As the Afghanistan Armageddon unravels, this humiliating, devastating defeat for U.S. and its allies’ imperialism and the 20th anniversary of 9/11, plus the June 29 death of war monger extraordinaire Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, are wakeup calls. They offer those in the U.S. the chance to reflect upon, reconsider and rethink Washington’s disastrous, interventionist foreign policy.
After 20 years of war, the retreat of U.S. forces from the Afghan Theater—an ass-kicking of Biblical proportions—is a reminder of the limits of American power and over-reach.
The U.S. foreign policy establishment has again been exposed for its extraordinary imbecility, incompetence, arrogance, and brutality of Greek tragedy dimensions. As Kabul, like Saigon in 1975, slips from U.S. imperial control, and the September 11th sneak attack is commemorated, along with our ongoing racial reckoning, the USA also has a rare golden opportunity for an imperial reckoning, a perestroika in how the U.S.—the global capitalist police—interacts with the rest of the world.
But so far, it appears that the Biden administration is stuck in a time warp, unable to think outside the box fashioned by the military industrial complex and engage in an imperial epiphany to seize the possibilities offered by this historic moment.
The Hobgoblin Adored by Little Statesmen
George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is arguably the greatest dystopian novel ever written. One of the most chilling passages in this satire about totalitarian states perpetually embroiled in endless war takes place at a London demonstration recounted in Part 2, chapter 9:
“On the sixth day of Hate Week… the general hatred of Eurasia had boiled up into such delirium… an orator of the Inner Party… was haranguing the crowd… His voice, made metallic by the amplifiers, boomed forth an endless catalogue of atrocities, massacres, deportations, lootings, rapings, torture of prisoners, bombing of civilians, lying propaganda, unjust aggressions, broken treaties [committed by Eurasia]… every few moments the fury of the crowd boiled over and the voice of the speaker was drowned by a wild beast-like roaring that rose uncontrollably from thousands of throats… a messenger hurried on to the platform and a scrap of paper was slipped into the speaker’s hand. He unrolled and read it without pausing in his speech. Nothing altered in his voice or manner, or in the content of what he was saying, but suddenly the names were different… Oceania was at war with Eastasia! …The orator… had gone straight on with his speech. One minute more, and the feral roars of rage were again bursting from the crowd. The Hate continued exactly as before, except that the target had been changed… Eastasia and not Eurasia was the enemy.”
Orwell was slyly lampooning the changing loyalties of the World War II era, in particular 1939’s Hitler-Stalin Pact, a non-aggression treaty between adversaries, Nazis and communists.
After rich Western nations refused to ally with the USSR, the Soviets thought they bought time by allying with Germany and the Soviet Union jointly carved Eastern Europe up—until the fascists stabbed the Bolsheviks in the back in 1941, and switching sides once again, Moscow joined the Allies in fighting Berlin.
But even more remarkable than these shapeshifting alliances, if we ignore Western imperialism, is that since 1949—the same year Orwell’s classic about Big Brother was published—America, Western Europe and Japan have consistently united to oppose the exact same eternal enemies. For nearly three quarters of a century, Russia and China have been the boogeymen of the U.S. and its allied countries.
In wars hot and cold—from the Berlin Airlift to Korea to Quemoy and Matsu to the Berlin Wall to the Cuban Missile Crisis to Afghanistan and beyond—the “Ruskies” and “Red Chinese” have been the perpetual bêtes noire of the West and Tokyo. And another consistent key component of this strategic thrust has been ceaseless meddling in the Middle East to control the region and oil prices (that also wreaks havoc through the climate crisis).
Call it the “Groundhog Day foreign policy.” Like Bill Murray, who is stuck on Feb. 2, repeating the same thing day after day at Punxsutawney in western Pennsylvania in the 1993 movie Groundhog Day (Groundhog Day (imdb.com)), Washington and its cohorts continue to pursue the same ol’, same ol’ post-WWII realpolitik. Its theme song could be Led Zeppelin’s “The Song Remains the Same.” And as Transcendentalist philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson noted: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.”
Blips on the Realpolitik Radar Screen
To be fair, there have been some zigs and zags in this Groundhog Day foreign policy, when periodic “thaws” by Moscow and Beijing have made these forever foes seem as if they will behave in ways that serve the interests of America and its friends. There are indeed “Nixon goes to China” moments, or pronouncements by Prime Minister Thatcher that she “can do business with Mr. Gorbachev.”
