Mary Beaudoin: On the 12th Anniversary of the U.S. war on Afghanistan

According to Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, all the years of the American wars on Afghanistan and Iraq will end up costing $6 Trillion ($2 trillion of that has been borrowed from foreign investors); this amount is the equivalent of $75,000 for every American household per year.

By Mary Beaudoin  October 5, 2013

This speech was given at a peace action at Hiawatha Avenue and Lake Street in Minneapolis on October 5, 2013.

Afghanistan is called the graveyard of empires. It’s been 12 years since the U.S. went to war on Afghanistan. Is it any coincidence that our own government is now shut down for the fourth day over budget issues?

We have about 60,000 military in Afghanistan (supposedly set to decline by about half in Feb. 2014) and, according to the Congressional Research Report in May there were 108,000 private contractors there! (Accountability for the money spent is as scandalous as it was in Iraq after the invasion. Even the Pentagon can’t account for what all the contractors are working on, according to the Office of Government Budget and Management.) This extraordinary effort is expended while it is reported that there are only 75 Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

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We have heard that one of the plans for pulling troops out at the end of 2014 leaves 9,000 military and 9 major bases. And the U.S. also wants to keep Special Forces there. Because of the way they operate, they are among the most dangerous to Afghan people.

Now, in the U.S., as people across the country gather to protest this war’s anniversary, it is interesting that the headlines in the New York Times read that Washington is considering the zero option: a complete pull out of Afghanistan. But I’m not holding my breath as Afghanistan isn’t negotiating as of now. The Afghan government is holding out on a couple of sticking points: They want secure borders. And they demand that the U.S. stop house raids, night raids, and other ways innocent Afghans are being killed. (Aimal Faizi, speaking for Afghan President Karzai, has said that “killing people in homes and killing people in villages is bringing the war on terror to Afghans.”)

Raiding people in their homes is the same thing that has gone on here in the U.S., so the war on terror has come home to us here, too—the raids have been on the homes of some of our most active antiwar activists!

Also, not reported in our media much but reported elsewhere: The U.S. is supplying Taliban with weapons now. There have been deliveries to southern Afghanistan. And the Taliban is fighting against the Afghan government that the U.S. is supposedly supporting!

The Taliban has an office in Qatar that the U.S. visits to work with them—supposedly for planning negotiations to bring them together with the Afghan government to stop the war and violence, though the Taliban say they will never agree with the Afghan government. It is increasingly apparent that the U.S. is willing to work with groups and supply more than one side, which keeps the war going. On Wednesday, international news sources reported that the Afghan Interior Ministry condemned the U.S. military for delivering a shipment of weapons to the Taliban in Zabul Province in southern Afghanistan.

The courageous Afghan antiwar activist Malalai Joya says the U.S. is spreading fear so that there is a perceived need to maintain U.S. bases and that Afghanistan will be more dangerous than ever for the people. In an interview on Democracy Now! this week, she said:  “Imperialism and fundamentalism have joined hands to create barbarism.”

What has this war achieved?

The cost to American taxpayers: $640 Billion. “U.S. taxpayermoney is going into the pockets of warlords, druglords and criminals” according to Malalai Joya. (Several years ago she was a member of the Afghan Parliament before she was evicted for denouncing them.)

According to Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, all the years of the American wars on Afghanistan and Iraq will end up costing $6 Trillion ($2 trillion of that has been borrowed from foreign investors); this amount is the equivalent of $75,000 for every American household per year.

More than 2,200 American military dead, thousands more wounded.

The U.S. is more isolated and hated than ever abroad.

The cost to Afghans:  There has been a callous disregard for Afghan life. Afghans have suffered death, injury and destruction of their homes, livelihoods and infrastructure. The casualties are the result of deliberate killings and being killed while traveling, sleeping, at wedding parties, at checkpoints, during night raids, through deliberate killings, getting caught in the crossfire.

Afghan people have lost limbs or have died from IED buried in the ground. Nick Turse commented “Many have been killed by anti-government forces but that would never have happened if the U.S. hadn’t been there in the first place. More than six million people have personally experienced some kind of crime or violence to their household in 2011 alone.”

It has been difficult, nearly impossible to get a count of how many Afghan people have died. Nick Turse, in writing about the results of war, tried to determine how many Afghans had died for a major project at the Nation magazine. He reported that when Victoria Nuland was the U.S. ambassador to NATO (yes, the U.S. had an ambassador to NATO!), UN human rights workers in Afghanistan were cautioned about disclosing civilian casualties.

