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After Forty Years of U.S. Destruction of Afghanistan, it’s Time for Reparations

The U.S. armed jihadists and invited Bin Laden as part of the Cold War; abandoned the country to criminal warlords and civil war; created conditions for rise of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda; since 9/11 waged brutal war and broke every promise to rebuild the economy – Wilkerson and Jay on theAnalysis.news.

TRANSCRIPT

Paul Jay

Hi, welcome to theAnalysis.news,  I’m Paul Jay. In a minute, we’ll be back with Larry Wilkerson to discuss the role of the United States in destroying Afghanistan. Please don’t forget the donate button. Without your financial support, we can’t do this.

As the Taliban assert full control over Afghanistan, mainstream media is mostly discussing when the U.S. withdrawal should have taken place and was the withdrawal properly planned? There’s very little conversation about why the United States is in Afghanistan, in the first place. It’s taken as a given that after 9/11 the United States had to invade in order to defend its national security interest, and even that’s a dubious prospect. Many experts, back at the time, advocated a police-style action in Afghanistan, not an invasion, which was likely illegal under international law. But what about the question, why was there a 9/11 in the first place? Why is there a Taliban? Why is there an Al Qaeda? Those questions don’t get discussed at all on corporate media, or at least I’m not hearing it.

The answer begins with U.S. policy since the Second World War, which has been to assert global dominance, especially in the region of the Middle East and Eurasia. That is the root of the issue here. A vision articulated by President Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor — it was a big new Brezinski, in his book The Grand Chessboard. He called for American global hegemony and the need for American dominance in Eurasia to achieve that. The weakening of the Soviet Union was the prime objective and anything that achieved that was justified. Including the use of Pakistan to arm rural Afghan Jihadists against the Pro-Soviet government of Afghanistan, in order to induce a Soviet invasion and their own Vietnam-style quagmire.

The Afghan Communist government had infuriated tribal leaders, with edicts that allowed girls to go to school and women to work. That’s supposedly an objective the Americans supported. Although life in major cities was quite modern, with women enjoying basic rights — they use to go to school in pants and skirts, not burkas. The Communist government also alienated many urban Afghans, with their bureaucratic and repressive rule. An armed insurgency developed in the countryside amongst poorly armed tribal forces. It was this rural opposition that was armed with modern weaponry by the United States under the Carter, then much more under the Reagan administrations. With the cooperation of the Pakistan Militarian ISI, the Pakistani intelligence agency. It’s here that the U.S. policy sacrifices Afghanistan’s organic modernization, for a victory, in the Cold War. Thirty years of misery, Civil War, and medieval backwardness are a direct consequence of the U.S. imperial Cold War strategy.

The process of asserting such global military dominance, while a very profitable one for the military and fossil fuel industrial complex, doesn’t even serve the interest of the Empire very well, let alone the American people who sacrifice their daughters and sons. In reality, one can look from Vietnam to the Iraq Wars, as the best examples of that. Attempts at military dominance have mostly ended in debacles. All that being said, it seems the real objective is the process, not the outcome. It’s all about the money-making, the trillions of dollars that flow into the coffers of the very rich. Be damned how many lives are lost along the way. As much as this imperial policy has failed to achieve its stated objectives, the thinking of geopolitical hegemony still runs deep in the American elites. Not only because it’s profitable and it does help maintain a certain amount of commercial global dominance, but because they still believe they are the chosen nation, the exceptional nation. Of course, the whole weight of American culture works to make ordinary Americans believe it too. Hopefully, one of the positives that comes out of the U.S. defeat in Afghanistan is something that was talked about after the Vietnam War, which is a fatigue amongst the American people for more military intervention.

In a 1997 document, produced by the Project for New American Century, written by a bunch of Neo-cons that wound up running the Bush-Cheney foreign policy, they talk about this Vietnam syndrome. They even talk about the need for a new Pearl Harbor to energize the American people to support new military interventions. Well, they got their new Pearl Harbor on 9/11. It must be added that Senator Bob Graham, who was the Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and Co-Chair of the joint congressional investigation into 9/11, believes these attacks were allowed to take place and even facilitated by the Bush-Cheney White House. More on that another time. After seeing the scenes of this evacuation debacle in Afghanistan, hopefully, there will now be an Afghan syndrome.

The U.S. did not fail at nation-building in Afghanistan. It succeeded in nation-destroying. The wellbeing of the Afghan people was never the American objective, and to blame the Afghans for a narco economy and the Taliban back in control is the height of hypocrisy. I think the U.S. and other NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] countries owe the Afghan people reparations.

