Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
August 08, 2018

Why They Fail - The Quintessence Of The Korengal Valley Campaign

A new excerpt from a book by C.J. Chivers, a former U.S. infantry captain and New York Times war correspondent, tells the story of a young man from New York City who joined the U.S. army and was send to the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan. While the man, one Robert Soto, makes it out alive, several of his comrades and many Afghans die during his time in Afghanistan to no avail.

The piece includes remarkably strong words about the strategic (in)abilities of U.S. politicians, high ranking officers and pundits:

On one matter there can be no argument: The policies that sent these men and women abroad, with their emphasis on military action and their visions of reordering nations and cultures, have not succeeded. It is beyond honest dispute that the wars did not achieve what their organizers promised, no matter the party in power or the generals in command. Astonishingly expensive, strategically incoherent, sold by a shifting slate of senior officers and politicians and editorial-page hawks, the wars have continued in varied forms and under different rationales each and every year since passenger jets struck the World Trade Center in 2001. They continue today without an end in sight, reauthorized in Pentagon budgets almost as if distant war is a presumed government action.

That description is right but it does not touche the underlying causes. The story of the attempted U.S. occupation of the Korengal valley,  which Civers again describes, has been the theme of several books and movies. It demonstrates the futility of fighting a population that does not welcome occupiers. But most of the authors, including Chivers, get one fact wrong. The war with the people of the Korengal valley was started out of shear stupidity and ignorance.

The main military outpost in the valley was build on a former sawmill. Chivers writes:

On a social level, it could not have been much worse. It was an unforced error of occupation, a set of foreign military bunkers built on the grounds of a sawmill and lumber yard formerly operated by Haji Mateen, a local timber baron. The American foothold put some of the valley’s toughest men out of work, the same Afghans who knew the mountain trails. Haji Mateen now commanded many of the valley’s fighters, under the banner of the Taliban.

Unfortunately Chivers does not explain why the saw mill was closed. Ten years ago a piece by Elizabeth Rubin touched on this:

As the Afghans tell the story, from the moment the Americans arrived in 2001, the Pech Valley timber lords and warlords had their ear. Early on, they led the Americans to drop bombs on the mansion of their biggest rival — Haji Matin. The air strikes killed several members of his family, according to local residents, and the Americans arrested others and sent them to the prison at Bagram Air Base. The Pech Valley fighters working alongside the Americans then pillaged the mansion. And that was that. Haji Matin, already deeply religious, became ideological and joined with Abu Ikhlas, a local Arab linked to the foreign jihadis.

Years before October 2004, before regular U.S. soldiers came into the Korengal valley, U.S. special forces combed through the region looking for 'al-Qaeda'. They made friends with a timber baron in Pech valley, a Pashtun of the Safi tribe, who claimed that his main competitor in the (illegal) timber trade who lived in the nearby Korengal river valley was a Taliban and 'al-Qaeda'. That was not true. Haji Matin was a member of a Nuristani tribe that spoke Pashai. These were a distinct people with their own language who were and are traditional hostile to any centralized government (pdf), even to the Taliban's Islamic Emirate.

The U.S. special forces lacked any knowledge of the local society. But even worse was that they lacked the curiosity to research and investigate the social terrain. They simply trusted their new 'friend', the smooth talking Pashtun timber baron, and called in jets to destroy his competitor's sawmill and home. This started a local war of attrition which defeated the U.S. military. In 2010 the U.S. military,  having achieved nothing, retreated from Korengal. (The sawmill episode was described in detail in a 2005(?) blog post by a former special force soldier who took part in it. It since seems to have been removed from the web.)

Back to Chivers' otherwise well written piece. He looks at the results two recent (and ongoing) U.S. wars:

The governments of Afghanistan and Iraq, each of which the United States spent hundreds of billions of dollars to build and support, are fragile, brutal and uncertain. The nations they struggle to rule harbor large contingents of irregular fighters and terrorists who have been hardened and made savvy, trained by the experience of fighting the American military machine.
Billions of dollars spent creating security partners also deputized pedophiles, torturers and thieves. National police or army units that the Pentagon proclaimed essential to their countries’ futures have disbanded. The Islamic State has sponsored or encouraged terrorist attacks across much of the world — exactly the species of crime the global “war on terror” was supposed to prevent.

The wars fail because they no reasonable strategic aim or achievable purpose. They are planned by incompetent people. The most recent Pentagon ideas for the U.S. war on Afghanistan depend on less restricted bombing rules. Yesterday one predictable and self defeating  consequence was again visible:

An American airstrike killed at least a dozen Afghan security forces during intense fighting with the Taliban near the Afghan capital, officials said Tuesday.
Shamshad Larawi, a spokesman for the governor, said that American airstrikes had been called in for support, but that because of a misunderstanding, the planes mistakenly targeted an Afghan police outpost.
Haji Abdul Satar, a tribal elder from Azra, said he counted 19 dead, among them 17 Afghan police officers and pro-government militia members and two civilians.
In the first six months of this year, United States forces dropped nearly 3,000 bombs across Afghanistan, nearly double the number for the same period last year and more than five times the number for the first half of 2016. ... Civilian casualties from aerial bombardments have increased considerably as a result, the United Nations says.

One argument made by the Pentagon generals when they pushed Trump to allow more airstrikes was that these would cripple the Taliban's alleged opium trade and its financial resources. But, as the Wall Street Journal reports, that plan, like all others before it, did not work at all:

Nine months of targeted airstrikes on opium production sites across Afghanistan have failed to put a significant dent in the illegal drug trade that provides the Taliban with hundreds of millions of dollars, according to figures provided by the U.S. military.
So far, the air campaign has wiped out about $46 million in Taliban revenue, less than a quarter of the money the U.S. estimates the insurgents get from the illegal drug trade. U.S. military officials estimate the drug trade provides the Taliban with 60% of its revenue.
Poppy production hit record highs in Afghanistan last year, where they are the country’s largest cash crop, valued at between $1.5 billion and $3 billion.

