Donald Trump and the War of the Imperial West
By Karl Pomeroy
August 26, 2017
Afghanistan, a magnificent land of wild mountainous beauty, once a haven of shepherds, flutists and weavers. Their land is their faith. Their faith is their strength. Their strength will forever be deadly to invaders.
Compassion is a taboo word in current transnational politics. But an understanding of compassion is all we need to see why wars in Afghanistan are never won. If the truth is that simple, why do we need think tanks to fabricate tomes of imperial strategy? Why do we need political analysts to untangle the lies of the warhawks? Because the liars mint the language, and the language they’ve minted forbids the word compassion. And when compassion is absent from the language, truth is obscured.
That said, the folly of invading Afghanistan should be obvious to every child. The egregious immorality and arrogance of harboring imperial ambitions in Afghanistan should be clear to every church-goer on Sunday. It is certainly clear to President Donald J. Trump, who announced in a speech (transcript and video here) on August 21 an increase in US troops to the region and an indefinite continuance of American occupation.
What is driving Trump’s escalation in Afghanistan? As evident in his national address, Trump’s rationale for sending more troops is not only an obvious fairy tale, it runs counter to everything Trump claimed to believe about the folly of US intervention.
The conclusion is that Trump has fallen victim to deep state pressure. This will be analyzed further below.
Afghanistan’s Mineral Resources
This begs the question of what the United States and its allies seek to gain by further fighting in Afghanistan. Some analysists cite that nation’s vast mineral resources as an economic objective. Michel Chossudovsky of Global Research says:
“Unknown to the broader public, Afghanistan has significant oil, natural gas and strategic raw material resources, not to mention opium, a multibillion dollar industry which feeds America’s illegal heroin market. These mineral reserves include huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and lithium, which is a strategic raw material used in the production of high tech batteries for laptops, cell phones and electric cars. The implication of Trump’s resolve is to plunder and steal Afghanistan’s mineral riches to finance the ‘reconstruction’ of a country destroyed by the US and its allies after 16 years of war, i.e ‘War reparations’ paid to the aggressor nation …”
Chossudovsky, scholar and resident of Canada, reveals his anti-American bias by blaming the destruction of Afghanistan wholly on the US and its allies, ignoring the damage caused by Soviet forces in the war of 1979-1989. This renders him suspect in other claims, in particular the accusation that Trump seeks to “plunder and steal” mineral resources. Chossudovsky tends to exaggerate the vilification of Trump and America, as will be examined again below. So can we believe him?
Other analysts seem to agree with Chossudovksy’s claim. Author Vladimir Platov of New Eastern Outlook, another scholarly site with an anti-American anti-Trump bias, says:
“The absence [which Trump formerly manifest] of any desire to carry on the 16 years long conflict that resulted in the demise of 2,400 American servicemen and drained more than 1 trillion dollars of taxpayers’ money [has] suddenly gone missing after the meeting Donald Trump held in mid-July with Michael Silver, the CEO of American Elements, that is engaged in high-tech production of metals and chemicals. Silver was able to affect the position that Trump occupied on the future of US military presence in Afghanistan by proving that by mining copper, iron and rare metal reserves in Afghanistan, the total estimated value of which exceeds 1 trillion dollars, Washington can achieve an incredible economic growth. … The Foreign Policy notes that Trump hopes to compensate the losses that the US suffered in the course of this war, especially given the information he has gained about the considerable wealth of the country’s natural resources, undoubtedly hoping to gain control over the development of these minerals once the military victory in Afghanistan is achieved.”
There are other commentators, however, who question that these resources can be profitably extracted. As Mike Perry reports in an article for Global Research:
“Pentagon officials tell The American Conservative that he [Trump] has quietly bought into claims that the U.S. can help revive the Afghan economy by exploiting the nation’s mineral resources. While Trump did not mention the program in his speech, and the claim remains debated in the White House, the president (a senior Pentagon civilian told TAC) ‘is intent to explore ways for this war to pay for itself’—–which apparently includes a review of whether Afghanistan’s resources can be exploited sufficiently to put the Afghan government on a sound footing. … A geologic survey conducted a decade ago shows that Afghanistan is rich in deposits of gold, silver, and platinum, as well as large quantities of uranium, zinc, bauxite, coal, natural gas and copper—–a mother lode of natural resources that could proved Kabul with a badly needed budgetary windfall.”