Reformers such as Deng Xiaoping, who declared, “It doesn’t matter whether a cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice,” and Russian Federation President Boris Yeltsin are smiled upon, as long as they appear to be lackeys doing the bidding of what are rather euphemistically called “the democracies.” And but of course the Trump-Putin rapprochement and meetings between The Donald and Chairman Kim are also momentary blips on the radar screen of an essentially everlasting enmity, mere aberrations in a continuum of otherwise unremitting hostility.
Washington’s Middle East policy, too, has also experienced torturous zigzagging. The relationship between the recently deceased Rumsfeld and Saddam Hussein is a quintessential example U.S. alliances with dictators.
On Dec. 23, 1983, as a Reagan administration special envoy, Rumsfeld traveled to Baghdad where he shook hands with the Iraqi despot, which was captured in an infamous photo, and extended support to Iraq in its war against Iran.
According to The Guardian: “The US provided less conventional military equipment than British or German companies but it did allow the export of biological agents, including anthrax; vital ingredients for chemical weapons; and cluster bombs sold by a CIA front organization in Chile, the report says. Intelligence on Iranian troop movements was provided, despite detailed knowledge of Iraq’s use of nerve gas.”
Washington’s oil-driven Middle Eastern policies prevailed and by the early 1990s, when it was geopolitically expedient to do so, war criminal Defense Secretary Rumsfeld perpetrated the WMD hoax against Iraq (a subject that hadn’t concerned him in the 1980s), unleashing an abomination of atrocities under the pretext of 9/11 (and as Edward Snowden exposed, a surveillance security state at home).
Rummy’s handshake with Saddam was yet another blink-in-the-eye blip on the radar screen of U.S. realpolitik, of Washington’s ceaseless sticking its nose into the Middle East, that extends at least as far back as 1953’s CIA-backed overthrow of the democratically-elected Mossadegh government in Iran.
Implacable Eternal Enemies – No Matter What
However, as in the Middle East, in the end, it doesn’t matter what market reforms and “liberalizations” Russia and China enact, or international entities they are allowed to join—the United Nations, WTO, G8, and so on. In the case of the USSR, the Soviet Union completely scuttled any socialist political and economic stances and pretenses, and was torn asunder, while the Warsaw Pact was dissolved. In the People’s Republic, capitalism was embraced; in 1992 Deng gushed “it is glorious to be rich,” although China remained a one-party state ruled by the (putatively) Communist Party.
The largest ostensibly communist states’ embrace of the capitalist system didn’t suffice and satisfy; it’s never enough for the USA and its satellites. Give them an inch, they’ll take a mile. At June 2021’s G7 summit in Cornwall, England, urged on by Pres. Joe Biden (as Asian Americans experienced a dramatic surge in hate crimes, spurred by Trump’s “China virus” bigotry), the Group of Seven’s final communique included a stinging rebuke of China’s human rights practices, which Beijing condemned as “slander.”
Then, at the conclusion of Biden’s summit with North Atlantic Treaty Organization leaders in Brussels, NATO issued a hard-edged communique on June 14, stating: “China’s stated ambitions and assertive behavior present systemic challenges to the rules-based international order and to areas relevant to alliance security.” However, looking at a globe may leave observers scratching their noggins, trying to see exactly where the PRC is contiguous with the North Atlantic. (Along with Trumpian “Kung flu” race baiting, PRC bashing also amps up domestic hate crimes against Asians and Asian Americans.)
In terms of an “assertive” military stance, Washington maintains up to 800 installations abroad in 80 countries as part of its forward basing posture.
At the height of Pax Romana, the Roman Emperor would have enviously marveled at the sweep and scope of U.S. forward basing in order to occupy nations and project power abroad. In stark contrast to the American Empire, the People’s Republic has an overseas military facility at Djibouti in the Horn of Africa (and perhaps up to three other overseas installations, not including bases at disputed territories in the South China Seas).
As for NATO expansion, in the 2017 documentary The Putin Interviews the Russian Federation’s president told director Oliver Stone that as the Cold War wound down, U.S., UN and West German officials “were saying… that the eastern border of NATO would not be extended any further than the eastern border of the German Democratic Republic.”
