The United States Does Not Learn from its Past Mistakes

It is said that Afghanistan is the grave yard of Empires. Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, the Empire of Great Britain, the Soviet Union and now the American Empire and its NATO allies have all suffered defeat at the hands of the fiercely independent Afghans.

As the World watches in disbelief, the American-backed government in Afghanistan, and its American-trained army, has melted away before the advances of the insurgent Taliban forces. For many, the chaotic American evacuation of South Vietnam in 1975 has obvious parallels to today’s events.

The American occupation of Afghanistan has lasted 20 years and has cost the American tax payer more than $2 trillion on war and reconstruction. This information is according to the office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, set up to monitor the situation in Afghanistan.

According to SIGAR there also is the human cost of 2,443 U.S. troops killed and 20,666 more injured in the conflict. In addition there were 1,144 allied troops who died. It has been even worse for Afghans, with at least 66,000 members of its military dead and more than 48,000 civilians have been killed, and thousands more injured. The Agency estimates that these statistics are both likely far below the actual figures. The destruction of Afghanistan and the environmental damage to the country will affect Afghanistan’s future for decades to come.

Many informed observers have been predicting the disaster that we are witnessing today. It is only the public statements of the American military, American politicians which are dutifully reported by the American corporate press that has promoted the myth of winning the war in Afghanistan. The result is that the American taxpayer, and voter, has been fed a barrage of lies and half-truths in order to justify a policy that had little or no merit and little chance of success.

The only people who benefited from the Afghan War were the United States Military Industrial complex, its paid lobbyists, the American Generals who get well paid jobs with arms manufacturers after they retire and the politicians who depend upon political donations from the corporations that profit from the system of endless war.

The rational for invading Afghanistan “reportedly” was the attacks on 9/11 and America wanted to avenge those terrorist crimes.

The problem is that preparations for invading Afghanistan were taking place long before the 9/11 terrorist incidents. The politicians and the corporate media repeated the mantra that Osama bin Laden was behind the attacks and America demanded revenge.

The second major problem is that the United States and Britain trained and armed the Islamic resistance against the Soviet presence in the country. This Islamic resistance evolved into the Taliban who imposed Islamic rule on the country. It was this Islamic resistance that defeated the liberal and socialist elements that were trying to modernize Afghanistan.

The United States issued an ultimatum to the Taliban to turn over bin Laden to the Americans. Bin Laden had been trained and armed by the CIA and Britain’s MI6. Bin Laden was a hero to Afghans because of the role he played in liberating the country from Soviet Occupation. The Taliban did not refuse the request but asked for proof that bin Laden had been involved in 9/11.

The Americans did not provide any proof, instead they started bombing Afghanistan and then invaded it, driving the Taliban from power and starting a 20-year-long insurgency against the American and NATO invasion.

According to the FBI, Osama bin Laden was not behind the attacks on 9/11. They report that Khalid Sheik Mohammad was the architect behind the 9/11 attacks. He confessed after being water boarded more than 160 times. In terms of actual attackers identified by the FBI, 15 were citizens of Saudi Arabia, two were from Lebanon and one was from Egypt. No Afghans were directly involved.

Immediately after the attacks on 9/11, US Vice-President Dick Cheney said that the United States had to invade Iraq. US Secretary of State General Colin Powell responded that Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks on 9/11 and Saddam, who ideologically was an Arab nationalist, was a mortal enemy of the Islamic ideology espoused by Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda, and the Taliban.

There was no talk of bombing or invading Saudi Arabia, and, in fact, there was no serious investigation into who was behind the 9/11 attacks. Once bin Laden was accused there was no need to investigate further. Afghanistan and Iraq were invaded as the United States launched its war on terrorism. Other countries that were in America’s cross hairs included Libya, Yemen, Sudan, Lebanon, Syria and Iran.

There is no credible evidence that any of these countries were involved with the 9/11 attacks. Countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that were funding the Islamic insurgents against the countries targeted by the US as “supporters of terrorism” were not investigated for involvement in the 9/11 attacks.

There is an ongoing court case in the United States that is suing Saudi Arabia for its “alleged” involvement with the 9/11 attacks. However, the United States government has been fighting the case and not co-operating with the judicial proceeding.

Now after 20 years of occupation and failed “State making,” the United States and its allies are fleeing Afghanistan and leaving in their wake a destroyed country. The cost in human terms has been terrible. Perhaps as many as one million Afghans have been killed and injured and millions were turned into refugees.

Can you imagine what you could do with the two trillion dollars in the United States where there is a desperate need to build infrastructure, to address income inequalities, fix a failing education system and create a publically funded health care system for all Americans?

The United States is not really a democracy but a plutocracy, or even an oligarchy, where money controls the political system and dictates policy. Only a tiny percent directly profit from the War economy. Similar arguments can be made about the money wasted and lost lives as a result of the War in Vietnam. It seems that that the United States does not learn the lessons from its own history and realistically assess the reasons for its decline.

Edward C. Corrigan is a Barrister and Solicitor and has been active in political matters for more than 40 years. He has a degree in History and a Master’s degree in Political Science. He has published extensively on legal and political matters. In 2000-2003 he served as an elected member of London, Ontario, Canada’s City Council. Read other articles by Edward, or visit Edward's website.