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The War Piece to End All War Pieces
Or How to Fight a War of Ultimate Repetitiousness
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Fair warning. Stop reading right now if you want, because I’m going to repeat myself. What choice do I have, since my subject is the Afghan War (America’s second Afghan War, no less)? I began writing about that war in October 2001, almost 17 years ago, just after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. That was how I inadvertently launched the unnamed listserv that would, a year later, become TomDispatch. Given the website’s continuing focus on America’s forever wars (a phrase I first used in 2010), what choice have I had but to write about Afghanistan ever since?

So think of this as the war piece to end all war pieces. And let the repetition begin!

Here, for instance, is what I wrote about our Afghan War in 2008, almost seven years after it began, when the U.S. Air Force took out a bridal party, including the bride herself and at least 26 other women and children en route to an Afghan wedding. And that would be just one of eight U.S. wedding strikes I toted up by the end of 2013 in three countries, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen, that killed almost 300 potential revelers. “We have become a nation of wedding crashers,” I wrote, “the uninvited guests who arrived under false pretenses, tore up the place, offered nary an apology, and refused to go home.”

Here’s what I wrote about Afghanistan in 2009, while considering the metrics of “a war gone to hell”: “While Americans argue feverishly and angrily over what kind of money, if any, to put into health care, or decaying infrastructure, or other key places of need, until recently just about no one in the mainstream raised a peep about the fact that, for nearly eight years (not to say much of the last three decades), we’ve been pouring billions of dollars, American military know-how, and American lives into a black hole in Afghanistan that is, at least in significant part, of our own creation.”

Here’s what I wrote in 2010, thinking about how “forever war” had entered the bloodstream of the twenty-first-century U.S. military (in a passage in which you’ll notice a name that became more familiar in the Trump era): “And let’s not leave out the Army’s incessant planning for the distant future embodied in a recently published report, ‘Operating Concept, 2016-2028,’ overseen by Brigadier General H.R. McMaster, a senior adviser to Gen. David Petraeus. It opts to ditch ‘Buck Rogers’ visions of futuristic war, and instead to imagine counterinsurgency operations, grimly referred to as ‘wars of exhaustion,’ in one, two, many Afghanistans to the distant horizon.”

Here’s what I wrote in 2012, when Afghanistan had superseded Vietnam as the longest war in American history: “Washington has gotten itself into a situation on the Eurasian mainland so vexing and perplexing that Vietnam has finally been left in the dust. In fact, if you hadn’t noticed — and weirdly enough no one has — that former war finally seems to have all but vanished.”

Here’s what I wrote in 2015, thinking about the American taxpayer dollars that had, in the preceding years, gone into Afghan “roads to nowhere, ghost soldiers, and a $43 million gas station” built in the middle of nowhere, rather than into this country: “Clearly, Washington had gone to war like a drunk on a bender, while the domestic infrastructure began to fray. At $109 billion by 2014, the American reconstruction program in Afghanistan was already, in today’s dollars, larger than the Marshall Plan (which helped put all of devastated Western Europe back on its feet after World War II) and still the country was a shambles.”

And here’s what I wrote last year thinking about the nature of our never-ending war there: “Right now, Washington is whistling past the graveyard. In Afghanistan and Pakistan the question is no longer whether the U.S. is in command, but whether it can get out in time. If not, the Russians, the Chinese, the Iranians, the Indians, who exactly will ride to our rescue? Perhaps it would be more prudent to stop hanging out in graveyards. They are, after all, meant for burials, not resurrections.”

And that’s just to dip a toe into my writings on America’s all-time most never-ending war.

What Happened After History Ended

If, at this point, you’re still reading, I consider it a miracle. After all, most Americans hardly seem to notice that the war in Afghanistan is still going on. To the extent that they’re paying attention at all, the public would, it seems, like U.S. troops to come home and the war to end.

That conflict, however, simply stumbles on amid continuing bad news with nary a soul in the streets to protest it. The longer it goes on, the less — here in this country at least — it seems to be happening (if, that is, you aren’t one of the 15,000 American troops stationed there or among their families and friends or the vets, their families and friends, who have been gravely damaged by their tours of duty in Kabul and beyond).

And if you’re being honest, can you really blame the public for losing interest in a war that they largely no longer fight, a war that they’re in no way called on to support (other than to idolize the troops who do fight it), a war that they’re in no way mobilized for or against? In the age of the Internet, who has an attention span of 17 years, especially when the president just tweeted out his 47th outrageous comment of the week?

If you stop to think about it between those tweets, don’t you find it just a tad grim that, close enough to two decades later, this country is still fighting fruitlessly in a land once known by the ominous sobriquet “the graveyard of empires”? You know, the one whose tribal fighters outlasted Alexander the Great, the Mongols, the British, and the Russians.


Back in October 2001, you might have thought that the history lurking in that phrase would have given George W. Bush’s top officials pause before they decided to go after not just Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan but the Taliban, too. No such luck, of course — then or since.

They were, of course, leading the planet’s last superpower, the only one left when the Soviet Union imploded after its Afghan war disaster, the one its leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, grimly dubbed “the bleeding wound.” They hadn’t the slightest doubt that the United States was exempt from history, that everyone else had already filled that proverbial graveyard and that there would never be a gravestone for them. After all, the U.S. was still standing, seemingly triumphant, when history officially “ended” (according to one of the neocon prophets of that moment).

In reality, when it comes to America’s spreading wars, especially the one in Afghanistan, history didn’t end at all. It just stumbled onto some graveyard version of a Möbius strip. In contrast to the past empires that found they ultimately couldn’t defeat Afghanistan’s insurgent tribal warriors, the U.S. has — as Bush administration officials suspected at the time — proven unique. Just not in the way they imagined.

Their dreams couldn’t have been more ambitious. As they launched the invasion of Afghanistan, they were already looking past the triumph to come to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and the glories that would follow once his regime had been “decapitated,” once U.S. forces, the most technologically advanced ever, were stationed for an eternity in the heart of the oil heartlands of the Greater Middle East. Not that anyone remembers anymore, but Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, and the rest of that crew of geopolitical dreamers wanted it all.

