Was the Afghan War Worth It?

And a quick interview I did with Chinese TV from last March where I briefly discuss how a military first US foreign policy has led to war, chaos and terrorism throughout the Muslim world.

Updated with transcript from RT:

As long as the Afghan government aligns itself with the US, which is keeping troops, planes, special operations and drones to bomb targets in Afghanistan or Pakistan, there will be no peace, says former US Marine Matthew Hoh.

RT: Peace talks between Afghan officials and Taliban representatives have ended with both sides agreeing to meet again after the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. After more than a decade of war the Afghan government and the Taliban are finally talking. Was it worth the thousands of lives lost, both military and civilian?

Matthew Hoh: No, it wasn’t and I think the proper way to look at the Afghan War, as you look at all wars or all conflicts, is not in an isolated vacuum or is because of one solitary event, in this case the last fourteen years of the war in Afghanistan as being caused by the Al-Qaeda attacks on 9/11. However, it should be viewed as this is a war that has been going on continuously since the 1970s.

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Congress of War

From the Huffington Post:

It is very bewildering, albeit horrifyingly fascinating, to watch American politicians jockey and posture for war with Iran. With the announcement last week that years of negotiations have yielded a framework agreement that will arrest any Iranian nuclear weapons program, not that one actually exists, while starting the much needed process of bringing Iran back into the world community, many members of Congress seem not just reluctant, but hostile, to the prospects of averting a war with Iran.

From continual presidential aspirant to the freshman senator from Arkansas, the Senate, which was once regarded as the greatest deliberative body amongst men and women, is a constant source, from the Right and the Left, of fist pounding threats to bomb and kill Iranians and sabotage peace. The House is no better, with scores of Democrats and Republicans, a veto proof majority actually, echoing the same threats to undo diplomacy and ensure war.* Now, that an agreement has been reached, will our Congress actually live up to their threats? Based on the modern history of Americans at war overseas, you would expect not, that members of Congress, as rational and thoughtful individuals, would be wise and attuned enough to reality to recognize war as a fool’s path. However, the behavior of our Congress, and their near continuous endorsement of U.S. military intervention, means there may be dangerous action behind their rhetoric.

We are still sending thousands of young men every year to the war in Afghanistan, along with tens of billions of our dollars annually, on top of the near trillion dollars we have already spent on that thirteen-year-long war. Thousands of U.S. troops are back in Iraq, the same Iraq U.S. presidents have been attacking for 24 years, while American war planes and unmanned drones have bombed, and continue to bomb, various American enemies, mostly killing civilians though, in Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. With the exception of Pakistan, whose political stability is continuously fragile, all six other nations that have received American military attacks, invasion and occupation over the last decade and one half, are in horrid civil wars, with death tolls throughout these nations numbering in the millions. The only organisms that have seemingly prospered and flourished, besides defense companies, have been terrorist groups, like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.
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“US is arms factory for oppressive regimes, revolutionary movements”

My comments on the President’s authorization for war in Iraq and Syria:

From RT.com

The US provides weapons to organizations bent on continuing wars thus it’s not surprising that this leads to escalation of conflicts instead of resolving them, Matthew Hoh, senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, told RT.

RT: President Obama now wants ground troops to fight ISIS. Is this a tacit acceptance that airstrikes weren’t effective?

Matthew Hoh: Yes, it’s the acknowledgement that airstrikes were not successful. I think this is something that most of us who were skeptical of the American reentry into the Iraqi civil war and American entry into the Syrian civil war knew. It was just a matter of time before the president would buckle under and commit to putting American troops back into Iraq and into Syria.

READ MORE: Obama asks for ‘3yrs, no territorial limits’ formal war authority to target ISIS

RT: Obama says authorization for use of military force in the fight against Islamic State is not a request for another ground war. What do you make of that?

MH: I don’t believe that or understand why anyone would believe that. If you look at American policy over the last 15 years, particularly since 9/11 you see one mischaracterization, one blunder after another, all mischaracterized as an attempt to install democracy, to promote stability and peace. And what has occurred throughout the Middle East as a result of American intervention has been more chaos, more bloodshed and more instability. This notion that somehow there is not going to be a ground war is belied by this authorization itself. In that authorization it says there will be no enduring ground troops meaning that there will be no permanent ground troops. And the president can put as many troops into Iraq, into Syria and into any other places where he deems Islamic State is operating with the caveat that they are temporary and not permanent. So really it’s just semantics to hide the fact that the United States is going to find itself again in the Middle Eastern civil wars.

RT: The US President also said he wants to be able to use limited ground troops in certain situations and for a limited time. What does that actually mean?

MH: It means whatever he wants it to mean. Just six months ago he was saying there would be no ground troops and slowly as this war has accelerated and escalated, as airstrikes have not worked, as Islamic State has just gained in strength because of the Americans getting involved in the conflict in basically endorsing the Islamic State’s propaganda, its purpose in being. You’ve seen the administration have to commit now to putting in ground troops. Go back to when the president authorized bombing Syria just 4-5 months ago and he utilized Yemen as a model of success that we were going to base our operations in Iraq and Syria on the Yemeni model which was successful. Of course since then the Yemeni government has been overthrown, the United States has had to evacuate its embassy from Yemen and overall the entire country is in chaos. So you saw how quickly that model fell apart and it never had any semblance of reality toward success.

RT: Islamic State is not only limited to Iraq and Syria – it also has active members in Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. Can you imagine a situation where the US moves against them too?

