Diversity and Inclusion!

Hooray for diversity, the 1980s version

W.J. Astore

I got a circular from a university today boasting of their efforts to encourage diversity and inclusion. Good things for sure. Such circulars and brochures are all the rage. They typically feature lots of people of color and a few inspiring stories of grads who’ve beaten the demographic odds in their particular field. Sometimes it’s made obvious the grads are also part of the LGBTQ community, a double dip into political correctness. And I truly dislike that PC term.

Again, these efforts are commendable and necessary, but the self-promotional tenor of these marketing brochures gives me pause. They remind me of those old Benetton ads that assiduously promoted diversity as a way of moving product. It’s a fine thing to be diverse, inclusive, tolerant, and so on, but can we just do it and shut up about it?

Even the Army is getting into the act, promoting recruits who come from non-traditional families (two mothers, for example). America is so great that even our warriors are woke, which is truly upsetting to people like Senator Ted Cruz, who prefers old-fashioned tough-guy Russians in the ranks. Cruz fears our military is “emasculated,” but if I recall, he couldn’t handle a few cold days in Texas and bugged out to Cancun before he was called out for his hypocrisy. Please, Ted, bring your manliness back to us!

Having served in the military for twenty years, I met and served with plenty of “diverse” people, to use today’s terminology. I had a white guy evangelical boss and a Black woman colonel boss. I had plenty of colleagues who were Black and brown. I can’t say if they were LGBTQ since I served in the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” era, but I really don’t think I would have cared. I have male friends who live with their husband and female friends who live with their wife. The first time you see it (at least for this Catholic white boy), you’re a bit surprised just because of the novelty, then you get over it because love is love and who really cares anyway? We’ve got bigger fish to fry in America.

To repeat myself, I’m all for diversity and inclusion. Let’s do it. But can we also truly focus on health care for all, a living wage for all, a healthy environment for all? Can we stop our disastrous wars and stop building new nuclear weapons while destroying the ones we have?

Because I don’t feel better when America’s allegedly more diverse and inclusive military keeps having to fight the same old dumb wars overseas, where, sadly and with bitter irony, they kill a lot of people with Black and brown faces and with backgrounds that would register as “diverse” and “inclusive” and therefore worthy of being promoted and celebrated by those same glossy university brochures I receive.

Readers, what do you think?

More Thoughts (5/23/21)

To state the obvious, there’s nothing new about the push for diversity and inclusion. Reading a tribute to JFK from 1964, I saw this: “This is a time when we are struggling to guarantee that persons of all classes, creeds, and races may move into positions of economic and political leadership…”

Nowadays, class isn’t often mentioned, but race, gender, sexual orientation, and so on are. BIPOC, Black, Indigenous, people of color, is a common acronym. So too is LGBTQ.

Diversity and inclusion shows up in many places. Consider the first three “Dirty Harry” movies from the 1970s. Harry’s first partner was a Mexican-American. His second partner was Black. His third partner was a woman promoted by a quota system driven by diversity concerns. Harry comes to respect all these partners because they’re good, not because of BIPOC or gender.

Of course, we have a long way to go to be truly diverse and inclusive. But, and here’s the rub, if we see more women at work but they still make only 80% (or less) than men make for the same job, that’s not right. And it’s not solved simply by hiring more women.

And if “Black faces in high places” promote the same policies as the same old white establishment, is there truly progress here in policy? In fairness for people in the lower classes, i.e. for workers of all colors and orientations living paycheck to paycheck?

Biden has been touted as having a diverse cabinet, but when it comes to policies that would truly help the working classes, how diverse is it, really? For example, Biden has already essentially abandoned promises to support a $15 minimum wage and a public option for health care. Higher wages and cheaper health care would be a boon to BIPOC, LGBTQ, indeed everyone on the lower rungs of the economic ladder. The only problem is that corporations may see lower profits, including health insurance and drug companies. And guess who received lots of money from these corporations and companies? Joe Biden and his “diverse” cabinet.

