A couple of days ago, the New York Times reported that American personnel in the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, must fly in helicopters to get to and from the airport. That’s because the road from the embassy to the airport is not safe. The length of the road is 1 1/2 miles.
Imagine that: After 14 years of continuous warfare, which has killed and maimed countless people and destroyed the entire country, Americans can’t even drive to and from the airport without the risk of getting shot or bombed.
One of the more interesting aspects of the Afghanistan adventure was the name the Pentagon placed on it: “Operation Enduring Freedom.” Even more interesting is that they really believe that their 14 years of brutal military occupation actually brought “enduring freedom” to the Afghan people. In fact, when they declared a formal end to the war last year, U.S. officials named their follow-up enterprise “Operation Freedom’s Sentinel” to reflect their determination to preserve the “enduring freedom” they had achieved for the Afghan people.
Needless to say, the national-security’s state’s concept of freedom is markedly different from that of libertarians.
All you have to do is look at the type of government that the U.S. government established in Afghanistan after it ousted the Taliban government from power to understand how these people view the concept of a free society.
They established — proudly so — a government with a massive military, intelligence, and police force. In other words, a giant national-security state, just like in totalitarian regimes. The Afghan government wields the omnipotent power to round people up, incarcerate them without trial, bash down their doors and search their homes without warrants, torture them, and assassinate them, i.e., the same powers that totalitarian dictatorships wield.
There are no concepts of constitutional restraints on power. There are no such things as right to due process of law, right to counsel, right to trial by jury, right to be free from cruel and unusual punishments, and other rights and guarantees in the U.S. Bill of Rights. That’s because that’s not the type of government that the Pentagon and the CIA wanted to establish in Afghanistan. In its nation-building adventure, the Pentagon also declined to establish an independent judiciary to enforce these types of procedural rights and guarantees.
The powers of the government that the Pentagon and the CIA established in Afghanistan are omnipotent. Another way to put that is: The Afghan government wields dictatorial powers. It is, in fact, a dictatorship.
Nonetheless, in the eyes of the Pentagon and the CIA, this is a model government — a pro-U.S. government — one that has brought “enduring freedom” to the Afghan people.
In fact, the structure of the Afghan government is no different in principle from that of the Egyptian government, another government that the U.S. government ardently embraces and supports. One big difference is that the Egyptian regime is run by the military while the Afghan government is run by civilians. But the fact is that they are both dictatorships, and brutal ones at that.
Thus, how can it surprise anyone that many U.S.-trained Afghan troops are reluctant to risk their lives in battles against the Taliban and will often cut and run in the midst of battle? Who wants to die for dictatorship? Oh sure, another Taliban regime wouldn’t be any better but who wants to die so that one dictatorship prevails over another dictatorship?
When the George W. Bush administration was gearing up to invade Afghanistan, The Future of Freedom Foundation was one of the very few organizations who opposed the invasion. No, not because we’re peaceniks but because we knew that most of the people who U.S. forces would end up killing would have had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. It would have been much better, we argued, to refrain from invading and killing all those innocent people and simply waiting until the malefactors surfaced somewhere in the world and then take them into custody and prosecute them.
That’s, in fact, what was done after the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, which was no different in principle from the 9/11 attacks. When they finally apprehended one of the 1993 terrorists, Ramzi Yousef, in Pakistan, they brought him to the United States for trial. Today, he is residing in a U.S. penitentiary.
Think about all those innocent people who have been killed in Afghanistan, including all those wedding parties. All those deaths could have been avoided. All those dead people are not here to enjoy “enduring freedom.” They died in order to install a dictatorial regime in Afghanistan, one that cannot even keep the road safe from the U.S. embassy to the airport in the nation’s capital city.
The same, of course, holds true for U.S. troops who have died or been maimed in Afghanistan. What did they die for or get maimed for? The same thing — to establish and preserve a brutal U.S.-installed dictatorship, in the name of “enduring freedom.” In other words, despite all the highfalutin words about honor and sacrifice, the reality is that U.S. troops died for nothing and they got maimed for nothing, just like all those U.S. soldiers in the Iraq War, and just like all those in the Vietnam War.
Right after 9/11, we pointed out the reason that the terrorists had struck — U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. After the U.S. national-security state lost its official Cold War enemy in 1989, it went abroad in search of hornets’ nests to poke. Before the 9/11 attacks, we were saying that if the U.S. government didn’t cease killing people in the Middle East, as it was doing with the brutal sanctions against Iraq, Americans would see terrorist retaliation on American soil.
We weren’t the only one. The noted analyst Chalmers Johnson said the same thing in his pre-9/11 book Blowback. In fact, when Yousef was being sentenced, he angrily told the federal judge that he had struck the World Trade Center in 1993 out of retaliation for what the U.S. “butchers,” as he called them, had been doing in the Middle East.
Not only did the U.S. policy of death, destruction, and humiliation continue after the 1993 attack, once the big blowback came in the form of the 9/11 attacks, the Pentagon and the CIA doubled down with their invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. The Iraq adventure was called “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” and, not surprisingly, ended up installing the same type of dictatorial governmental structure as the one in Afghanistan.
One of the most amusing aspects to all this mayhem has been the reaction of supporters of empire and interventionism. They say that all this death and destruction is necessary to combat the threat of Islam. When you confront them with the fact that the U.S. national-security state succeeded in installing official Islamic regimes in both Afghanistan and Iraq, they are dumbfounded. They never know what to say when they learn that U.S. troops have been killing and dying for more than a decade with the aim of defending and preserving two official Islamic regimes.
By doubling down with their invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. national-security state brought into existence the biggest terrorist-producing machine in history. With every single person they killed at a wedding party, in a hospital, or wherever in Afghanistan and Iraq, they produced ten new people who hate the United States.
With the disasters in Afghanistan and Iraq, Americans need to be engaged in some serious soul-searching. Should the United States continue traveling down the road to empire and intervention (and out of control spending and debt), as it has been doing for decades? Or is it high time to return to the founding principles of this country, which reject empire, interventionism, standing armies, the CIA, and the NSA in favor of a limited-government, constitutional republic? The answer sure seems clear to me.
Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.
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