Category Archives: War

An Empire in Love with Its Afghan Cemetery, by Pepe Escobar

By now the brighter lights in the US government know why Afghanistan is called the graveyard of empires. From Pepe Escobar at

One cannot but feel mildly amused at the theatrical spectacle of the US troop pullout from Afghanistan, its completion day now postponed for maximum PR impact to 9/11, 2021.

Nearly two decades and a staggering US$2 trillion after this Forever War was launched by a now immensely indebted empire, the debacle can certainly be interpreted as a warped version of Mission Accomplished.

“They make a desert and call it peace,” said Tacitus – but in all of the vastness of the Pentagon there sits not a single flack who could imagine getting away with baldfacedly spinning the Afghan wasteland as peaceful.

Even the UN bureaucratic machinery has not been able to properly account for Afghan civilian deaths; at best they settled for 100,000 in only ten years. Add to that toll countless “collateral” deaths provoked by the massive social and economic consequences of the war.

Training and weaponizing the – largely inefficient – 300,000-plus Afghan Army cost $87 billion. “Economic aid and reconstruction” cost $54 billion: literally invisible hospitals and schools dot the Afghan landscape. A local chapter of the “war on drugs” cost $10 billion – at least with (inverted) tangible results: Afghanistan now generates 80% of the world’s opium.

All these embarrassing facts disappear under the shadow play of 2,500 “official” departing troops. What really matters is who’s staying: by no means just a few out of some 17,000 “contractors,” over 6,000 of whom are American citizens.

“Contractor” is a lovely euphemism for a bunch of mercenaries who, perfectly in tune with a shadow privatization drive, will now mingle with Special Forces teams and covert intel ops to conduct a still lethal variation of hybrid war.

Of course this development won’t replicate those David Bowie-style Golden Years in the immediate post-9/11 era. Ten years ago, following the Obama-Petraeus surge, no fewer than 90,000 contractors were dancing to the Hindu Kush groove, lavishly compensated by the Pentagon and dabbling in everything from construction, transportation and maintenance to “enhanced interrogation services.”

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The True Meaning of the Afghan “Withdrawal”, by Alfred McCoy

You cannot understand the U.S. presence in Afghanistan without understanding the drug trade. Alfred McCoy, who wrote the magnificent The Politics of Heroin, CIA Complicity In The Global Drug Trade, is the perfect man to explain this story behind the story in Afghanistan. From McCoy at

The True Meaning of the Afghan “Withdrawal”

Will the Nightmare of Saigon’s Fall Return in Kabul?

Many of us have had a recurring nightmare. You know the one. In a fog between sleeping and waking, you’re trying desperately to escape from something awful, some looming threat, but you feel paralyzed. Then, with great relief, you suddenly wake up, covered in sweat. The next night, or the next week, though, that same dream returns.

For politicians of Joe Biden’s generation that recurring nightmare was Saigon, 1975. Communist tanks ripping through the streets as friendly forces flee. Thousands of terrified Vietnamese allies pounding at the U.S. Embassy’s gates. Helicopters plucking Americans and Vietnamese from rooftops and disgorging them on Navy ships. Sailors on those ships, now filled with refugees, shoving those million-dollar helicopters into the sea. The greatest power on Earth sent into the most dismal of defeats.

Back then, everyone in official Washington tried to avoid that nightmare. The White House had already negotiated a peace treaty with the North Vietnamese in 1973 to provide a “decent interval” between Washington’s withdrawal and the fall of the South Vietnamese capital. As defeat loomed in April 1975, Congress refused to fund any more fighting. A first-term senator then, Biden himself said, “The United States has no obligation to evacuate one, or 100,001, South Vietnamese.” Yet it happened anyway. Within weeks, Saigon fell and some 135,000 Vietnamese fled, producing scenes of desperation seared into the conscience of a generation.

Now, as president, by ordering a five-month withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by this September 11th, Biden seems eager to avoid the return of an Afghan version of that very nightmare. Yet that “decent interval” between America’s retreat and the Taliban’s future triumph could well prove indecently short.

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John Bolton should stop promoting battles “for which he is not to fight”, by Dan McKnight

John Bolton has never met a war he didn’t like. Nor has he ever met one in which he fought. The latter fact undoubtedly explains the former. From Dan McKnight at

The hawkish former national security advisor has a history of pushing for wars and speaking for those who actually served in them.