But since then, about 10 former Warsaw Pact countries that had played buffer roles between East and West have joined the transatlantic alliance, as well as the European Union. Onetime comrades have become adversaries, breathing down the neck of a Kremlin feeling increasingly encircled and isolated.
Now there are moves afoot for Ukraine to join NATO and the EU—Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky finally got his coveted tete-a-tete at the White House with Biden on Sept. 1—which would have been akin to, say, Quebec joining the Warsaw Pact (when it still existed). Considering how, after 60 years, Biden’s Washington continues to abuse Cuba with a never-ending reactionary blockade rousingly condemned (for the 29th year in a row) on June 23 by a 184 to 2 vote (with 3 abstentions) in the UN General Assembly, one can imagine Washington and Pentagon policymakers going nuclear (literally) if a similar process had roiled the West and Japan.
(Even gravity doesn’t restrain NATO’s land grabs: China’s Mars rovers, moon probes, celestial stations and its June 17 launching of the manned Shenzhou-12 spacecraft, or Divine Vessel, supposedly threaten the West’s “space superiority”—as if the universe is their private property in a game of cosmic Monopoly.)
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, in 2020, the U.S. spent $778 billion on the military. Last year, Russia’s military budget was $61.7 billion, while the Chinese spent $252 billion. Washington spent more than the next 10 nations combined, as a single country accounting for about “40% of global military spending”
“America is Back” – But Where?
The themes of Biden’s G7 and NATO summits last June were that “America’s back” and the “democracies” stand united against the “autocracies.” After the isolationist and disruptive Trump interregnum, Washington was again pursuing “multilateralism.” But considering that the USA is the tail wagging the G7/NATO running dogs, it looks more like “hege-lateralism,” to coin a term. That is, the hegemonic U.S. superpower gives the G7/NATO their marching orders.
As Putin told Stone: “NATO is a mere instrument of foreign policy of the United States. It has no allies within—it has only vassals… There are only two opinions in NATO—the American opinion and the wrong opinion.”
Just consider the debacle in Afghanistan—the U.S. unilaterally decides to withdraw with apparently little, if any, consultation and NATO flunkeys appear to just automatically play follow the leader, tails between their legs, exposing for all to see American mis-leadership and one-sidedness. (Or, in August, Washington’s “poodle,” not-so-Great Britain, and the U.S. jointly send troops scurrying back to Afghanistan—not, of course, to protect Afghans but to defend U.S. and UK embassy personnel, etc.)
A Shining City on the Swill
And what, pray tell, is the basis for the American pretense towards “exceptionalism” and being the self-appointed, self-anointed, unelected “one indispensable nation”, as Pres. Obama and others who endlessly pat themselves on their backs have put it? It is, but of course, none other than those immortal words penned by a slaveowner in 1776, that “all men are created equal,” and thus, because Yankee Doodle Dandies believe in “equality,” they’re simply better than everyone else.
And which of the “shining city on the hill’s” immortal ideals must America continue to export via endless invasions, “shock and awe” bombardments, targeted assassinations, election interference, drone warfare, special ops teams and so on, to enforce its will and regime change to suit it on the peoples of the planet? The Electoral College?
The filibuster that ensures minority rule, that 35 votes in the Senate trump 54 votes (thus blocking creation of a Capitol riot commission on May 28)? That due to the flawed Constitution’s disproportionate voting measures, minoritarian rule is cemented so that “16 percent of the country controls half of the seats in the United States Senate,” and therefore: “American democracy, in other words, is profoundly undemocratic”?
The recent state laws and Supreme Court rulings limiting voting rights and protecting dark money in politics, while federal voting rights measures remain stymied? That obvious high level coup plotters and co-conspirators who sought to prevent the ratification of the presidential election and peaceful transfer of power continue to prance about in broad daylight, free as a bird?
Are these fruits of Americanism we want to impose upon “our little brown brothers” around the world as part of our 21st century “white man’s burden”? Commentators speculate on the corrupt nature of U.S. puppet regimes, while more objective observers realize this is a case of “the apple not falling far from the tree.”
Putting the Jackboot on the Other Foot
At the June press conference in Geneva following his meeting with Biden, a BBC reporter asked Vladimir Putin: “the west believes that unpredictability is a trait of the Russian policy. Are you ready to forego instability to improve the relationship with the west?”