I wonder why they won’t help diverse members of the working classes when they say they’re so committed to diversity?

Time Again for a Nuclear Freeze, Followed by Reduction and Elimination

W.J. Astore

The bomb in “Beneath the Planet of the Apes.” Not our Alpha, but it could very well be our Omega

Coming of age in the 1970s, I had a real fear of nuclear Armageddon. Mutually Assured Destruction, or MAD, guaranteed both the USA and USSR would be destroyed in the case of a “general” nuclear war (as opposed to a “limited” one). When Ronald Reagan was elected and started denouncing the Soviet Union as an “Evil Empire” while stationing Pershing II and Ground Launched Cruise Missiles in Europe in the early 1980s, a powerful movement calling for a “nuclear freeze” (no new nuclear weapons) helped to provide a measure of sanity. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, it seemed the world had stepped back from the brink of nuclear annihilation. Indeed, Barack Obama campaigned on eliminating nuclear weapons, supported by conservative voices like Henry Kissinger and George Schultz.

But you can’t keep a bad bomb down, apparently. Amazingly, nuclear weapons are back and in a big way. So-called nuclear modernization of America’s strategic triad may cost as much as $1.7 trillion over the next 30 years, notes Andrew Bacevich in his latest article for TomDispatch.com. Here’s an excerpt:

President Biden has left essentially untouched the core assumptions that justify the vast (and vastly well funded) national security apparatus created in the wake of World War II.  Central to those assumptions is the conviction that global power projection, rather than national defense per se, defines the U.S. military establishment’s core mission.  Washington’s insistence on asserting global primacy (typically expressed using euphemisms like “global leadership”) finds concrete expression in a determination to remain militarily dominant everywhere.   

So far at least, Biden shows no inclination to renounce, or even reassess, the practices that have evolved to pursue such global military dominion.  These include Pentagon expenditures easily exceeding those of any adversary or even plausible combination of adversaries; an arms industry that corrupts American politics and openly subverts democracy; a massive, essentially unusable nuclear strike force presently undergoing a comprehensive $1.7 trillion “modernization”; a network of hundreds of bases hosting U.S. troop contingents in dozens of countries around the world; and, of course, an inclination to use force unmatched by any nation with the possible exception of Israel.

Of course, “global military dominion” makes little sense if the world is a burnt out radioactive husk after a general nuclear strike. So why is America’s military pursuing a new generation of land-based ICBMs, new nuclear stealth bombers, and submarines (the most secure and survivable “leg” of the triad)? Money and jobs, I suppose, are always key factors. But there’s something deeper at work here, a sort of bizarre religion in which America’s death-dealers actually worship the bomb, as in the movie “Beneath the Planet of the Apes.” Here’s a relevant scene from that movie:

Worshiping at the altar of global destruction is about as black of a mass as I can imagine. The only course of action that makes any sense for the future of humanity is a nuclear freeze (no new nuclear weapons, warheads, and delivery systems) followed by reductions and culminating in elimination.

Meanwhile, let’s assume we save $1.7 trillion by not “modernizing” the triad. How about investing that money in America’s crumbling infrastructure? Why not build bridges and roads and high-speed rail and dams instead of planning on blowing them up and all of humanity with them?

To read all of Andrew Bacevich’s article, go to TomDispatch.com.

Marxism in the Military!

W.J. Astore

A friend sent along an article on a certain lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force who is being disciplined because he wrote a book warning about Marxism in the U.S. military. Apparently this officer is deeply concerned about “critical race theory,” which he connects to Marxism, and how the military is being contaminated by an emphasis on diversity and other “liberal” ideas. In short, by stressing inclusion, diversity, and tolerance, (neo)Marxism is unmaking the U.S. military, or perhaps remaking it in a revolutionary way that excludes conservative views espoused by white men like this Lt Col.