MH: I don’t believe so. I don’t believe the US has the interest of putting ground troops, mass amounts of ground troops, certainly it will use drones and special operation forces in those countries. But I do think you’ll see the US limiting its ground troops, in the sense of conventional ground troops, battalions and brigades, soldiers, tanks, trucks, those kinds of things to Iraq and Syria.

RT: Well, talking about Yemen, the US has been sending arms to the country to fight terrorism. Now the reports say the equipment is in the hands of rebels. Is it surprising?

MH: It’s not surprising. The US is the largest arms merchant in the world. By some estimates it provides three quarters of the world’s arms. So we are a factory for other oppressive regimes or for these revolutionary movements. And of course when the regimes are overthrown or these movements fail or become scattered, or become more radical, a case in point is what happened in the 1990s in Afghanistan. You have the US providing munitions, weapons, arms to all sorts of organizations that are bent on continuing the wars. It’s not surprising that our weapons we provide to Yemen have ended up in the wrong hands or in hands that are choosing to escalate their conflict further.

RT: Can this policy help to bring peace eventually?

MH: No, it’s certainly not. This is adding kerosene to burning fires. This is a policy that is fraught with moral negligence as well as practical inconsideration. Where this policy has worked where the United States has sent mass amounts of weapons to an organization or to a government or to what we describe as rebel groups that the result has been peace and stability? Almost always it results in greater civil wars, longer escalations. And now we see the US is looking to send arms to Ukraine which will only serve to solidify the regime in Kiev but will do nothing to promote any type of peace or stability or long-term solutions in that conflict.

RT: Why do they keep on trying to resolve various crises around the world by sending arms to then?

MH: I think there are a number of reasons. One of course is the money. This provides billions of dollars every year to the American arms industry. That arms industry, which by some estimates is the second largest export the US has after agriculture, provides a lot of campaign donations for politicians. It provides a lot of support for academics, intellectuals, and people in think-tanks to come up with policies, to promote American intervention abroad which then requires more arms purchases for US military use or sold to other client states… If we are selling arms to one country that means that country is on our side. And for many in Washington DC who simply view the worldin an us-versus-them approach, it’s a way to keep the score of whether or not a certain country is on our side, is a client state, or is opposed to us. So there are a number of reasons for this, none of which serve to promote any form of stability or peace in the world.

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Thoughts on Yemen and the Middle East

Here are some of my thoughts on Yemen and our foreign policy in general in the Middle East:

Institute for Public Accuracy:

“You don’t have to be an expert on Yemen, the Middle East, Islam or foreign policy in general to realize that what is occurring in Yemen is similar to what is occurring throughout the Greater Middle East. Decades of American interventionist policy, that can be at best be described as inept meddling, with roots going back to the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Iran in 1953 and the establishment of the Shah’s authoritarian police state, have created, fostered and sustained sectarian, ethnic and religious conflicts that have birthed repressive regimes, extremist terror groups and genocidal civil wars throughout the Middle East. Yemen is one more glaring example of failed American policy in the Middle East, perhaps all the more tragic and absurd as Yemen was cited as an example of success by President Obama when he authorized his seventh bombing of a Muslim nation, Syria, last year.”

Inter Press News Service:

“I don’t know if Yemen will split in two or not. [But] I believe the greater fear is that Yemen descends into mass chaos with violence among many factions as we are seeing in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, all nations that have been the recipient of interventionist U.S. foreign policy.”

“Based upon the results from decades of U.S. influence in trying to pick winners and losers in these countries or continuing to play the absurd geopolitical game of backing one repressive theocracy, Saudi Arabia, against another, Iran, in proxy wars, the best thing for the Yemenis is for the Americans not to meddle or to try and pick one side against the other.”

American foreign policy in the Middle East, he said, can already be labeled a disaster, most especially for the people of the Middle East.

“The only beneficiaries of American policy in the Middle East have been extremist groups, which take advantage of the war, the cycles of violence and hate, to recruit and fulfill their message and propaganda, and American and Western arms companies that are seeing increased profits each year,” said Hoh, who has served with the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq and on U.S. embassy teams in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Presidential War Lies, Standing Ovations and the Great Waste of Everything

From yesterday’s Huffington Post:

“In war, truth is the first casualty.”
— Aeschylus 525-456 BC

As reported by the BBC this month, the Taliban have rejected an offer by the newly installed President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, of Cabinet positions and governorships in three Afghan provinces. The provinces include Helmand and Kandahar, where thousands of American and Western troops have been killed and wounded, particularly since 2009 when President Obama chose to escalate the war in Afghanistan rather than seeking a political solution to end the war.

Five years on and Afghan civilian and security force casualties are at record highs, the Taliban is larger and stronger than it has been at any point since 2001, government and police corruption is massively untamed, and Afghans last year were subjected to their third incredibly fraudulent national election in five years. In fact, the only thing going well for anyone in Afghanistan, besides the Taliban and those on the take of Western foreign aid, are the bumper narcotics crops, which each year produce historic yields.

The Taliban, having been offered power in their home region, have spurned any opportunities for reconciliation and compromise. “Moderates” within the Taliban, whom we could have negotiated with in 2008 and 2009 prior to President Obama’s escalation of the war, have been proven wrong and largely eliminated. The hard-line elements of the Taliban, having seen the Taliban weather the full force of the United States of America, see history as repeating itself or, at the very least, rhyming. Like the departure of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan in 1989, it is now just a question of time before the foreign backed regime in Kabul collapses. Time, among many other factors, was always on the side of the Afghan insurgents.
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