For years, UN workers in the field felt that they were being pressured or forced to underestimate the number of civilian deaths by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the US-led coalition in Afghanistan. They disputed what the UN offices counted as civilians deaths and wanted to count them as combatant deaths. At the end of last year, Lt. Col. Marion Carrington expressed concern to the publication, The Marine Times, that children were also being identified as potential threats to Afghan and coalition forces.

Now it has been reported by sources considered reliable that nearly 4,000 civilian casualties were counted in the first half of 2013—with a large percentage of the dead being women and children. The number has risen over last year. Many were killed in the crossfire.

Afghanistan is the largest producer and exporter of opium and hashish in the world, which exactly parallels U.S. being there. In a devastated land and economy, it has become the most lucrative crop with the most agricultural viability. It has been used in part to finance the war. High officials in the Afghan government are involved in the drug trade. Two million Afghans are addicts. Afghan women and children are the largest opium addicts—the reason being that their lives are so restricted and oppressed that it is used to escape their hardships.

In Afghanistan:

  • Government corruption is rampant.
  • Afghan resources are being looted.
  • The Taliban are more empowered than ever.
  • Women experience terrible oppression and poverty. Rankings reveal that Afghanistan is the worse place in world to be a woman.
  • Horrendous prisons were established. (This week 433 Afghan prisoners at Bagram Air Force base were declared innocent by the Afghan government, which took it over, and they will be released.)

In the U.S.:

  • We are seeing more and more poverty here in the U.S. Cuts to safety net and social programs. Homelessness. Bank foreclosures. Cuts to food programs. Head Start cuts.
  • People who tell the truth about war are under attack. Whistleblowers are locked up. Chelsea Manning is in military prison, Julian Assange is living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Edward Snowden is living in exile in Russia. People in the U.S., including several in the Twin Cities, are living under the cloud of a subpoena, Malalai Joya living underground in Afghanistan.

Malalai Joya

Hear Malalai Joya at Augsburg College, Foss Center, Minneapolis
October 15, 7 p.m. Free and open to the public.

We must all be aware that war has been transitioning to a new phase: Rather than “boots on the ground,” it is a lighter, more mobile military to make quicker incursions into countries:

  •  Drone warfare (satellite driven)
  • Special operations (CIA and military units acting covertly and their actions being deemed “classified” so no one can get the info on what they do)
  • Targeted assassinations. Also, mercenaries and proxies commit random acts of terror and violence to disrupt a society
  • Aerial bombing (especially since Yugoslavia)
  • Cyberwarfare (for example, Styx virus used on Iran)
  • Sanctions and embargoes or sieges (forcing countries to start to fail economically and hoping they will blame their own leadership for increased austerity)
  • Psy-ops: Psychological operations to convince or coerce people with information and more likely disinformation—for example pushing sectarian and ethnic divides in other countries, as well as propaganda in the U.S.
  • Partnerships with countries (NATO, NATO-aligned countries like the Gulf Council of Arab countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia and Bahrian, and the Mediterranean Dialogue countries such as Turkey, etc.)

They call it “working smart”!

Then there is “soft power” that uses economic pressure and blackmail of countries to get cooperation:

  • Propaganda, controlling the message.
  • Smart power: replacing international law with Responsibility to Protect (R2P), which under the guise of protecting a population—often expressed as saving the people from: “an evil dictator who is killing his own people”—in order for the U.S. to take over a smaller, weaker country (and every country is smaller and weaker in military technology than the U.S.)
  • Invading a country without UN sanction is considered a war crime. Is that why the US and its Responsibility to Protect advocates are working so hard to change the UN to accept R2P as an “international norm”? One of its most prominent advocates is the new U.S. ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power.
  • However things are not working so well for the U.S. any more. In spite of all the problems within the UN, the U.S. bombing of Syria has been prevented through this body. The U.S. isn’t able to get all the cooperation it once did in the Security Council. Russia, China and even our former BFF the UK are not going along with bombing.

Syria: Each new war is a symptom, not the disease.
The disease is militarism. The cure is not to send more weapons.

Those of us here today represent a lot of American people who don’t want more war! As we continue to protest at this busy intersection , more and more people honk their support or wave as they drive by. We can take heart with the fact that the numbers of people who don’t want war is increasing.

Mary Beaudoin is a WAMM member and the editor of the WAMM newsletter. 

One comment

  1. […] warfare are constantly being developed. With elements of both, some may fall in a category of gray. Both overt and covert weapons were outlined in a talk by WAMM member Mary Beaudoin and included drone warfare; special operations […]

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