What they got was no less unique in history: a great power at the seeming height of its strength and glory, with destructive capabilities beyond imagining and a military unmatched on the planet, unable to score a single decisive victory across an increasingly large swath of the planet or impose its will, however brutally, on seemingly far weaker, less well-armed opponents. They could not conquer, subdue, control, pacify, or win the hearts and minds or anything else of enemies who often fought their trillion-dollar foe using weaponry valued at the price of a pizza. Talk about bleeding wounds!

A War of Abysmal Repetition

Thought of another way, the U.S. military is now heading into record territory in Afghanistan. In the mid-1970s, the rare American who had heard of that country knew it only as a stop on the hippie trail. If you had then told anyone here that, by 2018, the U.S. would have been at war there for 27 years (1979-1989 and 2001-2018), he or she would have laughed in your face. And yet here we are, approaching the mark for one of Europe’s longest, most brutal struggles, the Thirty Years’ War of the seventeenth century. Imagine that.

And just in case you’re paying no attention at all to the news from Afghanistan these days, rest assured that you don’t have to. You already know it!

To offer just a few examples, the New York Times recently revealed a new Trump administration plan to get U.S.-backed Afghan troops to withdraw from parts of the countryside, ceding yet more territory to the Taliban, to better guard the nation’s cities. Here was the headline used: “Newest U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan Mirrors Past Plans for Retreat.” (“The withdrawal resembles strategies embraced by both the Bush and Obama administrations that have started and stuttered over the nearly 17-year war.”) And that generally is about as new as it gets when it comes to Afghan news in 2018.

Consider, for instance, a report from early July that began, “An American service member was killed and two others were wounded in southern Afghanistan on Saturday in what officials described as an ‘apparent insider attack’”; that is, he was killed by an armed Afghan government soldier, an ally, not an enemy. As it happened, I was writing about just such “insider” or “green-on-blue” violence back in July 2012 (when it was rampant) under the headline “Death by Ally” (“a message written in blood that no one wants to hear”). And despite many steps taken to protect U.S. advisers and other personnel from such attacks since, they’re still happening six years later.

Or consider the report, “Counternarcotics: Lessons from the U.S. Experience in Afghanistan,” issued this June by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan (SIGAR). Its focus: 15 years of American efforts to suppress opium growing and the heroin trade in that country (at historic lows, by the way, when the U.S. invaded in 2001). More than eight and a half billion American dollars later, SIGAR found, opium remains the country’s largest cash crop, supporting “590,000 full-time jobs — which is more people than are employed by Afghanistan’s military and security forces.” Oh, wait, historian Alfred McCoy was writing about just that at TomDispatch back in 2010 under the headline “Can Anyone Pacify the World’s Number One Narco-State?” (“In ways that have escaped most observers, the Obama administration is now trapped in an endless cycle of drugs and death in Afghanistan from which there is neither an easy end nor an obvious exit.”)

Recently, SIGAR issued another report, this one on the rampant corruption inside just about every part of the Afghan government and its security forces, which are famously filled with scads of “ghost soldiers.” How timely, given that Ann Jones was focused on that very subject, endemic corruption in Afghanistan, at TomDispatch back in… hmmm, 2006, when she wrote, “During the last five years, the U.S. and many other donor nations pledged billions of dollars to Afghanistan, yet Afghans keep asking: ‘Where did the money go?’ American taxpayers should be asking the same question. The official answer is that donor funds are lost to Afghan corruption. But shady Afghans, accustomed to two-bit bribes, are learning how big-bucks corruption really works from the masters of the world.”

I could, of course, go on to discuss “surges” — the latest being the Trump administration’s mini-one to bring U.S. troop levels there to 15,000 — such surges having been a dime-a-dozen phenomena in these many years. Or the recent ramping up of the air war there (essentially reported with the same headlines you could have found over articles in… well… 2010) or the amount of territory the Taliban now controls (at record levels 17 years after that crew was pushed out of the last Afghan city they controlled), but why go on? You get the point.

Almost 17 years and, coincidentally enough, 17 U.S. commanders later, think of it as a war of abysmal repetition. Just about everything in the U.S. manual of military tactics has evidently been tried (including dropping “the mother of all bombs,” the largest non-nuclear munition in that military’s arsenal), often time and again, and nothing has even faintly done the trick — to which the Pentagon’s response is invariably a version of the classic misquoted movie line, “Play it again, Sam.”


And yet, amid all that repetition, people are still dying; Afghans and others are being uprooted and displaced across Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and deep into Africa; wars and terror outfits are spreading. And here’s a simple enough fact that’s worth repeating: the endless, painfully ignored failure of the U.S. military (and civilian) effort in Afghanistan is where it all began and where it seems never to end.

A Victory for Whom?

Every now and then, there’s the odd bit of news that reminds you we don’t have to be in a world of repetition. Every now and then, you see something and wonder whether it might not represent a new development, one that possibly could lead out of (or far deeper into) the graveyard of empires.

As a start, though it’s been easy to forget in these years, other countries are affected by the ongoing disaster of a war in Afghanistan. Think, for instance, of Pakistan (with a newly elected, somewhat Trumpian president who has been a critic of America’s Afghan War and of U.S. drone strikes in his country), Iran, China, and Russia. So here’s something I can’t remember seeing in the news before: the military intelligence chiefs of those four countries all met recently in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, officially to discuss the growth of Islamic State-branded insurgents in Afghanistan. But who knows what was really being discussed? And the same applies to the visit of Iran’s armed forces chief of staff to Pakistan in July and the return visit of that country’s chief of staff to Iran in early August. I can’t tell you what’s going on, only that these are not the typically repetitive stories of the last 17 years.

