To end the month and my first series of posts analyzing the state of our economy I would like to include one last analysis of war profiteering, including how it affected Afghanistan, providing an outlook for the role our military industrial complex plays in savage capitalism.
If we are measuring based on human cost and attempts at stabilization, the War on Terror was a miserable failure. When looking at the underlying reasons that our ruling class pushed us into conflict, the drive to profit as much as possible off the military industrial machine, it was a resounding success. Since the end of the Cold War and Desert Storm the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) had been pushing for an occupation of the Middle East to establish oil pipelines and bases, expanding our ceaseless monetary and military growth. Among the members of PNAC were Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, who voiced desires to invade the region since Osama Bin Laden radicalized the Mujahideen into al-Qaeda.
In the wake of 9/11 and the tragedy felt across the nation, Rumsfeld and Cheney took advantage of the nationalist fervor and pushed Bush to declare invasions based on shoddy evidence of WMDs and terrorist connections among the regime of Hussein. (We had immediately invaded Afghanistan following the attack). These claims turned out to be verifiably false after further investigation, and I will have more writing about the operations that our intelligence services undertake to spread imperialism. Nevertheless Bush set the precedent for an invasion without Congressional approval and the connections between the administration and companies that drive our military industrial complex were very intimate.
Haliburton, a defense contractor headed by Dick Cheney all the way up until his election as Vice President, was chosen to be one of the exclusive outsourcers of weapons, provisions, and mercenary contractors for the U.S army following 9/11. The company made nearly $36 billion with a capital B off of the Iraq war and further destabilization in the Middle East. And while Cheney claimed to have served ties with the company before the Iraq war, is it plausible that a former CEO with stock holdings in the firm, who happens to be the Vice President of the United States, may have used his influence and position to secure contracting for his former employees? To further play devil’s advocate, do we really think that Cheney himself didn’t see any of that $36 billion?
Big business thrives during war, bidding for contracts with the government and ramping up the production of weapons to get the gears churning. Upwards of 94% of Raytheon’s profit is government contracts (~$20 billion), while Lockheed Martin raked in $35 billion in 2017 alone. This is more than the budget for the IRS and EPA combined. American defense contractors account for over 60% of a $400 billion industry and companies such as Lockheed have sold bombs used to kill hundreds of families, such as a few years ago after it sold a bomb to Saudi Arabia which they promptly dropped on a bus killing 40 schoolchildren and their chaperones.
Many politicians besides Cheney have ties to the defense industry, such as Diane Feinstein, Ro Khanna, or Roy blunt who owns $100k of Lockheed, and 51 members of Congress and their spouses own anywhere from $2.5 – $3.8 million in defense contractor stocks. Elected members of Congress who are supposed to be legislating to protect our sons and daughters sit back and profit as they send them to get blown up overseas, fighting doomed wars that have hollow ideological enemies on the surface but are really about exerting influence while perpetuating wealth underneath.
It hasn’t only been in the modern age that American arms dealing has had disastrous effects, as during the Iran Contra affair Reagan authorized a supposed $30 million hostage/arms trade with Iran that mainly went to radical groups in the Middle East and Latin America, $18 million of which was funneled to Contra forces in Nicaragua. The money that had been sent to Contras not only went towards arms and defenses for the conflict with the FSLR, but also covered costs for establishing future revenue streams. The primary way in which the guerilla group maintained itself was through the production and distribution of cocaine; thus CIA money helped to provide vehicles and infrastructure for a burgeoning drug trade between the Americas.
At least two known Contra associates were arrested on drug trafficking charges in the U.S., and others were detained across Central America. It is up for debate as to whether or not the CIA knew of Contra cocaine making its way into the U.S., but an article by the San Jose Mercury seemed to suggest that government assets had knowledge of drugs being distributed domestically. Based upon the government and CIA’s history of creating programs like cointel pro, the Tuskegee syphilis trials, and other policies aimed at distributing substances into the bodies of the public, specifically POC, I would lean towards the argument that someone in the Reagan administration knew Contra drugs were being sold at home. Keep in mind this was also at the height of the war on drugs, and the government was looking for any justification to oppress African American communities in particular. Contra assets were arrested for distribution near areas that have been notorious hot spots for cocaine trade where police patrolled too, such as in southern California where the Contras seemed to target low income populations. Law enforcement was just as eager to beat up on POC communities then as they are now, and knowledge of where crack was being distributed within them would certainly be delectable to local cops.
We don’t hear about the massive pollution that the U.S. military generates since in 1997 we requested an exemption on reporting military emissions as part of the Kyoto Protocols, but while it trudges along the military machine wreaks havoc upon our environment and is the largest polluter in the world. There are regular oil spills in the tens of thousands of gallons, non-compliant burning of munitions and other material that produce toxic smoke, and no oversight to ensure the military pollutes less. In 2019 the government also quietly shut down the US Navy Task Force Climate Change Initiative that was working to prepare for higher sea levels and global warming.
