by Bob Murley
I remember how I cringed the moment I heard it: George W. Bush, referring to the 9/11 attacks, saying “These weren’t acts of terrorism — they were acts of war.” But no, they weren’t acts of war. Only a nation can commit an act of war, but the 9/11 attacks were committed by individual terrorists, with no sanction from a government. Our response should have focused directly on those individuals and their organization.
But “W” (at the behest of Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld) wanted the power that war could give him. Perhaps feeling that we hadn’t finished our business in Iraq, and using flimsy evidence, he started a war with Iraq, and then doubled down by attacking Afghanistan.
Two decades later we have the price tag for his criminally irresponsible pique: Over 100,000 civilian casualties in the two countries; 2,300 U.S. lives and over 20,000 injuries to U.S. soldiers; in the neighborhood of $2 trillion down the drain. That may not sound like much the way trillion-dollar figures are thrown about Washington these days, but it’s over $6,000 for every citizen of this country. And it’s not like it was money we had. It’s money we borrowed — money that future generations will have to repay.
Over much of the past two decades we have been trying to teach the Afghan military to fight this war on their own. Exactly what we tried and failed to teach the South Vietnamese 40 years before, with Richard Nixon’s plan of “Vietnamization.”
Forty years was well within the living memory of many of our leaders, and yet they permitted the same thing to happen again. It was never going to work. Why didn’t they learn anything? Or was it just that the military-industrial complex and the Halliburtons of the country wanted this war, a gargantuan 20-year boondoggle that must have exceeded their fondest dreams.