And hard as it might be to believe, even when it comes to U.S. policy, there’s been the odd headline that might pass for new. Take the recent private, direct talks with the Taliban in Qatar’s capital, Doha, initiated by the Trump administration and seemingly ongoing. They might — or might not — represent something new, as might President Trump himself, who, as far as anyone can tell, doesn’t think that Afghanistan is “the right war.” He has, from time to time, even indicated that he might be in favor of ending the American role, of “getting the hell out of there,” as he reportedly told Senator Rand Paul, and that’s unique in itself (though he and his advisers seem to be raring to go when it comes to what could be the next Afghanistan: Iran).

But should the man who would never want to be known as the president who lost the longest war in American history try to follow through on a withdrawal plan, he’s likely to have a few problems on his hands. Above all, the Pentagon and the country’s field commanders seem to be hooked on America’s “infinite” wars. They exhibit not the slightest urge to stop them. The Afghan War and the others that have flowed from it represent both their raison d’être and their meal ticket. They represent the only thing the U.S. military knows how to do in this century. And one thing is guaranteed: if they don’t agree with the president on a withdrawal strategy, they have the power and ability to make a man who would do anything to avoid marring his own image as a winnner look worse than you could possibly imagine. Despite that military’s supposedly apolitical role in this country’s affairs, its leaders are uniquely capable of blocking any attempt to end the Afghan War.

And with that in mind, almost 17 years later, don’t think that victory is out of the question either. Every day that the U.S. military stays in Afghanistan is indeed a victory for… well, not George W. Bush, or Barack Obama, and certainly not Donald Trump, but the now long-dead Osama bin Laden. The calculation couldn’t be simpler. Thanks to his “precision” weaponry — those 19 suicidal hijackers in commercial jets — the nearly 17 years of wars he’s sparked across much of the Muslim world cost a man from one of Saudi Arabia’s wealthiest families a mere $400,000 to $500,000. They’ve cost American taxpayers, minimally, $5.6 trillion dollars with no end in sight. And every day the Afghan War and the others that have followed from it continue is but another triumphant day for him and his followers.

A sad footnote to this history of extreme repetition: I wish this essay, as its title suggests, were indeed the war piece to end all war pieces. Unfortunately, it’s a reasonable bet that, in August 2019, or August 2020, not to speak of August 2021, I’ll be repeating all of this yet again.

Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He is a fellow of the Nation Institute and runs His sixth and latest book is A Nation Unmade by War (Dispatch Books).

(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Afghanistan, American Military 
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  1. Anonymous[142] • Disclaimer says:

    Afganistan is the graveyard of poor empires. It’s the playground of the rich American empire, a place to test weapons, test men, gain battle experience, get promotions, and generally keep the military-industrial complex in top health. If it didn’t exist, we’d have to invent it. All very human. If America wasn’t doing it, somebody else would.

    Life is a killer.

  2. MarkU says:

    Its all about pipelines, rare-earth elements and drug money for CIA black ops.

    15 years of American efforts to suppress opium growing and the heroin trade in that country (at historic lows, by the way, when the U.S. invaded in 2001).

    And many record harvests after the US invasion.

    In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way‘ Franklin D. Roosevelt.

  3. As shown in this article there is a very interesting connection between growing wealth inequality in the United States and American wars:

    Unless Washington shifts from a program of funding wars by deficit financing to funding wars through direct taxation, wars being fought by the United States will continue to contribute to America’s growing income inequality.

    • Replies: @Carroll Price
  4. mijj says:

    fyi: Forever War was a 1974 Sci-Fi book inspired by the Vietnam war.

  5. To leave Afghanistan we would have to admit defeat.

    We don’t want to admit defeat.

    Therefore, we don’t leave.

  6. Deschutes says:

    About the only thing I take away from this insufferably droll, repetitive piece on America at war forever, is how powerless the both the writer and the reader are. All we can do is read these depressing articles which remind us of a war we can do absolutely nothing about. Very shitty and depressing, just like USA!

  7. peterAUS says:

    Pretty much.
    Besides, it’s not a war; it’s an occupation.

    More cops get killed/wounded in USA proper then military personnel in that “war”.
    2017, 46 U.S. police officers were killed by felons in the line of duty; 17 military personnel in Afghanistan.

    The article’s point/issue is simply overblown. That’s why people don’t pay attention to it.

    • Replies: @skrik
    , @WJ
  8. skrik says:

    Besides, it’s not a war; it’s an occupation

    BS; it’s an alien invasion = Nuremberg-class war crime.

    More cops get killed/wounded in USA proper

    This looks very much like the “tu quoque” or the appeal to hypocrisy fallacy plus ‘oranges vs. apples.’ What the good US-burghers do in their own country is entirely their business, and IF it looks like they act like antediluvian neanderthal savages [a direct result of their risible ‘education’ + night & day TV, perhaps] THEN tough luck for the cops. It probably doesn’t help that the US-cops are just as much free with the lead as their oppressed subjects. And don’t think that the same sort of savagery won’t impact someone near you; a quick glance into reveals horrendous ‘social situations,’ like bodies in barrels, say, or aggravated home invasions, etc., also caused by defective education plus importing ‘cheap’ labour.

    That’s why people don’t pay attention to it

    More BS; the sheople ignore US/Z aggression everywhere it occurs because the corrupt&venal MSM+PFBCs [= publicly financed broadcasters, like the AusBC] sell the powerless population pups = the sheople get actively, deliberately brainwashed [cf. Lügenpresse]. Apologists for [here terrorist] criminals make themselves accessories = assign themselves guilt and should be punished after being tried & found so guilty.

    • Replies: @Anon
  9. blackswan says:

    ” The U.S. has spent 25 trillion since the Vietnam War, what do they have to show for it? ” Jack Ma Ali Baba
    ” The genius of our ruling class is that it has kept the majority of people from ever questioning the inequity of a private for profit fraudulent banking system where most people drudge along, paying heavey taxes for which they get nothing in return.” Gore Vidal

  10. Biff says:

    Tom, you have to get over tying Osama bin Laden to 9/11. Who organized that event, I do not know, but cave dwelling Arabs it was not.

    cui bono does include Osama’s ilk, but many others as well, and there HAD to be insiders in the U.S. government to pull it off.