More than 200 airstrikes on "drug-related targets" have hardly made a dent in the Taliban's war chest. The military war planners again failed.

At the end of the Chivers piece its protagonist, Robert Soto, rightfully vents about the unaccountability of such military 'leaders':

Still he wondered: Was there no accountability for the senior officer class? The war was turning 17, and the services and the Pentagon seemed to have been given passes on all the failures and the drift. Even if the Taliban were to sign a peace deal tomorrow, there would be no rousing sense of victory, no parade. In Iraq, the Islamic State metastasized in the wreckage of the war to spread terror around the world. The human costs were past counting, and the whitewash was both institutional and personal, extended to one general after another, including many of the same officers whose plans and orders had either fizzled or failed to create lasting success, and yet who kept rising. Soto watched some of them as they were revered and celebrated in Washington and by members of the press, even after past plans were discredited and enemies retrenched.

Since World War II, during which the Soviets, not the U.S., defeated the Nazis, the U.S. won no war. The only exception is the turkey shooting of the first Gulf war. But even that war failed in its larger political aim of dethroning Saddam Hussein.

The U.S. population and its 'leaders' simply know too little about the world to prevail in an international military campaign. They lack curiosity. The origin of the Korengal failure is a good example for that.

U.S. wars are rackets, run on the back of lowly soldiers and foreign civil populations. They enriche few at the cost of everyone else.

Wars should not be 'a presumed government action', but the last resort to defend ones country. We should do our utmost to end all of them.

Posted by b on August 8, 2018 at 20:00 UTC | Permalink


There is a fundamental misunderstanding in the lament ringing through in this story.

The policy makers and the generals do not care about Afghanistan, nor about American boys being sent and being killed there.

Any bombs spent means more bombs being ordered and manufactured. The Military-Industrial-Intelligence-Complex thus profits.

Those belonging to that complex do not belong to the same class as those boys in body bags.

In spite of these valuable insights like in this story, everything is going just hunky dory.

Posted by: bjd | Aug 8 2018 20:19 utc | 1

you know, it is just as easy to influence a foreign society by making movies (Bollywood in this case) with a certain bent, the one you want people to follow. After a few years of seeing the Taliban as villains, there would be no fresh recruits and mass desertion. But, the weapons manufacturers wouldn't be making their enormous profits. This same effect can be seen in American society, where the movies coming out of Hollywood started becoming very aggressive in tone around the time that Ronald Reagan became president. Movies went from The Deer Hunter to Rambo and Wall Street. Is it any wonder that even the progressive Left in the USA thinks it is ok to attack their political adversaries and that violence is justified? This is the power of movies and the media.

Posted by: Mischi | Aug 8 2018 20:34 utc | 2

Thank you 'b' this post as always is a true in depth education !
If you run for president of the United States of America enytime soon you'v got my vote !

Posted by: Mark2 | Aug 8 2018 20:45 utc | 3

bjd @1 highlights an important truth similar to that exposed by Joseph Heller in Cache-22 and by Hudson's Balance-of-Payments revelation he revealed yet again at this link I posted yesterday. Most know the aggressive war against Afghanistan was already planned and on the schedule prior to 911 and would have occurred regardless since after Serbia the Outlaw US Empire felt it could do and get away with anything. 911 simply provided BushCo with Carte-Blache, but it wasn't enough of a window to fulfill their desired destruction of 7 nations in 5 years for their Zionist Patron.

IMO, as part of its plan to control the Heartland, those running the Outlaw US Empire never had any plan to leave Afghanistan; rather once there, they'd stay and occupy it just as the Empire's done everywhere since WW2. The Empire's very much like a leech; its occupations are parasitic as Hudson demonstrated, and work at the behest of corporate interests as Smedly Butler so eloquently illustrated.

As with Vietnam, the only way to get NATO forces to leave is for Afghanis to force them out with their rifles. Hopefully, they will be assisted by SCO nations and Afghanistan will cease being a broken nation by 2030.

Posted by: karlof1 | Aug 8 2018 21:09 utc | 4

The Wall Street Journal article on the Taliban's ties to the local drug trade also the reveals deliberate omission practiced by the MSM, which keeps its readers actively misinformed. Estimating illegal drug revenues contribute as much as $200 million to the Taliban, the article fails to put that in proper context: that figure represents merely 7%-13% of total production receipts (estimated at 1.5 to 3 billion dollars). Most informed persons know exactly who reaps the rewards of more than 80% of the Afghan drug products, and why this much larger effort is not the focus of "targeted airstrikes."

Posted by: jayc | Aug 8 2018 21:13 utc | 5

1. "The wars fail because they no reasonable strategic aim or achievable purpose........
Since World War II, during which the Soviets, not the U.S., defeated the Nazis, the U.S. won no war. The only exception is the turkey shooting of the first Gulf war."

2 "U.S. wars are rackets, run on the back of lowly soldiers and foreign civil populations. They enriche few at the cost of everyone else"

Your points in 1 ignore the reality expressed by 2. The real strategic aims and purposes are not those provided for public consumption. Winning wars is not the objective, the length and cost of wars is far more important than results. Enriching and empowering the few over the many is the entire point of it all

And lets put an end to "US " responsibility for all evils. Its a shared responsibility. None of this is possible without the cooperation of Uk and its commonwealth nations, EU, Japan and the various international organizations that allow the dollar to be weaponized such as IMF/World Bank and BIS not to mention the various tax havens which support covert operations and looting of assets obtained in these wars (military or economic).

Until the rest of the world is prepared to do something about it they are willing accomplices in all of this.

