U.S. defeat in Afghanistan provokes war in Washington

SLL photo: Greg Butterfield

Twenty years have passed since the George W. Bush regime launched its so-called “war on terror.” U.S. troops have left Afghanistan in defeat. The Taliban are back in Kabul. The knives are out in Washington.

Congressional Republicans are demanding Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair General Mark Milley resign. South Carolina Senator (and oil company agent) Lindsey Graham called for President Joe Biden’s impeachment. Some of them have accused him of “treason.” 

Meanwhile, Pentagon generals are distancing themselves from the White House decision to pull all U.S. troops from that war-ravaged land. 

Gone is the “United We Stand” bravado we heard when U.S. bombs began to rain on Afghan villages on Oct. 7, 2001. It has gone the way of the record super-profits the “war on terror” brought U.S. oil companies and their bankers.

Gone too is the triumphalism that accompanied the end of the anti-Soviet Cold War, the talk of “the end of history” and a “new American century.” They have been replaced by gloom and recrimination. 

Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” pipe dream, based on “U.S. energy dominance,” has crashed and burned. Joe Biden’s cry that “America is back” rings hollow.

The furious eat themselves

Global setbacks for the U.S. ruling class always set off battles in Washington. After the victory of the great Chinese Revolution in 1949, President Harry Truman was accused of “losing” China. A four-year red scare followed as Senator Joseph McCarthy blamed this profound social revolution on “communists” in Washington. 

The U.S. failure to conquer Korea in 1953 led McCarthy to aim his fire at the U.S. military high command itself. That attack on Washington’s holy of holies caused his political demise. 

The victory of the 1959 Cuban Revolution, the first socialist revolution in the Western Hemisphere, electrified Latin America and the Caribbean. It terrified Washington and Wall Street. 

In August 1960, Cuba’s revolutionaries nationalized U.S. corporate holdings in their country. That September, Fidel Castro visited Harlem and proclaimed solidarity with the Black freedom struggle. 

The Pentagon and CIA were confident they could “neutralize” Cuba’s revolutionary government as they had earlier pro-people governments in the region. But it was a different time and a different kind of revolution. 

The defeat of the CIA’s 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion set off a gang war in Washington. The Pentagon and CIA blamed President John F. Kennedy for not sending U.S. troops and planes to back up their mercenaries. JFK was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963.

The U.S. defeat in Vietnam was followed by the Watergate scandal and President Richard Nixon’s resignation. The 1979 Iranian Revolution and the deliberately provoked hostage crisis that followed brought down Jimmy Carter and put Ronald Reagan in the White House. 

The U.S. flight from Afghanistan may not seem to be an event on the scale of these earth-changing social revolutions. Yet it represents the utter failure of the 20-year, $10-trillion-plus “war on terror” to accomplish its goal. And the inability of the decaying U.S. empire to capitalize on its Cold War victory.

What was that goal? To restore the stranglehold on the world’s energy resources U.S. corporations enjoyed after World War II. Not because the United States needs oil, but because U.S. corporations need profits. Control of oil and gas assured the dominance of Wall Street banks and the U.S. dollar in the world capitalist economy.

In 1960, Western oil majors owned most of the world’s known oil reserves outside of the Soviet bloc. Half of the overseas profits of U.S. corporations came from Arab, Iranian and Venezuelan oil. 

The anti-colonial upsurge of the second half of the 20th century changed things. OPEC was founded in 1962 to challenge the power of the oil companies. The Libyan Revolution of 1969 led by Muammar Gaddafi, Iraq’s oil nationalization of 1972 and the Iranian Revolution of 1979 took nearly a quarter of the world’s oil reserves out of Western corporate hands. 

The 30-year war

The attempted reconquista did not start with the events of 9/11. They were but a phony pretext to expand it. 

The first Bush regime launched the 30-year oil war in 1991 with Operation Desert Storm, as the Soviet Union dissolved under the impact of Gorbachev’s perestroika. It continued under Republican and Democratic regimes.

From 1991 to 2001, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians, mostly children, were murdered by U.S. bombs and sanctions. The plans for the first U.S. war against Iraq were on George H.W. Bush’s desk months before Iraqi troops went into Kuwait in 1991. The plans to invade Afghanistan were on his son’s desk on Sept. 10, 2001.  

The second Bush regime was run by fellows of the Project for a New American Century. A 1998 PNAC document said a “new Pearl Harbor” was needed to galvanize support for a wider war. On Sept. 11, 2001, that wish was realized. 

A few weeks after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, General Wesley Clark was informed that the Pentagon planned to “take out seven more Muslim states in five years” — Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Somalia and Sudan. Four of those have important oil and gas reserves. The others are on strategic transportation routes. 

And Afghanistan? It sits astride a route by which oil and gas from former Soviet Central Asia could reach South Asia and the Indian Ocean. 

The U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, funded the 2006 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and orchestrated the overthrow and murder of Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi 10 years ago. Since 2011, Washington has armed and funded a bloody war against Syria in cahoots with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Israel and Al Qaeda, the alleged perpetrators of 9/11. 

U.S. troops occupy Syria’s oil fields; U.S.-backed “insurgents” block the construction of a gas pipeline from Iran to the Mediterranean. U.S. drone strikes have killed thousands of civilians in Somalia and Pakistan. U.S. arms still flow to the Saudi Kingdom, the UAE and the racist state of Israel to murder people in Yemen and Palestine. Sanctions cause great suffering in Iran and Venezuela.

Fails to stop U.S. decline

The U.S. war machine has succeeded in killing, wounding and displacing millions of people and spending tens of trillions of dollars. 

What did its corporate masters gain from all this? A decade-long energy price bubble that brought record profits to oil companies and their bankers. It then collapsed. 

It has failed to reverse the world situation in Washington and Wall Street’s favor. It has not opened new markets for capital investment. It has not restored the U.S. ruling class to the dominant position it occupied after World War II. It has only slowed its decline. It cannot stop the global contraction of the capitalist system.

Israel was driven from Lebanon and cannot crush the Palestinian resistance. The Saudis and UAE are losing their war in Yemen. Syria has taken back most of its territory. Iran and Venezuela remain strong and independent of U.S. rule. The U.S. has abandoned Afghanistan and U.S. troops are under siege in Iraq. 

Gas and oil from former Soviet Central Asia now goes directly by pipeline to China. The Nord Stream pipeline is bringing Russian gas to Europe. Nord Stream 2 is under construction. 

Will the Biden administration abandon Wall Street’s war against the world? No, it can’t. 

The power and wealth of U.S. monopoly capital, its very existence, can only be maintained by destruction. That’s all it has to offer the world.

U.S. troops have left Afghanistan. But not a dime has been cut from the military budget. In fact, it’s slated to go up by $37 billion next year. The White House and Pentagon say they need that money to confront China. Meanwhile, Congress cannot even pass the Build Back Better Act. 

Working class and oppressed people inside the United States have nothing to gain from endless war. Neither Afghanistan or China, Iran or Venezuela are our enemy. We do not need Wall Street banks to be at the center of the world economy. 

We need healthcare and education and good-paying jobs for all. We need to get the Pentagon war machine and its corporate masters off our backs.