Now joining us to talk about the historical context and current situation in Afghanistan is Colonel Larry Wilkerson. He was the former Chief of Staff to the Secretary of State, Colin Powell. Thanks very much for joining us, Larry.

So, that’s my rant. What’s yours?

Larry Wilkerson

Well, I was listening carefully. The historical scope that you just briefly touched on, is a place where every American should go. They don’t. Gore Vidal said, “We’re the United States of Amnesia.” We’re not the United States of amnesia. We’re the United States of ignorance. Amnesia assumes that you once knew something then forgot it. We never knew anything. The American people, since about 1970, have totally abandoned what Franklin warned them about, an empire Republic. If you can keep it — we haven’t kept it at all.

People throw rocks at me all the time for blaming the American people. I don’t leave myself out of that. I was a member of the empire in good standing for a long time. It took me 60 years, roughly, to wake up. The history is difficult to understand, to map, and to come to points where you can say I understand why that happened. Unless you understand the ignorance and the go-along nature of the American people. The American people like the empire. They like SUVs, that guzzle down gas. They like their lifestyle, which consumes and supports crony predatory capitalism that’s destroying the very Earth they live on. They like that. Now, I’m not trying to condemn all of them. I’m not saying they all do, but a great portion of them do. Certainly, the 74 million or so, who seem to continue to support Donald Trump do, and there are many more than that, plenty of them on the Democratic side too, who do. It’s all about money in power, power in money, and being associated with money and power, having money and power, consuming because you have that money and power, and so forth. 

This is not something that just came down out of heaven and lit on the United States of America, it’s us. It’s us from 1776, indeed even before that, in the colonial period and on. If you examine the history really closely. One, we like to kill. Two, we think it’s honorable and patriotic to do it for the state. Three, we think people that provide the implements and equipment for that killing are great people and reward them significantly. Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing, United Tech, you name it, the whole list of the war merchants, the death merchants.

This is not something that is developed in the post-world War II world, though, in the Cold War it gains its footing like it never had before and becomes so modern it develops weapons that can kill millions at a single stroke. It’s very historical. It’s very American. It’s us, Paul.

Paul Jay

I have to agree, and to some extent, disagree in a way. Meaning, history presented the United State because of its geography and particular development based on slavery and genocide of Native people, but I got to say, as someone who’s a dual citizen — U.S. Canadian, that if Canada had the opportunity, that you could have said that same thing about that to us — to Canadians. It’s a process that developed in the United States, for sure, but it used to be Britain that did this and it used to be Belgium that did this. The development of the system of imperialism in the United States, I don’t think it’s something — certainly, the American people mostly benefit from. Certainly, a large portion do, though less and less. I think, one of the things that happened in the 1980s is the American elites looked at the American working class and said, ‘Hey, hold on here. We don’t actually have to share so much of our global plunder with American workers. They’re getting weak. Look at the unions.’ Then Reagan says, ‘Yeah, watch, this’, then does the air traffic controllers and develops a process that takes the unionization down by as much as 50% or even more. The sharing of the plunder has gone down. The objective interest of a large number of Americans, in this system, is far less than it used to be, but this patriotic fervor and this identity that people grow up as Americanism it’s so deliberately nurtured. You go to school, you put your hand on your chest, and you say, ‘I pledge allegiance to this flag.’ Not to the people. You don’t pledge allegiance to the people. You pledge allegiance to a flag that represents a state and government that is essentially the flag of the empire. All of that said, do you think we’re in a moment now, that maybe because — like in Vietnam, that the debacle in Afghanistan might take some of the steam out of this appetite for foreign military adventure?

Larry Wilkerson

I would hope it would, but I lived through Vietnam and I’ve lived vicariously through our history. Everything from — as [Ulysses] Grant said, probably the most egregious war in our history, the war with Mexico, which was total aggression to a Grand Isle territory from Mexico to the present situation.  I take exception a little bit to what you were sort of historically summing there. As [Thomas] Piketty said, it’s all about — in terms of human endeavor for almost 5,000 years in his book, Capital and Ideology, with an exquisite phrase — it’s all about inequality regimes. Whether it’s serfdom, feudalism, slavery, or it’s colonialism. Those are terms we’ve come to apply without really thinking about what they actually mean to those inequality regimes throughout those 5,000 years. Well, now the inequality regime is predatory, crony capitalism, and it’s led by the United States, though China is nipping right at our heels to be the lead crony-predatory-capitalist country in the world. What we’ve done with that system unlike that of slavery, colonialism, or feudalism before them both, is we’re destroying the planet. Not only are we destroying the planet with the rapacious nature of that predatory capitalism, the consumerism that goes along with it, and the blind stupidity of those who do the consuming, we are also equipped for the first time in human history, with the means at our own disposal to destroy ourselves completely, and of course I mean nuclear weapons.