The global elites are globalists, they dont think in national terms. Its a global elitist cabal at work that is hiding behind the cover of US hegemony.

Posted by: Pft | Aug 8 2018 21:17 utc | 6

b: "Wars should not be 'a presumed government action', but the last resort to defend ones country. We should do our utmost to end all of them."

Well said, sir.

Posted by: Ash | Aug 8 2018 22:01 utc | 7

karlof1 @ 4 said:"The Empire's very much like a leech; its occupations are parasitic as Hudson demonstrated, and work at the behest of corporate interests as Smedly Butler so eloquently illustrated."

You bet.. The operative words being " work at the behest of corporate interests "

And so it goes around the globe. Question is; How to get this information to the herded bovines the general public has become?

Without a major network to disseminate such info, we're all just spinning our wheels. Oh, but, the therapy is good..

Posted by: ben | Aug 8 2018 22:09 utc | 8

Very interesting stories - especially re: the timber mill warlord competition.

Defoliants are still used in warfare - especially "by accident". Carpet bombing is still legal. If NATO wanted to wipe out the poppies, it surely could do so.

Pft at 6, reminded me of this zinger:

The nation state as a fundamental unit of man's organized life has ceased to be the principal creative force: International banks and multinational corporations are acting and planning in terms that are far in advance of the political concepts of the nation-state. - The Brzez

Posted by: fast freddy | Aug 8 2018 22:18 utc | 9

jayc @5 implies it, and I'll say it more directly: US soldiers guard poppy fields in Afghanistan. I'm also reminded of Alfred C McCoy's famous 1972 work The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia.
Why the US grows heroin in Afghanistan, from the movie War Machine

Posted by: Deltaeus | Aug 8 2018 22:38 utc | 10

The nation state as a fundamental unit of man's organized life has ceased to be the principal creative force: International banks and multinational corporations are acting and planning in terms that are far in advance of the political concepts of the nation-state. - The Brzez

Posted by: fast freddy | Aug 8, 2018 6:18:02 PM | 9

This gem hides a deep truth. One has to replace "creative" and "far in advance", instead, we have power relationships. And those power relationships resemble central planning of the Communist states, concept that is attractive in abstraction, but centralization cannot cope with complexities of societies and economies, in part because the central institutions are inevitably beset by negative selection: people rise due to their adroit infighting skills rather than superior understanding of what those institutions are supposed to control. Ultimately, this proces leads to decay and fall. "Nation states" themselves are not immune to such cycles and are at different stages of the cycle creative-decadent-falling. However, international finance lacks observable "refreshing" mechanisms of nation states.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Aug 8 2018 22:51 utc | 11

War as always is financial racket, $trillion stolen, MIC thrives, took over with CIA all prerogatives of power and has million agents in US alone in every institution government and corporate.

I call it success of ruling elite. B war would stop tomorrow if it was unsuccessful read unprofitable for those who wage it. Nazi death camps were most profitable enterprises in third Reich.

Posted by: Kalen | Aug 8 2018 22:54 utc | 12

For some reason, when the US wars are admitted to be civil wars, no one questions whose side did the US take until it is too late and so very few tune in. Incompetence is the excuse. It reminds me of that adage to not blame on malice that which can be explained by stupidity but stupidity has been used to excuse a lot of malice. It's one reason why "military intelligence" resides at the top of oxymorons along with "congressional ethics" and "humanitarian intervention."

It is amazing to think that the US has been in Afghanistan for 17 years and supposedly knows where the opium and its processors are and yet could not take it out. (The pix of soldiers patrolling poppy fields is rich.) The initial excuse years ago was that the US needed to support the warlords who grew/sold it. What is the excuse now? Incompetence, corruption, laziness?

The US likes the idea of opium products going into Iran and Russia ... who have protested to no avail. A bit of indirect subversion.

Posted by: Curtis | Aug 8 2018 23:22 utc | 13


The adage is Hanlon's Razor. There should be a joint air operation to bomb those poppy fields.

Posted by: Ian | Aug 8 2018 23:27 utc | 14

US wars are rackets. They are very successful in that regard. It doesn't matter what people think about them.

Posted by: goldhoarder | Aug 8 2018 23:33 utc | 15

The US likes opium products going into the US. It makes for broken citizens who lack zeal for knowledge, and therefore, comprehension; and the will to organize against the PTB. Importantly, being illegal, opiate use feeds the pigs who own the prison-industrial complex.

Posted by: fast freddy | Aug 8 2018 23:50 utc | 16

The Taliban had virtually eradicated opium when they controlled Afghanistan. Try this linkor or this one.

Posted by: par4 | Aug 8 2018 23:50 utc | 17


In April 2001, 5 months prior to nine elva, $43 million was gifted to the Taliban in Afghanistan for the stated purpose of eradicating opium.

Posted by: fast freddy | Aug 8 2018 23:55 utc | 18

ben @8--

Given the current, longstanding dynamics within the Outlaw US Empire, I don't see any possibility of the required reforms ever having an opportunity to get enacted. The situation's very similar to Nazi Germany's internal dynamic--the coercive forces of the State and its allies will not allow any diminution of their power. Within the Empire, thousands of Hydra heads would need to be rapidly severed for any revolt to succeed, and that requires a large, easily infiltrated organization to accomplish. Invasion by an allied group of nations invites a nuclear holocaust I can't condone. I think the best the world can do is force the Empire to retreat from its 800+ bases and sequester it behind the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans until it self-destructs or drastically reforms itself--Containment. But for that to work, almost every comprador government would need to be changed and their personages imprisoned, exiled or executed--another close to impossible task. Ideally, the ballot box would work--ideally--but that requires deeply informed voters and highly idealistic, strongly principled, creative, and fearless candidates, along with an honest media.

Yeah, writing can be good therapy. But I'm no more cheery than when I began. Must be time for intoxicants.