Note that Perry does not accuse Trump of wanting to “steal and plunder” but only of seeking to help the Afghan economy and pay for the war. Yet Perry goes on to question whether even this is possible, saying:
“‘It’s a pig in a poke,’ a former Pentagon official who worked in Afghanistan on identifying the deposits told The American Conservative, ‘don’t believe a word of it.’ The archaic ‘pig in a poke’ phrase, which denotes that a buyer should beware of buying a pig that couldn’t be seen (because it was in a ‘poke,’ or bag), denotes the common belief that while Afghanistan may contain the mineral deposits numerous mining surveys have identified, they remain elusive. Then too, as the former Pentagon official with whom we spoke says, the idea that American companies will realize a windfall on the mineral scheme (to which, as a businessman, Trump is particularly attracted), is simply not in reach. ‘American companies no longer do the kind of mining that it would take,’ this former Pentagon official says. ‘Security is bad, and commodity prices have collapsed. Why would companies invest in mineral deposits in Afghanistan when they won’t make the same investments in Australia?'”
While Trump may hope for some economic boost to Afghanistan’s government through extraction of the land’s mineral resources, it is doubtful this is the main objective for extending the US war.
China’s Economic Exploitation
Another hypothetical motive for US escalation in Afghanistan is to curb China’s economic exploitation of the region. Again, Michel Chussodovsky of Global Research:
“While the Afghan government of President Ashraf Ghani has called upon President Donald Trump to promote US. investments in mining, including lithium, China is in the forefront in developing projects in mining and energy as well as pipeline projects and transport corridors. China is a major trading and investment partner with Afghanistan (alongside Russia and Iran), which potentially encroaches upon US economic and strategic interests in Central Asia. China’s intent is to eventually integrate land transportation through the historical Wakhan Corridor which links Afghanistan to China’s Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region. [Of] Afghanistan’s estimated $3 trillion worth of unexploited minerals, Chinese companies have acquired rights to extract vast quantities of copper and coal and snapped up the first oil exploration concessions granted to foreigners in decades. China is also eyeing extensive deposits of lithium, uses of which range from batteries to nuclear components. The Chinese are also investing in hydropower, agriculture and construction. A direct road link to China across the remote 76-kilometer border between the two countries is in progress. (New Delhi Times, July 18, 2015)”
China’s involvement is further examined by the neoconservative Brookings Institution, a century-old largely New World Order propaganda outfit located on Think Tank Row in Washington, D.C. According to Erica S. Downs in a report entitled China Buys into Afghanistan (February 21, 2013):
“Many discussions of China’s involvement in Afghanistan begin with the investments made by Chinese firms to extract Afghanistan’s vast mineral wealth, which is valued at about $1 trillion by the United States Geological Survey and $3 trillion by Afghanistan’s Minister of Mines.1 In 2007, Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC) and Jiangxi Copper Corporation (JCCL) agreed to make the single largest foreign investment in Afghanistan to date—$4.4 billion—when they won a tender to develop what geologists believe is the world’s second largest undeveloped copper deposit at Aynak in Logar Province, 35 kilometers southeast of Kabul.2 In 2011, China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and its Afghan partner, Watan Oil & Gas, secured the rights to three oil blocks in the provinces of Sari-i-Pul and Faryab in northwestern Afghanistan, which CNPC expects to invest $400 million initially to develop. These investments gave rise to the contention that China is free-riding on the U.S.-led efforts to stabilize Afghanistan to lock down natural resources needed to fuel China’s continued economic development. Specifically, critics argue that China is benefiting from a public good provided by the United States and its partners in Afghanistan—security—to which it has not contributed. China has not offered any troops, equipment, or funds to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. Yet, ISAF has made Afghanistan safe for Chinese investment. … U.S. troops are indirectly providing security for the Chinese companies by patrolling the areas in which they operate.”
Athough Downs’s report corroborates China’s large-scale investment Afghan resources, the author seems to suggest that if the U.S. wants to curb Chinese exploitation, it might be better off withdrawing troops rather than increasing them. This runs counter to the notion that the deep state’s motive for sending more forces is to limit China’s influence.
Of course, containment of Chinese expansion would always be a secondary motive in any Western intervention in the region. But is it a primary motive? Probably not.