    • Replies: @nsa
    , @Anon
  11. Anonymous [AKA "Yukon Tom"] says:

    (War) “It’s something we do all the time because we’re good at it. And we’re good at it because we’re used to it. And we’re used to it because we do it all the time.” Sergeant Michael Dunne played by Paul Gross in Passchendaele the Movie

    I’m not sure, but I don’t think we are good at it anymore. But it appears to me that the Russians, Iranians, Syrians and Houthi’s are and that really scares us. But it does make a lot of money for some people, careers for others and the MSM loves it for the ratings and avoiding telling the truth.

  12. Realist says:

    Your opening photo is of two of the dumbest son-of-a-bitches to ever hold the office of President of The United States. Indicative of the shit slide this country is on.

    • Agree: Stan d Mute
  13. “Afghans and others are being uprooted and displaced across Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and deep into Africa ….”

    So the strategy is to depopulate the country of its indigenous peoples until “we” outnumber them? Never mind the damage these re-settled folks are doing to Western Europe, not to mention other places.


  14. Respect says:

    …….generally keep the military-industrial complex in top health

    Yes , the US military industrial complex is rich and in top health as you say , but what I see is that the health of the US as a whole , physical and mental , is going down in the last 50 years . Maybe the metastasis of the ” healthy ” military cancer are killing the american host .

    The same happened to most of the empires , got drunk on blood and fell .

    • Replies: @Wizard of Oz
  15. Respect says:

    In Siria Assad with russian and iranian help is beating the american fatsos and their allies israel , saudi arabia and the serial killer isis militias .

    In Yemen , tribal huties are resisting the american and saudi fatsos and their mercenaries .

    In the Donbass the russians are beating the american fatso backed ukro-nazis

    Afganistan , be careful with opium , is very bad for health

    Oh ! , those bloody ” playgrounds of the rich American Empire ” ….

  16. Anonymous [AKA "Anthony_P"] says:

    “Today, I tell you again that the war in Afghanistan is not our war, but imposed on us and we are the victims,the Americans do not want peace because they have their own agenda and objectives.”

    Hamid Karzai 2014

  17. “…the Americans do not want peace because they have their own agenda and objectives.”


    It’s not about winning, in the traditional sense, but about keeping the shekels rolling in. Our masters win while we proles lose money and freedom.

    “War is the health of the State.”

    -Randolph Bourne

    As quoted by Wendy McElroy, in Bourne of War

  18. WJ says:

    A low intensity conflict but still an absurd waste of money and other resources. Of course the Iraq war puts it to shame as being the second all time worst waste of money (VN being number 1) , resources and people. Any attack on Iran would be the absolutely , number one worst waste, exceeding Vietnam in pointlessness and cost , but an attack on Iran is not going to happen. Despite what some think, Trump is not insane.

  19. I wouldn’t call Afghanistan a war. It’s more like a gigantic money-printing machine. for the MIC. As to wars, the last time the US made the mistake of winning one was in 1945. And they probably wouldn’t have ended that one if Russia had not, just a few day earlier, declared war on Japan while preparing for an invasion of that defenseless nation.

  20. @Sally Snyder

    The linked article begins with a major error. The US has been in a continual state of war since 1914, with only brief interludes between to incite a new one. For instance, Truman’s “police action” in Korea took about 4 years, while Vietnam required even less. The last time the US made the mistake of winning a war was in 1945, and what a blunder that turned out to be.

    • Replies: @jilles dykstra
  21. As Orwell pointed out in his book 1984 wars were not meant to be won , the wars were meant to be continuous and to be a tool to keep the population terrorized and under draconian government control via the threat of attack from another force, and so the wars in Afghanistan and Syria serve these purposes for our big brother government, via the fake threat from Russia and China.

    A side benefit for the CIA and the MOSSAD and MI6 is the drug running using the poppy fields to supply the needs of the Trinity of Evil aka CIA/MOSSAD/MI6 and so the war goes on and will go on forever if need be as America is under Zionist control and the Zionist need a war for a sacrifice of continual war deaths both civilian and military to their lord satan.

    If interested see the article on this subject on, and by the way the British fought in Afghanistan from 1838 until 1919 and then were thrown back in by the zioncons and 911 which was done by Israel and the Zionist controlled deep state.

    So the U.S. has a ways to go to match the British , and if interested google Rudyard Kipplings poem ON THE PLAINS OF AFGHANISTAN, history does repeat.

    • Agree: Carroll Price
  22. @WJ

    It’s not really a waste of money. It’s just a reapportionment of wealth from the taxpayer to the MIC. It’s the American way. Who needs decent roads, healthcare, public parks, etc. when they can instead dream of dominating the world?

    • Replies: @Herald
    , @Stan d Mute
  23. nsa says:

    Hey Biff…didn’t you get the email? A vindictive 6 1/2′ arab, dwelling in a cave high in the hindu kush with his various wives and nefarious assistants and a giant porn collection, while hooked up to an artificial kidney machine, knocked down giant jooie owned buildings 7500 miles away across a large ocean. Said arab was so tricky that he made one building just smoke a little and then totally collapse for no apparent reason. Reread the email, Biff, and please get back on message or we here in Ft. Meade will have to pay you a visit…..

  24. Che Guava says:

    There was a great gif meme floating around, abt. 10 yrs ago, which cycled through Bush morphing into Obama and back. Except for skin colour, the likeness was remarkable, the transitions very smooth. They even both have the same kind of wing-ears.

    If you look at the photo at the top of the article, you will see how well morphing the two would work.

    Unfortunately, don’t have a saved link, and it probably would not still work now if I did. A dedicated searcher could probably still find it. Have to sleep soon. Worth it to find.

    The article is good.

