Afghanistan And Iraq: Lessons For The Imperial

| Educate!

Above: If 150,000 NATO forces, along with Afghan forces of 350,000, did not stop the Taliban why would a core of 3,000 to 10,000 Americans be more effective? From “The Taliban are Winnning” by Tom Hayden. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images, 2014).

The photographs in the New York Times told contrasting stories last week. One showed two Taliban soldiers in civilian clothes and sandals, with their rifles, standing in front of a captured U.N. vehicle. The Taliban forces had taken the northern provincial capital of Kunduz. The other photograph showed Afghan army soldiers fully equipped with modern gear, weapons, and vehicles.

Guess who is winning? An estimated thirty-thousand Taliban soldiers with no air force, navy, or heavy weapons have been holding down ten times more Afghan army and police and over 100,000 U.S. soldiers with the world’s most modern weaponry – for eight years.

ISIS forces from Syria have taken over large areas of northern and western Iraq, including its second largest city, Mosul, and the battered city of Fallujah. ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria are estimated to number no more than 35,000. Like the Taliban, ISIS fighters, who vary in their military training, primarily have light weaponry. That is when they are not taking control of the fleeing, much larger, Iraqi army’s armored vehicles and ammunition from the United States.

Against vastly greater numbers of Iraqi soldiers, backed by U.S. weapons, U.S. planes bombing daily, 24/7 aerial surveillance, and U.S. military advisors at the ground level, so far ISIS is still holding most of its territory and is still dominant in large parts of Syria.

The American people are entitled to know how all this military might and the trillions of dollars spent in Iraq and Afghanistan, since 2003 and 2001 respectively, can produce such negative fallouts.

Certainly these failures have little to do with observing the restraints of international law. Presidents Bush and Obama have sent military power anywhere and everywhere, regardless of national boundaries and the resulting immense civilian casualties, in those tragic, blown-apart countries.

The current perception of the U.S. in these countries is that of invaders on a rampage. Recruiting motivated fighters, including a seemingly endless supply of suicide bombers, is easier when the invaders come from western countries that for over a century have been known for attacking, carving up boundaries for artificial states, intervening, overthrowing, propping up domestic dictators, and generally siding with oligarchic or colonizing interests that brutalize the mass of the people.

It hasn’t helped for these invasions to be supported by an alien culture rooted in the Christian crusades against Islam centuries ago, whose jingoism in the U.S. continues among some evangelical groups today.

But of course more contemporary situations are, first and foremost, the wonton destruction and violent chaos that comes with such invasions. With the absence of any functioning central governments and the dominance of tribal societies, the sheer complexity of the invaders trying to figure out the intricate “politics” between and within tribes and clans turns into an immense, ongoing trap for the western military forces.

When the U.S. started taking sides with the Shiites against the Sunnis in Iraq, or between different clans and tribes in Afghanistan, U.S. soldiers, not knowing the language or customs, were left with handing out $100 bills to build alliances. Our government air-shipped and distributed crates of this money. With the local economies at a standstill, public facilities collapsed, fear gripped families from violent streets and roads, and all havoc broke lose in the struggle for safety and survival.

Afghan soldiers, who are paid only $120 a month, will do almost anything to supplement their income, including selling weapons. At higher levels, bribes, payoffs, extortions create an underground economic system. The combination of lack of understanding, the systemic bribes, and the ensuing corruption has produced a climate of chaos.

Then there is the reckless slaughter of civilians – wedding parties, schools, clinics, peasant boys collecting fire-wood on a hillside – from supposedly pinpoint, accurate airplanes, helicopter gunships, drones, or missiles. Hatred of the Americans spreads as people lose their loved ones.

Our “blowback” policies are fueling the expansion of al-Qaeda offshoots and new violent groups in over 20 countries. On 9/11, the “threat” was coming from a corner of one country – northeastern Afghanistan. The Bush/Cheney prevaricator frenzy led to local bounty hunters taking innocent captives, falsely labeled as “terrorists,” who were sent to the prisons in Guantanamo, Cuba. These actions have damaged our country’s reputation all over the world.

All this could have been avoided had we heeded the advice of retired, high-ranking military, national security, and diplomatic officials not to invade Iraq and their advice not to overreact in Afghanistan. But the supine mass media, and an overall cowardly Congress let the lies, deceptions, and cover-ups by the Bush regime go unchallenged and, as Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) put it, Bush/Cheney “lied us into the Iraq War.”