Posted by: karlof1 | Aug 9 2018 0:09 utc | 19

@6 Pft

"Until the rest of the world is prepared to do something about it..."

What is this 'something' of which you speak?


Posted by: b4real | Aug 9 2018 0:20 utc | 20

More than 200 airstrikes on "drug-related targets" have hardly made a dent in the Taliban's war chest. The military war planners again failed.

Or did they?

Posted by: vk | Aug 9 2018 0:26 utc | 21

While it is true that the invasion and subsequent conflicts in Afghanistan do suffer from the same issues as oblamblamcare, that the corporate beneficiaries first move on accessing their new revenue stream is to always buy favour in DC, making the cancellation of even temporary programs such as wars or the patriot act impossible so that any federal initiative even the tiny number of well intentioned ideas, turn into just another boondoggle, it is foolish and self defeating to write off any attempt to stop a conflict as 'impossible'.

There are avenues available to end the Afghan butchery if that is what the main objective is, but circumspection is essential.
Anyone who argues for an end involving humiliating the DC warlords and snipping their purses off their belts is wasting time resources and most important the lives of many thousands of Afghanistan's citizens.
By the time enough powerful military figures who had never clung to Petraeus' coat-tails on the way up surface to stitch him up for being the sociopathic murderer he is, decades will have passed and Petraeus' current contemporary, much less the amerikan bossfella in Afghanistan at the time when the numbers against Petraeus finally form will be so solidly supported by the only types who have the power to cut them loose, that the only outcome will be Petraeus copping a mild 'telling off' - again.

But if the object is to end the killing, bugger doing over the smarmy bureaucrats of war, the job is actually pretty easy. Simply give the contractors charged with building machines of war, contracts to deliver machines of peace - rescue helicopters, armoured (initially) school buses, ambulances and fire engines etc. Have them stop building bases and build homes, schools and hospitals for Afghans instead.
Yep there will be some pushback particularly from employees at the coalface and middle managers, the corporate boards and their number crunchers will catch on.
This nothing to do with previous half arsed efforts by the army corps of engineers. This has nothing to do with winning the hearts and minds of the citizens of Afghanistan because its not about the pacification of them, it is about the pacification of the corporate citizens of Washington DC - how Afghans feel about it is irrelevant altho I reckon most will be relieved at the reduction in conflict.
One thing that will happen when joints such as the corporation formerly known as Halliburton are making more profit from building schools and employing teachers than they make from building bases and contracting murderers, they will listen more closely to the chalkies than the grunts, so that when the school principals etc whine that the bang bang stuff is impeding their ability to meet the school's federally mandated program targets and delay some payments, the boards will listen and begin agitating for a drawdown in military contractors which is exactly what any halfway decent person wants.
Yeah its not perfect and will take a few years, but it will be faster and more effective than trying to argue the toss with a gang of brutal idiots who will never agree to a straight out 'peace now' push.

Posted by: Debsisdead | Aug 9 2018 0:31 utc | 22

Karlofi @ 19:

The world does not need to force the Evil Empire to retreat from its 1,000 (and counting) military bases around the planet.

All the world needs to do is trade with Iran, Venezuela or some other outsider nation. The Evil Empire will be so busy trying to punish everyone who trades with these countries by extending sanctions against the outsiders to their trading partners that the Empire effectively ends up having sanctioned everyone away and it becomes the victim of its sanctioning.

The 1,000+ military bases around the globe are then effectively on their own and the soldiers and administrators inside can either stay there and starve, throw in their lot with the host nation's citizenry or beg to be allowed to return home.

Posted by: Jen | Aug 9 2018 1:11 utc | 23

thanks b... as long as the americans support the troops, lol - all will be well apparently... jesus.. meanwhile - the support for the 1% bomb makers and etc continues... maybe it is the mutual fund money that folks are concerned about maintaining..

"In the first six months of this year, United States forces dropped nearly 3,000 bombs across Afghanistan." what is that? about 17 or 18 bombs a day or something? what about the drones? they have to be put to use too... best to get someone who is involved in their own turf war in afgan to give out the targets.. brilliant... usa war planning is mostly destroy and destroy and honour the troops and wave their stupid american flag and that is about it... sorry, but that is what it looks like to me..

Posted by: james | Aug 9 2018 1:22 utc | 24

its not so much they want to end the war on terror or the war on drugs.........they just want to say one thing to cover their asses and do another thing completely..

no matter what there should of been one general who got it right.....but we see it was never about peace .... it was always about war and its profits. anyone who didn't take orders or even had a hint of the right strategy would be Hung like dirty boots to dry.

what is the right strategy? leave. just as other empires did. before you call on your faces

to be even more frank....its not even about the money as that is not as important than having a nation of 300m regurgitate the news that they are there for 17 years to be the police of the world. because USA are the good ones... that they need to buy the biggest trucks which can't even fit in normal parking spaces because they have land mines(I mean ieds...) to avoid and need to haul 5tons of cargo to their construction job all while watching out for terrorists and trump Hillary divisions. is disorienting and it is deliberate. just as having a war last without a reason is deliberate while they entertain the masses with games..

Posted by: Jason | Aug 9 2018 1:32 utc | 25

@23 "...maybe it is the mutual fund money that folks are concerned about maintaining.."

Definitely a big factor james. Unfortunately a lot more than 1% of the US population depends on the MIC for their livliehood.

Posted by: dh | Aug 9 2018 1:35 utc | 26

@23dh... same deal here in canuckle head ville... people remain ignorant of what there money is ''''invested'''' in... could be saudi arabia for all the canucks think... btw - thanks for the laugh on the other thread... you made a couple of good jokes somewhere the past few days! i don't have much free time to comment at the moment..