    However, ‘forever war’ is by no means your coinage. An American SF writer named Haldeman wrote a novel by that title and several sequels and related short stories many years ago, and was continuing on the theme until at least the 2000s.

    Set in spaaace, of course.

    Sorry, I would bet anything on you having derived it from Haldeman, albeit likely subconsciously while walking around a book shop.

  25. Agent76 says:

    November 27th, 2015 US Has Killed More Than 20 Million In 37 Nations Since WWII

    The causes of wars are complex. In some instances nations other than the U.S. may have been responsible for more deaths, but if the involvement of our nation appeared to have been a necessary cause of a war or conflict it was considered responsible for the deaths in it. In other words they probably would not have taken place if the U.S. had not used the heavy hand of its power. The military and economic power of the United States was crucial.

    • Replies: @jilles dykstra
  26. Herald says:
    @Carroll Price

    Making the fat cats fatter is inarguably a waste of money.

    • Replies: @Carroll Price
    , @Anon
  27. @Herald

    …not if you’re a fat cat.

    • Replies: @peterAUS
  28. Wilson’s propaganda was that WWI was the war to end all wars.
    Alas, his self determination, at the time seen as complete foolishness by nearly all diplomats, created many new artificial states, out of the Habsburg and Ottoman empires.
    Cynical historians are of the opinion that this self determination had as aim the break up of the empires.
    As a GB genereral saw clearly in the twenties ‘we never had so many wars’.

    The USA’s problem, until now maybe, possibly with Trump a new, and sensible, era begins for the USA, that foreign policy was determined, could be determined, by internal political considerations.

    The GB empire was far better organised, GB did not have that luxury, thus it was based on diplomacy, bribes, cunning, and military bluff, mainly naval, with an occasional war.
    Any 19th century GB war was critised in the GB lower house, as far too expensive.
    Getting a few dozen European hostages out of Ethiopia was per person far the most expensive war, but GB prestige was saved.
    Ian Hernon, ‘Britain’s Forgotten Wars, Colonial Campaigns of the 19th Century’, 2003, 2007, Chalford – Stroud

  29. @Agent76

    For most wars the cause seems simple to me.
    Just the nonsensical Crimean war was next to incomprehensible, some historians write it was so complex that they deliberately do not try to explain.
    One historian did, an unbelievable story.

  30. @Carroll Price

    How the USA made a mistake in winning WWII ?
    FDR nearly got what he wanted, just world rule escaped him, Uncle Joe really was Stalin, Mao was not Tsjiang.
    The USA people made a big mistake in believing FDR.

  31. @Che Guava

    Like other physical abnormalities common to the animal world, wing ears result from generations of inbreeding. Ever noticed the over-sized ears on most Appalachian males?

    • Replies: @Che Guava
  32. @Carroll Price

    dream of dominating the world

    You may be giving the MIC too much credit. I suspect it’s much simpler than this.

    1. Job security – nobody ever works himself out of a job

    2. Boys will be boys. We like blowing shit up. We like making stuff go faster and faster. Ever been to a gun range? Popped a can of tannerite? Big fun. Or how about driven a fast motorcycle, speedboat, or sports car? Thrilling no? Build a bigger gun or bomb! Build faster ships and aircraft! But in order to build them you kinda need to justify it by using them somehow don’t you?

    We may rationalize troops in Africa as necessary to protect Apple’s supply chain of coltan, but it’s just fun to go out and bust a cap in some cannibal’s ass. The Mideast fiascos are more complicated due to Neolithic desert dwellers’ mythologies and their current year echoes, but it’s still fun to blast some towelhead off his camel at 1,000 yards.

    Human nature is violent, self-interested, and amoral just like Nature herself. Pretending otherwise is just self-aggrandizement. America is the planet’s apex predator and we are merely toying with weaker creatures we have no real interest in eating like a lion pride abusing a lone hyena. We like to think ourselves so superior in this regard to say the warlords of Liberia or Congo, but all that really differentiates us is that we are much smarter and have much better toys to use in whacking our victims.

  33. peterAUS says:
    @Carroll Price


    And…..skinny cats believe they have a decent chance to become fat cats

  34. Buckwheat says:

    We spend trillions to interfere in other countries business but can’t spend millions to protect American citizens at home from black and brown criminals. In a perfect world Bush and Obama would both be swinging from a tall oak tree for their treasonous behavior that cost American lives for nonsense that accomplished little except death and suffering on both sides of the battle zone.

  35. Agent76 says:

    It is even simpler than most think or even can believe with little effort. “All War’s are Banker’s War’s”

  36. macilrae says:

    Some historical facts:

    Originally the Bush administration gave the Taliban an ultimatum: “Hand him over or we’ll come in and get him”. The Taliban responded “Show us your proof that it was him first!” Ignoring this, the US invaded, with major support from Tajiks and Uzbeks, taking care that their allies did the “knocking on doors” while they stood well back in their flak jackets. One shot from a sniper and a whole village got taken out, Fallujah style.

    You’ll remember that the Afghan army was supposed to take over – a forlorn hope later to be abandoned: not the least because the US soldiers didn’t exactly endear themselves to the populace and in the beginning the Afghans were expected to fight without the body armor of their American colleagues.

    When asked why the continued presence since Bin Laden was evidently no longer in the country, the Bush administration’s response was “we can’t allow Afghanistan to become a failed state where terror groups can find sanctuary”. How did that one go eh?

    Actually, why exactly are “we” there now?

    • Replies: @peterAUS
  37. iffen says:

    I continue to believe that Trump would shut down Afghanistan if it wasn’t for those videos of the fall of Saigon.

    • Replies: @EliteCommInc.
  38. peterAUS says:

    Let’s assume, for a second, that you are genuinely trying to get the truth. Chance of that, by reading the comment, is around, say, 10 %.

    One shot from a sniper and a whole village got taken out, Fallujah style.

    A shot from a sniper got a proper reaction, not “taking out a whole village”.
    And, Fallujah was a proper MOUT.

    You’ll remember that the Afghan army was supposed to take over – a forlorn hope later to be abandoned..

