They wrote in the old days that it is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country. But in modern war, there is nothing sweet nor fitting in your dying. You will die like a dog for no good reason.
— Ernest Hemingway
Over the past twelve years we have been treated to a litany of reasons why the United States invaded Afghanistan. President Bush said we initially attacked that country “to disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations, and to attack the military capability of the Taliban regime.” His successor President Obama continued down that shining path to “achieve our objective of defeating the core of al Qaeda.” Along the way we hunted down and killed Osama bin Laden (who was hiding in neighboring Pakistan) and built schools, hospitals, and chicken processing factories in a mostly futile effort to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people.
But alongside such publicized goals there is a list of things we also achieved by invading and occupying Afghanistan, most of which are not at all commendable. In the interest of fairness and understanding, we ought to ask ourselves what role these unstated reasons may have played in the decisions to attack Afghanistan and to (apparently) stay there indefinitely. They are, after all, a part of the lasting legacy of Operation Enduring Freedom. A list of these potential reasons, in no particular order, and a discussion of their possible impact follows.
Potential Reason #1: To protect and maintain the opium poppy crop
Afghanistan is by far the world’s largest producer of opium. One of the few good things the Taliban did was to curtail the planting and harvesting of opium poppies.1 This no doubt angered the drug lords and their beneficiaries in the global ruling class. But not to worry! Team America soon came to the rescue and set the Taliban to flight. Now in spite of over ten more years of war, Afghanistan has been restored to its rightful place as the mother of all opium fields.2 And with US troops actually guarding the poppy crop, the world’s supply of this vital resource should be guaranteed for generations to come.3
Potential Reason #2: To control the flow of heroin from the region
Apparently neighboring Pakistan harbors many of the factories which process Afghan opium into heroin, and business is booming. 4 From there and from other facilities in the region, heroin flows to the United States, Europe, and other addicted nations around the globe. 5 It is easy to imagine that the Pentagon’s “full spectrum dominance” capabilities allow America’s war lords to track and perhaps even control this flow of heroin, especially the part that comes into the United States. I have always been perplexed as to how a US intelligence apparatus that can track the path of every dime that goes to a Muslim charity (i.e., “terrorist cell”) cannot notice a tidal wave of drugs and drug money invading the country, but obviously in the bigger scheme of things this is not a great concern to the powers that be.
Potential Reason #3: To brutalize, punish, and/or kill our own troops
So far our fighting men and women in Afghanistan have sustained over 2,200 deaths and 12,300 wounded.6 Many of their wounds have been horrendous: horrible burns, multiple amputations, and the loss of genitals.7 In spite of successful, heroic efforts to save those wounded in battle, many war veterans die while waiting for care through the VA system.8 And the number of active duty military personnel and veterans committing suicide has risen to alarming levels. 9 Should any President ever declare Operation Enduring Freedom to be a “victory”, it will have been a Pyrrhic victory at best. One might even suspect that the true purpose of this war was to destroy the US Army and the National Guard instead of our declared enemies the Taliban and al Qaeda.
Potential Reason # 4: To train our troops for nighttime, warrantless break-in-and-search operations anywhere in the world, including inside the US
The signature mission of our ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been nighttime break-in-and-search operations.10 As might be expected, such successful battlefield methods are now being employed by police departments to fight US gangs.11 The use of such methods and the militarization of our police, far from being of concern to just the “black helicopter crowd”, also has caught the attention of domestic and international civil rights groups. 12 The facts that the Department of Homeland Security is buying armored vehicles and billions of rounds of ammunition13, while the US Army is conducting unannounced urban warfare drills in Galveston and Houston, Texas, and in Miami, Florida, should cause everyone to ask just what the heck is going on. Is our government preparing to impose martial law?
Potential Reason #5: To keep the most patriotic Americans out of the US so they can’t interfere with what the government is doing to the rest of us
In most countries the military is among the most influential and respected of institutions. The United States is no exception. And, in general, military personnel are among the most patriotic members of our society. In many countries, including America’s client states, the military often intervenes directly (e.g., by staging a military coup) in times of national crisis. By keeping patriotic Americans who have military training engaged in endless conflict in a distant quagmire, the government prevents them from taking a direct role in any future domestic struggles. The other segment of the population which might be able to stage a coup of sorts, the militias, have been and are being discredited by entrapment, bad jacketing, and their own misguided attempts at domestic terrorism to ensure their concerns cannot gain traction with a discontented and disoriented public.
Potential Reason #6: To give the government an excuse for losing or not counting military ballots
Adding insult to physical injury, not only are our military patriots imprisoned and wounded in distant quagmires like Afghanistan, somehow their ballots are either lost or not counted in nearly every election.14 Since the government knows both the location of our troops and the dates on which elections occur, one would think that getting the ballots to them and back to the US in time would not be a problem. Somehow it always is. Is it because the government is intentionally disenfranchising this segment of the population to influence election results?
Potential Reason #7: To squander our national treasure
The cost of our war in Afghanistan and its companion in Iraq has been estimated to be between $4 trillion and $6 trillion.15 To pour that amount of money down those two figurative rat holes, especially in this time of fiscal upset, is nothing less than a national calamity. Even worse, we have squandered the good will the United States previously earned in 237 years as a global beacon of freedom. The loss of that national treasure may turn out to be even more costly than our monetary losses. The vanishingly low return on these expenditures suggests that our leaders may be intentionally trying to wreck this country.
We may never learn all the true reasons the United States invaded and occupied Afghanistan, but the consequences of Operation Enduring Freedom will be with us for a long time. Afghanistan has been called many things: the graveyard of empires, a highway of conquest, and a cradle of empire.16 For the United States it now appears to be all three: a potential graveyard of the republic, a highway of conquest of our enemies in the region, and a cradle of the growing empire apparently being crafted by the global ruling class.
- Taliban’s Ban on Poppy a Success [↩]
- Afghanistan Still World’s Top Opium Supplier [↩]
- Marines Protect Afghan’s Poppy Fields [↩]
- Heroin Production on the Rise [↩]
- United Nations Report on Heroin [↩]
- Operation Enduring Freedom Fatalities and Wounded [↩]
- Medics Fight to Save Troops with Horrific Injuries [↩]
- Veterans Die Waiting for Benefits [↩]
- Suicide Rate Jumps [↩]
- Night Raids [↩]
- To Counter Gangs, Springfield Adopts Tactics from War Zones [↩]
- ACLU Launches Nationwide Police Militarization Investigation [↩]
- 1.6 Billion Rounds Of Ammo for Homeland Security? [↩]
- Thousands of military absentee ballots are being lost [↩]
- Iraq, Afghan wars will cost to $4 trillion to $6 trillion [↩]
- Bury the Graveyard [↩]