Posted by: james | Aug 9 2018 1:38 utc | 27


McCoy, in "The Politics of Heroin" gives a more complete picture:

In 1996, following four years of civil war among rival resistance factions, the Taliban's victory caused further expansion of opium cultivation. After capturing Kabul in September, the Taliban drove the Uzbek and Tajik warlords into the country's northeast, where they formed the Northern Alliance and clung to some 10 percent of Afghanistan's territory. Over the next three years, a seesaw battle for the Shamali plain north of Kabul raged until the Taliban finally won control in 1999 by destroying the orchards and irrigation in a prime food-producing region, generating over 100,000 refugees and increasing the country's dependence on opium.

Once in power, the Taliban made opium its largest source of taxation. To raise revenues estimated at $20-$25 million in 1997, the Taliban collected a 5 to 10 percent tax in kind on all opium harvested, a share that they then sold to heroin laboratories; a flat tax of $70 per kilogram on heroin refiners; and a transport tax of $250 on every kilogram exported. The head of the regime's anti-drug operations in Kandahar, Abdul Rashid, enforced a rigid ban on hashish "because it is consumed by Afghans, Muslims." But, he explained, "Opium is permissible because it is consumed by kafirs [unbelievers] in the West and not by Muslims or Afghans." A Taliban governor, Mohammed Hassan, added: "Drugs are evil and we would like to substitute poppies with another cash crop, but it's not possible at the moment because we do not have international recognition."

More broadly, the Taliban's policies provided stimulus, both direct and indirect, for a nationwide expansion of opium cultivation. . . Significantly, the regime's ban on the employment and education of women created a vast pool of low-cost labor to sustain an accelerated expansion of opium production. . . . In northern and eastern Afghanistan, women of all ages played " a fundamental role in the cultivation of the opium poppy"---planting, weeding, harvesting, cooking for laborers, and processing by-products such as oil. The Taliban not only taxed and encouraged opium cultivation, they protected and promoted exports to international markets.

In retrospect, however, the Taliban's most important contribution to the illicit traffic was its support for large-scale heroin refining.
. . .
Instead of eradication, the UN's annual opium surveys showed that Taliban rule had doubled Afghanistan's opium production from 2,250 tons in 1996 to 4,600 tons in 1999--equivalent to 75 percent of world illicit production. (508-509)
. . .

War on the Taliban

All this [heroin] traffic across Central Asia depended on high-volume heroin production in politically volatile Afghanistan. In July 2000, as a devastating drought entered its second year and mass starvation spread across Afghanistan, the Taliban's leader Mullah Omar ordered a sudden ban on opium cultivation in a bid for international recognition. (p.517)

Posted by: pogohere | Aug 9 2018 1:39 utc | 28

@26 I've been following the Canada/Saudi spat. I guess Justin has his own reasons for what he said but he certainly pissed MBS off.

Doesn't look like Donald wants to mediate. Perhaps Justin will have better luck with Teresa.

Posted by: dh | Aug 9 2018 1:53 utc | 29


Dealing with their own elites for a start

Posted by: Pft | Aug 9 2018 2:05 utc | 30

@28 dh... usa daily propaganda press briefing had a few things to say -

Posted by: james | Aug 9 2018 2:17 utc | 31

B's article assumes that the operative purpose of the US military is to win wars. This isn't the case. The US military largely a business enterprise whose objective is to make money for the plutocracy that largely controls them. That being the case, the Afghanistan war has been a great success. If the US 'won' it, it would cease; if the Taliban conquered, it would cease. In this form of military stagnation it continues, and the money roles in making the ammunition, equipment, etc.

The military budget is largely an institution for transferring the tax money of the population from the people to the plutocracy. Military stagnation serves this purpose better than winning or losing.

Posted by: folktruther | Aug 9 2018 2:27 utc | 32

If there is one standout factor which makes makes all this profitable mayhem possible then it's the successful campaign by the Elites to persuade the Public that Secrecy is a legitimate variation of Privacy.
It is not.

Impregnable Government Secrecy is ALWAYS a cover for erroneous interpretations of an inconvenient Law - or straight-out cover for criminal activity.
It's preposterous to believe that a government elected by The People has a legitimate right to create schemes which must be kept Secret from The People.
This is especially true in the case of Military/Defense. There wouldn't be a CIC on earth who doesn't have up-to-date and regularly updated info on the hardware and capabilities of every ally and every potential foe. The People have a legitimate right to know what the CIC, and the rest of the world, already knows.

And that's just the most glaring example of the childish deception being perpetrated in the name of Secrecy. If governments were to be stripped of the power to conduct Our affairs in Secret then the scrutiny would oblige them to behave more competently. And we could weed out the drones and nitwits before they did too much damage.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Aug 9 2018 2:38 utc | 33

@30 Right. I notice they avoid mentioning the Badawis who are central to the issue. I guess helping Justin out isn't very high on Donald's list of priorities.

Posted by: dh | Aug 9 2018 2:41 utc | 34

i forget who said it and the exact phrasing, but the best explanation i've seen is "why is the US there? it answers itself: to be there".

vast opium money for the deep state vermin.

profits for the bomb makers (you know, the respectable corporate ones as opposed to the quaint do-it-yourselfers).

lithium deposits that probably rival those in bolivia as well as other untapped profitable resources (probably, anyway; i could see oil and gas coming out of those ancient valleys).

it's also an occupation as opposed to a "win and get out" war. these military welfare queens think they can win a staring contest with the descendants of people who bitchslapped every would-be conqueror since alexander the great. ask the russians how well that went for them.

the west supports israel's 70+ years of colonizing palestine (plus the 3 or 4 decades of dumbness before it with balfour and such) and still has troops in south goddamn korea. as long as the tap flows they'll keep drinking that sweet tasty tax welfare.