So, we’re at a point in human history that I would not just describe as extremely dangerous, I would describe it as truly existential. I’m just not sure, how much longer we’re going to last as a species.

Paul Jay

Yeah, well, I don’t disagree with any of that. To go back to this issue I raised in the beginning, this assertion of the dominance of empire and the way Zbigniew Brzezinski who was — for people that don’t remember, Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor. He wrote a book called —

Larry Wilkerson

Henry Kissinger, act two. 

Paul Jay

Right. Wrote a book called–

Larry Wilkerson

Zbigniew would agree to that I think, because you can’t look at Zbigniew, which I’ve done in great detail, without thinking that he had this image of Henry in his mind. I’m going to outdo Henry.

Paul Jay

Actually, I’m going to be doing a commentary on all this in the next day or two. I interviewed Brzezinski before he died. I’m going to have some clips from that interview where he defends the arming of the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, because the thesis of his book, The Grand Chessboard, was essentially if you don’t dominate Eurasia you can’t dominate the world. It’s in the world’s interest for the United States to dominate rather than somebody else. It was under that rationale that they essentially create the conditions for the rise of the Mujahideen, the overthrow of the government in Kabul, and then the chaos of civil war in Afghanistan, that killed perhaps as many as two million Afghans. The Taliban rises a force to try to restrain the brutality of that civil war, and in the early days, is quite a popular force in Afghanistan. 

Larry Wilkerson

There are two prongs to that, too. I agree with what you’re saying. They created Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaeda, and at the same time — because of our policies with respect to Israel and Egypt, they created [Abu Muhammad] Al-Masri, who was the real operational genius of Al-Qaeda. Meanwhile, Bin Laden would be the theoretician, the acetic, or the Monk, almost. To do the things he did he had a certain charisma about him, from everyone I’ve talked to who interviewed him personally. Al-Masri was the tough little Egyptian doctor who wanted nothing more than to just crush the leadership in Egypt. Ultimately, he saw one way to do that was to crush the people who support them and the people who support Israel, and we all know who that is. In fact, after Carter achieved the Peace Treaty, [Anwar] Sadat and [Menachem] Begin, in Israel and Egypt. Then you had Al-Masri, really on a rampage — and we built Al-Qaeda for God’s sake.

Paul Jay

Yeah, Bin Laden was invited to Afghanistan by the CIA. I think, what’s really revealing about the current moment is that — I use this phrase often, but I’ll use it again. The United States — the people that make this policy believe, yeah, we do bad things, but we do it for good reasons. One of the bad things was the creation of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Most importantly, the funding of the military dictatorship in Pakistan, and the strengthening with billions of dollars every year of this military cast in Pakistan that is the real force that created the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. In fact, in the last reporting, I saw from people within Pakistan — large numbers of the Pakistan military are in fact actual members of Al-Qaeda. The force of the ISI, the Pakistani Intelligence Agency, in creating and shaping what took place in Afghanistan, before and now.

I did a very unique interview, when I was in Afghanistan, making my Return To Kandahar film. I interviewed a guy who was on the Taliban Central Council, and this is in the spring– the interview took place in 2002. He said after 9/11, they had a meeting where the Central Council debated whether to hand Bin Laden over or not, because the U.S. — at least on the face of it, was threatening that if you don’t hand over Bin Laden, we’re going to come and overthrow you. The Central Council, according to this guy who was a member, then quit — the Central Council decided they would hand over Bin Laden to an Islamic country. A lot of this, actually, I found verified by someone reporting for the Guardian, at the time. Then a representative of the Pakistani government came and Mullah [Mohammad] Omar, opposed sending Bin Laden away. A representative of the Pakistani government came to another Council meeting that was called by Mullah Omarnand and persuaded the Council not to turn Bin Laden over, to let him go.

Pakistan has been engineering and manipulating this situation to a large extent. I wouldn’t say the Taliban are their puppets, but Pakistan has enormous influence. All that being said, what I think is revealing about this moment is in spite of all the power of the United States, all the money, and all the troops they can’t control Pakistan. As a result, they couldn’t control the Taliban. This idea that they’re going to dominate Eurasia, this whole thing’s turned in quite the opposite of that. If any force is growing an influence in Eurasia, it’s China.

Larry Wilkerson

What you’ve just described is absent a principal feature, if you don’t include Saudi Arabia.

Paul Jay

Very much. 