And I thought Marxism was about class conflict, about seizing the means of production from the rich capitalists and ensuring an equitable distribution of wealth to the workers. Marxism is supposed to witness a withering away of the state as societal hierarchies are flattened or leveled in the cause of creating a more equitable and just society. Nowadays, Marxism has become a bogeyman term of great elasticity, associated with anything somebody doesn’t like that can be further tarred with labels like “liberal” or “leftist.”

Too much diversity isn’t exactly the biggest problem facing the U.S. Air Force today. Consider the under-performing F-35 jet fighter that’s 10 years behind schedule and $200 billion over budget. Consider a new and unneeded B-21 stealth bomber that will cost at least $100 billion (I think you can double or triple that price, based on cost overruns for previous AF projects). Consider the plan to spend at least $100 billion on new land-based ICBMs, an obsolete concept that is also dangerously escalatory. Indeed, so-called nuclear modernization, meaning more megatons of explosives and deadly radiation with which we can destroy all life on planet earth, may cost more than a trillion dollars over the next 30 years. I’d say these issues are a bit more disconcerting than rumors of Marxism in the ranks.

Another concern this lieutenant colonel had was with the politicization of the military, which he associates with contamination by liberal agendas that are neo-Marxist. I think the good colonel should realize the U.S. military is already politicized, but not in the way he imagines. The brass may be willing to pay lip service to diversity and LGBTQ empowerment and so on, but what they really care about is budgetary authority, pure power and influence.

The U.S. military isn’t being undone by neo-Marxist agendas: it’s being undone by unwinnable wars and wasteful spending on unnecessary or ineffective weaponry.

Unwinnable (and unnecessary) wars have cost the American taxpayer more than $6 trillion since 9/11. We’ve lost thousands of troops killed with tens of thousands seriously injured. Profligate spending on prodigal weapon systems is further driving America into debt, even as more nuclear weapons threaten our planet with destruction.

The problem isn’t Karl Marx invading our military. The problem is greed and stupidity, threat inflation and dereliction of duty.

We really could use more diversity in the U.S. military, as in diversity of ideas, of strategy. How about some “diverse” leaders who have the courage to challenge and change the militaristic and imperial path we’re on?

Karl Marx. No, he’s not a problem for the U.S. military, but unwinnable wars and more nuclear weapons are

David Versus Goliath in the Middle East

This week brings another round of one-sided battles between Israelis and Palestinians in Gaza. I think many Americans are like my 10-year-old self, thinking of Israel as an innocent democracy surrounded by implacable enemies. And no doubt 1973 saw the very existence of Israel threatened. But now it’s Israel as the region’s Goliath, backed by the military and financial might of the United States. The blank check of support that the U.S. gives to Israel emboldens the Israeli state to take the harshest measures against the peoples of Gaza. I read articles that say the Biden administration has to intervene and broker a peace, but how is this possible when the U.S. is so clearly on the side of Israel? Palestinian voices just aren’t heard in the mainstream media here; even alternative media sites tread carefully, knowing the power of Israeli lobbies and fearing the stigma of being labeled anti-Semitic.

I understand the trauma of the Jewish people. For several years I taught a course on the Holocaust, after attending a seminar at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in DC. Of course, the Jewish people have a right to exist. But so too do the Palestinians, who have legitimate grievances of their land being stolen, among other crimes.

Fear, hatred, aggression, and more and more bombs are not going to bring peace. That’s one thing I do know.

Bracing Views

david and goliath_aaron wolpert

W.J. Astore

When I was a kid, I was a big admirer of Israel.  I saw Israel as being surrounded by implacable enemies bent on its destruction.  Israel was the plucky underdog, David against Goliath, with Goliath being Arab countries like Egypt and Syria, having militaries trained and equipped by the Soviet Union, sworn enemy of the U.S. during the Cold War (or so my ten-year-old mind saw it).  I recall keeping a scrapbook of articles on the Yom Kippur War of 1973.  I cheered the Israeli “blitzkrieg” (What an odd term for a daring Jewish armored attack!) that crossed the Suez Canal and isolated the Egyptian Third Army, as well as the Israeli riposte on the Golan Heights against Syria.