    The primary reason being the very essence of Afghan society. Incapable of having an organized, modern state, let alone an army.

    Actually, why exactly are “we” there now?

    That place has a considerable geopolitical significance.

    The causes of war, any war, are multiple: the real and perceived. The real are those of highest power of the land; the perceived are those for public consumption and grunts (beliefs) on the ground.

    Besides, as I said, Afghanistan isn’t war. It’s occupation. There were 290 homicides in New York only, in 2017. US military losses in Afghanistan, same year, 17. Enough said.

    • Replies: @macilrae
    , @Anon
  39. @iffen

    Only if he is ignorant of history. The US was long gone from Vietnam when Saigon was captured by the: the North Vietnamese, North Koreans, Chinese and Russians

    But just turning our backs on the mess we have made does have the added burden of res[responsibility for the aftermath.

    • Replies: @iffen
  40. macilrae says:

    You evidently have a higher opinion of today’s US soldiery and their tactics than I do. Panicky and therefore trigger-happy, these dudes are anxious to get back to their base where a warm bed, video games and a choice of MacDonald’s or Burger King awaits them – unlike the enemy who’ll will hang out all night in freezing fox-hole awaiting their return next day, sustained only by their hatred.

    In Fallujah, as I recall, four Blackwater mercenaries were caught by the insurgents and their mutilated bodies hung from a bridge. The reprisal was to pretty well demolish the city and, yes, entire blocks were taken out to eliminate a single sniper. And yes I do also recall seeing on CNN that this was a well-orchestrated MOUT.

    The primary reason being the very essence of Afghan society. Incapable of having an organized, modern state, let alone an army.

    True – but as tough, courageous fighters they probably rank with Hezbollah in having few equals anywhere.

    Besides, as I said, Afghanistan isn’t war. It’s occupation. There were 290 homicides in New York only, in 2017. US military losses in Afghanistan, same year, 17. Enough said.

    Yes I agree it was never a “war” – WWII was a war; this was an invasion and then, as you say, an occupation, just like Iraq. I believe your number of 17 US losses in 2017 – and how many Afghans?

    • Replies: @peterAUS
    , @Che Guava
  41. Anon[381] • Disclaimer says:

    “US military losses in Afghanistan, same year, 17. Enough said.”

    and you believe them. Enough said.

  42. peterAUS says:

    You evidently have a higher opinion of today’s US soldiery and their tactics than I do.

    I definitely have much higher opinion of US military might than you do. Or, better, much higher respect for its capability to deliver what TPTB want.

    …I do also recall seeing on CNN that this was a well-orchestrated MOUT.

    It was. Very well actually, by all standards.

    Yes I agree it was never a “war” – WWII was a war; this was an invasion and then, as you say, an occupation, just like Iraq.


    And it will last as long as TPTB want. US military will do what it’s ordered to. The US society won’t be paying much attention to it, and when it does it will be well managed, as so far. New President tweet, for example. Or a celebrity divorce. Stuff like that.

  43. iffen says:

    Only if he is ignorant of history.

    He’s not the ignorant one. The video of helicopter rescue from the rooftop of the embassy is a big deal.

  44. @Anonymous

    Isn’t it convenient for the rich that there is no draft so that their precious kiddies can’t be blown up.

  45. Anon[436] • Disclaimer says:

    I think you missed his point. Still you said what you were bursting to say so Dr. Unz’s therapeutic sessions may have another success.

  46. Anon[436] • Disclaimer says:

    ObL wasn’t a cave dweller until after the US attacked Afghanistan. He was a rich Saudi/Yemeni with lots of rich and fanatical jihadist followers/supporters. 9/11 was only a somewhat more ambitious version of some of Al Qaeda’s previous exploits (e.g. the USS Cole, WTC round 1, two East African embassy bombings). Yes, he was the one big winner – the actual collapse of the towers being just a bonus from his point of view.

    • Replies: @Carroll Price
    , @Biff
  47. @Respect

    Would you care to think about your last paragraph and report back? Not true of British or Czar’s empires. Not true of either East or West Roman Empires I think. Not true of Chinese Empire. Mogul Empire in India: not really. ….

  48. @WJ

    A respected historian friend who, though from outside it, tends to take a favourable view of the Anglosphere, including America, points out that, in the end, the Vietnam War was important in putting an end to the Soviet Union’s hopes of spreading Communism. By contrast the Afghan war will prove to have done much to speed the replacement of American influence by Chinese.

    • Replies: @NoseytheDuke
  49. Anon[436] • Disclaimer says:

    Literally true. But when one examines the detail the large part of it which consists in the inflation of real estate prices because interest rates are so low doesn’t waste money in the usual sense. Buy outs and buy backs are other relatively neutral phenomena.

  50. @peterAUS

    I definitely have much higher opinion of US military might than you do. Or, better, much higher respect for its capability to deliver what TPTB want.

    Have you ever wondered how the US military would stack-up and react if forced to go up against an enemy with a viable air force (planes and missiles) capable of delivering devastating air strikes like those available and used by them in virtually every battle they fight, regardless of how minor it happens to be? A situation they never faced even in WW 2, let alone Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan etc? By the time Briton and US finally got around to landing troops in Europe on D-Day (after extensive foot-dragging) Germany’s air force had been long destroyed resulting in not a single German plane being seen in the skies over Normandy. So, if the US military is truly as superior as you seem to think, even up the odds and let’s see how well they hold up to your fond expectations.

  51. @Anon

    You can’t be serious…

    • Replies: @Anon
  52. peterAUS says:
    @Carroll Price

    ….Germany’s air force had been long destroyed resulting in not a single German plane being seen in the skies over Normandy. So, if the US military is truly as superior as you seem to think, even up the odds…..

    I’ve seen some idiocy on this site but this is simply……outstanding.

    Thinking that people like you can vote is……ah, well. No wonder we are where we are.

