“War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious.… It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.”
These words, penned by Major General Smedley Butler in 1935, nearly a century before the global war on terrorism began, decades before the notion of a “military-industrial complex” became a glint in Dwight Eisenhower’s imagination, could sum up the last 20 years of war in Afghanistan. Butler’s tract gives a good answer to one of the basic questions of war: Who benefits?
This question should be central to our interrogation of this moment, as our withdrawal from Afghanistan sets off a paroxysm of recriminations about how the war was “lost” and how the United States has been “humiliated.” For those who built the racket, the whole 20-year fracas was a victory. After all, as any Vegas casualty can tell you, the house always wins.
The Washington suburbs are far from the Vegas strip, but here, buildings adorned with the logos of military contractors are a monument to the timeless relationship between hustlers and marks. As many have pointed out in recent days, the war in Afghanistan has been a colossal boom time for the military-industrial complex, mostly at the expense of the military operation’s ostensible goals. As Harvard public policy professor Linda Bilmes told Marketplace this week, “the whole system was set up in a way to enable contractors to rip off the government.” And Foreign Policy’s C. Christine Fair described the “bewildering corruption by U.S. firms and individuals working in Afghanistan,” in which Afghans were, in many instances, straight-up defrauded.
Just as the fossil fuels still buried underground represent future profits too dear for petrochemical companies to part with for the sake of saving the planet, the war in Afghanistan represented crucial future gains for Big War’s balance sheets. As Pacific Standard’s Catherine Lutz noted in 2017, “For many companies that have, for years, been cashing giant checks from the Pentagon’s trillion dollar war budget, there are still an extraordinary number of dollars to be made.” That same year, there was a “1.1 percent increase in global military spending,” driven in part by a “$9.6 billion hike in U.S. arms expenditure”—all on “Donald the Dove’s” watch. Hardly any of this largesse was trickling down to the actual soldiers fighting the war, by the way.
There’s a lot of anger and angst in Washington over the Afghanistan withdrawal at the moment, as lawmakers of all stripes decry the treatment of those who have been left to face the Taliban; no small amount of effort is being expended to get would-be refugees out of the country. But a significant portion of the teeth-gnashing is in fact emanating from those furious at the slaying of a sacred cash cow. It’s little wonder: The mainstream media is flush with ex-generals and Pentagon habitués, who took refuge in cable news green rooms during the war, where they enjoyed lucrative second careers as the war industry’s “message force multipliers.”
So if it seems like this week the media has abandoned its pretensions of objectivity and neutrality to fervently plump the Forever Wars, you’re not wrong. As Quincy Institute senior adviser Eli Clifton pointed out, “The weapons biz also had [financial] ties to 2/3rds of the Afghanistan Study Group, currently being cited by The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal editorial boards as offering an alternative to Biden’s withdrawal.” Dig into, if you will, this week’s Politico story about “Biden’s two tragic Afghanistan missteps,” which was “presented by” Lockheed Martin. This has been one fearsomely vertically-integrated military engagement.
In the end, this two decade–long calamity was the very thing General Butler described back in 1935: “Conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many,” only “a small inside group” ever really knew what this war was about. You can at least credit Osama bin Laden for knowing the score: In one of his propaganda videos, he mused about how easy it was to bait the United States into a fight, leaving us to “suffer … economic and political losses” without achieving “anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies.” In Afghanistan, the goals of all of the agitants were perfectly synergized.
The American war on Afghanistan was a $2.26 trillion scam. Somebody pocketed all that money, and it certainly wasn’t the people of Afghanistan. That amount is 115 years of Afghan GDP, and it mostly went to arms dealers, the corrupt US military, and corrupt US politicians. Meanwhile the Taliban gets to keep the weapons. This wasn’t just a waste, it was a gigantic fraud.
Afghanistan was not an isolated incident. This is the American war machine, working as intended, grinding bones and printing blood money. America has reduced war to one simple fact: war costs money and somebody’s gonna get paid. This is their galaxy brain idea, starting wars with no objective just to make money for arms dealers. You don’t even have to win. In fact, it’s better if you spend 20 years losing. That’s the beauty of the scam.
Just follow the money. American taxpayers have been defrauded well over $6.4 trillion in their wars ‘of’ terror alone. People keep saying this money was ‘lost’ or ‘wasted’ but it didn’t go nowhere. American people had their pockets picked while saluting the flag. This is what America does. This is who they are. The vaunted American military is a fraud.