In response, Putin pointed to Washington’s erratic, “unpredictable” actions, including withdrawing from the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the Open Skies Agreement. “Is that what you call stability?” asked the Russian president. Putin could have added to the list: Washington’s walking out on the Paris Protocols as global warming heated up and the Iran nuclear deal; endless, reckless American military adventures far from its borders; etc.
Asked at the news conference about Russia’s human rights record, Putin put the jackboot on the other foot, citing America’s Black Lives Matter upsurge, “The Guantanamo Prison” and “Secret CIA prisons across the globe… where people were tortured. Is this a great human rights record? …Would anyone here agree that this is how you protect the human rights?”
Putin went on to denounce U.S. meddling in Russia’s internal affairs and referred to the police murder of George Floyd and the BLM movement. He could have also mentioned whistleblower Edward Snowden, who—after exposing America’s vast, warrant-less top-secret surveillance system—is a wanted man in the land of the “free,” but found refuge and political asylum in Mother Russia.
“Defending” the Homeland – On the Other Side of the World
On June 28, after the second round of U.S. airstrikes in the Middle East since Biden took office, the White House press secretary spun a whole new meaning for the term “domestic violence.”
Jen Psaki defended the attacks by U.S. Air Force F-15s and F-16s using satellite-guided munitions against facilities believed to be deploying drones in Syria and Iraq “as a matter of domestic law,” “pursuant” to some legalese measure you can be absolutely 100% sure that no Iraqi or Syrian ever voted for.
The distance between Al-Qaim, Iraq (site of one of the U.S. bombings) and Washington, D.C., is 6,015 miles, yet Biden’s mouthpiece somehow cited a stateside rule and characterized this bombardment on the other side of the world as “self-defense, the defense of the US and our interests is our domestic justification for these strikes.”
And the crème de la crème of Psaki’s Orwellian doublespeak is the remarkable rationale for these overseas attacks: “designed to limit the risk of escalation,” a sentiment echoed in Rome by Antony Blinken, that perpetual Foggy Bottom habitue whose latest portfolio is Secretary of State. Of course, bombing for de-escalation sounds like raping for virginity or burning the village to save it. But Psaki and Blinken’s cosmic rationale is the very epitome of imperial doublethink.
Having detailed surveillance data about Iraq for years, the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003 under the completely bogus pretext of weapons of mass destruction, but decades after Saddam’s fictitious WMDs have never been found, Yankees never went home, American troops are still on the ground in Iraq, and not one high level decisionmaker has faced the legal consequences for hundreds of thousands of completely unnecessary deaths. Even after the Iraqi Parliament voted to expel U.S. troops from the country in January 2020, following the Pentagon drone strike at Baghdad International Airport that assassinated Iran’s General Qassem Soleimani.
Thus, the essence of imperialism’s logic: “We can invade and occupy any country anywhere at any time, even under totally false pretenses for doing so. But if you dare to resist, we will treat you like terrorists threatening American national security and even though you are half a world away, in the name of self-defense we’ll take offensive action against you. And it goes without saying that while you can’t use drones, we can.”
Washington can act with impunity, unaccountable to transnational regulatory bodies and tribunals, such as the International Criminal Court. As Ben Burgis pithily put it in Jacobin: “the whole point of being an empire is that you get to play by different rules than the rest of the world.” This imperial mentality gives a whole new twist and meaning to the 1985 song “We Are the World.”
Some Beg to Differ
But of course, not everyone agrees with this line of reasoning. Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi condemned the June 27 U.S. air attack as a “blatant and unacceptable violation of Iraqi sovereignty and Iraqi national security.”
According to Reuters, Iraqi military spokesman Maj.-Gen. Yehia Rasool criticized the air raid as a “breach of sovereignty.”
The BBC reported Rasool “condemned the strikes, writing on Twitter that they represented ‘a blatant and unacceptable violation of Iraqi sovereignty and Iraqi national security’… Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said the US was ‘destroying security’ in the Middle East and should ‘refrain from taking emotional steps, creating crises and tensions, and multiplying problems for people in the region’.”
In a statement sent to Newsweek Baghdad’s National Security Council noted it was “discussing the logistical details of the withdrawal of combat forces from Iraq” with the U.S.
