Biden’s Moral Hazard

Photograph Source: thierry ehrmann – CC BY 2.0

After I resigned from my position with the State Department in Afghanistan in 2009 due to that war’s escalation, I was asked to meet with the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board (PIAB). One of the heads of the PIAB at the time wanted to know why the things I was saying about the Afghan war, echoed by military, diplomatic and intelligence officers he knew personally, were not being communicatedofficially to the President. The simple answer was the honest answer: President Obama was being systemically lied to by the people advising him and running the war.

Next month will mark a year since US newspapers published the Afghan Papers, a mass trove of secret US government documents that irrefutably detailed a coordinated effort by the US government, through three presidential administrations, to lie to the American people and their elected leaders, about the war in Afghanistan. Of course, these lies of the Afghan War followed the lies that made possible the US invasion and destruction of Iraq. The 2011 war in Libya was another war built on lies, as documented by the British Parliament. Slips of the tongue and leaks by senior US officials, including the incoming US President, have shown the US and its allies’ role in the Syrian war to be in support of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. Lies, perjury and propaganda characterize what the US people have been told with regards to torture; intelligence surveillance of their phones and computers; the incredibly high rate of civilians killed by US drones, including American citizens; and the presence of US forces in Africa, including hiding knowledge US soldiers have been killed and wounded in countries that senior members of Congress had no idea US troops were in.

The lies to elected officials and the American people continue. This month, Ambassador James Jeffrey, explained to journalists how he intentionally lied to the President of the United States about the number of troops in Syria. In case you think this is fine because the President was Donald Trump, remember it was the computers of Democratic Senators who were hacked and monitored by the CIA in retaliation for the Senate’s investigation of the CIA’s torture program.

When the numbers of military contractors killed and the deaths by suicide of Afghan and Iraq veterans are included in the total, the numbers of young Americans killed in these wars reaches nearly 25,000. More than 50,000 US service-members have been wounded, with more than a half-million veterans permanently disabled by traumatic brain injury and an equal number suffering from PTSD. Overseas, more than a million people have died, tens of millions have been made refugees, and entire nations have been economically, environmentally and psychologically devastated. The running financial cost of the wars is $6.4 trillion, to include almost $1 trillion in interest and debt payments, while every year the US spends more than $1.2 trillion on its military and national security.

As the Biden Administration begins its transition, names are floated in the media for potential cabinet and senior-level officials. Any of the names included for positions at the Pentagon, Foggy Bottom or in the National Security Council are those of men and women who have been essential to the last 20 bloody years of catastrophe, chaos and confusion of American war policy. If someone walked into your workplace with a resume cataloging two decades of wasteful, counter-productive and malfeasant failures would you hire them? Yet, from all indications from the Biden transition team, that seems to be exactly the plan.

Joe Biden has promised to “be the most progressive president in history.” If Biden is serious about that, then his progressivism must extend to foreign and military policy and must address the mistakes, follies and crimes of the last 20 years. Allowing those who consistently and intentionally participated in the systemic lying that enabled these wars means a Biden presidency begins burdened with moralfallacy and hazard, and only gives evidence the US and the world are headed for more death and waste.

Matthew Hoh is a member of the advisory boards of Expose Facts, Veterans For Peace and World Beyond War. In 2009 he resigned his position with the State Department in Afghanistan in protest of the escalation of the Afghan War by the Obama Administration. He previously had been in Iraq with a State Department team and with the U.S. Marines. He is a Senior Fellow with the Center for International Policy.