Larry Wilkerson

Saudi Arabia funds and fuels a lot of what Islamabad does. They do it under the table and sometimes they do it above the table, like, Mohammed bin Salman’s recent trip to Islamabad, to give them something in the neighborhood of 20 billion U.S. They don’t just hunt, they’re hawks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Balochistan, the Saudi Princes. They support everything that’s happening that we would say we were against. They are the greatest, Wahhabis sponsors of terrorism on the face of the Earth, and they’ve got lots of money to do it. I wish I knew a list of the royals, who are involved — and I’m absolutely convinced some of them are involved. It’s not just the Wahabbist per se, in Saudi Arabia, it’s part of the government, too. This is the way both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia keep their bona fides alive, in the radical Islamic world, and thus, as Sunnis contest the radical Islamic world in Tehran, it’s a huge battle between the two forces that doesn’t describe itself in territorial gain, like, the neo-conservatives they are constantly talking about. Oh, the arc Iran is creating across the Levant, and so forth. That’s crazy. It’s all ideological, and it’s a pretty fierce struggle. When Turkey entered it, for example, on Qatar’s side, when Mohammed bin Salman was trying to boycott and ultimately choke Qatar it got even wider. The Ottoman Empire was back. So, we have a lot of contestants in this and it’s a little bit different from the great game that the British, the Russians, and others played in, at that time. It’s got a lot of different components. The most dangerous of which is Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile, as I’ve said many times, is probably, the most likely unstable stockpiles in the world. One of the reasons the ISI and the Pakistani military go along with what the ISI is doing, with regard to the Taliban, is because they want to keep them roiled up in what is not a state. Not in any way fashion or form. We should have realized this and never stayed, in the first place. Kick out the Taliban, kick out Al-Qaeda, or whatever, but we should have never stayed to state-built, in an entity that can’t be a state. It’s not a state. It’s a group of tribes. Half those tribes live part in Pakistan, and part in Afghanistan. Some live in Uzbekistan, and some live in Northern Iran. I mean, it’s crazy, it’s not a state. It’s just a piece of territory that a lot of other States, scramble over all the time, particularly Pakistan. So, you’ve got a situation there, where, as in Balochistan, for example, there’s no real administration, government, central authority, and there’s no way to impact things, other than through tribal leaders and tribes.

Akbar Ahmed, an Ibn Khaldun professor of Islamic studies at an American University, wrote a book called The Thistle and the Drone, and the thistle was the tribes. Not just there, but throughout the world. Rohingya, for example, in Myanmar, Burma. These tribes, we’re trying to extinguish. The empire can’t tolerate tribes. It wants to extinguish them and so does the Soviet Union, now Russia, and so does China. Look at what they’re doing to the Uyghurs. They want to get rid of these tribes because they cannot be governed, centrally ruled, or be consumers in a predatory capitalist society. Not the kind of consumers we like. They can’t be slaves, so we don’t like them and we try to get rid of them. Forty case studies, in that book, The Thistle and the Drone, between the introduction and the ending, and you look at all those case studies and you see Akbar Ahmed’s point. The empire is trying to exterminate tribes and the most potent tribes, probably on the Earth, are right there. We tried to do that. What a farce!

Paul Jay

One of the, I think, big lies of what’s being talked about now in Afghanistan — it was the Afghan military and Afghan political leadership, that failed. Of course, this Afghan leadership is exactly who the U.S. put into place. As much as I’ve been critical of mainstream media, Nick Robertson from CNN, I thought, made quite a good comment. He said that after 9/11 and after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, the demand of the Afghan people was, yes, get rid of the Taliban.

I was there, in the spring of 2002 and the Afghan people, on the whole, despised the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Part of the historical record that doesn’t get talked about, is the extent to which the elders, village after village, were opposed to the Taliban and especially opposed to Al-Qaeda. They didn’t like that the Taliban had made deals with Al-Qaeda, and in fact, the response of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban was to assassinate elders in the villages and assert their control. This whole last 20 years, has been a part of that process. The development of Afghanistan, in a kind of, normal development with either a capitalist economy or even socialist economy because there were Indigenous Afghan forces, that wanted a socialist Afghanistan. It was tied to the Soviet Union at the time. It’s certainly, I think, debatable how socialist the Soviet Union was at that point, but at any rate, there was a normal, natural course of events going on in Afghanistan, that was, I think this is the most important thing, urbanization. The urban centers were starting to assert control and there was a modernization process. Even the Afghan monarchy, was a modernizing monarchy. It wasn’t trying to hang onto feudalism in Afghanistan. They were trying to modernize. 

