The End of America’s Longest War

Statement by Mark Weber, President, Cleveland Peace Action

One month ago, the last United States soldiers left Afghanistan ending our nation’s longest war. This week, amid partisan finger-pointing, we are subjected to the spectacle of Congressional hearings over how but not why the U.S. mission to this war-torn nation ignominiously failed just like our military presence in Vietnam collapsed 46 years ago. In both cases, our country lavished hundreds of billions of dollars to prop up corrupt local elites that preyed on the people who lived amid repression and poverty. In Afghanistan, successive U.S. administrations lied about why we were in one of the poorest nations of the world. As in Vietnam in the 1960’s, in the 1980’s, we used the logic of the Cold War to justify arming the mujahideen fighters to overthrow a secular, modernist government committed to significant social reforms including education for Afghan women. In doing so, we enabled the first takeover by the Taliban in the 1990’s. Then in the period 2001 to the present, we spent almost $2.3 trillion in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban. We lavished money on local warlords, transforming them from being corrupt local leaders with armed militias at their backs to being corrupt multi-millionaires with political muscle and with armies at their backs. Money from Washington flowed freely into the poverty-stricken nation. However, very little of this money reached the people who needed it. The people who continued to suffer saw little reason to back a U.S. puppet regime that seemed indifferent to the vast majority of Afghani citizens who lived outside of a few urban centers like Kabul and Herat.  In addition, according to the Watson Institute of Brown University, the butcher’s bill for our two-decade long sojourn in Afghanistan amounted to more than 7,000 US service members, 150,000 Afghan service members, and 335,000 Afghan civilians. Almost 31,000 US service members committed suicide as a result of participating in all of the post-9/11 US-sponsored wars. 

Cleveland Peace Action says: ENOUGH! Since the end of the Second World War, we have sacrificed blood and treasure in countless wars waged in the name of anti-communism, oil, and now “anti-terrorism.” Our policymakers, from elite universities and foundations, have studied the lessons of the history of this period. However, they have refused to heed any of these lessons. The pull of ideology, and the interests of arms manufacturers and military contractors like Blackwater have shaped our policy. The sons and daughters of working-class Americans and the civilians in the war zones we have created have been slaughtered so that U.S. corporations can reap huge profits. Of the $2.3 trillion the Department of Defense spent on the Afghan adventure, the Watson Institute estimates that between 35% to 50% went to private defense contractors. Let us conclude by urging all Americans to organize against future Afghanistan’s, whether in North Korea or Iran or Venezuela. Such adventures have been and always will be “a rich man’s war; but a poor man’s fight.”

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