Imagine you have a friend who wants to stick their tongue in a light socket. You tell them, “bad idea. It’ll hurt and that’s not necessary if you want to learn about electricity.”
But sure enough, they do it anyway. I’ve learned from other people’s mistakes so I don’t need to test it myself, but I can tell them that it’s going to hurt for a while, but they need to stop doing that, and the pain will go away and the lights will come back on. Instead, they tell you it’s a matter of pride and public perception, and keep doing it for another 17 years. Eventually, it is discovered that they kept detailed lab notes in which they document in exquisite detail that they knew it was a bad idea all along. Note: their tongue is still in the light socket.
The US had no strategy for what to accomplish, so it vaguely came up with a theory of “nation-building” and said that was the strategy. At that time, everyone who knew anything about Afghanistan told them “that won’t work.” I wonder if, to a certain degree, the “it won’t work” crowd made a mistake: often they added, “it’s been tried by the Achemanids, Alexander of Macedon, Genghis Khan, the British, and the USSR.” It has always seemed to me that a certain amount of the problem was US dirty warriors – the CIA murderers who failed in Vietnam – saying “we got it this time!” It’s as if they mistook people calling Afghanistan “The Graveyard of Empires” as a challenge rather than a warning.
I recall at the time, when they were talking about Bin Laden being in Tora Bora (it turns out that he literally walked out past US special forces) and my view was that the US should have deployed the 101st Airborne in a great big show of force, thoroughly investigated Tora Bora, and then left. Sort of a great big “no knock” warrant. There was no need to invade the country and replace its political system because anyone with knowledge of the area stepped back and said, “what political system?” The whole nation-building idea came along because there are companies like Halliburton and Brown and Root and Blackwater that make a lot of money attempting nation-building, and failing. They needed their turn at the trough.
So now we know that the US government and miliary knew it was a failure all along. Now, there has been a huge dump of documents indicating that the Afghanistan war was known to be pointless all along; the US is only there, …why? Well, it’s a great big way of justifying a lot of money being spent on the military, and it’s a field where the Iron Crosses of military glory grow. Look at the succession of clowns who have danced briefly across that stage: Stanley McCrystal, David Petraeus, Prince Andrew. The special forces guys got to sneak around in the dark playing Call of Duty with real splashes of blood, and the aviators got flight hours dropping fire out of airplanes onto Medcins Sans Frontieres hospitals. What the US got was a massive tumor-like growth in its military, and now the patient may bleed out if anyone tries to cut it back.
The New York Times’ coverage of the story is, to me, a litany of “stuff we already knew for a decade.” [nyt] but if you do know any militarists you can tell them “were you wondering where your national infrastructure projects went? They were turned into high explosive and jet fuel and dropped all over Afghanistan.”
Hectares of Opium Cultivated in Afghanistan 2017: 328,000
It’s a quick crop: you can make a bunch of money off it and it’s higher profit than stuff like rice that require a larger and more stable infrastructure for profitable growth.
Honestly, if I were on the receiving end of the US/allied assault (and was lucky enough to survive) I’d see shipping lots of future heroin to Europe and the US as a form of revenge. Shoot Afghanistan into your veins, you corrupt bastards, and die gasping in your own vomit.
The US response is straight out of the Vietnam War:
Despite billions of dollars to fight opium poppy cultivation, Afghanistan is the source of 80 percent of global illicit opium production.
Spend more, get less.
The other part that seems odd to me is that the US police state tried to create a baby police state in Afghanistan, without there being a state to police. Consider:
$87 billion to train Afghan military and police forces
That’s a lot of money. Just to give you a perspective: NYPD’s annual budget is $5bn. Realistically, Afghanistan’s problems are not a policing problem; they are losing an insurgency to the various tribal rulers and the Taliban; policing comes second to that. Policing is also a problem when historically there is no line between police and military. There’s a lot of cultural foundations there that can’t support the weight of a functioning police-state.
$24 billion on economic development
And that is the number I wanted to eventually bring down. 4 times more money being spent on military/police than on reconstructing a country that has been repeatedly bombed flat.
I can’t accept the idea that there are people in the US Government so stupid that any of this is news. I conclude then that it’s an ongoing scam: an attempt to jam the money-valve in the open and unlocked position. And, as usual, the money is really being spent on what matters: ourselves.
$1.4 trillion on veterans that have fought in post-9/11 wars by 2059
Those numbers are shockingly disproportionate. American heroes aren’t the only people getting blown up by friendly fire and IEDs. The Medcins Sans Frontieres casualties don’t even show up in that number, nor do the local casualties. That’s just what the US is willing to spend on its own self-inflicted wounds.
Taken all together, the recent report documents that the US Government are a bunch of dumb and sneaky motherfuckers. In a reasonable world, there would be 2 million protesters jamming Washington until the entire apparatus steps down. What is shocking is that this has been going on so long and there are still Americans in congress who don’t want to “cut and run” and who see this entire situation through the eyes of a high school boy with bad self-image problems and a severe dose of toxic masculinity. Everyone in the US is in on this, from the government to the media (which dutifully wrote articles about this “surge” or that “surge”) to the military (who blinged up on medals) to the chucklefucks on Main St who thank veterans for their “service.” Service? Service means you accomplished something politically significant beyond guarding some farmer’s opium poppy crop as part of a “political stability” operation.
Over at Daily Kos they describe the increase in poppy production since the US took over: [kos]
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) 2018 Afghan Opium Survey, Afghan farmers were cultivating about 60,700 hectares of opium poppies in the late 1990s, but around 121,400 hectares a year in the mid-2000s.
As the US occupation dragged on, opium cultivation generally climbed throughout the 2010s, peaking at more than 323,700 hectares in 2017.
Another massively successful US war on drugs.
I was surprised to learn that Afghanistan produces a total of about 9 tons of raw opium. That seems like not very much. I know the stuff is extremely potent and the milk from a poppy is mostly water; I once got some fresh poppy milk and rubbed some of the alkaloid on my gums – my mouth immediately went numb and stayed that way for an hour or so. Interesting stuff.