  53. @peterAUS

    Since Asians will take over Australia economically as they did in New Zealand by jacking up housing costs 4000% there is little in the way that the US military can stop this.

    They cannot bomb Chinese veritable colonies in Sydney.

    Polly the fish and chips shop owner-a proto-Trump of sorts-got that right.

    So the US military has little to do with your fate.

  54. @Carroll Price

    This does not matter because you cannot “air strike” a nation into a vassal state. What then happens when the fireworks are over is that 50,000 Americans die and the deficit goes to the moon (Vietnam, Iraq) and gasoline prices rise until the two-term president is out of office.

    Since poor natives have nothing better to do and nothing to live for, like the Afghani they will continue to fight for a generation.

  55. Anon[436] • Disclaimer says:

    Yes so I must be in need of your help. Take every sentence and, apart from making your assumption that Al Qaeda and ObL didn’t actually plan and, by their young proxies, execute it, explain what is wrong.

  56. Biff says:

    Building don’t collapse just because you fly airplanes into them.

    • Replies: @Anon
  57. @Carroll Price

    Any idiot understands that the present fission and fusion bombs make war between nations with these bombs impossible, unless one wants indeed the last war, no human being survives.
    Read the 1953 novel by Neville Shute On the Beach, suicide pills distributed in New Zealand, when the radio active dust arrives.

  58. @Carroll Price

    Foot dragging ?; Stalin needed time to grab his reward, E Europe.

    • Replies: @Carroll Price
  59. @peterAUS

    There were a few German planes in the air on D Day over Normandy.
    Udet and Göring had made as mess of the Luftwaffe, Udet committed suicide, when Milch took over it was too late.

    • Replies: @peterAUS
    , @Wizard of Oz
  60. Anon[302] • Disclaimer says:
    @Carroll Price

    Well let’s say Al Qaeda and ObL weren’t actually guilty of perpetrating the 9/11 attacks though they would have been delighted to do it. Is there a single fact stated or implicit in what you question with the word “seriously” that you dispute? If so, on what grounds?

    • Replies: @Carroll Price
  61. Anon[436] • Disclaimer says:

    Very true. And as that was not something that adds to anybody’s knowledge, what were you meaning to say when you had finished clearing your throat?

  62. bluedog says:

    Lol well Peter he hung you out to dry on that one,and if we had more like him at the voting booth, perhaps just perhaps we would have a much better country or a least half a dozen less wars…

  63. Che Guava says:
    @Carroll Price

    Not being a U.S.A. person, and not having been there, no, I have no idea.

    It is an interesting statement, though.

    Do you think Obama’s wing ears come from his white mother, who never got close to a piece of dark meat she didn’t like, or from his Kenyan father, who used her and, in typical fashion for people from Africa, ran away after knocking her up?

  64. Che Guava says:
    @Stan d Mute

    Thank you very much.

    Though the one I was thinking of was a little better (but less smooth), I hope many other commentors are viewing the one you were uploading, it is also very good.

    • Replies: @Sparkon
  65. Che Guava says:

    I think they were on their way to an orgamised, modern state before Carter and Brzezinsky decided to screw the place up.

    Am sure that the hearts of many women, in particular, who are old enough to recall the pre-USSaudi involvement days (and fortunate enough not to have been killed since) are in deep pain.

    Old photographs of the very different place it was before then are easy to find.

  66. peterAUS says:
    @jilles dykstra

    You missed the point here.
    The idiot simply doesn’t understand the essence of combat, from individual to state alliances: having favorable odds.

    That is the fundamental of human fighting.

    Rock over hand. Stick over rock. Spear over stick.Shield. Helmet. Armor. Arrow. Firearm. Cannon. Missile.
    That’s just for weapons.
    Two men against one. Big battalions. Big armies. Concentration. Firepower.
    Than from tactics to strategy. Even politics (allies and such).
    I could go forever.

    Always ….always about increasing own odds against the enemy.

    In this case, United States and allies against some patchwork of tribal/religios militia in Afghanistan.


    • Replies: @Anon
  67. Anon[381] • Disclaimer says:

    And those allies are subject to area access denial, regardless of weaponry. Since Afghanistan is land locked. One treaty and the game is over.

    • Replies: @peterAUS
  68. peterAUS says:

    A disagreement without obligatory virtue signalling and name calling. Refreshing.

    And those allies are subject to area access denial, regardless of weaponry.

    As any occupying force anywhere in modern times. When that force decides it shall go there and occupy that territory it happens. Always.
    Then they pull back and the opponent takes over. And the same thing happens again.
    The same game is played out in any “tough” neighborhood of this world between law enforcement and gangs.
    Hence, irrelevant for those who matter. TPTB.

    Since Afghanistan is land locked

    It is. And Americans and allies are there. Not Russians, Chinese, Indians or Pakistanis. Or ..whatever.

    One treaty and the game is over.

    Can’t say I got this. Care to elaborate?

    • Replies: @Anon
  69. Anon[381] • Disclaimer says:

    Why did you automatically think that it was a disagreement? Are you under or projecting reaction control or smth? Telling.

    • Replies: @peterAUS
  70. Sparkon says:
    @Che Guava

    That type of morphing is interesting but relatively innocuous and trivial CGI technology when compared with the likes of Face2Face Real-time Face Capture and Reenactment technology, which allows facial expressions from one person, the actor, to be applied to the face of another, the target.

    It seems this technology is a further development of the real-time video insertion system I’ve commented about previously at UR, which has been used since the late 90s to insert an electronic yellow first down line across a football field during TV broadcasts of football games, or precisely track, video enhance, and improve visibility of the hockey puck, golf ball, tennis ball, or baseball in telecasts of those sports.

    It takes lots of computers, sensors, and smart technicians to make this little yellow line happen. Long before the game begins, technicians make a digital 3D model of the field, including all of the yard lines. While a football field may look flat to the naked eye, it’s actually subtly curved with a crown in the middle to help rainwater flow away. Each field has its own unique contours, so before the season begins, broadcasters need to get a 3D model of each stadium’s field.