When President Joe Biden announced a new date for the full withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Afghanistan, there arose like clockwork a great, melancholic moan from the same media figures who have been defending the war for the past 20 years. Perhaps none was so despondent as John Bolton, who as Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor himself abetted the delay of a prospective exit.

So when I first read Ambassador Bolton’s recent article at Foreign Policy — ‘Bring the Troops Home’ Is a Dream, Not a Strategy — how could I, as the founder of BringOurTroopsHome.US, not take it as a personal challenge?

Minimizing the risks of continued occupation, Bolton mentions that “the last U.S. combat death occurred in February 2020.” But this is a direct result of the Trump administration’s Doha agreement and decision to negotiate a withdrawal date with the Taliban. President Biden’s four-month delay, from May 1 to September 11, may indeed imperil the safety previously assured to our soldiers. Imagine what would transpire if Bolton had his way and we actually announced another two-decade extension.

Bolton does admit there is “widespread public support for bringing the troops home” — a supermajority of Americans, including a supermajority of Democrats and a majority of Republicans, endorse President Biden’s new September withdrawal plan. Curiously, however, Bolton omits the opinion of the men and women who he wants to keep fighting his war.

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Nuclear Climate Change: Washington Heats Things Up, by Brian Cloughley

By all means, the American government should make nuclear war more probable. From Brian Cloughley at

We have been moved yet another step closer to planetary destruction, Brian Cloughley writes.

On April 29 Tom Engelhardt, a respected commentator on world affairs, published a piece examining America’s everlasting wars and concluded “The question that Americans seldom even think to ask is this: What if the U.S. were to begin to dismantle its empire of bases, repurpose so many of those militarized taxpayer dollars to our domestic needs, abandon this country’s focus on permanent war, and forsake the Pentagon as our holy church? What if, even briefly, the wars, conflicts, plots, killings, drone assassinations, all of it stopped? What would our world actually be like if you simply declared peace and came home?”

As he well knows, the answer is that the world would be a better, safer and much more attractive place in which to live. But, as he laments, there seems to be little chance of that happening, because there will be no change of mind or policy on the part of the Military-Industrial Complex that spreads its wings from Washington to the furthest part of the United States, the country that could lead the world in pursuit of peace.

We are all concerned about climate change because it is having such an adverse impact on people in so many countries and is likely to continue to be the greatest threat to global stability — apart from the other change that is firmly under control of the movers and shakers in Washington’s corridors of power.

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Time for a Foreign Policy of Adequacy, not Primacy, by Doug Bandow

American foreign and military policy should be about protecting Americans, not what our rulers consider American “interests.” From Doug Bandow at

Perhaps the biggest problem with U.S. foreign policy is the belief that Americans are born to rule the world. American exceptionalism means being convinced that citizens of this nation have the mandate of heaven to kill whoever and destroy whatever is necessary to impose their will on every nation and person on the planet. For the good of humanity, obviously!

If that seems harsh, consider Washington’s record. Over the last half century no country has gone to war as often. Sanctioned as many nations. Destroyed as many countries. Ravaged as many societies. Created, fomented, or fueled as many civil wars. At least since the end of the Cold War the US also may have caused more deaths than any other state. And displaced more people. In sum, in recent years no other government has done as much harm while its officials pompously swaggered about the world issuing imperious dictates, praising themselves sanctimoniously, and blaming others for the resulting death, destruction, and chaos.

Hundreds of thousands or perhaps millions killed. Reflect upon the graveyards filled with America’s victims. Millions displaced. Consider the communities destroyed and emptied after the US intervened. Unimaginable hardship imposed on tens of millions of people. Gaze upon the consequences of militarized social engineering by self-satisfied, well-compensated, and extraordinarily comfortable US policymakers, oblivious to the world around them.

All because American officials believe that they are entitled to treat other people as pawns in a global chess game and decide “the price is worth it,” as UN Ambassador and later Secretary of State Madeleine Albright declared when callously dismissing the deaths of a half million Iraqi babies. After all, she emphasized, America’s elite stand so much higher and see so much further, entitling them to do whatever is necessary to get their way.