It isn’t as if the Taliban and ISIS are winning the “hearts and minds” of the local people. On the contrary, while promising law and order, they treat local populations quite brutally, with few exceptions. But the locals have long been treated brutally by the police, army, and militias jockeying for the spoils of conflict. Unfortunately, there is still no semblance of ground-level security.

All Empires fail and eventually devour themselves. The U.S. Empire is no different. Look at the harm to and drain on our soldiers, our domestic economy, the costly, boomeranging, endless wars overseas and what empire building has done to spread anxieties and lower the expectation level of the American people for their public budgets and public services.

Not repeatedly doing what has failed is the first step toward correction. How much better and cheaper it would be if years ago we became a humanitarian power – well received by the deprived billions in these anguished lands.

What changes are needed to get out of these quagmires and leave a semblance of recovery behind? Press those gaggles of presidential candidates, who war-monger with impunity or who are dodging this grave matter, for answers. Make them listen to you.

  • larrysherk

    Nader’s story is precisely what is meant by “war is all blowback”. Any war, or other aggressive act that we entertain and begin, we have also lost. The world has outgrown war and it will be very helpful when we figure that out.

  • Robert H. Stiver

    To the great, eminent Ralph Nader: Ralph, Ralph, you should really speak out and write more and much more about the torment of the Christians and Muslims of Palestine, caught in the criminally psychotic maw of militant/political Zionism…as aided and abetted copiously by the Zionist-controlled U.S. monster. Palestine Is Still The Issue.

  • Nelson Betancourt

    No one can argue against the reasoned, logical and sane arguments that Ralph Nader is making here and has made for many years about the trajectory of our country. It is why I have supported his bids for the Presidency of the United States. However, it seems to me that we are asking criminal and insane people in government (only a few) who have a vested interest in destruction, war and chaos to respect the law and humanity. These craven individuals are propped up by “reasonable” politicians who seem to think this destruction and mayhem is normal. These politicians need to be voted out of office. It is up to us become “unreasonable” and not put up with this destruction and disorder.

  • kevinzeese

    I know Ralph and that he believes Palestine is one of the most important issues in the world. He speaks out on it often.

  • Robert H. Stiver

    Kevin, thank you. I “know” Ralph too: I was his volunteer-citizen “leader” in Hawaii in 2004, trying to obtain ballot access via petition for his presidential quest (Matt Zawisky stayed in my home a few days; I met Ralph face-to-face only once). I failed Ralph, about 160 signers short of the 7,000-plus we needed. I think I understand the political and societal pressures on him — as on ANY American of prominence — but I stand by my statement. All of us — not just Ralph — should be screaming, incessantly and angrily, for ending the illegal occupation, full justice, dignity et al for the Palestinians…even to the detriment of other causes that might be dear to our hearts and consciences. (As one proposal: Could you or another close advisor to Ralph ask him to come out strongly, screamingly, for Dr. Jill Stein’s Green Party in the 2016 presidential race? Last I checked, the Greens’ online plank for justice for the Palestinians — and resistance to the Zionist chokehold on the U.S. landscape via money, arms, kneejerk diplomatic obeisance — is as straightforward and good as any I’ve seen. I have no doubt that Dr. Stein would break the “entangling alliance” that is strangling the Palestinians, and us. Sadly, like Ralph and others with, before and after him, the duopoly rules: she hasn’t the chance of the proverbial snowflake in hell to attempt to right the US ship of state. BUT: if Ralph would promote her cause (yes, angrily and screamingly), the arc of justice might, just might, begin to be nudged in the direction of Palestine and its valiant people.)

  • Aquifer

    I agree – Nader should come out for Stein – having voted for him 4 times, I was quite disappointed in his lack of support for her in ’12, and his silence now …

  • Jon

    At the high level, they are Demagogues and Repugnants.

  • Robert H. Stiver

    Thanks for a great comment, Jon! I was once (2005-2011) an ‘Olelo/public-access TV producer, and my co-producer and I sought repeatedly to establish a link to, and an awareness of, the occupations of Hawaii and Palestine. (My wife is Okinawan/Uchinanchu, so there are other cases of occupation….) My obsession with Palestine (52 years) prevents me from true activism in other areas, but my heart is with all those oppressed and occupied.
    “…mass defections…”: YES!

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  • Jon

    I much appreciate your response Robert. Let’s talk. I can be reached at 207 549-7787, or leave me a message,OK?