The Afghanistan Scam and the American Path to Failure

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Writer and photographer Ann Jones, who served as an aid worker in Afghanistan from 2002 t0 2006, has an article titled, “The Afghan Scam: The Untold Story of Why the U.S. Is Bound to Fail in Afghanistan,” published on 11 January, 2009, by TomDispatch. In that article, related to her book, Kabul in Winter, she lays out the reasons why the U.S. “reconstruction” effort is already a massive failure, one that parallels its military failure. Related to the last point, the introduction to Jones’ article in TomDispatch states that,

more of the same militarily, a further build-up of coalition military forces, another five or 10 or 20 years of foreign “training” programs for Afghan forces still “not ready for the task” — no one asks how Taliban fighters, no less “Afghan,” prove so ready to fight without years of American training — is the only context for future success in “reconstructing” that country [according to the Pentagon].

At a time when the U.S. has less of almost everything, except perhaps less of the doctrinaire militarism and war corporatism that has guided Washington for longer than just the Bush moment, TomDispatch notes that “more” is becoming the new keyword, in ways the U.S. sometimes might not like:

More American (and NATO) troops “surging” in, more Taliban control in the countryside, more insurgent attacks, more sophisticated roadside bombs, more deadly suicide bombings, more dead American and NATO troops, more problems with U.S. supply lines into Afghanistan, more civilian deaths from American and NATO military operations, more U.S. bases being built, more billions of U.S. dollars needed for military operations.

Jones observes the growing and widespread hostility of Afghans toward U.S. intentions, which look little like the goal of fomenting democracy and creating stable civil institutions and strengthening central government, and more like a cover for installing permanent U.S. bases in a bid to occupy Afghanistan forever. More than that, the U.S. has created a scam designed to enrich war profiteers, Jones argues:

…the Bush administration perpetrated a scam. It used the system it set up to dispense reconstruction aid to both the countries it “liberated,” Afghanistan and Iraq, to transfer American taxpayer dollars from the national treasury directly into the pockets of private war profiteers.

In the meantime, after almost eight full years of U.S. occupation, Kabul lacks of any of the public services it used to enjoy under Soviet administration, and Kabul is probably the safest place for U.S. forces.

Having squandered funds through no-bid contracts for war corporatists, resulting in the failure to competently train and equip an Afghan police force, the U.S. and Karzai want to rearm local militias in a plan that promises civil war.

In the meantime, rather than strengthening central government, U.S. aid weakens it. American aid money is channeled to private American contractors, on the grounds that the Afghan government it supports is too ‘corrupt,’ as ironic as that statement is. Moreover, American aid as usual comes with strings attached that are designed to make foreign aid into an indirect subsidy for American industry and agriculture: 70% of U.S. aid to Afghanistan is tied to the purchase of American products, so that food aid, for example, would put Afghan farmers out of business and increase Afghan dependency on foreign food imports. Officials with USAID often become consultants to private contractors who are “preselected” by USAID for its contracts, turning this “international development” agency into an arm of both the State Department and Pentagon, at the service of private war profiteers.

On the whole, what Jones’ article reveals ranges from the depressing to the scandalous. The only hope is that, despite many negative social consequences, the economic crisis mushrooms into something so deep, so severe, and so crippling that the American imperial adventure comes to a crashing standstill even before the Taliban have the chance of finally prevailing.

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3 thoughts on “The Afghanistan Scam and the American Path to Failure

  1. How many times does a surgeon have to kill a patient with his incompetence before he leaves the patient alone? One idiotic stunt after another failed in Afghanistan. Every time our enemy adapted to survive and our allies adapted to steal some more. In the end Taliban and Kabul Gov officials know each other, go to each other’s family events and attend the funerals of their innocent family members who fall victim to our intelligence blind, language deaf and culture dumb firepower. As with Iraq, no one knows why we are there. I saw Nixon bog down in Vietnam though he told us all in 1967 that the US will lose the Cold War unless it gets out. Now, facing no real global enemy there– TALIBAN IS *NOT* AL QAEDA!– Obama bogs himself in the Afghan war, DOUBLING DOWN there as foolishly as Bush had done with the Petraeus “surge” in Iraq. I realize that generals want to stay in both wars because they don’t want battle ribbons on their chests for a lost war. When I spoke to one general about the lessons of COIN from Vietnam, he threatened: “If you want to have a dialogue with me anymore you better not mention that LOSER’s WAR again.” He was of that 1976 West Point class of “peace” generals that feared they’d never make it to four stars because there would be no more wars. 9/11 gave them a war and only the CIA fought it because the Pentagon felt that there could be only a big show in Iraq. So Rumsfeld cannibalized the Afghan War that Congress funded to start a war in Iraq so he could present Congress with a fait accompli: how could you deny funding to our troops already in the field in Iraq? This bait and switch trick was eight years ago and since then we have not caught one alQaeda in Afghanistan. But suddenly Obama has to turn it into his war because the generals need a career channel. I suggest Gen. Jones look up Kissinger’s NSCM 1 consisting of 26 questions that every branch had to answer to explain what we were doing in Vietnam and why. The answers were totally idiotic from bureaucracies that needed the war to build their careers. Now that our military is all volunteer, fat and selfish middle aged Americans can’t accept defeat so Obama is forced to let the generals try and try and try again. But if you look at what’s new, it is only a dumber version of what didn’t work before. Nobody at the Pentagon learned anything from Vietnam. As a result we are fighting tribal natives and they are kicking our buts. To cover up Gen McKrystal is asking for what he knows Obama won’t give him: more troops. He is only doing that to cover up that what he did so far only got very good American patriots killed for nothing. Knowing that Obama will refuse, he wants to say: Ain’t my fault. I need more troops to win and Obama won’t giv’em to me.” When will Americans care enough to put their sons only in the hands of competent commanders? McKrystal’s brazen demand for more troops is as outrageous as Petraeus’s request for more troops for his Iraq “surge.” We are declining like Rome in bankruptcy and our Legions are being wasted much as the Romans wasted theirs trying to fight in the Germanic forests using failed tactics the generals used in open battlefield. Americans are disgusting in their “ain’t my son goin’ to Iraq” and now “ain’t my son goin’ to Afghnaistan” disconnect syndrome. Do you fear our heroes coming home because you think they’ll get your jobs?

  2. I know you said a lot here, and I am in agreement, but I just wanted to focus on one line:

    “we have not caught one alQaeda in Afghanistan”

    Right now I cannot say that is a fact, however, what is likely is that the U.S. will NOT catch any Al Qaeda in Afghanistan because as Gen. Petraeus has insisted, recently, and repeatedly, is that Al Qaeda is no longer in Afghanistan. “Mission accomplished”, right? So why the F— are we still in Afghanistan?

    And all of this assumes that Al Qaeda even had something to do with 9/11. The FBI itself seems to think otherwise. Have a look at the opening section of this post:

    https://openanthropology.wordpress.com/2009/07/11/cross-cultural-understanding-for-peace-so-why-does-hts-go-to-afghanistan/

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