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Escobar: US, Europe, & The Vienna JCPOA ‘Shadowplay’, by Pepe Escobar

Iran doesn’t need nuclear weapons to wreak plenty of havoc in the Middle East. From Pepe Escobar at

None of the actors can admit that revival of JCPOA pales compared with the real issue: Iranian missile power…

Few people, apart from specialists, may have heard of the JCPOA Joint Commission. That’s the group in charge of a Sisyphean task: the attempt to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal through a series of negotiations in Vienna.

The Iranian negotiating team was back in Vienna yesterday, led by Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araghchi. Shadowplay starts with the fact the Iranians negotiate with the other members of the P+1 – Russia, China, France, UK and Germany – but not directly with the US.

That’s quite something: after all, it was the Trump administration that blew up the JCPOA. There is an American delegation in Vienna, but they only talk with the Europeans.

Shadowplay goes turbo when every Viennese coffee table knows about Tehran’s red lines: either it’s back to the original JCPOA as it was agreed in Vienna in 2015 and then ratified by the UN Security Council, or nothing.

Araghchi, mild-mannered and polite, has had to go on the record once again to stress that Tehran will leave if the talks veer towards “bullying”, time wasting or even a step-by-step ballroom dance, which is time wasting under different terminology.

Neither flat out optimistic nor pessimistic, he remains, let’s say, cautiously upbeat, at least in public: “We are not disappointed and we will do our job. Our positions are very clear and firm. The sanctions must be lifted, verified and then Iran must return to its commitments.”

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What Just Happened in the Ukraine? by The Saker

The short answer to the title question is that once again Vladimir Putin has outsmarted the US, NATO, and Ukraine. From The Saker at

Before we look into what just happened in the Ukraine, we need to first recall the sequence of events which lead to the current situation. I will try to make a short summary (skipping a lot of details) in the bullet-point style:

  1. Whether Ze initially intended to stop the war in the eastern Ukraine we don’t know, but what we do know is that he failed not only to stop it, in many ways his policies were even worse than Poroshenko’s. This might be the well-known phenomenon of a supposedly “pro-peace and happiness” politician being accused of being “weak” and thus not “presidential”; this politician has to show his “strength” is “patriotism”, that is acting recklessly on the external front. We see that from putatively “liberal” politicians such as the Dems in the USA and Labor in Israel. Historically, “liberals” are the most common war initiators. Ze showed his weakness almost from day 1, and the Ukronazis immediately seized this opportunity to engage in a massive multi-level campaign for war against Russia. This resulted in:
  2. A quasi-official repudiation of the Minsk Agreements and Steinmeier Formula by Kiev, followed by a sharp increase in bellicose statements and, most crucially a large scale move of forces (including tanks, heavy artillery, MLRS and even ballistic missiles!) towards the line of contact. At the same time Ukronazi politicians began making statements saying that a) the Ukrainian army was capable and willing to “liberate” all of the “Russian occupied” Ukrainian land thus, including both the Donbass and Crimea b) that Russia was going to attack the Ukraine anyway and c) that the consolidated West had to help the Ukraine because only the Ukrainian forces were keeping the asiatic drunken Russian hordes from over-running not only the Ukraine, but even the rest of Europe. Since the Ukraine simply has no agency, this begs the question of the US (and, to a lesser degree, the UK) rationale was for these moves. It is quite simple:
  3. Force Russia to openly intervene to protect the population of the Donbass from the inevitable genocide which the Ukronazis would have meeted out to the population of the LDNR.

How good was this plan? I would argue that it was a very solid plan which, for the USA, meant a win-win situation. Here is how it should have gone:

First, the Ukrainian forces would attack the LDNR, probably along three axes: one between the city of Gorlovka and Donetsk, one frontally attacking Donetsk proper, not to invade the city, but to tie down LDNR forces in protection of their capital, and one in the south with the aim of reaching the Russian border. This way, the LDNR defenders would have to defend their capital while, at the same time, risking envelopment on two axes. Remember that the LDNR has no strategic depth (Donetsk is practically on the frontline) and that the LDNR defenders could not trade space for time.

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The Day The World Ended, by Caitlin Johnstone

One nuclear bomb detonating can mess up your whole day. From Caitlin Johnstone at

The day the world ended began like any other day. People woke up, had their coffee, checked their social media, kissed their loved ones, went to work.