    Now the technology has improved to the point where a 3D model or mask mesh for a human face can be generated on the fly in real time from an actor’s face, capturing his expressions and painting or superimposing that mesh on the target’s face so that his expressions appear to mirror those of the actor.

    Needless to say, with this technology the potential for video fakery goes through the roof.

    Incidentally, the big boxy shapes and large flat surfaces on the exteriors of the World Trade Centers made them perfect and very simple 3D shapes on which to insert or superimpose animated, airplane shaped punch-outs on 9/11.

    We know that no relatively fragile mostly aluminum airplane could possibly have made those perfect but cartoonish cutouts in the dense matrix of steel box columns on the exterior of the World Trade Center towers, but something did, or at least something appeared to have done so on TV.

    Let the viewer beware.

  71. @Wizard of Oz

    Wrong again, damn, you drink a lot of Kool-Aid! Uncle Ho was a nationalist simply wanting independence and asking America for assistance in warding off French colonialism first. He only turned to the communists for help after being turned down. The war was 100% unavoidable and not one American or Australian needed to die there.

    Think what might have been if all of that wasted money and manpower had instead gone towards schools, hospitals, universities, roads, power plants etc

    • Replies: @Wizard of Oz
  72. @NoseytheDuke

    I think you are probably right in seeing Ho’s nationalism as creating just one of America’s many missed opportunities in the last 75 years. But that doesn’t make my historian friend wrong though one would have to know a lot about the politics and economics of the 1970s Soviet Union to be sure. I trust you might retreat into the modesty I express when I note that Gerald Ford appointed “Team B” (including notably Richard Pipes) to check on the alleged underestimation by the the CIA of the the Soviet Union’s economic and military strength, and the threat they represented, and that Team B greatly overestimated them and, like the CIA, failed to foresee the collapse of Soviet power. I note also that the Straits Times published as late as 1980 an article by the Singapore foreign minister about the importance of US power in SE Asia because of the continuing menace of expansive Communism. (From memory of course. I think I picked up a copy on a plane from Singapore to Karachi). Obviously Australia didn’t take on trust that dear old Uncle Ho only needed to be given a chance to maintain Vietnam’s traditional vigorous bloody mindedness toward China to be regarded as a good guy (even if he were no longer in charge). Of course we have learned a lot about other people’s history and attitudes since then, although I was surprised when a Vietnamese guide on a recent visit to Saigon told me he wouldn’t allow his family to shop at the market he had taken us to because it was (ethnic) Chinese owned.

  73. @jilles dykstra

    My recollection is that the great deception designed to convince the Germans that the attack would come in the Pas de Calais included mocked up trucks and tanks that were intended to deceive aerial surveillance but I suppose that is consistent with having destroyed nearly all Luftwaffe aircraft soon after the invasion. Did the Me 262 jet fighter ever fly missions over Normandie?

  74. Anonymous [AKA "Batz Maru"] says:

    This article is needlessly complicated. Winning, losing? Since Korea who establishes what winning or losing means and when it is achieved? The clear winners during all wars are the bankers and the MIC. They lose only when there is NO war going to feed their greed. The American fighting men and women lose but plutocrats rarely get involved in that mess. Like Dick Cheney, they have better things to do. The American taxpayers also lose regardless of who is declared the winner. Whether it’s the American war on terror or the war on drugs or the war on cancer, etc. the winners are always the plutocrats. There is no money to be made by actually curing cancer or eradicating drug use so these wars will likely go on long after I’m pushing up daisies. As General Butler wrote, “War is a Racket”. Sadly, it’s never been more true than it is today.

  75. @jilles dykstra

    The foot dragging was to give Stalin plenty of time to finish-off the German army before US soldiers set foot in Europe. Due to taking full credit for defeating Germany and Japan explains why 99% of Americans knowing anything at all about World War 2 (which ain’t many) assume the US single-handedly defeated both Germany and Japan, and get angry as hell if told that the US’ contributed no more than about 20%

  76. @peterAUS

    I was wrong. Eye witnesses reported seeing two Folk Wolfe 190s’s over Dunkirk on D-Day, neither of which fired a shot – probably serving as observation planes.

  77. Che Guava says:

    Sparkon, I encounter much of similar tech. in work.

    That all the things you are saying are surely correct, I found reading about home-made porn with movie star’s faces on porn bodies in hardcore porn scenes interesting.

    However, never having seen an example, have no idea how well it works. Surely is requiring much training data and time.

    A bakery near my flat, near central Tokyo, has a new cash-register system, it is based on the same tech, so it recognises the type of bread. I want to make it have a false-positive, but they seem to have redesigned the shapes of similar bread as well, I can think of a few pairs it would not have correctly differentiated before.

    In any case, the owner appreciated me knowing what was involved, and having had some related work I asked the senior register woman ‘Who was training it?’

    Reply, ‘We did.’

    This is not at all to devalue morphing of the type that Stan was posting.

    The two examples were very good. The only better point in the one I vaguely recall is the wing-ears of both.

    Maybe whoever made the one that Stan was posting used photos of Bush and Soetoro that had been faked to not feature wing ears.

    Still grateful for his posting (or links to) them. Still to hope that many commentors see.

  78. peterAUS says:

    One treaty and the game is over.


  79. @Anon

    Well let’s say Al Qaeda and ObL weren’t actually guilty of perpetrating the 9/11 attacks

    Since it’s obvious to retards that Al Qaeda and OBL didn’t perpetrate 9/11, take a wild guess as to who did.

    • Replies: @Anon
  80. Anon[423] • Disclaimer says:
    @Carroll Price

    Well, despite the fact that you are willing to appear too stupid to understand the question you were asked and almost certainly unable to answer it, can you now help fellow retards understand why it was not possible for ObL and Al Qaeda to raise the money and the young jihadists to perpetrate 9/11 since you can’t possibly dispute – no you can’t really can you!?! – that they would have been very happy to do it?

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