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What was the war in Afghanistan really about?     

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One year on from the disastrous US withdrawal from Afghanistan, Republicans and Democrats are fighting over an “investigation” into the pullout. Meanwhile ordinary Afghans are suffering spiraling rates of poverty and minimal international assistance is being provided.  In this guest post Amir Haidari challenges the official justification for the 20 year war.

“Because the goal is not to completely subjugate Afghanistan, the goal is to use Afghanistan to wash money out of the taxpayers of the United States, out of the taxpayers of the European countries through Afghanistan and back to the hands of transnational security elite” – Julian Assange.

The US did not want a successful war in Afghanistan but a protracted one, as Julian Assange pointed out. To perpetuate the war, the US via the use of private military contractors covertly supported various insurgent groups including the Taliban. They did this with impunity because it was in their interest and that was the biggest secret behind Taliban’s military success. The US military had the capability and the capacity to annihilate the Taliban in Afghanistan, but they didn’t do it.

The over 20 years of violent occupation had a devastating effect on the lives of Afghan people. More than 176,000 people lost their lives mostly Afghan civilians. 2.6 million people left Afghanistan while a further 3.5 million were displaced internally.

With the help of cheer leading corporate media, the recent wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere have been portrayed as justifiable actions by the US government to make America safe. The results have been the opposite. Some native observers from these countries have also naively jumped on the band wagon to echo what this cheer leading corporate media tells the world about these wars. They don’t realize that they are being used to misinform their own people about the true nature of these conflicts.

The biggest winner of the Afghan war is the military industrial complex

The big winners of the Afghan war were massive corporations, weapons manufacturers and Wall street financiers. In short, the winner of the Afghan war was the military industrial complex (MIC).

The term MIC was coined by former US president General Eisenhower. His second term ended on 20 January 1961 when he was succeeded by John F. Kennedy. In his farewell address on 17 January, he warned that “in the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”

Since the days of General Eisenhower, the term has evolved to include not just massive weapon manufacturers, defense contractors, the intelligence community but also the media and think tanks. In addition, it includes individuals within the defense establishment in the Five Eyes Countries including Australia, individuals in US congress and the US defense department who have massive shares in some of these companies. In the western world including Australia they have created a “revolving door between industry and politics” often changing roles. In short, there is a massive industry that needs wars to make profit and stay afloat. The longer the war the bigger their profit margin.

Corporate media and think tanks are essential and often less known part of MIC that continues to manage the public perception and influence war decisions. By repeating a lie a thousand times they have ‘manufactured consent’ and have justified the continuation of these wars as civil wars, internal conflicts or even tribal wars.

As a result of the Afghan invasion, the MIC has successfully washed the money out of taxpayers of western nations and into their own pockets as Assange predicted. For instance, shares of the biggest military contractors in the US rose exponentially as Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman profited hugely, among others. For instance, if you bought $10,000 worth of shares in these companies in 2001, on average it will give a return of $97,000 in 2021.

For Lockheed Martin, the makers of Black Hawk helicopters and other military hardware a $10,000 share bought in 2001 would be worth $133,559.21 in 2021. According to one author “Weapons Producers make money regardless of whether the Pentagon wins or loses its wars, and making money is their only objective”. The war in Afghanistan cost the American taxpayer $2.313 trillion. Much of this money ended up in pockets of private defense contractors based in the US.

The war in Afghanistan was not about the safety or the advance of America or its allies. It was a war concocted by the military industrial complex to wash the money out of the pockets of western nations and into their own pockets. If they were concerned about the wellbeing of US citizens, US would now have a better health care system, education system, better roads and better hospitals. All they now have is a bloated weapons manufacturers industry keen to invent another war to profit from.

To stop future overseas wars and minimize the undue influence of the MIC on public life in western nations including Australia, we must recognize the increased role they play in politics including decisions on when these countries go to war.

In Australia, we must not allow this country to engage in overseas wars without the full deliberation of parliament and the consultation of the Australian public. Currently, the PM alone or with the consultation of a handful of its cabinet make this call and this must change. Australia should not follow the US where corporations determine foreign policy. Australia is based on the values of a “fair go” where everyone is treated fairly. We must learn the lessons of the Afghanistan invasion and strive to maintain that.

Amir Haidari is an Afghan-Australian and has a masters degree in international studies with a special focus on Afghanistan from the University of Adelaide. He is a board member with Baba Mazari Foundation in Adelaide. The views in this article are his own.


We welcome contributions from AWPR members and supporters. These guest posts do not necessarily reflect the views of AWPR.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Michael Flynn

    Thank you Amir Haidari for your wise and informed article. I agree. Keep up the good work. Our new ALP Government needs better advice. I hope you consider an application to join the APS. An Afghan specialist should be on the recruitment list. I expect you could help DFAT with Pakistan too. Perhaps you could include ASPI in your research and ask why the public funding.

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