Nobody knew it was coming. The news reporters and pundits hadn’t been informing them that the US and its allies had been simultaneously ramping up aggressions against two nuclear-armed nations in a way that could easily lead to something going catastrophically wrong, or explained to them what this could mean for them and their loved ones. The mass media had never let the truth interfere with the military agendas of their government before, and, as it turns out, they never would.

Nobody knew it was coming, so nobody opposed the dangerous acts of brinkmanship that led up to it. Nobody resisted as the Democrats manufactured consent for escalation after escalation against Russia. Nobody resisted as the Republicans manufactured consent for escalation after escalation against China. Nobody objected as war ships were moved, as troops were deployed, as Nuclear Posture Reviews became more and more hawkish and aggressive, as new armageddon weapons were manufactured and fielded, as proxy conflicts were backed, as war planes encroached upon sovereign airspace, as missiles were readied for swift deployment.

So it simply did not feature in anyone’s mind that this could be the day they and their loved ones die in a nuclear holocaust.

They just went about their day, like it was any other day. Working, texting, thinking pointless thoughts, arguing about nonsense with strangers on the internet.

Then it happened. A nuclear weapon was deployed by one side, setting off a chain reaction that had been set in place ready to be triggered long ago, from which there was no coming back.

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Dedicating a National Memorial to World War I, by Doug Bandow

When they draw up lists of the worst US presidents, Woodrow Wilson is definitely right up there. From Doug Bandow at

When Woodrow Wilson Loosed Communism, Fascism, and Nazism on the World

Woodrow Wilson usually ranks high in the pantheon of American presidents. Yet he was a virulent racist and sharply attacked civil liberties, jailing famed socialist leader Eugene Debs for opposing World War I. However, Wilson won over future historians with his precise elocution, articulating high-minded international principles even as he pursued policies that caused another, worse global conflagration just a generation later.

A couple weeks ago Terry W. Hamby, chairman of the WWI Centennial Commission, dedicated a memorial to World War I, America’s latest paean to mindless and destructive militarism. Located in Washington D.C.’s Pershing Park, the structure joins a statue of the U.S. WWI commander, Gen. John “Black Jack” Pershing, a not particularly talented general who allowed his ambitious subordinates to needlessly sacrifice their men’s lives by continuing to attack in search of glory and promotion up to the final minutes before an armistice ended the conflict.

Hamby put a positive spin on the needless deaths of 117,000 Americans: “This is America’s memorial, and you each can take great pride that you built it.” He appeared oblivious to the import of his remarks, observing that “The doughboys we are honoring today were the best of their generation. Their average age was 24.” Which only adds to the tragedy of so many dying for nothing.

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The Stupidity of Fighting a War to Prove a Dead Man Wrong, by Daniel Lanson

Osama bin Laden said the US didn’t have staying power. Boy, we sure proved him wrong! From Daniel Lanson at

Bret Stephens thinks that U.S. forces should stay in Afghanistan indefinitely to spite Bin Laden’s ghost:

But what was the American interest in staying in Afghanistan beyond the fall of the Taliban? It wasn’t, centrally, to kill Osama bin Laden, who was just one in a succession of terrorist masterminds. It was to prove Bin Laden wrong about America’s long-term commitments, especially overseas.

Like any other justification for waging war to achieve intangible goals, Stephens’ argument is deeply flawed. Because a fanatic on the other side of the world made a claim about our “staying power,” we have to stay to “prove him wrong” even though he has been dead for years and has already been proven wrong. This is the opposite of sound and rational foreign policy. It is a foreign policy motivated by spite. While there might be some visceral satisfaction in trying to “prove him wrong,” this is not a legitimate reason to keep troops in harm’s way in a foreign country for years on end. No one should be asked to risk his life to demonstrate American resolve for the sake of vexing a dead man.

The truth is that the U.S. has shown tremendous staying power in Afghanistan despite having no vital interests at stake there. The U.S. has wasted twenty years and trillions of dollars and lost thousands of lives in an unwinnable war. A less determined, more easily discouraged, much more rational government would have given up 18 years ago. The U.S. has already demonstrated a thousand times over that it does not give up easily, but so what? That determination long ago calcified into deranged stubbornness. The refusal to give up has become denial. Haunted by jihadist talking points, hawks would have us continue to bleed resources and risk lives in useless imperial policing without end.

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