When the Communist governments took power in Kabul — some supported by the Soviet Union, some not. Eventually, they invited the Soviet Union in, but the process of modernization which included girls going to school, women being able to work, starting to have more urban modern values, that was a process that was happening relatively organically in Afghanistan. That’s the process that the United States stopped by arming the countryside, arming the Mujahideen, arming this village ignorance, I don’t know what else to call it. They allowed rural Afghanistan to dominate the urban centers and stopped, a kind of, network. I made this film, Return to Kandahar. My co-director, Nelofer Pazira, when she went to school in the 80s, in Kabul, she said people would have laughed if a girl showed up in a burka. Burkas are when women would come in from the villages.

Larry Wilkerson

I can’t help but make this comparison because it’s so potent. You’re describing Iran and what the Shah was trying to do at the end, however much the CIA trained SAVAK [Sazeman-e Ettela’at va Amniyat-e Keshvar], the CIA itself, Britain’s intelligence services, and I’m sure others, subverted that. The white revolution and the Shah’s attempt to fund that revolution to the point that it would be effective in Iran was aimed at the same thing. What you’re describing, about Afghanistan being the way it was at the time, before the Taliban and others got in and corrupted it, was pretty much the way Iran was. What did Jerry Ford and Henry Kissinger do? They went to the Saudis and to OPEC [Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries], and they got them to not raise the price of oil which the Shah was counting on for funding his white revolution. He was furious, and I don’t blame him, because we killed that rise in price that would have funded that revolution in Iran. Now, there’s no guarantee that the Shah would have had any more success with that than he did with previous attempts to modernize, but at least he was modernizing and open to the west, and the better part of the west. Our education, our culture, and so forth, that’s not corrupted by guns and movies that kill everybody on the scene. So, you’re describing what was happening in a lot of these, again, tribal areas and places where that was the dominant cultural architecture if you will. Afghanistan, the same thing with a little bit deeper, perhaps history and trouble, but we thwarted that. That’s what the empire does. The empire does not want this to happen. They want vassals and people who are readily accepting of its writ,  won’t contest that writ, don’t dispute anything the empire wants to do in any significant sort of way, certainly not in a military way, and what is it these people are doing who are, quote, terrorist, unquote. Attempting to respond to the empire’s high-tech weaponry with what is low tech but effective, as we’ve just seen in Afghanistan, for them.

This is another point that Akbar Mohammed makes and other scholars have made, too. The old adage about one man’s terrace is another man’s freedom fighter, is a little bit too easy to roll off the lips but there’s a lot of truth in it. If I’m standing out there in Palestine, for example, and I’m looking at one of the most modern militaries in the world, supported by the greatest military power on the face of the Earth almost without question. What am I going to do? I’m either going to kneel and be a slave for the rest of my life or be worse, killed — and that’s a good possibility in Israel now or I’m going to contest it, and the only way I can contest it is some form of what will be called terrorism when I do it. That’s what we’ve created in the world.

Paul Jay

The discussion coming on mainstream media, Bidens talking this way. All the various foreign policy elites talk about the failure of nation-building. It’s such a lie. There was never an attempted nation-building. It was nation destruction. It was, ‘we don’t give a shit what happens to the Afghan nation.’

Larry Wilkerson

It was tribal destruction, I think, that’s what we tried to do and others like, General Dostum. He used sprayed bullets in railroad cars full of human beings, and even to a certain extent the line of [inaudible 00:30:52]  who was combating all of them at one point in time. Trying to take over Kabul. Trying to take over Afghanistan. One wonders what would have happened had he actually succeeded. All of those people were contesting a state if you will, and it goes all the way back to the British, the Russians, and others. Afghanistan is not a state. There’s no way you can look at it and draw with a pencil on a map, or any other way, conceive it as a state, it’s a collection of tribes. Many of those tribes live in other, quote, “States” unquote, whether it be Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, or whatever, and they travel across borders as if they weren’t there, as well they should because that’s 1,000 years of history. Was it, Alexander, who said ‘it’s easy to come into Afghanistan, but very difficult to leave?’ Well, he didn’t have to worry about getting into a landlocked country the way we did. It’s not exactly easy to get in if you’re a modern military power like we are. There’s something in that, you’re not going to leave the way you came in because it isn’t what you think it is. It’s very different.

Paul Jay

The other thing that’s not getting talked about, hardly at all, and it’s so at the heart to a large extent of what is being fought for here and that’s the poppy trade. The drug industry in Afghanistan is probably the most important part of the GDP [Gross Domestic Product]. I’ve seen all kinds of different numbers estimated, but there’s not a heck of a lot other economy going on other than foreign aid. While the Taliban did at one point close down the poppy trade before they were overthrown. They certainly picked it up again and it’s now their main source of financing.