Not only has the environment suffered as a result of American military endeavors, but our own people’s health is put at risk. Wherever we have large bases of operations set up there are extenuating concerns about the surrounding community’s health from the pollution. Last year Tucson sued one of the biggest air force contractors, claiming that 3M had been dumping trichloroethylene (TCE) into the environment for years with the chemical leaking into the city’s watershed. TCE is an industrial solvent used in degreasing and can cause neural, liver, and respiratory irregularities along with cancer. There are also many reports of the very servicemen and women protecting our country coming home with various forms of cancer and other medical ailments from their exposure to toxic pollutants.
We are seeing the real time failures of American foreign policy as our military leaves Afghanistan in shambles. People were so desperate to escape the Taliban takeover they were clinging to the last U.S. jets leaving Kabul, falling to death instead of enduring what will become one of the most repressive regimes on Earth. For twenty years we helped build up the country’s infrastructure in hopes of preventing further insurgency from spreading, and some of our investment has undoubtedly spread access to education, economic advancement, and quality of life for many.
Any progress made is about to be stripped away by the Taliban since our overall military goals, especially with our equipment and capabilities upon initial invasion, were outright unattainable in the sense of setting up a stable western democracy within the given territory while preventing the spread of radicalism. Rumsfeld even cold heartedly acknowledged that we were under prepared, saying “you go to war with the army you have…not the army you might want or wish to have.” The rush to send troops into the region based on shoddy evidence can be directly compared to our intervention in Vietnam, with Stavridis even acknowledging that the one year rotations of duty that senior officers had in Afghanistan led to miscommunications and skewed agendas that were similar in the ways we failed planning the Vietnam War.
The training centers we set up for Afghan police and military forces were heavily infiltrated by the Taliban and other terrorist interests, with radicalized and devoted initiates taking U.S. training and pay for weeks then disappearing into the mountains with their weapons once completing the program. Over the course of our 20 year occupation, military and civilian leadership along with NATO misled both Americans and our allies to believe that a capable security force was being built up to counter insurgency once we left. In reality the Taliban and their allies were able to maintain their influence throughout the country, and it was pretty obvious that as soon as American forces left they would purge all dissenters as happened in Vietnam. The security force we trained was so corrupt that as the Taliban took over posts we pulled out of this year, Afghan forces simply walked away after not being fed or paid for weeks. Afghan forces were known to take bribes, commit horrible sexual assaults on women and children, and possess a general lack of competency.
Despite this reality, the political establishment perpetuated the lie to Americans until the bitter end that everything would be fine when we pulled out, with Biden claiming weeks before our official departure date that the security forces we left in place would hold up. High ranking officials also counteracted their own statements, such as one notable incident in 2009 where Karl Eikenberry, U.S. ambassador, sent a cable to Hilary Clinton that acknowledged the blatant inability of Afghan forces to sustain the government when we pulled out, and sending more troops would only solidify their reliance on our aid while delaying our departure date and costing more lives. He closed by saying that he couldn’t support the proposal to send 40,000 extra troops, yet a month later In contradiction to his own statement, Eikenberry told Congress that Obama’s planned surge offered the best route to ensuring terrorist groups didn’t gain a foothold in the country again.
Now we are left in the shambles of this failed imperialism endeavor, losing thousands of our brave young men and women while injuring or traumatizing countless more, spending trillions of dollars for absolutely nothing. Since beginning the war on terror America has spent over $4.4 trillion on the military machine that razes countries in its attempt to weed out insurgents, most of that going to the upper class and corporate interests that supply our machines of death.
There is going to be infinite finger pointing about how Trump negotiated with the Taliban to pull out, freeing Abdul Barador from a Pakistani jail in 2018 and significantly reducing troop presence beyond what Pompeo had negotiated before Biden took office, leading him to walk right into the GOP trap of claiming the President must resign over Afghanistan’s mishandling as he only finished what Trump started. Not to mention calls back to Bush’s failed war and why we were even there in the first place, coupled with the fact that we funded the Mujahideen that branched into the Taliban. While we squabble about petty blame games, the true suffering will be endured by the people of Afghanistan who have been under occupation and constant bombardment for two decades already, forced to endure the transition into an even more oppressive theocratic regime. The only productive results from our intervention in Afghanistan and the Middle East have been seen by the likes of Cheney and other war profiteers, leeching billions off of human despair and environmental destruction.
I hope you have enjoyed this first series, I will be doing monthly topics, obviously this was about new feudalism and our economic corruption which holds us in servitude to upper class interests. In September I will be discussing the prison system, along with the concept of race and mass incarceration. I may get into the police as well, but I have so much content for these topics that I will most likely be splitting a discussion of law enforcement into two months as I head into discussions of our identity based politics and why we’re getting so radical in a bad way during the fall. 🙂