Michael Prysner is a veteran of the war in Iraq and an anti-war activist
The seemingly endless war in Afghanistan is now admittedly endless, as Obama has officially announced at the NATO summit in Lisbon that the U.S. military will remain heavily engaged, with “eye-watering levels of violence,” beyond 2014. (Sacramento Bee, Nov. 18)
When the Bush administration launched a full-scale invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the arrogant generals and politicians expected an easy fight. They would topple the Taliban government (which they had sponsored up until 9/11), and set up a new puppet regime that would allow full and unbridled U.S. domination over the country.
But they never intended to leave.
Permanent U.S. military bases were in the plan from day one. Permanent U.S. compounds housing embassy buildings, offices, and business centers were always intended. U.S.-owned pipelines, mines and refineries were to begin springing up from bomb craters.
The original plan, with Washington giddy over its new “war on terror” wild card to vastly expand the reach of U.S. interests, was to conquer Afghanistan and remain there permanently. They would then use Afghanistan as a staging ground to conquer Iraq and remain there permanently, then use Iraq as a staging ground to do the same in Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran. It was the fantasy of a “new Middle East,” the most vital region in the world to U.S. global hegemony.
What they did not plan on, however, was the Afghan people’s refusal to accept a colonial-type, ultra-violent foreign military occupation. The generals and politicians grew red-faced as an impoverished people in the second-most underdeveloped country on the planet refused to let the most powerful military in history nestle in its villages and farmlands.
Month-by-month, year-by-year, resistance has mounted.
This presents an unanticipated situation for the imperialists: The people in the lands the U.S. assumed it could re-colonize would not fall to their knees.
In Afghanistan, the first step in the “new Middle East” hopscotch, the truth emerged that the U.S. occupation would be impossible without being in a constant state of war. The assumption of submission to U.S. dictates was shown to be an imperial fantasy. As long as U.S. troops drive armored vehicles through Afghan towns, as long as machine-gun nests are perched on hillsides, the local residents shoot at them.
And not only did the Afghan people increasingly start fighting back—they started winning.
This severely complicated the plans of Washington and the Pentagon—not because the millionaires in three-piece suits (and in officer’s uniforms) care one iota about the lives of the troops being killed, but because they knew that families, friends and neighbors of those troops care. They knew that a disastrous, wildly expensive war at the time of a deep economic crisis would continuously lose support.
Finding a solution to their quagmire put the visible in-fighting within the U.S. establishment on the front pages. Obama and Biden advocated completely different strategies. General McChrystal, who was to be the “knight in shining armor” to turn the tide of the war, publicly rebuked his superiors and was fired from his position. Bickering among the politicians and military brass escaped the usually airtight walls of the Pentagon war rooms.
This was because they were faced with an impossible contradiction: maintaining a military presence and exercising economic dominance as opposition to constant bloodshed rose in the U.S. and Afghanistan alike.
Washington settled on the most viable solution: to flood three times as many troops and mercenaries into the country and mercilessly bomb entire villages into the ground—not to “win” the war militarily but to put the U.S. in a more advantageous position to accomplish what they see as the only solution to the quagmire: getting the Taliban to agree to a power-sharing deal, and protecting the image of the “invincible” empire.
When President Obama had to take the world stage in December and announce that the war would increase in size and ferocity, he was well aware of the backlash in public outrage. So he made a promise of the war’s end on the horizon, starting in July 2011.
This was never a promise to end the war; just a promise for an ambiguous change of mission that was “subject to conditions on the ground.” It was meant to hold off public anger over the escalation of the nine-year war with a vague withdrawal timetable.
Even with the massive troop escalation, the Afghan resistance continues to gain ground, success, support and momentum. The July 2011 “deadline” has been officially abandoned less than a year after Obama made the promise. The date for the loosely defined “withdrawal” has now been pushed back to 2014, with top generals and civilian advisors admitting blatantly that U.S. forces will remain in combat—being shot, blown-up, killed and maimed—far beyond 2015. By 2014, they only “hope” to “change the mission.”
And that plan to “change the mission” many bloody years down the road does not mean that the U.S. military will leave. All it means is that it hopes to, by that time, be able to scale back some unknown number of U.S. troops in combat by pushing puppet Afghan forces ahead of them (like in Iraq), so the U.S. can carry out its military operations and economic plunder as they had wanted to back in 2001. But that’s only if everything goes as planned for the Pentagon generals. And nothing has gone as planned for them in the past 9-plus years.
So now it’s all out in the open: The Afghanistan war has no end. As long as foreign troops are on Afghan soil, the Afghan people will resist. And Washington seeks to be on Afghan soil permanently. The token dates we are given are simply for public consumption, to keep us patiently waiting for the politicians and generals to handle it themselves while we watch our loved ones come home in coffins.
But the fact that Washington pumps out so many lies, withdrawal dates and distortions is because they know full well that there is a major barrier to their desire to dominate Afghanistan: The people of the U.S., who create the wealth that pays the Pentagon, who make society run, who fight on the front lines of the wars—all of their calculations take into account the potential for all of us to see the reality of the war and demand that it end.
It is evident what will happen if we trust the “withdrawal dates” and leave Washington to its own devices: an endless war, causing immeasurable suffering and the squandering of trillions of dollars.
We do not need to wait for Washington to tell us when the war is going to end. We must tell them when it is going to end: immediately and unconditionally. Their ability to continue the war rests solely on their ability to make the U.S. public supportive, or passive. The end of this war is in our hands.
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