October 17, 2021
De parte de Arrezafe
323 puntos de vista



Tom
Dispatch
– 17/10/2021

The time and money it
took to give Kabul to the Taliban could have been used to help
struggling Americans.

They weren’t kidding
when they called Afghanistan the “graveyard
of empires
.” Indeed, that cemetery has just taken another
imperial body. And it wasn’t
pretty
, was it? Not that anyone should be surprised. Even after
20 years of preparation, a burial never is.

In fact, the shock and
awe(fulness) in Kabul and Washington over these last weeks shouldn’t
have been surprising, given our history. After all, we were the ones
who prepared
the ground
and dug the grave for the previous interment in that
very cemetery.

That, of course, took
place between 1979 and 1989 when Washington had no
hesitation
about using the most extreme Islamists—arming,
funding, training, and advising them—to ensure that one more
imperial carcass, that of the Soviet Union, would be buried there.
When, on February 15, 1989, the Red Army finally left Afghanistan,
crossing
the Friendship Bridge into Uzbekistan, Soviet commander General Boris
Gromov, the last man out, said, “That’s it. Not one Soviet
soldier or officer is behind my back.” It was his way of saying so
long, farewell, good riddance to the endless war that the leader of
the Soviet Union had by then taken to calling “the
bleeding wound
.” Yet, in its own strange fashion, that
“graveyard” would come home with them. After all, they returned
to a bankrupt land, sucked dry by that failed war against those
American- and Saudi-backed Islamist extremists.

Two years later, the
Soviet Union would implode, leaving just one truly great power on
Planet Earth—along with, of course, those very extremists
Washington had built into a USSR-destroying force. Only a decade
later, in response to an “air
force
” manned by 19 mostly Saudi hijackers dispatched by Osama
bin Laden, a rich Saudi prince who had been part of our anti-Soviet
effort in Afghanistan, the world’s “sole superpower” would head
directly for that graveyard (as Bin
Laden
desired).

Despite the American
experience in Vietnam during the previous century—the Afghan effort
of the 1980s was meant to give the USSR its
own “Vietnam”
—key Bush administration officials were so
sure of themselves that, as The New York Times recently reported,
they wouldn’t
even consider
letting the leaders of the Taliban negotiate a
surrender once our invasion began. On September 11, 2001, in the
ruins of the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had
already given an aide these instructions,
referring not just to Bin Laden but Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein: “Go
massive. Sweep it up, all up. Things related and not.” Now, he
insisted,
“The United States is not inclined to negotiate surrenders.” (Of
course, had you read war reporter Anand Gopal’s 2014 book, No
Good Men Among the Living
, you would have long known just how
fruitlessly Taliban leaders tried to surrender to a power intent on
war and nothing but war.)

Allow a surrender and
have everything grind to a disappointing halt? Not a chance, not when
the Afghan War was the beginning of what was to be an American
triumph of global proportions. After all, the future invasion of Iraq
and the domination of the oil-rich Greater Middle East by the one and
only power on the planet were already on the agenda. How could the
leaders of such a confident land with a military funded at levels the
next most
powerful countries combined
couldn’t match have imagined its
own 2021 version of surrender?

And yet, once again, 20
years later, Afghanistan has quite visibly and horrifyingly become a
graveyard of empire (as well, of course, as a graveyard for
Afghans
). Perhaps it’s only fitting that the secretary of
defense who refused the surrender of the enemy in 2001 was recently
buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full honors. In fact, the
present secretary of defense and the head of the joint chiefs of
staff both reportedly
“knelt before Mr. Rumsfeld’s widow, Joyce, who was in a
wheelchair, and presented her with the flag from her husband’s
coffin.”

Meanwhile, Joe Biden was
the third president since George W. Bush and crew launched this
country’s forever wars to find himself floundering haplessly in
that same graveyard of empires. If the Soviet example didn’t come
to mind, it should have as Democrats and Republicans, President
Biden
and former President
Trump
flailed at each other over their supposedly deep feelings
for the poor Afghans being left behind, while this country withdrew
its troops from Kabul airport in a land where “rest in peace” has
long had no meaning.

America’s True
Infrastructure Spending

Here’s the thing,
though: Don’t assume that Afghanistan is the only imperial
graveyard around or that the United States can simply withdraw,
however ineptly, chaotically, and bloodily, leaving that country to
history—and the Taliban. Put another way, even though events in
Kabul and its surroundings took over the mainstream news recently,
the Soviet example should remind us that, when it comes to empires,
imperial graveyards are hardly restricted to Afghanistan.

In fact, it might be
worth taking a step back to look at the big picture. For decades, the
United States has been involved in a global project that’s come to
be called “nation building,” even if, from Vietnam, Laos, and
Cambodia to Afghanistan and Iraq, it often seemed an endless exercise
in nation (un)building. An imperial power of the first order, the US
long ago largely rejected the idea of straightforward colonies. In
the years of the Cold War and then of the War on Terror, its leaders
were instead remarkably focused on setting up an unparalleled empire
of military
bases and garrisons
on a global scale. This and the wars that
went with it have been the unsettling American imperial project since
World War II.

And that unsettling
should be taken quite literally. Even before recent events in
Afghanistan, Brown University’s invaluable Costs of War Project
estimated that this country’s conflicts of the last two decades
across the Greater Middle East and Africa had displaced at least 38
million people
, which should be considered nation (un)building of
the first order.

Since the Cold War began,
Washington has engaged in an endless series of interventions around
the planet from Iran
to the
Congo
, Chile
to Guatemala,
as well as in conflicts, large and small. Now, with Joe Biden having
withdrawn from America’s disastrous Afghan War, you might wonder
whether it’s all finally coming to an end, even if the United
States still insists on maintaining 750
sizable military bases
globally.