That was 1973.  Forty-one years later, Israel is engaged in yet another assault on Gaza and the Palestinians.  Compared to the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), the Palestinian militants…

View original post 247 more words

Lying and Deception in the Iraq War – and Today

The Big Lie is common in America today. The election was stolen from Trump. Climate change is a hoax. Biden is the new FDR. America can’t afford a $15 minimum wage or health care for all. The biggest lies of all involve wars. Take the Afghan War. The U.S. military is already preparing a new stab-in-the-back myth. You know the routine: We were on the road to victory until Biden pulled out the troops. As you can see from this article that I posted five years ago, America clearly was losing in 2016, and things have only grown worse as the Taliban has grown in power and influence.

Isn’t it time we stopped lying to ourselves? The truth, harsh as it may prove, really will help to set us free.

Bracing Views

pic-arendt2 Hannah Arendt, cigarette in hand (Arendt Center, Bard College)

W.J. Astore

(This is part 2 of 2 of an essay dealing with lying, politics, and war, inspired by Hannah Arendt’s writings on The Pentagon Papers.  For part 1, click here.)

After the Vietnam War, the U.S. government oversaw the creation of a post-democratic military, one that was less tied to the people, meaning that the government had even less cause to tell the truth about war.  Unsurprisingly, then, the hubris witnessed in Vietnam was repeated with Iraq, together with an even more sweeping ability to deny or disregard facts, as showcased best in a statement by Karl Rove in 2004.  The actions of the Bush/Cheney Administration, Rove suggested, bypassed the fact- or “reality-based” community of lesser humans precisely because their premises (the need to revolutionize the Middle East and to win the War on Terror through violence) were…

View original post 894 more words

America Is Programmed for War

W.J. Astore

In my latest article for TomDispatch, I write that America is programmed for war. It’s a feature of our polity and our politics and our culture, not a bug. In some sense, we are a country made by war, and that’s not a good feature for a self-avowed democracy to have. Here’s an excerpt:

Why don’t America’s wars ever end?

I know, I know: President Joe Biden has announced that our combat troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan by 9/11 of this year, marking the 20th anniversary of the colossal failure of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney to defend America.

Of course, that other 9/11 in 2001 shocked us all. I was teaching history at the U.S. Air Force Academy and I still recall hushed discussions of whether the day’s body count would exceed that of the Battle of Antietam, the single bloodiest day of the Civil War. (Fortunately, bad as it was, it didn’t.)

Hijacked commercial airliners, turned into guided missiles by shadowy figures our panicky politicians didn’t understand, would have a profound impact on our collective psyche. Someone had to pay and among the first victims were Afghans in the opening salvo of the misbegotten Global War on Terror, which we in the military quickly began referring to as the GWOT. Little did I know then that such a war would still be going on 15 years after I retired from the Air Force in 2005 and 80 articles after I wrote my first for TomDispatch in 2007 arguing for an end to militarism and forever wars like the one still underway in Afghanistan.

Over those years, I’ve come to learn that, in my country, war always seems to find a way, even when it goes badly — very badly, in fact, as it did in Vietnam and, in these years, in Afghanistan and Iraq, indeed across much of the Greater Middle East and significant parts of Africa. Not coincidentally, those disastrous conflicts haven’t actually been waged in our name. No longer does Congress even bother with formal declarations of war. The last one came in 1941 after Pearl Harbor. During World War II, Americans united to fight for something like national security and a just cause. Today, however, perpetual American-style war simply is. Congress postures, but does nothing decisive to stop it. In computer-speak, endless war is a feature of our national programming, not a bug.

Two pro-war parties, Republicans and Democrats, have cooperated in these decades to ensure that such wars persist… and persist and persist. Still, they’re not the chief reason why America’s wars are so difficult to end. Let me list some of those reasons for you. First, such wars are beyond profitable, notably to weapons makers and related military contractors. Second, such wars are the Pentagon’s reason for being. Let’s not forget that, once upon a time, the present ill-named Department of Defense was so much more accurately and honestly called the Department of War. Third, if profit and power aren’t incentive enough, wars provide purpose and meaning even as they strengthen authoritarian structures in society and erode democratic ones. Sum it all up and war is what America now does, even if the reasons may be indefensible and the results so regularly abysmal.

