Late in the Vietnam War, in 1971, whistleblower Daniel Ellsburg, with the help of others, leaked what became known as the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times and Washington Post. The leaked papers revealed three main things:
- The U.S. government knew the war was lost many years and four presidential administrations before we finally withdrew from Vietnam
- The U.S. illegally bombed and launched major military operations in Laos and Cambodia
- The U.S. government publicly lied to the American people about knowing any of this until they were caught red-handed with the leak
Howard Zinn’s website tells the story briefly here.
The Pentagon Papers were a massive deal at the time and an absolute PR nightmare for the Nixon Administration. A publication from the University of Virginia containing taped conversations from President Nixon himself refer to his response to the Pentagon Papers:
“The Nixon tapes offer extraordinary insights into the drama unfolding simultaneously in the White House, complete with shadowy cover-ups, blackmail schemes and, yes, orders to blow open a safe from the commander-in-chief himself”
Well, they say history doesn’t repeat itself, but if often rhymes; and the cost of not learning lessons has been massive for the United States and the world. Enter the war in Afghanistan.
The Afghanistan Papers
The war in Afghanistan (also undeclared) began with a US invasion by the Bush Administration in 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. It has since become our nation’s longest war in history that continues to this very day and has claimed the lives of an estimated 147,000 people, in addition to $1 trillion spent by the U.S. To say the war is immoral is to put it lightly, on top of the cost.
Now, thanks to the Washington Post and their three-year legal battle with the U.S. government via the Freedom of Information Act, a trove of documents and interviews have been released that share several parallels with the Pentagon Papers of the Vietnam War. Dubbed the Afghanistan Papers, they were released this past December and can be found here.
The documents reveal that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, after the invasion was only six months old, knew the conflict was a quagmire without a clear strategy to end it. Six months. Of a conflict nearing 19 years old and counting. And not only was there no clear strategy to resolve the war, but according to a U.S. official fourteen years later in 2015, “You had so many priorities and aspirations it was like no strategy at all.”
That same year in 2015, a National Security Council official would amazingly claim “It was impossible to create good metrics. We tried using troop numbers trained, violence levels, control of territory and none of it painted an accurate picture.” This was reportedly in response to Obama’s troop surge from 2009 through 2011 when The Administration urged officials to spin reality to make it look like the surge was succeeding when it clearly was not. Then-retired Army General Michael Flynn would remark on the surge: “Really? So if we are doing such a great job, why does it feel like we are losing?“
On top of all that, the U.S. was dumping absurd amounts of money into the country in a failed attempt to re-build Afghanistan- this strategy commonly dubbed nation-building. The total cost of nation-building in Afghanistan has been estimated to be $133 billion, a figure higher than what the U.S. spent rebuilding Western Europe after WWII- called the Marshall Plan, adjusted for inflation. The Washington Post reports an example of how the money was distributed to Afghan districts:
“One unidentified contractor told government interviewers he was expected to dole out $3 million daily for projects in a single Afghan district roughly the size of a U.S. county. He once asked a visiting congressman whether the lawmaker could responsibly spend that kind of money back home: “He said hell no. ‘Well, sir, that’s what you just obligated us to spend and I’m doing it for communities that live in mud huts with no windows.’ ”
Amid all this mess, nowhere did we hear of the budget hawks or deficit concerns with spending these mountains of cash. But when programs such as providing healthcare or education to the working class are proposed, they are hit by a wall of budget “concerns“. The fact of the matter is that trillions of dollars are always there to provide for enforcing a global U.S. empire or handing out money to oligarchs and large corporations (see Trump’s Tax Cut Bill for further proof), but not to the public.
You’d think the media would pounce on this monumental revelation. And yes, it was reported on and covered… then largely forgotten amid the Trump impeachment stories. My guess is the media was glad to move on from covering the Afghanistan Papers because elites of both parties are to blame here, in addition to an increasingly bloated U.S. military industrial complex who buys off both parties and has close business ties with our consolidated corporate media.
Many liberal outlets sound hypocritical if they hound the Bush and Trump Administrations for their management and continuation of the war when it was Obama who also perpetuated the war for his eight years in office. The same, in reverse, goes for much of the right-wing outlets.
These wars will continue so long as there aren’t any consequences or accountability for those who are responsible for them.
Speaking of which, Trump just assassinated a high ranking Iranian General.