Posted by: the pair | Aug 9 2018 3:41 utc | 35

The bottom line is that, despite all the dollars spent, the US military is not very good, at least not good at military stuff.

The Soviet Union/Russia defeated Germany in WW2. The US have only had one success since - the invasion of Grenada.

If they keep pissing off the rest of the world at the current rate, soon they will get their comeuppance.

Posted by: cdvision | Aug 9 2018 4:37 utc | 36

@Pft #6
"The real strategic aims and purposes are not those provided for public consumption. Winning wars is not the objective, the length and cost of wars is far more important than results. Enriching and empowering the few over the many is the entire point of it all"

Very well said and I agree with you and others that the war has been a success. However, I think that your point is not the entire point of it.
There are also the geopolitical and ideological aspects of the US dominated monopolar world order to consider. Inline with the Wolfowitz doctrine any opposition to this ideology must be crushed.
Not all objectives have been met though, they did not destroy 7 countries in just 5 years, Syria did not quite pan out because the Russian army is far more effective than anticipated and its involvement did not cause anything remotely like the collapse of the Soviet Union that resulted from the Soviet-Afghan war. Many thought it would at least weaken Putin's government. Crimea is lost. Iran and Russia are still on the 'to destroy list' and now Trump throws a spanner in the works trying to rebalance the global triangle.

Posted by: Joost | Aug 9 2018 4:40 utc | 37


Agreed. Speaking of crushing opposition to this ideology

"Under the guise of exercising supervisory power over the president’s ability to use military force, Congress is considering writing Donald Trump a blank check to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens with no criminal charges. Alarmingly, this legislation could permit the president to lock up Americans who dissent against U.S. military policy.

The bill that risks conveying this power to the president is the broad new Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), S.J.Res.59, that is pending in Congress. Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Bob Corker (R-TN) and Democratic committee member Tim Kaine (VA) introduced the bipartisan bill on April 16, and it has four additional co-sponsors."

With censorship gaining steam the time is coming soon, and may already be here, where opposition is not permitted.

Posted by: Pft | Aug 9 2018 5:57 utc | 38

@joost 36
No there's no evidence Trump is in control pretty much anything. The only agenda he can achieve is what's he and his Republican party agreed with. The sanctions to iran, Russia, and north korea is bipartisan, he did not able to do anything about them. The alleged investigation of Russia interference is bipartisan, again he's not in control. Middle East involvement and Palestinian issue is again bipartisan. What else ? He promised to rejuvenate the military so this is partly or can pass for partially success ? He's adding up their budget so that should be used by the military to rejuvenated itself. Oh right the various cost overrunned weapon acquisitions programs as well bipartisan, he want the F35 cancelled before in exchange of upgraded teen series variant and no more expensive Air force one, walk back on it.

Trump have no evidence of being in control or capable strategists since when he get what information available to him wrong.

Posted by: cbrown | Aug 9 2018 6:45 utc | 39

Re poppy cultivation in Afghanistan. karlof1 put up a link in a previous thread to a Hudson piece. In that, Hudson talked about CIA becoming bankers for the criminal world. That is what is occurring in Afghanistan. CIA will hang onto the drug trade in Afghanistan for as long as possible as it finances their regime change operations elsewhere.

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Aug 9 2018 6:48 utc | 40

I think the reality of supersonic weapons changes things. So too the precision guided munitions enjoyed by all sides. The USA will not enjoy the huge technological advantages it has had over the last 60 or 70 years ever again. No more will they be able to bomb with impunity.

I just wish Putin would step it up a gear. No mention of the USA presence in Syria being crushed - more is the pity.

What is the increased NATO presence in Kosovo all about anyways?

Posted by: imoverit | Aug 9 2018 10:08 utc | 41

Imoverit @ 40:

Increased NATO presence in Kosovo? I'd expect the NATO presence in Kosovo to be very high anyway - the US Army has a base there (Camp Bondsteel) which also serves as a detention facility. Currently the US aims at maintaining a permanent military presence in the Balkans and Camp Bondsteel will serve as the US Army's HQ in that part of the world.

Posted by: Jen | Aug 9 2018 11:14 utc | 42

What we have is a runaway arms industry and there investers. To them war makes good sense we see it all round the world. But it's run on tax payers money. At tax payers human cost. It's just a runaway frankinstien monster, out of enyones control. Run by the Rothchild family ! Give someone a hammer and every problem looks like a nail.

Posted by: Mark2 | Aug 9 2018 11:30 utc | 43

War causes chaos. That is the point of it. Chaos keeps the people down. Global rule depends on this above all.

Great point about secrecy vs privacy, HOarsewhisperer. We citizens are allowed no privacy. The government is all about keeping secrets.

Posted by: paul | Aug 9 2018 14:54 utc | 44

Regarding opium production: a well-produced documentary about amapola cultivation
in Guerrero with broad-brush treatment of the big picture.

Posted by: Guerrero | Aug 9 2018 16:17 utc | 45

karlof1 @ 19 said:". Must be time for intoxicants.

LOL, works for me at times. With regards to the therapy derived, for me, it's not my writing, but the comforting knowledge, that on this site, there are so many posters that contribute so much in the way of links, to the reality of our world, and the policies that make it so.

Kind'a begs the question; Don't we have ANY progressive billionaires that could buy a MSM outlet to provide a bit of truth to actually inform the population instead of misleading them?

Posted by: ben | Aug 9 2018 17:30 utc | 46

Has eny body else posted this ? I know 'b' did a post devoted to this there was so much info I got overwhelmed ! But this blog I found to day ! Mind boggling ! I need sedatives! Don't miss it-------
Neonrevolt June 25 2018

Posted by: Mark2 | Aug 9 2018 17:38 utc | 47

ben @45--

I think it rather difficult to be truly progressive and be a billionaire simultaneously. Sort'a like Doubkethink. Maybe we could enlist Jack Ma or another Communist Billionaire. Or maybe Kim Dotcom could construct a social media platform dedicated to protecting its clients privacy with minimal advertising. Perhaps a WikiSocialMedia as a spinoff of Wikileaks. Given all the defections from Facebook, Twitter and others, there's certainly a market demand for such a platform.