Support Our Troops! (Who Are They, Again?)

The last truly American war was World War II. And when it ended in 1945, the citizen-soldiers within the U.S. military demanded rapid demobilization — and they got it. But then came the Iron Curtain, the Cold War, the Korean War, fears of nuclear Armageddon (that nearly came to fruition during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962), and finally, of course, Vietnam. Those wars were generally not supported — not with any fervor anyway — by the American people, hence the absence of congressional declarations. Instead, they mainly served the interests of the national security state, or, if you prefer, the military-industrial-congressional complex.

Ike knew the score

That’s precisely why President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued his grave warning about that Complex in his farewell address in 1961. No peacenik, Ike had overseen more than his share of military coups and interventions abroad while president, so much so that he came to see the faults of the system he was both upholding and seeking to restrain. That was also why President John F. Kennedy called for a more humble and pacific approach to the Cold War in 1963, even as he himself failed to halt the march toward a full-scale war in Southeast Asia. This is precisely why Martin Luther King, Jr., truly a prophet who favored the fierce urgency of peace, warned Americans about the evils of war and militarism (as well as racism and materialism) in 1967. In the context of the enormity of destruction America was then visiting on the peoples of Southeast Asia, not for nothing did he denounce this country as the world’s greatest purveyor of violence.

Collectively, Americans chose to ignore such warnings, our attention being directed instead toward spouting patriotic platitudes in support of “our” troops. Yet, if you think about it for a moment, you’ll realize those troops aren’t really ours. If they were, we wouldn’t need so many bumper stickers reminding us to support them.

With the military draft gone for the last half-century, most Americans have voted with their feet by not volunteering to become “boots on the ground” in the Pentagon’s various foreign escapades. Meanwhile, America’s commanders-in-chief have issued inspiring calls for their version of national service, as when, in the wake of 9/11, President George W. Bush urged Americans to go shopping and visit Disney World. In the end, Americans, lacking familiarity with combat boots, are generally apathetic, sensing that “our” wars have neither specific meaning to, nor any essential purpose in their lives.

As a former Air Force officer, even if now retired, I must admit that it took me too long to realize this country’s wars had remarkably little to do with me — or you, for that matter — because we simply have no say in them. That doesn’t mean our leaders don’t seek to wage them in our name. Even as they do so, however, they simultaneously absolve us of any need to serve or sacrifice. We’re essentially told to cheer “our” troops on, but otherwise look away and leave war to the professionals (even if, as it turns out, those professionals seem utterly incapable of winning a single one of them).

Please read the rest of my article here at TomDispatch.com.

The Bankruptcy of the Democratic Party

Yes, the Democratic leadership is still bankrupt of principles, even as it’s rolling in donor money. Joe Biden, for example, promised a $15 federal minimum wage. He abandoned that promise. He promised a single-payer option for health care and lower prescription drug prices. Cue the sound of crickets here. A $2000 Covid relief check became only $1400 and was means-tested. Student debt relief is a non-starter. And yet a compliant and complicit media is trying to present Joe as a visionary, the next FDR. Meanwhile, Trump lurks in the wings, waiting for his chance to announce he’s running again in 2024.

A fraud and charlatan like Trump should never have had a chance in American politics. Sure, the Republican Party is complicit, but so too are establishment Democrats, who love the status quo because it serves their needs and interests. It enriches them, in short, while impoverishing most of America. Nevertheless, when it comes to ideas and principles and integrity, the DNC and its leaders remain bankrupt, which may yet provide Trump with another opportunity to sell his snake-oil “solutions” to desperate Americans.