A nuclear power shares similar sentiments. Regarding the G7’s anti-PRC stance in England, on June 13 a spokesman for China’s embassy in London stated: “The days when global decisions were dictated by a small group of countries are long gone. We always believe that countries, big or small, strong or weak, poor or rich, are equals, and that world affairs should be handled through consultation by all countries.”
In a July 1 speech at Tiananmen Square in Beijing commemorating the 100th anniversary of the founding of China’s Communist Party, Pres. Xi Jinping—clad in a Mao jacket to make a fashion statement—derided U.S. “sanctimonious preaching” and warned: “we will never allow anyone to bully, oppress or subjugate China. Anyone who dares try to do that will have their heads bashed bloody against the Great Wall of Steel forged by over 1.4 billion Chinese people.”
The Forever Big Power Rivalry
If Russia has completely scrapped socialism and China has an increasingly capitalistic economy and is an ever-expanding consumer society, what, precisely, is the main beef Washington and its coterie persist in having with Moscow and Beijing? Back in 1949 there was definitely a very powerful ideological component pitting East against West (and Tokyo). But since the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the widespread penetration of capitalism in the PRC, socialism and communism are no longer the main issues.
Yet, Russia and China are the song that remain the same, eternal enemies simply because they are large nuclear armed countries which also possess major conventional military forces. Stripped of doctrinal differences, the G7 and NATO hissy fits simply come down to Big Power rivalry, a clash between competitors, us versus them in the never-ending drive for global domination.
Biden is trying to give this competition a Cold War redux ideological flavor, framing it as a contest between the “democracies and autocracies.” (The 2021 version of Ronald Reagan’s 1980s’ “evil empire” or George W. Bush’s “axis of evil”?) If this is so, where does that leave Hungary, a charter member of NATO and the EU ruled with an iron fist by Prime Minister Viktor Mihály Orbán (and a helping hand by Fox’s Tucker Carlson, who is so enamored of Orbánism)?
But Americans need not look all the way to Eastern Europe to finds signs of authoritarianism—we can just look right here, at home: A defeated president losing an election he incessantly lied about, enflaming a mob to storm the Capitol, and then a Congressional inability to create an independent commission to hold those high-ranking putsch plotters and co-conspirators responsible for the attempted coup accountable for their actions.
Voting rights are restricted by many state legislatures and the Supreme Court while Congress fails to pass needed laws to ensure all eligible citizens can cast their ballots. Meanwhile a resurgent rightwing and white supremacists threaten democracy, as white power nationalists marched on the streets of “the City of Brotherly Love” to mark July 4, 2021 (and who knows what might hit the fan when 9/11’s 20th anniversary and/or a planned “Justice for J6” rally set for September 18 on the Capitol grounds are observed?).
My point isn’t that Russia and China have spotless human rights records—they certainly don’t.
But neither does the United States and its collaborators. The U.S. may pride itself as being the “leader of the free world”—but when did that election by the planet’s peoples take place electing America to this lofty perch and position? The fact is that in the postwar world, with its perpetual warfare Washington has arguably been the single most disruptive player on the international scene, launching countless coups, meddling in foreign voting and overseas elections, invading nations that never attacked the USA, with a series of forever wars.
Just consider the completely unnecessary, destabilizing, costly wars in Vietnam and Iraq, where U.S. decision-makers committed mass murder against millions and cost taxpayers billions—for what? To show “who’s boss” and “running the show”? And how did that work out? On August 31 Biden explained that the continuing cost of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan would be a whopping “$300 million a day for two decades.”
But what does it mean when an exultant Biden proclaims: “America is back”? If the Biden administration pursues the tired old motheaten postwar playbook of confronting Russia and China and bombing the Middle East, instead of just playing Led Zeppelin’s “The Song Remains the Same” Washington will also be singing the lyrics from The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again”: “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”
“REGRET WHAT?”: The Afghanistan Armageddon is a Case Study
What unraveling in the Afghanistan Armageddon is a case study in exactly what’s wrong with Washington’s post-WWII geopolitics. It shows how the driving material interests and obsessions with anti-communism and containing Russia and China, combined with U.S. meddling, have sowed the seeds of disaster now roiling Afghanistan.
