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Unspeakable Truth

by Berry Friesen (August 24, 2017)

Earlier this week (August 21), President Trump told the American people that it is necessary for the military occupation of Afghanistan to continue.

The President’s announcement was a bitter disappointment for those who had supported him because of his criticism of the interventionism of presidents Bush and Obama. Not only did Trump betray his promise to end US participation in that war, he justified the extension of the war with the same sort of platitudinous Washington-speak that a president Clinton would have used.

So while broad swaths of United States deteriorate and fall into decline, $50 billion in US taxpayer funds needed here will continue to be wasted annually in Afghanistan (in addition to the $1 trillion aready spent in direct appropriations).

How does the empire rationalize this extension of an unpopular and expensive war into a 17th year? It doubles-down on the 9/11 deception—the claim that those terror attacks were hatched, planned and carried out by Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. It cranks up the media reports about how ISIS is becoming active and strong in Afghanistan.  It boasts of the empire’s commitment to gender equality and expresses anguish over the Taliban’s misogynistic policies.

Yet we do understand what’s going on, don’t we? The US-led empire regards Afghanistan as essential real estate in order to block China’s $900 billion plan to open a westward overland trade route that stretches through Myanmar, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey all the way to Europe and western Russia.*  Located as it is on the eastern border of Iran, Afghanistan also is essential to the empire’s efforts to destabilize Iran’s current government and bring that independent nation into the empire’s grasp.

Location, location, location; it’s the great imperial chess game.

What none of our “leaders” will admit is that the empire has no intention of ever leaving Afghanistan.  It needs Afghanistan to be a broken and compliant state, a staging ground for imperial forces and the base for covert operations against nations who insist on independence. For that to happen, Afghanistan must remain unstable and chaotic, a place of unending war, suffering and sorrow.

This ugly truth is only the beginning of the rot we find when we start digging. Then we uncover the fact that the Afghan warlords are treating the war as a racket, manipulating the conflict so that a decisive result is never achieved and the empire’s money keeps on flowing. US arms manufacturers are greasing the wheels of war, knowing full well that their prosperity depends on the extension of the occupation. The Afghan government is helping ISIS get established. Then there is the vanity of a generation of military officers who earned their stripes in Afghanistan. They much prefer an extension of the war to a US departure as losers.

So the killing must continue. Too many of the key players are heavily invested in the war.

What to expect under Trump’s new plan?  A few thousand more troops, but mostly the war increasingly will become privatized via contractors who bring in mercenaries to do the training and the dirty work. Increasingly, we can expect the CIA to be in charge, thus making the entire operation covert and out of public view.  The funding will be provided by taxpayers and via borrowing. An off-the-books bonus will come from the CIA’s share of Afghanistan’s opium production, which is at record levels. **

Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater and currently head of Frontier Services Group, favors a longer and more thoroughly privatized war effort. His company is already running a private army for the United Arab Emirates and could just as well do it for the empire in Afghanistan as well. There would be a kind of poetic justice in such an arrangement. When the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and drove the Taliban out of power, the private Afghan warlords were the primary local beneficiaries. So why not arrange for a private US warlord to get a piece of the action too?  Prince’s company is located in Dubai, but maybe some of the loot would trickle back to the US via Prince’s family channels; after all, his sister is now the US Secretary of Education.

Where does all of this leave us?  Well, that depends on what we value. We have another reason to dislike President Trump if we need one.  We have another reason to bet on a bullish stock market if that’s where our heart lies.  If we’re more worried about China than the empire, then the President’s “decision” may cause us to relax just a bit.  If we’re learning to become anti-imperialists, we’ve just experienced a valuable lesson about how the empire operates.

Most of us are aware of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” It tells the story of two weavers who dress the emperor in a stunning outfit that is invisible to anyone who is incompetent, stupid or otherwise unfit for his/her position.

Often the story is told to mock leaders who are so caught up in vanity and hubris that they are unable to recognize what is obvious to most everyone else. Yet the story also is aimed at a broader audience: the ass-kissers who tell leaders what they want to hear and commoners like us who go along with deception because we want to get along in life. We all willingly submit to the “necessity” of pretense. Only a guileless child voices the unspeakable truth: “The emperor is naked!”

“A little child shall lead them” said the prophet Isaiah (11:6). We need such children today—no matter their age— voicing what we are too afraid to say: “The empire is malignant, leaving death and decay in its wake.”
* For background reading about China’s plan for a new Silk Road—also known as the Belt and Road Initiative—see the writings of journalist Pepe Escobar, including his latest here.

** Remember the controversy around US support of the Nicaraguan Contras of the ‘80s? Congress said “no” to aid to the Contras, but the Reagan Administration found a way, first through illegal arms sales to Iran and then through illegal CIA facilitation of a collaboration between the Contras and drug traffickers running cocaine into the US. It was an off-the-books covert operation—illegal as could be—and the kind of thing the CIA continues to do all across the world, but especially in Afghanistan. For an engaging overview of the CIA's involvement in the drug trade, see Alfred W. McCoy's very personal account of his research into this dark side of  American history, published August 24 by For a short account of how Afghan opium production accelerated after the US occupation of Afghanistan in 2001, see Mnar Muhawesh's article in

1 comment:

  1. "Follow the money" is always a good place to start. Thanks for the research Berry. Much I did not know.