Bracing Views

dems Tepidness and Timidity

W.J. Astore

Why did Donald Trump win the presidency?  A big reason is that he was willing to take unpopular stances.  He criticized the Afghan and Iraq wars in the strongest terms.  He attacked Wall Street.  He called for closer relations with Russia.  Of course, to cite one example, when he became president, Trump willingly  embraced Wall Street — no surprise here.  Trump is not about consistency. The larger point is that he appeared authentic, or at the very least not tied to traditional politics of the mealymouthed, which involves focus groups and think tanks and polls and triangulation before any policy position is taken.

The Democratic Party has learned nothing from Trump’s success, nor for that matter from Bernie Sanders’s rise.  It’s rejecting the energy and popularity of Sanders’s progressive platform for the tired bromides of economic competitiveness, moderate tax increases on the rich, and infrastructure…

View original post 454 more words

Musings for Monday

W.J. Astore

A quick Google search reveals that, “According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, it would cost $20 billion to end homelessness in the United States.” That’s roughly the cost of a few dozen ICBM interceptor missiles (estimated cost: $18 billion) that are unlikely to work and which may encourage potential adversaries to build more nuclear missiles to overcome them (assuming they do work, but hitting a bullet with a bullet is truly a long shot). Another cost comparison: ending homelessness in America could be done for the cost of roughly 150 F-35 jet fighters. Another: ending homelessness in America could be done for less than half the yearly cost of America’s Afghan War. Yet we’d rather build interceptors, fighter jets, and continue wars than house the homeless.

I’m seeing predictions by America’s generals that Afghan national forces will likely collapse if U.S. combat troops are withdrawn by 9/11. Yet the U.S. military has been training those same Afghan forces for nearly twenty years, all the while making “progress” according to those same generals. What gives? If after two decades Afghan forces don’t have the wherewithal to defend themselves despite untold billions in U.S. assistance and aid, isn’t it logical to assume they will never have the wherewithal?

Of course, it’s an effective strategy for U.S. generals to warn of an impending collapse after Biden’s troop withdrawal. For when it comes, they can say “we told you so” and shift the blame for the loss to Biden and the politicians. Sorry, folks, Afghanistan was never ours to win to begin with. It wasn’t even ours to lose, because we never “had” it. Never mind that: Whenever the U.S. military loses anywhere (including Vietnam), there is always someone else to blame.

The NFL draft concluded this past weekend, and once again I was astonished by the media coverage: the sheer amount of resources dedicated to it. Just go to ESPN, for example, which has “draft cards” on every player with all their vitals, including video highlights. If only the media devoted a tenth of the resources to covering America’s various wars across the globe! With verifiable metrics and video highlights (or lowlights). It’s good to know that sports are much more important to our nation than the military’s global presence and actions.

And now to return to the beginning: Why not act to end homelessness? WWJD: What would Jesus do? I always remember from Catholic mass how Jesus healed the sick, fed the hungry, and helped the poor. Where’s that Jesus nowadays? He seems to have been replaced, at least in America, by Prosperity Gospel Jesus, who shares good news and money only with the richest and most fortunate of Americans.

Can I please have “old” Jesus back? The one who helped lame people to walk and blind people to see?

Jesus healing a blind man. I like this Jesus.

Should God Protect Our Troops?

Biden addresses Congress, 4/28/2021. He ended his address by asking God to protect our troops.

W.J. Astore

President Joe Biden favors ending major speeches with an invitation or invocation to God to protect “our” troops, as he did last night in his address to Congress. I don’t doubt the sincerity of the sentiment, but would it not be far better for Biden himself to protect those same troops by ending all of America’s needless wars?

U.S. Presidents traditionally favor asking God (there’s a sense that God would never deny this ask) to bless America as a way of ending speeches. Biden’s new “ask” of God goes a big step further by specifically identifying troops for special protection.

As a friend of mine, a retired military officer, put it about Biden’s rhetoric:

“This is new programming and it hits me like a scratched record every time I hear it—even his most militant predecessors stopped at ‘God bless America.’   It’s unclear to me whether he’s signaling that we’re all in danger all the time and that the troops will always have to be out there or if he thinks it’s the shibboleth he needs to use to gain some support from unaware Midwesterners and Southerners.  Regardless, it engraves a new precedent into our political thought: a constant reinforcement that we are always in danger and you can watch your 70” TV only because the troops are out there.”