Apparently, one of the reasons why they’ve had such success in the last few weeks, of course,– they’ve been preparing for this for months and years even‚ is they simply won and paid their soldiers. Whereas a lot of the Afghan National Army wasn’t getting paid and in the last few weeks, apparently wasn’t even getting fed. They also went around in the last few months offering money to people like Dostum’s militia, to troops, to lower-level officers. Well, where’s all this money coming from? The Taliban seem to have unlimited funds. Well, one’s got to be poppies and perhaps also Pakistan. 

Larry Wilkerson

Did you see the young lady, two tours in Afghanistan? I don’t think she was a Marine. I think she was a soldier, but anyway, she wrote a piece, a brilliant, blissful, and gut-level piece. She talked about the different policies that even she saw in the two years, not back to back, but different years she spent in Afghanistan. One time we’re eradicating all the poppies, then we realized we were making the tribal leaders really angry and the farmers really angry. So, we quit eradicating the poppies, we started giving them fertilizer, and we gave them fertilizer in order to grow their crops. Well, what they did was sell the fertilizer to the Taliban, and the Taliban used the fertilizer to make IEDs [Improvised Explosive Device].

Larry Wilkerson

Then she talks about batteries and how we threw away all the batteries. They picked up the batteries that still had a little bit of power left in them. When hooked up in series, they had enough power to explode an IED, so they got their explosive power for the IEDs. They also stole cell phones. I mean, she goes through all the things, the idiotic policies that each of the generals and let me emphasize, each of the generals — we weren’t in Afghanistan for 20 years. We were in Afghanistan each year, one after the other for a year, with a general in charge of each one. A general who was later rewarded for his skills and talent, by becoming a service chief or something else, not fired for having failed to achieve the mission he was supposed to achieve in Afghanistan or not listened to when he said, what are we doing here? Let’s get out. What general said that? What American general in Afghanistan turned to the President of the United States and said, fire me. I’m coming home. This is impossible. It’s not doable. This is stupid. It’s ignorant. It’s beyond stupid. None. So what do we say about these generals? I’ll tell you what I’ll say about them. This is a disaster, and it’s a disaster that anyone with half a brain could have predicted, especially if they’d gone through what I went through from 2001 to 2005 with the George W. Bush administration. Never have I seen such a collection of incompetence and people who didn’t know what they were doing, who nonetheless had the power of America behind them to do it. You can’t keep doing that over and over again. You asked if we learned from Vietnam? No. Did we learn from Afghanistan? No. Are we going to do this again? Yes. 

Paul Jay

I think, the key conclusion, is that not only was there no attempt to quote-unquote nation-build, there was just profit-making, including some-day, perhaps it will come out. You can’t export industrial amounts of poppies, heroin, and such without the American Army knowing you’re doing it. You’ve got to cross —

Larry Wilkerson

You’ve got banks that are laundering the money and people who are ripping profits off that drug trade, that you just wouldn’t believe. You read Misha Glenny’s book McMafia, and you understand there are five to $6 trillion in the black trade every year. A lot of that is trafficking in women, little boys, drugs, stolen autos, and so forth. However, do you think about that amount of money? Who’s laundering that money? Well, the legitimate banks are laundering that money. The 12 banks that make up the Fed that people think is federal because it has a name federal. It isn’t. It’s 12 freaking private banks and at the heart of that is Black Rock. I like it when Raytheon makes so much money and Lockheed Martin,  Boeing, and all these other companies.

Paul Jay

Yeah, of course. They talk about the cost of the Afghan war as if somehow this was charity to the Afghan people. Well, who the hell who were they paying all these trillions of dollars to? A  pittance went to the Afghan people. The rest goes to the manufacturers of the military equipment.

Larry Wilkerson

You’ve got it!

The thieves of state is what Sarah Chayes called it in her book. The only thing she got wrong in there — but she’s not really talking about the Afghan state as much as she is her own state.

Paul Jay

Well, just to conclude, I don’t know if we’re going to agree on this next thing or not, but here’s what I think. What needs to be done now is one America, the people, the elites, to whatever possible, at least those of us that can have to acknowledge the real history of the Afghan war. Why it’s been not just a disaster for Americans, which, to me, is the least of the issue. It’s destroyed Afghan society, the school system, the medical system, and the lives of so many Afghan kids.

Larry Wilkerson

Throw in there Syria or Iraq, to a certain extent, throw in there Libya.