One could go back as far as Alexander the Great or T.E. Lawrence’s WWI interactions in Arabia to explain the debacle in Afghanistan, but while relevant, that would be beyond the scope of this analysis. The following are some curated highlights that underscore the perfidy and absurdity of the U.S. foreign policy establishment’s catastrophic interventionism in the land that buries empires and explain how we got to where we are right now.
96-year-old Jimmy Carter is popularly portrayed and perceived as a president who pursued human rights and as a model ex-prez who served as an election observer and builder of Habitat for Humanity homes after leaving office.
But beneath the benevolent persona and toothy smile, the chaos currently unfolding in Afghanistan can be traced directly to Carter and his administration. In a Jan. 15-21, 1998 interview headlined “How Jimmy Carter and I Started the Mujahideen” in the weekly French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur, Carter’s National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski confessed:
“According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that guarded until now, is completely otherwise: Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.”
Asked 20 years after this Big Lie was spread and tens of thousands of lives were lost “You don’t regret anything today?”, Brzezinski replied: “Regret What? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter: We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.”
When Le Nouvel Observateur pressed the Cold War hawk, asking: “And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic [fundamentalism], having given arms and advice to future terrorists?” Brzezinski responded: “What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?”
Although Washington was thousands of miles away from Kabul, while the USSR shared a border of around 1,000 miles with Afghanistan, under Carter and Brzezinski the U.S. covertly began intervening in Afghan internal affairs before the Soviets did—not after, as Moscow had correctly claimed but Washington concealed and lied about for decades.
As cartoonist/columnist/ Afghanistan correspondent Ted Rall astutely points out in his 2020 book Political Suicide: “It’s nearly lost to history, but Jimmy Carter’s presidency marked the first rightward lurch in modern Democratic politics.”
The Carter regime opened the floodgates for the most expensive U.S. clandestine operation to date, prophetically codenamed “Operation Cyclone,” whose wild winds are still blowing. As Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tim Weiner wrote Jan. 7, 2019 in The Washington Post: “The CIA smuggled billions of dollars in weapons into the hands of the Afghan resistance. That bled the Red Army, leaving at least 15,000 soldiers and commandos dead on the battlefield…
“A thousand-page trove of just-declassified White House, CIA and State Department documents adds significantly to our knowledge of what happened before and after the Soviet invasion. It shows that in 1980, President Carter’s CIA spent close to $100 million shipping weapons to the Afghan resistance.
“Carter’s global gun-running was more aggressive than we knew. He aimed to oust the Soviets… In the 1980s, it grew to become the biggest American covert action of the Cold War. President Reagan eventually upped the ante to $700 million a year… Soon Afghanistan was awash with billions of dollars in weapons.”
In DC’s anti-Soviet zeal, one of the Jihadis armed and funded by the CIA was named Osama bin Laden, whom ex-CIA consultant Chalmers Johnson called in his 2000 book Blowback, The Costs and Consequences of American Empire “a former protégé of the United States.”
When the Cold War was winding down, Pres. George H.W. Bush, reflecting the power of U.S. imperialism, decided to squander the “Peace Dividend” on yet another military misadventure, this time getting embroiled in disputes between Iraq and Kuwait. According to Blowback, bin Laden “turned against the United States in 1991 because he regarded the stationing of American troops in his native Saudi Arabia [where Mecca is located] during and after the Persian Gulf War as a violation of his religious beliefs.”
In a March 2005 piece entitled “The Largest Covert Operation in CIA History,” Johnson went on to write: “the ‘tens of thousands of fanatical Muslim fundamentalists’ the CIA armed are some of the same people who in 1996 killed 19 American airmen at Dhahran, Saudi Arabia; bombed our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 [eight years to the day of US troops being deployed to Saudi Arabia]; blew a hole in the side of the U.S. destroyer Cole in Aden harbor in 2000…”
UBL is believed to have executed these escalating terrorist attacks, and according to the August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Brief entitled “Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US.”: “Clandestine, foreign government, and media reports indicate Bin Ladin since 1997 has wanted to conduct terrorist attacks in the U.S.
Bin Ladin implied in U.S. television interviews in 1997 and 1998 that his followers would follow the example of World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef and ‘bring the fighting to America.’” Despite his track record of successfully striking U.S. assets and threats, Washington turned a deaf ear to UBL’s demand that the U.S. withdraw its troops from Saudi Arabia.