Count on this, though:
The politicians of the great power that hasn’t won a significant
war since 1945 will agree on one thing—that the Pentagon and the
military-industrial complex deserve yet more funding (no matter what
else doesn’t). In truth, those institutions have been the major
recipients of actual infrastructure spending over much of what might
still be thought of as the American century. They’ve been the true
winners in this society, along with the billionaires who, even in the
midst of a grotesque pandemic, raked in profits in a historic
fashion. In the process, those tycoons created possibly the largest
inequality gap
on the planet, one that could destabilize a
democracy even if nothing else were going on. The losers? Don’t
even get me started.

Or think of it this way:
Yes, in August 2021, it was Kabul, not Washington, D.C., that fell to
the enemy, but the nation (un)building project in which this country
has been involved over these last decades hasn’t remained thousands
of miles away. Only half-noticed here, it’s been coming home, big
time. Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency, amid election
promises
to end America’s “endless
wars
,” should really be seen as part
of
that war-induced (un)building project at home. In his own
strange fashion, The Donald was Kabul before its time and his rise to
power unimaginable without those distant conflicts and the spending
that went with them, all of which, however unnoticed, unsettled
significant parts of this society.

Climate War in a
Graveyard of Empires?

You can tell a lot about
a country if you know where its politicians unanimously agree to
invest taxpayer dollars.

At this very moment, the
United States is in a series of crises, none worse than the heat,
fire, and flood “season” that’s hit not just the
megadrought-ridden
West, or inundated
Tennessee
, or hurricane-whacked
Louisiana
, or the tropical-storm-tossed
Northeast
, but the whole country. Unbearable warmth,
humidity, fires,
smoke,
storms, and power
outages
, that’s us. Fortunately, as always, Congress stands in
remarkable unanimity when it comes to investing money where it truly
matters.

And no, you knew
perfectly well that I wasn’t referring to the creation of a
green-energy economy. In fact, Republicans wouldn’t
hear of it
and the Biden administration, while officially backing
the idea, has already issued more
than 2,000
permits to fossil-fuel companies for new drilling and
fracking on federal lands. In August, the president even called
on
OPEC—the Saudis, in particular—to produce significantly
more oil to halt a further rise in gas prices at the pump.

As America’s eternally
losing generals come home from Kabul, what I actually had in mind was
the one thing just about everyone in Washington seems to agree on:
funding the military-industrial complex beyond their wildest dreams.
Congress has recently spent months trying to pass a bill that would,
over a number of years, invest an extra
$550 billion
in this country’s badly tattered infrastructure,
but never needs time
like that
to pass Pentagon and other national security budgets
that, for years now, have added up to well over a trillion
dollars
annually.

In another world, with
the Afghan War ending and US forces (at least theoretically) coming
home, it might seem logical to radically cut back on the money
invested in the military-industrial complex and its ever more
expensive weaponry. In another American world on an increasingly
endangered planet, significantly scaling
back
American forces in every way and investing our tax dollars
in a very different kind of “defense” would seem logical indeed.
And yet, as of this moment, as Greg Jaffe writes at The Washington
Post
, the Pentagon continues to suck
up
“a larger share of discretionary spending than any other
government agency.”

Fortunately for those who
want to keep funding the US military in the usual fashion, there’s
a new enemy out there with which to replace the Taliban, one that the
Biden foreign-policy team and a “pivoting” military is already
remarkably eager
to confront: China.

At least when the latest
infrastructure money is spent, if that compromise bill ever really
makes it through a Congress that can’t tie its own shoelaces,
something will be accomplished. Bridges and roads will be repaired,
new electric-vehicle-charging stations set up, and so on. When,
however, the Pentagon spends the money just about everyone in
Washington agrees it should have, we’re guaranteed yet more
weaponry
this country doesn’t need, poorly
produced
for thoroughly exorbitant sums, if not more failed wars
as well.

I mean, just think about
what the American taxpayer “invested” in the losing wars of this
century. According to Brown University’s Costs of War Project,
$2.313
trillion
went into that disastrous Afghan War alone and at least
$6.4
trillion
by 2020 into the full-scale war on terror. And that
doesn’t even include the estimated future costs of caring for
American veterans of those conflicts. In the end, the total may prove
to be in the $8
trillion range
. Hey, at least $88
billion
just went into supplying and training the Afghan
military, most of which didn’t even exist by August 2021 and the
rest of which melted away when the Taliban advanced.

Just imagine for a minute
where we might really be today if Congress had spent close to $8
trillion rebuilding this society, rather than (un)building and
wrecking distant ones.

Rest assured, this is not
the country that ended World War II in triumph or even the one that
outlasted the Soviet Union and whose politicians then declared it the
most exceptional, indispensable
nation ever. This is a land that’s crumbling before our eyes, being
(un)built month by month, year by year. Its political system is on
the verge of dissolving into who knows what amid a raft of voter
suppression laws, wild claims about the most recent presidential
election, an assault
on the Capitol itself, and conspiracy theories galore. Its political
parties seem ever more hostile, disturbed, and disparate. Its economy
is a gem of inequality, its infrastructure crumbling, its society
seemingly coming apart at the seams. And on a planet that could be
turning into a genuine graveyard of empires (and of so much else),
keep in mind that, if you’re losing your war with climate change,
you can’t withdraw from it. You can’t declare defeat and go home.
You’re already home in the increasingly dysfunctional, increasingly
(un)built US of A.

★




Fuente: Arrezafe.blogspot.com