Could the United States merely be pandering to the interests of corporate war profiteers? Again I quote Vladimir Plotov of New Eastern Outlook:
“The adoption of the new strategy on Afghanistan has also been affected by the ideas that have been lobbied by Eric Prince, the founder of the notorious private security company Blackwater that bears a new name today—Academi. It’s not a secret that the Afghan war took an abrupt turn the moment American troops were replaced by mercenaries [who] would carry out the majority of all missions. Prince’s plan states that Washington must deploy another 5,500 mercenaries to work directly with Afghan forces since, he argues, this will be cheaper and way more cost-efficient than using regular forces.”
It is easy to be suspicious of the corporate interests of companies like Academi. These war profiteers certainly play a role in the decisions of the deep state hawks. But it seems doubtful this is the main driving force for Afghan intervention. Unfortunately, Plotov gives no references for this claim, and again, he is publishing in a biased anti-American journal.
Let me explain what I mean by “anti-American”. I do not mean these websites are simply critical of American foreign policy. After all, no news site could condemn US intervention more vehemently than Quemado Institute (see our post Afghanistan Afterthoughts: What Cauldron of Hell is the US Stirring?). What I mean by anti-American is that a site’s authors speculate, often without evidence, fantastic scenarios that vilify US actions, and in particular, that vilified Donald Trump even before he took office, when for all anyone knew, Donald Trump was an anti-interventionist candidate. This contradiction points to a strong liberal bias. New Eastern Outlook, Global Research and Information Clearing House, all mainly scholarly sites, share this liberal bias, which unfortunately pits liberal anti-interventionists against conservative anti-interventionists, thus dividing the anti-interventionist camp, to the benefit, alas, of the neoconservative ruling establishment.
Is This a “Humanitarian” War?
When an entity, be it a person, organization or country, intervenes without permission in someone else’s affairs, intending to kill certain people in order to save others, I maintain as a moral rule that they are playing God, and a priori have no right to interfere. That said, can we evaluate whether continued US occupation of Afghanistan is humanitarian or constructive for the people living there. Search as I might, I have not found conclusive evidence either way. (If any reader knows, please comment.) Here I am not referring to the 100,000 maximum US troop level reached under Obama—which was egregiously inhumane and damaging to the country—but to the roughly 12,000 to 16,000 troop level projected under Trump’s occupation.
As a preliminary condition, it is not humanitarian to support the Afghan government unless it is worthy of governing and welcomes our support. It is unclear to me whether the Afghan government under President Ashraf Ghanihas weldomes an increase in US military presence, and it is not even clear whether Ghanihas represents the majority of the Afghan people.
Even the neoconservative Brookings Institution casts doubt on the viability of the government in Afghanistan. As Danial L. Byman says in his report Why are we losing in Afghanistan? (August 22, 2017):
“Several factors explain the U.S. failure to stabilize Afghanistan. The Afghan government is the first culprit. Despite maintaining token democratic credentials, the government’s composition more closely resembles a bargain among elites than leaders who enjoy mass support—–no ideology, political party or charismatic leader unites Afghans. By design and necessity, local officials hold much of the power. Government ranks are also remarkably corrupt and violent: Abuses such as extortion and rape by officials are common. Not surprisingly, the government in Kabul does not engender loyalty, regardless of the leader—the problem is structural, not personal. Furthermore, the government’s failures beget failures. Officials’ inability to rein in corruption, establish the rule of law, provide security, or otherwise perform basic governance functions leads Afghans to turn to local rulers, militias and the Taliban, which further undermines the government’s influence.”
It would be noble, of course, to remove the Taliban from power, as they are brutal and authoritarian, especially in their subjugation of women, a condition unacceptable anywhere on earth. But at what cost in terms of human life? Interventionists cannot possibly know the answer. Which is exactly why they should not intervene, even if compassion were a word in their minted language.
“Meanwhile, U.S. and allied forces have not trained their Afghan counterparts in large numbers to fight the Taliban. Afghanistan’s elite commandos fight well, and there are plans to expand their ranks. But these special operations forces represent only 17,000 troops of the country’s 300,000-strong military. Despite repeated attempts, most of the Afghan military fight poorly. Most of these fighters have little loyalty to their officers and political leaders and avoid risking their lives to fight the Taliban. Many flee, desert or defect rather than fight back.”
Byman may not have intended the glaring implications here. That the Afghan military is reluctant to fight does not mean the US should go in for humanitarian purposes and help them. Just the opposite. That they don’t want to fight is a sure sign there is something wrong with the war.