A Simple Scam
It’s a simple scam, really.
- Pick some random poor country (and get your people to hate it)
- Attack it
The entire war machine is an endless grift. Donors throw a little money at Congressmen, Congressmen throw infinite money at the military, and some poor person ends up crushed under a $25,000 bomb. What does it accomplish? Who cares? They made money on the bomb.
In Afghanistan, the waste was insane(ly profitable). The American military transported fuel via helicopter. They kept every single car, truck, and tank idling 24 hours a day. They spent $1 million dollars per soldier shipping Burger Kings, gyms, and bottled water across the Arabian Sea. Nobody cared. The government just kept giving money and the military kept spending it. War machine go brrrr. It wasn’t their money and it’s wasn’t their lives. It was all a bloody scam.
America invading Afghanistan was just like the mafia taking over a legitimate business and bleeding it dry. The American military is just a global racket of torturers and thugs, doing bust-outs on an international scale.
Suckers And Losers
This is not just a case of elites corrupting a country (though they’re certainly doing that). The American people have plenty of blood on their hands. The entire war machine works because American people are so hateful and irresponsible in the first place.
Trump was right when he called America’s war dead suckers and losers. This describes the entire American people. Americans are sold some myth that they’re the good guys over and over again, and they keep buying it. They’re the biggest suckers in the world. Given that the understand neither themselves nor their enemy, of course they lose every war.
Americans will hate whoever they’re told to — Vietnam, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, China. After a while they don’t even remember why they hate them, they just do. Getting the war machine going is easy, just throw the press a few bones about ‘terrorism’ and soon enough there’s bones in the ground. The New York Times will even make terrorism up. CNN will film the bombs raining down. It’s a great, hateful show.
And yes, I’m saying Americans. This is on all of you. Every US congressperson except onevoted for war on Afghanistan. Every Congress kept approving more money for blood. You call yourselves a democracy? Then own it. This is you. Listen to Lady Macbeth, you lily-liver’d fools:
Here’s the smell of the blood still: all the
perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little
hand. Oh, oh, oh!
Americans are like Lady Macbeth without the guilt. They murder people and make movies about how hard it was murdering people (re: every Vietnam movie). I won’t indulge that shit here, that constant absolution you give yourselves before starting another war. You’ve killed people. The least you can do is feel bad.
This constant irresponsibility is why the killing never stops. Americans demand to be treated like children, constantly told that it’s not their fault, that they’re OK, that their heart’s in the right place. Meanwhile the bodies pile high around this toddler democracy. Like I said, I won’t indulge that shit here. Grow up. Look at yourselves. Look at what you’ve done. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this wretched scam.
The Military Industrial Complex
They can’t say they weren’t told. President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned about a military industrial complex in 1961. America didn’t have a permanent arms industry before WWII, and suddenly they had a big one. Eisenhower said this had “grave implications.”
Instead of going back to making plowshares after WWII, American elites started buying shares in arms dealerships. Companies like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Halliburton, etc. Millions of graves later, we can see the results.
In 2000 the military-industrial complex completely took over the government. Dick Cheney walked right out of Halliburton and right into the Vice-Presidency. Don’t think it’s better now, Biden’s Defence Secretary is from Raytheon. Everything Eisenhower warned about has come to pass.
Eisenhower said that “only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry” could prevent this, so of course it came to pass. Americans are opiated and ignorant as fuck. America doesn’t have ‘peaceful methods or goals’ in its own cities, they don’t even care about their own children getting shot up in schools. Of course they’re going to abuse the hell out of the world.
It’s not even complex anymore, it’s a really simple scam. Drops expensive bombs on poor people and profit. Raze nations to raise stock prices and laugh. America is the only empire built on attacking other people and looting themselves. The Pentagon takes endless American taxpayer money to perform endless human sacrifice on the altar of capitalism. And they’re all proud of this. Americans still think they’re the best military in the world and not the biggest, bloodiest fraud.
It’s important to understand Afghanistan not as a $2.26 trillion failure of good intentions but a $2.26 trillion success of bad. This is what America does. This is who Americans are. They have reduced war to its most crass objective, a way to profit from misery. Afghanistan was no failure. It was a very successful scam.