The Endless War: America, Afghanistan and the War on Terrorism

The Endless War : America, Afghanistan, and the War on Terrorism

By Eddie J. Girdner
Izmir University

(Book Review Essay: Published in Mainstream, September 10, 2011)

Ahmed Rashid, Descent Into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia. New York: Viking, 2008. Maps, Glossary of Terms, Notes, Bibliography, Index.


            America has now been in Afghanistan for ten years. Again America has triumphed. Again, America has failed. Again countries have been saved. Again countries have been destroyed. Again, people have been freed. Again, people have been crushed, and maimed, and killed. Again, America has produced heroes. Again, hundreds of young lives have been wasted. Again, there have been great losses. Again, there have been great gains. The foe has been defeated. The foe has triumphed. President Barack Obama has brought change. President Obama has brought more of the same. The solution is crystal clear and no one has a clue of how to solve the riddle of Pushtun nationalism, the Taliban, the warlords, al-Qaeda, the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and so on and on. The surge has worked, the surge has failed. The solution to a ten-year war fought with more than 100,000 troops and hundreds of billions of dollars and billions in contracts to private companies is now said to be “political.” The US is the richest country in the world. The US is bankrupt with a national debt of fourteen and a half trillion dollars. America has fought the “war on terrorism” and mainly terrorized itself and the world. America is losing the war.  

            Capitalism has made America rich. Capitalism has destroyed America. Capitalism has made the people poor. Capitalism has made the banks, the financiers and the Defense contractors filthy rich. America takes the lead in “providing global security.” The US is the most dangerous country in the world, endangering the security of everyone everywhere else. America shows the countries of the world how to run their economies. The American economy is falling into collapse at home. America is the country that every other country wants to be. America is the country that no other country wants to be. America is the best model. America is the worst model. But one thing is clear. The old Cold War world was a pretty good world compared to the world we live in now.

            Oh, of course, the US was raising hell in Vietnam and lots of other places during the Cold War, but then, that’s what empires are supposed to do. The madness of almost 60,000 US military deaths. Still, the Cold War era was a time when the world was moving in a positive direction. There were progressive revolutions for the US to worry about. Progress was being made in terms of human freedom, not because of America and the West, but in spite of America and the West. America and Western Europe, of course, were united and dedicated to stopping progress, but still progress toward human freedom was made here and there. And there was not so much danger of getting blown up in so many possible places. Most people would take that world to the one we have now. There were nuclear weapons, but they were not being used. Today Predator drones terrorize the world every single day.

            After the l980s, it was a more reactionary world. Revolutions

ceased for thirty years or so. Now, perhaps, one can see progress in the Arab world. But the direction of change there is mixed and uncertain as in all revolutionary change.

            The US did not care how much damage was done to human freedom during the Cold War, of course. The objective was to make the world safe for American and European capital. It was similar with the European Union project. The glorious European Union, with their Brussels Commissars, and their Central Commission, and their grand monetary union, now crumbling. The fundamental purpose was to expand and unify the market for European and American corporations. Another banker scheme, in fact, from the founding banker himself, Jean Monnet. They put Robert Schuman’s statue in front of the Berlaymont, of course, as the institution’s father, but it was Monnet who was the chief banker who ran the railroad in early years. French foreign minister, Shuman, was just the front man.

In South Asia, and particularly the Middle East, the US supported the most reactionary elements, lacking a concern for the damage they did to society and human freedom. In South Asia Pakistan was a client state, while India was too close to the Soviet Union. The Middle East was to remain a feudal “stable” backwater, as long as necessary to get the oil.    

            America keeps the world on the right track. America drives the world crazy.   

            Neoliberalism has wreaked economic and social havoc in the US and Western Europe and in emerging markets which have followed the dogma. Today, state guided capitalism, which is not supposed to work, according to the textbooks, is shifting global economic power to East Asia, as the sun sets on the Western world. When capitalism is threatened, harsh measures are clamped upon the working class. We see it all over. It is a tough market for the people, but something must be done for the bankers. Stress tests for the banks, but there are no stress tests for the people who cannot pay their bills.

            Historically, the European empires and later the Americans, launched imperialistic drives to control the world, until these empires collapsed. They invented modern state violence in this enterprise. The glorious weapons of mass destruction (WMD) that were indeed glorious, as long as they were killing the little people that didn’t matter. Had to shove them out of the way to make way for progress. Today the American empire is dying a slow death. And their people are not even aware of it, for the most part. 

To a great extent the grotesque US national debt of fourteen and a half trillion dollars is a measure of how much the common American people have been robbed by corporate America. Robbery, embezzlement, by every trick in the book that they could invent. There are at least two ways to rob a bank. From the outside and from the inside. The financial class keeps robbing them from the inside and then sticking the people, the taxpayers, with the bill. Well, they keep paying it, that is, if they have a job. And that is getting a lot more rare. Every nine out of every ten dollars of so-called defense spending goes directly into the profits of Wall Street firms. Most of it is being borrowed from the Chinese to put on the American tax-payers credit card. Every dime of the so-called “war on terrorism” has been borrowed, greatly enriching corporate America. Most Americans have never been terrorized by al-Qaeda. It’s a different story when the banks take their house and then charge them for the money that the bankers “lost.”

It’s a hell of a way to run a railroad. It’s sure not for the people. If that’s democracy, I’m Elvis Presley. The US now borrows 40 cents of every dollar it spends, most of it from the Chinese. From five to ten billion dollars a day goes to “defense contractors.” With defense like that, who needs enemies? The people are stuck with a bill of ten billion dollars a month to keep 100,000 US soldiers and 100,000 private contractors in Afghanistan. More than 1600 US soldiers killed in Afghanistan<

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