To be clear, my friend and I have nothing personal against the troops, seeing that we’re both career military. But why single out the troops for God’s protection? Why not ask God to protect the poor? The sick? The vulnerable and needy and suffering?

Most Americans know that Joe Biden lost a beloved son, Beau, to brain cancer, and that he’d served in Iraq, where he possibly contracted his illness due to exposure to toxic chemicals in burn pits there. One can understand a father’s grief for his son, and his desire for Beau’s fellow troops to be protected from harm.

As a human sentiment, it resonates with me. But I share my friend’s unease with those who would beseech God for special protection for troops whose reason for being is centered on the use of deadly force around the globe. Especially when the sentiment was used in a campaign ad to court voters.

Perhaps we should leave it up to God to decide whom He wishes to protect, and even which country or countries He wishes to bless.

The Never-Ending Afghan War

General Mark Milley. So many ribbons, so few victories (Gabriella Demczuk/New America)

Tom Engelhardt. Introduction by W.J. Astore.

Ever since that fateful day of 9/11/2001, Americans have been trying to process what can only be termed a colossal defeat. Showing our usual capacity for denial, we’ve rebranded it as a day for patriotism. We built the Freedom Tower, exactly 1776 feet high, on the ruins of the Twin Towers. We “got” Osama bin Laden. Yet the first victims of our collective rage, the Taliban in Afghanistan, have somehow emerged triumphant in a long destructive war against U.S. and NATO forces.

With his usual powerful prose, careful research, and keen eye for telling details, Tom Engelhardt has written a compelling introduction to Rajan Menon’s latest article on the Afghan War. It’s reposted here with Tom’s permission. W.J. Astore

It started with three air strikes on September 11, 2001. The fourth plane, heading perhaps for the Capitol (a building that wouldn’t be targeted again until last January 6th), ended up in a field in Pennsylvania. Those three strikes led to an American invasion of Afghanistan, beginning this country’s second war there in the last half-century. Almost 20 years later, according to the New York Times, there have been more than 13,000 U.S. air strikes in Afghanistan. Call that payback after a fashion. There’s only one problem: the greatest military on the planet, with a budget larger than that of the next 10 countries combined, has visibly lost its war there and is now in full-scale retreat. It may not be withdrawing the last of its forces on May 1st, as the Trump administration had agreed to do, but despite the pressure of the American military high command, President Biden “overrode the brass” and announced that every last American soldier would be gone by the 20th anniversary of those first airstrikes against the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.

At this late date, consider it grimly fascinating that the generals who all those years kept claiming that “corners” were being turned and “progress” made, that we were “on the road to winning” in Afghanistan, as the present Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mark Milley insisted back in 2013, simply can’t let go of one of their great failures and move on. Under the circumstances, don’t for a second assume that the American war in Afghanistan is truly over. For one thing, the Taliban have not yet agreed to the new withdrawal date, as they did to the May 1st one. Instead, some of its commanders are promising a “nightmare” for U.S. troops in the months to come. Were they, for instance, to attack an air base and kill some American soldiers, who knows what the reaction here might be?

In addition, the Pentagon high command and this country’s intelligence agencies are still planning for possibly making war on Afghanistan from a distance in order to “prevent the country from again becoming a terrorist base.” As Eric Schmitt and Helene Cooper of the New York Times reported recently, “Planners at the military’s Central Command in Tampa, Fla., and Joint Staff in Washington have been developing options to offset the loss of American combat boots on the ground.”

In other words, the American war in Afghanistan may be ending but, as with so much else about that endless experience, even the finale is still up for grabs. In that context, consider the thoughts of TomDispatch regular Rajan Menon on what has, without any doubt, been the American war from hell of this century. Tom

Please read Rajan Menon’s latest article at TomDispatch.com.