In his 2002 Oscar-winner Bowling for Columbine Michael Moore brilliantly, incisively, sums up U.S. foreign policy and covert actions in the “What a Wonderful World” montage sequence that culminates with jets smashing into the World Trade Center, accompanied by text reading: “Sept. 11, 2001: Osama bin Laden uses his expert C.I.A. training to murder 3,000 people.”
America’s shifting alliances in Afghanistan would give Orwell whiplash.
On April 29, 2003, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld announced the U.S. would withdraw all of its troops from Saudi Arabia and by August 26, 2003 they were gone. Could 9/11 have been avoided if the Yankees had just gone home two years earlier, removing a major irritant for Jihadis? If so, could the entire U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Afghanistan—the longest war in U.S. history—have been completely avoided???
Let’s ask the survivors of loved ones lost at the Twin Towers or of soldiers killed or wounded in the Afghan War if stationing troops to protect the Saudi Kingdom—who were eventually withdrawn anyway—was worth the loss and heartache they suffered?
Likewise, let’s ask those caught up in the chaos in Afghanistan in the last few weeks what they think of Carter and Brzezinski’s subterfuge in Central Asia? Were all these imperialist escapades worth it to those suffering now from U.S. realpolitik? Do ordinary people from Manhattan to Kabul who suffered from U.S. foreign policy’s unintended consequences have the “regrets” that pitiless fanatics like Brzezinski only mocked?
An Imperial Reckoning
Domestically, there is much talk that America is undergoing a “racial reckoning.” The Biden administration appears to be seeking policy changes on the home front, such as appointing the first indigenous person ever to be Interior Secretary and a new tax credit that’s loudly ballyhooed as greatly reducing child poverty. But in terms of international relations, the U.S. also needs a new paradigm in terms of foreign policy—call it an “Imperial Reckoning.”
Martin Luther King lamented that America was losing the War on Poverty because Great Society funding was being diverted instead to Vietnam’s battlefields. Similarly, the USA may lose the war against the pandemic (and perhaps, even for infrastructure) because American resources are being spent and squandered on the other side of the world, in far-flung regions like Afghanistan and hundreds of outposts stationing U.S. armed forces abroad.
No wonder that according to a new AP poll, “nearly two-thirds of Americans do not believe the Afghanistan War, the longest in U.S. history, was worth fighting.” Nevertheless, the general will of the people is thwarted by a system that pursues overseas objectives in the interests of the ruling class, not the majority of Americans.
The fall of Afghanistan can galvanize a different way of seeing international relations through a set of new eyes. Despite decades of interference in that nation’s internal affairs that actually dates back to the Carter administration, with its massive, wasteful expenditure of blood and treasure for 42 years, the U.S. appears to have lost its forever war in Central Asia.
Precisely what has U.S. intervention in Afghanistan since the 1970s (and beyond) won for America? Unfolding events from Kabul to the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 6, 2021 prove that the much-vaunted U.S. military/intelligence/law enforcement colossus is in reality not only a paper tiger—but often a toothless one, too.
This, and 9/11’s 20th anniversary, have the prospect of waking policymakers and ordinary Americans up from the bad dream of acting as the world’s policeman. Instead of deluding itself that the USA is some sort of an exceptional shining city on a hill, a beacon of liberty for all mankind, America can finally realize and accept the fact that it is, rather, just a country like any other.
In doing so, the Pentagon and powers-that-be can stop occupying bases that straddle the globe; it’s time for the Yankees to go home. Especially since Washington inevitably always makes matters worse when it intervenes in others’ internal affairs. America must take its rightful place as one nation among other nations—no worse than any other, but no better, either.
In waking up from its Groundhog Day nightmare, America can finally move forward, by focusing its energy and resources on solving our problems at home, instead of searching for monsters abroad in order to destroy them and rule the roost. If Americans want to stop getting their asses kicked, they must stop sticking their noses where they don’t belong, into others’ internal affairs, and killing directly or indirectly (tens of millions in the last half century). Nobody likes meddlers; mind your own business.
This is not “American First-ism” or isolationism—it is, instead, anti-interventionism. As America’s imperial reckoning unfolds, put your own house in order by prioritizing the needs of your people, instead of wasting blood and treasure fighting eternal, expensive, unwinnable wars.
Leave other people alone.
Washingtonian: Heal thyself.
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