The Revelations About Afghanistan Are Really About Us

The WaPo revealed secret Pentagon reports telling us what we should already know. But they give us a vital lesson that journalists will never mention. Let’s learn, so that this shock can put us on the path to reform.


Revelations: the Afghanistan Papers at the WaPo.

“Aconfidential trove of government documents obtained by The Washington Post reveals that senior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.”

These stories are sold to us as revelations to the American people. That is a lie. They are confirmations of what we should have learned from experience during the past two decades – and from DoD releases dribbled out during the past few years. The amazing aspect of this story is that so many are surprised. If we cannot learn faster and better than this, America is finished.

What we were shown but didn’t see

My second post, on 31 October 2003, said that the reports of awesome success were wrong and that the Taliban was gaining strength.

“Many reports indicate that the Taliban appears ready for Phase 2 operations – holding significant territory and fighting with company-size units.”

I and many others (including some of the West’s brightest lights) continued to warn that our expedition to Afghanistan was failing. In February 2008, as the election warmed up, I wrote these chilling words.

“It says much about our elites that a leading geopolitical expert {George Friedman of Stratfor} could write this. Perhaps tear stains do not show on the Internet, nor can we hear his groans of frustration and anguish – as we cannot hear the suffering of our soldiers as they attempt to execute these delusional, nonsensical plans. Or perhaps Mr. Friedman just illustrates the broken OODA loop of America’s elites (Orientation-Observation-Decision-Action loop; see a pdf explanation of the loop here).

“In Afghanistan we are in the eighth year of fighting al Qaeda, a foe that might not be there. That might not even exist in substantial form. The tribes we actually fight have no grievance against us – and we have none against them, nor any national interests at stake (other than the fight against a possible foe that might be there). The effort further strains our overstressed forces. We borrow the money for the war from foreign governments, as our economy slides into a recession.

“No intelligence, no rational strategy, no realizable goals. War without end, without meaning. This is the tangible expression of an America in decline. This is an election year. America need not be run in such a manner. We have only ourselves to blame if things remain unchanged in 2009.”

I and others argued for year after years with the “we’re winning” and “Afganistan is the key to the world” crowd. For the past few years the Defense Department has begun issuing reports that slowly admit the obvious (see this from February 2018). But even this did not deter the “hawks” (our warmongers). Now they are burned out by the exhaustion of their lies and illogic. But the war continues on its own internal mad logic (just as it did in Joe Haldeman’s great book, The Forever War).

The war has cost America $975 billion-plus uncounted tens of billions spent by the Veterans Administration on Afghanistan veterans so far and in the next six decades. The more serious costs are the 2,434 US deaths and 20,646 wounded in action.

Crosses on beach in Los Angeles, a memorial to the fallen in the War on Terror. ID 22442535 © Spencerwynn | Dreamstime.
Crosses on beach in Los Angeles, a memorial to the fallen in the War on Terror. ID 22442535 © Spencerwynn | Dreamstime.

Who do we blame?

This is a Republic. We are America. The political machinery built by the Founders gives us full power to steer America. That gives us the responsibility for the deeds done by the government done in our name. That we abdicate that responsibility – as too much work – makes no difference (none of that “our lives, fortunes, and sacred honor” for us!).

This burden, the feeling of responsibility, is what makes citizens want to become informed. It makes us exert ourselves to change the government’s policies when we see that they are not in the national interest – or perhaps in our best interest but not worth the cost paid by us or other peoples.

Otherwise we bcome spectators, an audience booing and applauding. The news becomes a source of infotainment and we get vicarious entertainment from our wars (but don’t care about the cost). Our government officials often lie, even about matters of great importance – but we always believe them. Why not? What difference does it make?

The revelations about Afghanistan are not just an indictment of our senior military leaders. They are an indictment of us. America has burned away vast resources desperately needed here, and fruitlessly sacrificed the lives of so many of our best men and women. When we feel shame or anger about these years, then we can take the first steps to political reform. 

Those of us who have lost something from these wars can help push America into action.

By Larry Kummer
Source: Fabius Maximus

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