Paul Jay

There’s been country after country destroyed by the same set of policies, essentially. For now, I want to talk about Afghanistan. I think the United States number one, owes, Afghanistan’s reparations. I think the reparations, and it’s not just Afghanistan. Throw in Canada, throw in Germany, throw in Denmark, throw the NATO countries. That reparations fund could be used to try to influence the situation in a constructive way. In other words, don’t hand any money over to the Taliban, but create a situation where here’s this massive reparations fund that can be used for schools or for education. Tie the money to— apparently the Taliban yesterday, promised that women actually will have some rights, will be able to work, or go to school. We’ll see if it’s true. It’s possible, there’s a somewhat different mentality in this version of the Taliban, but I think one thing that’s true, as much as they are believers, the Taliban leadership are also, I think, interested in money-making themselves. They’ve gotten certainly a taste for it with the control of the poppy crop, but this infrastructure — they don’t even have to call it reparations, call it whatever they want, but a real subsidization that helps push Afghanistan towards more modernization and an economy, no sub dependent on poppies. Two, do what a lot of NGOs have been recommending for years, offer to buy the poppy crop, use it for pharmaceuticals, and–

Larry Wilkerson

I agree with what you’re saying, to a certain extent, but I think the country that’s equipped to do that, and please, footnote this, we won’t let them. We’ll contest it every step of the way, is China.

Paul Jay

Yeah.

Larry Wilkerson

Their main base road initiative experimented with, in a 30 mile or so, [inaudible 00:40:55], essentially in Kashmir. It was so successful in calming a really volatile area — until the Pakistanis figured it out, and the Indians figured it out and started messing with it — that if you were to allow China to do what it wants to do, within that region, and that’s its primary focus with a base road initiative. That’s the primary focus — trillions of dollars behind it. Then Afghanistan could be a benefactor of that, and whether that produces state or just a series of wealthy, affluent, peaceful tribes, is irrelevant to me. I don’t care if there’s ever a state of Afghanistan. What I’d like to see is a peaceful central agent. Maybe it eventually gets wrapped up in a state associated with Pakistan. Maybe it would calm Pakistan down a bit or with India or whatever. Maybe it is its own independent state, that’s hard for me to imagine, given its history, but the Chinese are better equipped to do this. Plus, they got the money.

Paul Jay

They also have a relationship with Pakistan.

Larry Wilkerson

Yes, and they have the fear that the Taliban and Pakistan, their partner in crime, might someday look at the Uyghurs in a way that they don’t like them looking at them, that is to say, they’re Muslims who could join the Islamic accords, et cetera. They certainly demonstrated that capacity, to a certain extent, coming into Syria through Turkey. The fighters, 14,000 or 15,000 thousand of them, and now they’re returning home, much to the Chinese, because they’re battle-hardened, trained, and so forth, and they’re going back into Xinjiang’s promise, but this is a problem that could be attenuated a great deal, I think, by the Chinese just flooding the place with money, in an effort to develop things, and develop things that make sense. Not drugs, but develop farming, develop the industry, develop hydrology. Everything about Afghanistan and about that region,  Uzbekistan. No great shakes either, develop it all.

Paul Jay

There’s a tremendous strategic asset, which is Afghanistan. They’re calling it the Saudi Arabia of lithium. The development of new modern batteries is going to be all about —

Larry Wilkerson

Who knows what else might be available there and what Chinese money might attract to that availability, but we’ll be scared to death of it. Oh, the Chinese are making in-roads on Europe. Oh, the Chinese are gonna strip Turkey away from NATO. Oh, the Chinese are gonna do this. The Chinese are gonna do that. We’ll work with them. Lincoln, get your ass over to Beijing and do something positive, instead of talking every day about war with China.

Paul Jay

So then, the last point we can talk about because to do what you’re saying, there has to be a demand from the American people to get U.S. foreign policy out of the hands of the military arms manufacturers and the fossil fuel companies because that’s where the opposition comes from.

Larry Wilkerson

Yes, and it’s going to continue to come from there. It’s got to be beaten back and the only power I see with the composite, necessity, energy, and power to defeat them, ultimately is the people. Democracy is what I’m saying, and yet I don’t see it working. All I see is the people continuing to do whatever. I’m looking at the price of gas, they’re gouging everybody right now, gauging everybody: Exxon mobile, the Seven Sisters. I was working a piece on that, the other day. The Seven Sisters, they’re still doing it and at the same time, they’re destroying the planet. They’re going to keep doing it until someone stops them. It’s not going to be congress, the president, or the military. It’s not going to be any of that. The only thing with the composite power to stop them is the people, and I don’t see it happening.

Paul Jay

Well, let’s hope it does because if it doesn’t we ain’t going to have many people around on this planet.