Posted by: karlof1 | Aug 9 2018 18:06 utc | 48

Billionaires cause poverty.

The illegal (by their own standards) NATO attack on Yugoslavia was a model for middle east and the destruction of 7 countries in five years. Fitting that it was General Wesley Clark (destroyer of Yugoslavia) that made the remarks about the seven Arab countries marked for destruction.

The USA had its sights on Yugoslavia in State Department National Defense Docs of the Reagan era. It was a successful Socialist model that had to be wrecked for "democracy".

Posted by: fastfreddy | Aug 9 2018 18:29 utc | 49

“Since mankind's dawn, a handful of oppressors have accepted the responsibility over our lives that we should have accepted for ourselves. By doing so, they took our power. By doing nothing, we gave it away. We've seen where their way leads, through camps and wars, towards the slaughterhouse.”


“Because while the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth. And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn't there? Cruelty and injustice, intolerance and oppression. And where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission. How did this happen? Who's to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you're looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror. I know why you did it. I know you were afraid. Who wouldn't be? War, terror, disease. There were a myriad of problems which conspired to corrupt your reason and rob you of your common sense. ”
― Alan Moore, V for Vendetta

Posted by: dan | Aug 9 2018 18:29 utc | 50

@ 47: Yes, I get what you're saying, but, I can't help but believe a genuinely progressive MSM outlet could be wildly profitable, if but given a chance. Even FOX news lost 100 mil. a year for 5 yrs. before Murdoc realized a profit.

Ah, yes, one can dream eh?

Posted by: ben | Aug 9 2018 18:44 utc | 51

ben @51--

Putting together the business model would be easy; it's getting the financial backing--as you note--that's most difficult. Then, there's licensing, and who knows what the politicized FCC will do. Perhaps begin in a small market... I also thought low-power radio might be an entry point, but that would only work in a very densely populated region. I recall the startup of The Independent Media Center just prior to the Battle of Seattle in 1999 and its struggles after what seemed a promising beginning. began as an idealistic site but eventually caved to Democrats and their money; it was a hot bed of commentary until the beginnings of Russiagate in mid-2016 when myself and other leading commentators were exiled for life. Counterpunch has a pulse but doesn't allow commentary, which is a mistake, IMO. I created my own blog @15 years ago, but never did much with it.

The great number of people applying for an InfoWars ap after he was shut down by Facebook is amazing, crazy, yet hopeful all at the same time--millions clearly don't believe the government fed bullshit of BigLie Media. A market exists, yet cost of entry is high both in dollars and tech savvy. Almost forgot: On Roku, there are @ 1,000 News&Weather and Special Interest channels plus 136 Web Video channels, and others in many other categories. Apparently, one can add their Vblog to the channel listings at a minimal cost, but I don't know the details. There's even a Propaganda Channel featuring TV Commercials, WW2, War at Home, Newsreels, Cold War, and such.

Ya know, Russia and China are being blamed for most everything. So, why not ask them for seed money to form an AT--America Today--channel. Quien Sabe? They might just say Da!

Posted by: karlof1 | Aug 9 2018 20:05 utc | 52

karlof1 says:

Or maybe Kim Dotcom could construct a social media platform dedicated to protecting its clients privacy with minimal advertising


Posted by: john | Aug 9 2018 20:31 utc | 53

john @53--

Yeah, I read about that in a twitter blurb several days ago. Thanks for the reminder!

Posted by: karlof1 | Aug 9 2018 21:34 utc | 54

There are numerous ways that independent media can propagate and associate, but the Internet is the problem. The corporations want to control it, and over time they will.

Fortunately, Russia has started building its own Internet, which is intended to integrate seamlessly with the existing Internet, but also stand alone in case of shutdown, and aloof in case of US pressures. It will use its own global satellite network, and its own root servers. Barring electronic warfare (at which, of course, the Russians excel), the system should be bulletproof. It looks like it will be open for any throughout the world who wish to join it.

Time frame for all this is 2-10 years. Not really a long time. It will be a tussle for the west to outright censor the whole Internet, and many actions will backfire as we see with Infowars subscriptions skyrocketing. This world can no longer run without an Internet, so we gotta have it.

I'm counting on Russian and Chinese tech to keep us (or perhaps, introduce us to being) private and safe in the coming years.

Posted by: Grieved | Aug 10 2018 1:24 utc | 55

One additional thought on the Russian Internet @55.

If a reserve currency is no more than a dependable medium of exchange that nations can settle their international balances with, and if information has a value at least as high as money, then what will become the "reserve network" within which all the important information of the world travels?

The US is destroying its global trust level in all of the international systems it largely commands, from money to finance to law to peacekeeping to NGO support of democracy. Now it has started to do its work on the Internet.

How long before global commerce turns to a more reliable network infrastructure, especially as the "Internet of Things" begins to burgeon throughout the world, and failure of information networks cannot be tolerated?

I look to Russian and Chinese Internets to form the transaction backbone of the heartland and the Asian Century.

Posted by: Grieved | Aug 10 2018 1:42 utc | 56

james @ 24

"maybe it is the mutual fund money that folks are concerned about maintaining.."

"It also led to the emergence of a new asset-owning middle class which tied people closer to a particular form of capitalism, one driven by rising asset values rather than incomes"

from Bill Mitchell and Thomas Fazi's 'Reclaiming the State'

Talks about how as neoliberalism got its legs in the 80s the US ran deficits but the money mainly led to a redistribution of wealth from the lower to the upper classes. We of course also saw this in the recent bank bailouts. Michael Hudson is big on the real estate aspects of this. (His fairly recent 'The Bubble and Beyond' is very good.)

