focused economic lens: Afghanistan as commodity. Over the course of 16 years, the cratering American operation in Afghanistan has consumed more than $1 trillion, a huge and nearly unchallenged benefaction to military contractors. In 2016, the Pentagon spent $3.6 million for each US soldier stationed in Afghanistan. A surge of 4,000 to 10,000 additional troops, either as “private military units” or GIs, will come as a welcome new infusion of cash to the dozens of defense corporations that invested so heavily in his administration.
The New York Time’s Maggie Haberman was thrilled by some most blood-curdling lines in Trump’s big speech on the war, Tweeting: “We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists,” says POTUS, in one of his more forceful/best lines of address.” All you need to do to earn the love of the “failing New York Times,” Donald, is to kill-kill-kill and not re-build what you destroy. Trump’s new Afghanistan plan replicates worst aspects of Obama’s awful Af-Pak strategy, with India thrown into the mix just to increase risk of nuclear war. If Trump continues with this neocon drift, HRC may get a 3 AM call from “the creep” asking her to replace Rexxon as Secretary of State….
If that living monument to the Confederacy Jefferson B. Sessions was serious about confronting the rising scourge of opiate addiction in the US, he would start by calling for an immediate end to US military operations in Afghanistan. Forget marijuana, the real gateway to heroin abuse is war. Since the start of Operation Enduring Freedom, opium production has swelled, now accounting for more than one-third of the wrecked Afghan economy. In the last two years alone, opium poppy yields have doubled, a narcotic blowback now hitting the streets of American cities from Amarillo to Pensacola. With every drone strike in the Helmond Province, a thousand more poppies bloom.
What I’m reading this week…
RIP John Abercrombie…
What I’m listening to this week…
Tell the Devil I’m Getting’ There as Fast as I Can by Ray Wylie Hubbard
Groovin’ in Greaseland by Rick Estrin and the Nightcats
Petits Artefacts by Nick Photinos
Dark Matter by Randy Newman
Changing Face by Curtis King, Jr
The Civilizing Mission
Edward Said: “Every single empire in its official discourse has said that it is not like all the others, that its circumstances are special, that it has a mission to enlighten, civilize, bring order and democracy, and that it uses force only as a last resort. And, sadder still, there always is a chorus of willing intellectuals to say calming words about benign or altruistic empires, as if one shouldn’t trust the evidence of one’s eyes watching the destruction and the misery and death brought by the latest ‘mission civilisatrice.’”