Larry Wilkerson

No, there certainly isn’t going to be much democracy left either.

Paul Jay

Alright, thanks for joining me, Larry.

Larry Wilkerson

Sure, take care.

Paul Jay

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4 Comments

  1. Hi Paul,

    Thank-you for the getting to the heart of the issues with your questions. I don’t often read as clear an explanation for how the world is, as on your site. The following quotes really registered:

    ” All that being said, it seems the real objective is the process, not the outcome.” The normality of daily life in America, where people work, pay taxes, etc, allows the government, which can create money, to fund the military-surveillance complex (weapons mfg, CIA, NSA, etc). And like you said, the outcomes don’t seem to matter as much as the flow of money.

    “They (the American people) like their lifestyle, which consumes and supports crony predatory capitalism that’s destroying the very Earth they live on.” Humans evolved to deal with scarcity, and even looking at my own parents, baby-boomers, they came from a poorer farming background and they really value material things and security. We’re kind of victims of our own success, where our ability to exploit nature for our benefit is now threatening future generations.

    ….

    I wanted to request a few topics for future interviews:

    *I’ve heard it said on news sites like Scheerpost, that if the US dollar were to devalue, its empire is finished. Could you ask an economist like Michael Hudson how the US dollar could stop being the world’s reserve currency? My understanding is that military intervention isn’t just about resources, but to intimidate countries into using the US dollar for their reserves. Libya and Iraq were destroyed in part because their leaders wanted to move away from the Dollar.

    * It’s pure speculation right now, but the development of robotics and AI can lead to androids that are superior to us mentally and physically, as well as being immune to climate change (they won’t need food or water). How far advanced is AI research and how will this change how we deal with climate change, our future economy, etc?

    * It often comes in up in articles I read, that if “the people” organized and fought for change, on a large enough scale, it would happen. I don’t doubt that when people suffer as they did during the industrial revolution or the Great Depression, that they will rise up and demand better. Like Larry said in this article, the American people are enjoying their consumer lifestyles. What will it take for us to recognize the danger of climate change and the nuclear arsenals before it is too late?

  2. FOR us “cut to the chase” Americans, forget the “French economist Piketty” and that slow as molasses book of his. Who needs that? When you got expert homegrown straight shooters like Profs. Michael Hudson and Richard D. Wolff [and equally enlightened feminist intellectuals] these professors [men and women] give all the firepower of understanding necessary to get the clear-eyed view of “what’s happening”, as we used to say in “The Doors” 1960s. Include in the recipe shots of Dan Ellsberg and a slice of Ralph Nader spice [with Noam chill] and your “thunder and lightening” cocktail can put you on a drunken jag of enlightenment that even makes the liver in your body come out fresh as a daisy. So now, as to Afghanistan? “Copper mining potential” [and its ‘financialization’] boys and girls — presumably south of Kabul; everybody wants it [Wall St. watering at the mouth] — not only the West. But which power doesn’t beleive in Yankeedoodling to get anything? Correct, China — often rewarded with something to show for its measured style and effort vs. “You know who?”. Which begs the question why so much egregious debt is raised and money spent with lives lost for zero return on one side, as China comes out to win a race without ever breaking a sweat. This is the kind of projection of corporate empire’s “gaudy pattern gone wrong” that would make Gen. Smedley Butler’s blood boil. Yes, it is a “racket”. And China benefits high on that except without firing a shot itself. Then she watches over decades “the foreigner’s arms complex” steadily replace spent rounds — but we ALL realize that the precious “lives” spent are NEVER replaced let alone honored. But how can we expect honor in policy where so much deceit is integral? Was a great privilege to have been a Marine Corporal because of Corps greats like Smedley Butler, very much aware that Corportist greed and Politicians’ [sell-out the service member] mistakes is behind the hegemonic symbol being held up to the world. Who did Smedley Butler claim to have outdone the most in his military career? Chicago gangster Alphonse Gabriel Capone – “Scarface”.

  3. The American people need to overthrow the government here, the National Security State and its Military Industrial Complex (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKsItbj49K0), that seized power in 1947, restore the rule of law and of the Constitution, and make that fraudulent and illegal government’s beneficiaries pay the reparations… not the people whose tax dollars were looted to pay for all of this.

  4. History, we treat as a social science, more social than science, and that is why we learn it the hard way, if we do learn it at all. Just consider the very bright people who are misled in their youth to enlist in military conflicts or to commit themselves in various other ways, only later to realize they were misled and then try to repair their errors at great personal cost! Before we are persuaded who our enemies are, we have to understand better who our presumed friends are.

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