Afghanistan — the end?

We can feel slightly encouraged by the stated intention of the Biden administration to withdraw more troops from Afghanistan. Biden said that the withdrawal will be “unconditional,” rejecting in advance the shopworn excuses about “conditions” used to keep US Armed Forces on the ground in Afghanistan since 2001. This could be a real feather in the cap for Biden, his successor, and his Party in 2022 and 2024, because most people are sick to death of American troops being committed to open-ended wars.

It’s a bold step. Not a bold step doing it, because it hasn’t been done yet, but saying that the withdrawal and the date — September 11, 2021— are non-negotiable is stepping on a hell of a lot of toes.

There are rivers of cash flowing through the American presence in Afghanistan, as well as opposition from an influential cadre of Bush neoconservatives who are daily growing more comfortable with Democratic Party leadership, and who are flaunted as experts on MSNBC and CNN.

Come election time, military withdrawals are easy campaign bait for Republicans who want to mobilize an offended sense of national masculinity.

Pardon my skepticism, but the Washington Post published four op-eds in one day on April 18th opposing the withdrawal from Afghanistan; and that should tell us something.

Featured in these op-eds are rebukes of Biden for “not listening to the intelligence officials and military leadership.” Before I go any further, let’s stop right here and point something out . . . because at this juncture we’ve been trained like circus animals to nod our heads sagely at how obvious it is that intelligence officials and Generals are IR gurus worthy of our trust and support.

Hit pause!

That. Is. So. Not. True.

We may now cease reflexively nodding our assent and switch on the light back on.

Oh yeah . . . the history of both cohorts is characterized by lunacy, lies, delusional conspiracies, crimes, cover-ups, and colossal clusterfucks. Those guys.

We’re not saying that everything that comes out of the mouths of intelligence officials and Generals is untrue, or wrong, or manipulative. There are exceptions. A busted clock is correct twice a day. But as a group, their criminally irresponsible history warrants at least our agnosticism any time these “experts” open their pie holes about political matters. Saying Biden is not listening to them should be a cause for celebration.

As it stands right now, it appears that both Schumer and Pelosi are supportive of this withdrawal, another good sign. But that’s the end of the marginally good news. Here’s where we aim our skepticism not only at the Generals and spooks, but at the planned withdrawal itself, because there are some pretty scary devils in the details.

Let’s start with the fact that the withdrawal is of around 3,500 conventional active duty troops. Ever since corporations of mercenaries lined up at the DOD trough during the Bush II years, the US has employed these “contractors” to conduct military operations off the books, that is, without the direct civilian oversight of the military that is supposedly enshrined in the Constitution. When Obama, then Trump, did their troop “draw downs,” they more than replaced the absent soldiers with mercenaries.

Yes, there are around 3,500 troops, but there are more than 18,000 mercenaries on the ground in Afghanistan, among them 6,000 US mercenaries if you accept the low-balls from US Central Command. In other words, Biden, like Trump, Obama, and Bush before him, is pissing on the public’s leg and telling us it’s raining.

Biden has no intention of ending the US war in Afghanistan. He is in the process of concealing the war by moving it “over the horizon.”

The drone strikes will continue. Two US air bases will be maintained in Afghanistan, and bombings will be carried out from the US base in nearby Qatar. US warships loiter nearby, armed to the teeth with Cruise missiles. The mercenaries, the spooks, and the special operations units will remain, uncounted.

[When there was a cap of 52 military personnel in El Salvador in the eighties, I was among military men in El Salvador then who were under official cover and uncounted. Same shit, different day.]

Biden has stated that he intends to continue funding the corrupt Afghan government and security forces, including paying these security forces’ salaries. Congress has already appropriated more than $3 billion for this “assistance” for 2021, and you can bet the military-industrial-mercenary complex will be back with its hand out for more.

I hate to bring this us, but there is a parallel here that some of us geriatric types remember: Vietnam. Just as the original commitment of US troops to the invasion and occupation of Vietnam began with some spooks and Special Forces “advisors,” so we are “leaving” Afghanistan, this time with them still running Afghan kill squads on the sly (a la the Phoenix Program).