Posted by: financial matters | Aug 10 2018 13:33 utc | 57

Michael Hudson interview from February, 2016

Killing the Host

""AJR: In addition to the near zero interest rates, the Fed bought US Treasury bonds and mortgage backed securities (MBS) with almost $4 trillion during three rounds of Quantitative Easing stimulus. How have these measures affected the real economy and financial markets?

MH: In 2008 the Federal Reserve had a choice: It could save the economy, or it could save the banks. It might have used a fraction of what became the vast QE credit – for example $1 trillion – to pay off the bad mortgages and write them down. That would have helped save the economy from debt deflation. Instead, the Fed simply wanted to re-inflate the bubble, to save banks from having to suffer losses on their junk mortgages and other bad loans.
Keeping these debts on the books, in full, let banks foreclose on defaulting homeowners. This intensified the debt-deflation, pushing the economy into its present post-2008 depression. The debt overhead is keeping it depressed.

One therefore can speak of a financial war waged by Wall Street against the economy. The Fed is a major weapon in this war. Its constituency is Wall Street. Like the Justice and Treasury Departments, it has been captured and taken hostage.""

Posted by: financial matters | Aug 10 2018 16:25 utc | 58

fm @58--

Wall Street and its banks have never been allied with the Common People's economy; rather, they've always been the opposite--parasitical in relation. Hudson also talks about how Wall Street also became the enemy of industrial capitalism, which also seriously wounded the economy supporting Common People. Currently, their guns are aimed and firing at Turkey. Erdogan really has only one alternative--Make a hostage of all NATO within Turkey prior to withdrawing from NATO. Russia's Lavrov has told Pompeo that any further sanctions levied will be treated as an act of Economic War. The Outlaw US Empire's hubris is about to cause it major damage it seems.

Posted by: karlof1 | Aug 10 2018 17:02 utc | 59


I think we have to emphasize again and again and again that Afghanistan was an organization of tribes under a settled 'strong-man' palatial monarchy, while England was still dragging around in bear skins and Americans were the tribal confederation of First Nations.

Afghanistan's 'central government' was always a tithe-tribute leadership of the various tribal regions. Cheney's dilemma in providing Ken Lay with a TAPI to India, and $100Bs to Halliburton, was how to deconstruct that Republic of States and recast it in the illegitimate USA Fed or EU Alliance *Executor* form of government. One man alone, Karzai, who would sign away all the rights and privileges of all the tribal regions.

I don't think but a handful of readers know Cheney wrote the Afghan Petroleum and Minerals Laws IN ENGLISH in November 2001, while he was preparing Karzai for his new role. They created a flag, a national anthem and even a currency (!) then imposed that on the Afghan people, along with a new puppet ruler an illegitimate Central Federal government and an Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police.

Cheney did all this, while he was writing blank IDIQNB checks to Halliburton! Cheney is a F'G MONSTER! They are all monsters, frankly, the lot of them, all the Pentagon military and civilian leadership.

I had hoped to live long enough to piss on Cheney's grave, but now he has a 27-year old's heart, so like Count Dracula, he'll outlive his own generation and plague the next, like herpes that never goes away.

It is terribly sad then the Taliban have recaptured Ghazni. Karzai was faithful to his people. He took the bribes from Cheney and Rodham, then awarded all the resource concessions to India and China, ha,ha,ha. What mensch, the crazy Karzai clan, taking on the corrupt Cheney war cartel!

I remember rocketing along the Highway of Death and how tense it was passing through Ghazni, where the road chokes to a Mexican village width, blinded on both sides with close set mud and brick buildings, and a hidden RPG just one split second from blowing you to atoms.

Ghazni will no longer exist after the US forces obliterate it. Every damn building in that poor country is pockmarked now by shrapnel holes, after nearly 40 years of industrial meat grinder warfare. Most Americans can't even find it on the map.

Just so sad. Think of all the Enlisted soldiers now who will slaughtered in re-protecting Ghani and Abdullah. Then the Generals in the far rear will retire with campaign ribbons and a fat OEF-A service bump on their $250,000 pensions for life.

Posted by: Chipnik | Aug 12 2018 21:16 utc | 60

@58 financial matters.. i agree with you fully.. a lot of people don't seem to know this too..

Posted by: james | Aug 12 2018 21:29 utc | 61

To the credit of the US generals, they did in the middle of the war recognize their lack of sociology and anthropology fu and recognized the need for it to fight better. The HTS was initiated and run for several years with the mission mapping the human geography of the Afghan terrain.

The verdict at the end: the input of Ivy League anthropologists was hard to make use of on the ground.

Posted by: quote | Aug 14 2018 18:33 utc | 62

The first Gulf war was a success, the goal was to push the Iraqis out of Kuwait. This was accomplished. Some suggested at the time that they continue onto Baghdad. This was rejected as it was clear to the decision makers at the time that Iraq would shatter in pretty much the way it subsequently did.

Powell doctrine
Clearly defined goal
Political support
Massive force
Get out as soon as goal is accomplished.

Posted by: john | Aug 17 2018 6:20 utc | 63

just to clarify...

the warmonger @63 is not me, the normally occasional commenter around here.

Posted by: john | Aug 17 2018 9:04 utc | 64

It's true the Soviets paid the butchers bill in spades, but the US won that war both by effect and by result with the exception of Eastern Europe for 40 years.

Our supply and tech kept the Soviets from collapsing (they came within a whisker of being knocked out in 41-43). Our air campaign and convoy protection kept the dual pressure on the 3rd Reich such they could not focus enough on the Soviets to finish them.

Posted by: JD Will | Aug 21 2018 17:03 utc | 65

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