[Most of what legendary consumer advocate Ralph Nader has written here is generally known, but rarely has it been drawn together so elegantly and described so compellingly. – Ed.]
The war in Afghanistan is nearly nine years old — the longest in American history. After the U.S. quickly toppled the Taliban regime in October 2001, the Taliban, by all accounts, came back stronger and harsher enough to control now at least 30 percent of the country. During this time, U.S. casualties, armaments and expenditures are at record levels.
If There’s a Good War, This Ain’t It
America’s overseas wars have different outcomes when they have no constitutional authority, no war tax, no draft, no regular on the ground press coverage, no Congressional oversight, no spending accountability and, importantly, no affirmative consent of the governed who are, apart from the military families, hardly noticing.
This is an asymmetrical, multi-matrix war. It is a war defined by complex intrigue, shifting alliances, mutating motivations, chronic bribery, remotely-generated civilian deaths, insuperable barriers of language and ethnic and subtribal conflicts. It is fought by warlords, militias, criminal gangs, and special forces discretionary death squads. Millions of civilians are impoverished, terrified and live with violent disruptions. There is no central government to speak of. The White House uses illusions of strategies and tactics to bid for time. In Afghanistan, the historic graveyard of invaders, hope springs infernal.
Neatly dressed Generals—who probably would never have gotten into this mess if they, not the civilian neocon, draft dodgers in the Bush regime, had made the call — regularly trudge up to Congress to testify. There they caveat their status reports, keeping expectations alive, while cowardly politicians praise their bravery. General David Petraeus could receive the Academy Award in Hollywood next year, as long as he doesn’t say what he really thinks, obedient soldier that he is. Listen to General Stanley A. McChrystal, not known for his squeamishness. Speaking of civilian deaths and injured at military checkpoints, he said: “We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none have ever proven to be a threat.”