War is the gravest action a country can undertake. James Madison considered it to be probably the most damaging enemy to liberty because it contains the germ of all other destructive forces. Yet how blithely the American public accepts the addlepates in Washington constantly marching us to wars that are practically never in self-defense. Evidence of this statement is in how little a stir the Afghanistan Papers have made.
Finally a member of the media actually did something other than attack President Trump: to wit, its job as a watchdog. The Washington Post battled and sued for three years to get the federal government to release thousands of pages of documents called “Lessons Learned.” The report is a blistering revelation of the endless lies, corruption and stupidity of our presidents, Congress and the Pentagon in our still-running war in Afghanistan.
We attacked Afghanistan and its ruling Taliban for giving shelter to Osama bin Laden almost immediately after al-Qaeda destroyed the 9/11 World Trade Towers. The Taliban offered to give up bin Laden if shown proof that he was responsible for the attack. Were they lying? We'll never know because President George W. Bush rejected the offer and, to the approving roar of the Coliseum's American spectators, indulged in bloodletting instead. Interestingly, bin Laden initially denied having anything to do with 9/11 and in fact the FBI's Most Wanted poster detailed only his imputed attacks on several U.S. embassies in Africa. There was nothing about 9/11. Could it be that we went to war in Afghanistan because we had no proof of bin Laden's guilt that we could offer the Taliban?
But somebody had to pay. Nineteen years later we're still in that benighted country having killed some 147,000 people including 38,0000 civilians, not counting those who have died from disease and malnourishment caused by the war. In inflation-adjusted dollars we've spent more there than we did for the Marshall Plan in post-WWII Europe.
“The American people have been constantly lied to,” states John Sopko of the Special Inspector General of the Afghanistan Reconstruction agency in the Lessons Learned report. U.S. Army Gen. Douglas Lute lamented that “we didn't have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking.” Statistics were massaged to favor the war, warnings were buried by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and the Pentagon, and we were told we were making “steady progress.” Presidents Bush, Obama and now Trump all assured us that the war wasn't about nation-building and yet it was—or it was about changing the culture, inserting women's rights, introducing democracy—whatever witless excuse could be had for mass slaughter in a Third World country.
Every teardrop, every drop of blood, every soldier who came home in a box or with a broken body and mind, every Afghan who lamented his dead child or parent, every dollar we spent, were all for a mountain of lies in the service of warmongering. Meanwhile, conservatives and liberals alike praise their political heroes (Bush even got a medal) who are now counting their millions of dollars. Somehow we still presume to be so much smarter than America's founders who believed in non-intervention.