Our invasion and occupation of Afghanistan was the result of what may be the most effective strategic strike in modern history: the September 11 attack. I’m not admiring it, just saying that, in military terms, Osama bin Laden and a handful of committed conspirators executed an action that sucked the US into a two-front, two-decade conflict that wasted trillions of dollars, hundreds of thousands of lives, humiliated the US Armed Forces, destroyed US credibility throughout the entire region, and won the Iran-Iraq War . . . for Iran. (The latter was inadvertent, because bin Laden hated Iran as much as he hated his former sponsor — the US.)

American national masculinity permitted nothing else, and bin Laden knew that. The response was as inevitable as the inability to reel it back in. It was a tar-baby strategy, and it worked like a charm.

I raise the Vietnam issue, because the US wanted out of that war, too, but kept getting sucked further and further in. Here’s how, in simple tactical terms.

Asymmetric, or guerrilla, or partisan forces — whatever you want to call them — cannot confront a major-power occupying force head-on. But what they can do is pick away at the edges and force reactions. Let’s use a simplified example.

We have an air base in a low-intensity war zone. Planes can’t fly in and out safely without a protected space surrounding the planes, airfield, tower, hangars, etc. So a buffer zone is established, and at the edge of that buffer zone is an interlocking line of security positions punctuated by checkpoints on the roads leading in and out. X number of personnel are required to maintain these security measures 24/7, run shifts, and support these essential personnel with billets, food, and other facilities.

The good guerrilla commander looks for vulnerabilities along that edge. Nothing spectacular, because he isn’t trying to breach the line, just conduct a hit-and-run harassment attack. Because after one or several of such attacks, the base security authority has to respond, usually by both adding more troops further out and calling on mobile ground troops to run patrols “outside the wire” as a deterrent. This is the stretch effect.

A few more here, a few more there. Then the partisans learn how the patrols work outside the wire. One day, they organize an effective ambush. Americans die, and the national masculinity is provoked. A “task force” is sent in to hunt down the attackers.

You see where this goes. Stretch, then fill the thinned ranks. Stretch again . . .

It matters little who is in office when these situations emerge, because they are already trapped in a matrix of perceived necessities of American power projection, pressure from the military-industrial-mercenary-media complex, and the national masculinity . . . to change course and escalate.

What happens when there is a massive attack on the corrupt Afghan government that threatens to topple it? Is that a “condition”?

The US is leaving not only two air bases and a network of special ops substations, but with a commitment to continue to prop up a host government that is the US’s very own broken, corrupted creature. Vietnam. Vietnam. Vietnam. Only worse . . . During Vietnam, we weren’t saddled with a DOD that outsourced its activities (and all accountabilities) to corporate war makers who’s mercenary thugs make twice what a soldier does for half the “work” on the taxpayer’s dime.

This fake withdrawal is not the only problem, obviously. There is a deeper structural and ideological cancer in the body politic for which Afghanistan is a mere symptom. American imperial militarism, an ideology and practice that is now being privatized to escape the Constitutional civil-military relation and all transparency and accountability.

Militarism is (1) the glorification of the ideals of a professional military class, (2) the predominance of the armed forces in the administration or policy of the state, and (3) a policy bias in which military preparedness is of primary importance to a state, over and against other concerns.

Until this cancer is excised, no remission will ever last.

The US needs a peace movement again, one that is not opportunistically tied to political parties.

The first mission of any such movement needs to be education, because anyone who hadn’t reached the age of majority by 2001 is unlikely to remember (especially because the following point was suppressed in our warmongering media) that prior to Bush II, international agreements and law to which the US is signatory limited the suspension of civil law only to active battlefields. The Bush-Rumsfeld Doctrine, eagerly adopted by Obama, Trump, and now Biden, was to declare the entire world a combat zone, freeing the US (which can act with impunity in most cases) to suspend civil law, even assassinating its own citizens abroad, and serially violate the sovereignty of any nation is chooses. Ergo, the phrase Global War on Terror.

That is the war we really need to end.

Author of the books “Hideous Dream,” “Full Spectrum Disorder,” “Borderline,” “Mammon’s Ecology,” and “Tough Gynes.”