Blundering Forward in the Graveyard of Empires
by Eric Margolis: Will
Uncle Sam Go Postal in South Asia?
national security establishment – what used in Britain to be called
"imperialists" – is in a growing panic over the war in
Afghanistan which, in spite of America’s vast military and economic
power, and cornucopia of high tech wizardry, is being slowly beaten
by a bunch of lightly-armed but very fierce Pashtun mountain tribesman.
military strategist, Maj. Gen. J.F.C Fuller, defined war’s true
objective as achieving desired political results, not killing enemies.
Freedom – the dreadfully misnamed ten-year US occupation of Afghanistan
– has turned into Operation Enduring Misery.
After ten years
of military and civil operations costing at least $450 billion,
over 1,600 dead and 15,000 seriously wounded soldiers, the US has
achieved none of its strategic or political goals. As for Afghanistan,
it has suffered untold civilian casualties, villages shattered by
US bombing, night raids by death squads, over two million refugees
and a 30-year civil war.
At a time when
44 million Americans subsist on government food stamps and lack
the kind of medical care common to other developed nations, each
US soldier in Afghanistan costs $1 million per annum. CIA employs
80,000 mercenaries there, cost unknown. The Pentagon spends a staggering
$20.2 billion annually air conditioning troop quarters in Afghanistan
The most damning
assessment comes from the US-installed Afghan leader, Hamid Karzai:
America’s war has been "ineffective, apart from causing civilian
imperial goal was a favorable political settlement that would produce
a pacified Afghan state run by a regime totally responsive to US
political, economic and strategic interests; a native sepoy army
led by American officers in the manner of the British Indian Raj;
and US bases that threaten Iran, watch China, and dominate the energy-rich
All the claims
made about fighting "terrorism and al-Qaida," liberating
Afghan women and bringing democracy are pro-war window dressing.
CIA chief Leon Panetta admitted there were no more than 25-50 al-Qaida
members in Afghanistan. Why are there 150,000 US and NATO troops
there, supposedly chasing al-Qaida?
In fact, as
this writer saw himself in the early 1990’s, there were never more
than a small number of al-Qaida militants in Afghanistan or Pakistan.
Their primary mission was fighting the Afghan Communists and overthrowing
the post-Soviet Communist regimes of Central Asia.
real objective in South Asia was clearly defined in 2007 by US Assistant
Secretary of State Richard Boucher: to "stabilize Afghanistan
so it can become a conduit and hub between South and Central Asia
– so energy can flow south."
TAPI gas pipeline that the US has sought since 1998 is finally nearing
completion. But whether it can operate in the face of sabotage remains
to be seen. CIA is reportedly creating an 8,000-man mercenary force
to protect the pipeline which runs smack across Pashtun tribal territory.
Washington has been unable to fashion a stable government in Kabul.
The primary reason: murderous ethnic politics. Over half the population
is Pashtun (or Pathan), from whose ranks come Taliban. Tajik, Uzbek
and Hazara minorities fiercely oppose the Pashtun. All three minority
groups collaborated with the Soviet occupation from 1979-1989; today
they collaborate with the US and NATO occupation.
Most of the
Afghan army and police, on which the US spends $6 billion annually,
are Tajiks and Uzbek, many members of the old Afghan Communist Party.
The brutal Afghan national security service is populated by former
members of the notorious, Soviet KGB-created Communist KHAD secret
police. Taliban suspects captured by US and Canadian forces are
routinely turned over to the Afghan secret police for torture.
Tajiks and Uzbek are bitter enemies. In Afghanistan, the US has
built its political house on ethnic quicksand.
Afghanistan now produces 93% of the world’s most dangerous narcotic,
heroin. Under Taliban, drug production virtually ended, according
to the UN. Today, the Afghan drug business is booming. The US tries
to blame Taliban; but the real culprits are high government officials
in Kabul and US-backed non-Pashtun warlords.
A senior UN
drug official recently asserted that Afghan heroin killed 10,000
people in NATO countries last year. And this does not include Russia,
a primary destination for Afghan heroin.
So the United
States is now the proud owner of the world’s leading narco-state
and deeply involved with the Afghan Tajik drug mafia. No one in
Washington wants to talk about this shameful misalliance. One day
this scandal will burst into the open, as did US secret dealings
with drug barons in Laos and Central America.
The US is bleeding
billions in Afghanistan. Forty-four cents of every dollar spent
by Washington is borrowed from China and Japan. While the US has
wasted $1.283 trillion on the so-called "war on terror,"
China has been busy buying up resources and making new friends and
markets. The ghost of Osama bin Laden must be smiling.
The US can’t
afford this endless war against the fierce Pashtun people, renowned
for making Afghanistan "the Graveyard of Empires."
But the imperial
establishment in Washington wants to hold on to strategic Afghanistan,
particularly the ex-Soviet air bases at Bagram, Kandahar and Shindand.
The US is building
its biggest embassy in the world in Kabul, an $800 million fortress
with 1,000 personnel, protected by a small army of mercenary gunmen.
So much for withdrawal plans. Another such monster embassy, or "Crusader
castle," as bin Laden called it, is a building in Islamabad.
stumbling, confused US war in Afghanistan has now lasted longer
than the two world wars. The former US commander in Afghanistan,
Gen. Stanley McCrystal, just said Washington’s view of that nation
is "frighteningly simplistic." That’s an understatement.
possibility of stalemate or even defeat in Afghanistan, Washington
is trying to push India deeper into the conflict. This desperate
ploy, and nurturing ethnic conflict, will ensure another decade
of misery for Afghanistan and more dangerous instability for the
would do well to recall the sage words of founding father, Ben Franklin:
"there is no such thing as a bad peace, or a good war."
him mail] is the author of War
at the Top of the World and the new book, American
Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the
West and the Muslim World. See his
© 2011 Eric Margolis
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