Consider, for example, the fact that when the United States first invaded Iraq in 1990, American troops were perplexed and disconcerted that the Kuwaiti soldiers did not want to help them fight. The reason may have been that the war was launched on false premises. Saddam Hussein did not attack Kuwait for imperial gain. He attacked because Kuwait was stealing his oil via horizontal drilling.
So if the locals don’t want to fight, there just might be a good reason. Another case is Ukraine, where morale is low among the Ukrainian Army. The troops are reluctant to fight because they know they are killing their own people. Americans in Vietnam suffered the same demoralization, because they were massacring civilians without purpose.
About humanitarian motives in Afghanistan, Reese Erlich of Antiwar.com says:
“On my first reporting trip to Afghanistan, I was surprised to find that so many people supported the US invasion. They loved President George Bush because he got rid of the hated Taliban regime. But when I asked what should the US do now, most answered ‘go home.’ That was in January 2002, just three months after the US invasion.”
“But what would happen if all foreign troops actually pulled out? That question troubled Santwana Dasgupta, who led a NGO helping women in Afghanistan. ‘These groups like Code Pink call for immediate withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan,’ she said. ‘But what about the US responsibility for developing Afghanistan?’ She argued that immediate withdrawal of troops would lead to a collapse of the Afghan government and triumph of the Taliban, setting back whatever progress had been made by Afghan women. Instead, she said, the peace movement should demand a genuine development strategy, a focus on improving the lives of civilians, and maintaining enough US troops to train the Afghan military and police. That conversation took place in 2009.”
First, was this NGO sponsored by the CIA, or was it local? If the latter, Dasgupta may have a point. But that was in 2009, when American GI’s numbered about 32,000 (see chart above) and private American contractors about 7,000. The conversation occurred right before the Obama troop surge of 2010-2011, in which the total jumped to some 115,000. The numbers today are roughly 10,000 in each category, lower than 2009. Would Dasgupta want additional troops now after witnessing the destruction of Obama’s surge?
Guarding the Empire
A glance at the chart of US troops abroad is probably our best clue to American involvement in Afghanistan. As Reese Erlich notes:
“Matthew Hoh, a former State Department official in Afghanistan, told me Trump used fear mongering about terrorist attacks to justify the escalation. … ‘And that helps explain why Trump shifted from his neo-isolationist positions calling for an end to the war to his latest, neo-conservative interventionist policies. The tip off came when Trump appointed three pro-interventionist generals to top defense and security positions within his administration. Secretary of Defense James Maddis [sic] and Chief of Staff John Kelly are former Marine Corps generals. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster was, until a few months ago, a Lt. General in the US Army. Their political views stand in stark opposition to Trump’s supposed opposition to interventionist wars. ‘They understand America to be an empire,’ Hoh said. ‘It’s a matter of guarding the empire.'”
Hoh is no doubt right about pro-interventionist McMaster, whom Trump should promptly fire. But James Mattis is more complex. On Russia, he may not be the imperial warhawk a casual observer would assume. In an interview on May 28, 2017 with John Dickerson of Face the Nation, in response to the question “What does Russia want?”, the Defense Secretary shrugged and said, “Beats me. Right now, Russia’s future should be wedded to Europe. Why they see NATO as a threat is beyond me. Clearly, NATO is not a threat. But right now, Russia is choosing to be a strategic competitor for any number of reasons. But the bottom line is NATO is not a threat and they know it. They have no doubt about it.” He went on to say, “[H]opefully soon our diplomats will work their magic and start moving us out of this quandary [with Russia] we find ourselves in.”
While these statements may be vague, Mattis’s words seem far more sober than the rabid rhetoric of hawks like John McCain.
Reasonable as Mattis sounds on the topic of Russia, he is either deluded about Afghanistan or is trying to delude us. His statement of June 14, 2017 posted on the US Department of Defense website discusses setting troop levels in Afhanistan:
“This will enable our military to have greater agility to conduct operations, recognizing our military posture there is part of a broader regional context. Thanks to the vigilance and skill of the U.S. military and our many allies and partners, horrors on the scale of Sept. 11, 2001, have not been repeated on our shores. However, the danger continues to evolve and that danger requires a commitment to defeat terrorist organizations that threaten the United States, other nations, and the people of Afghanistan. For example, ISIS has established a branch, al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups remain active inside Afghanistan, and the Taliban continue to pose a challenge to the democratically elected government. This administration will not repeat the mistakes of the past. We cannot allow Afghanistan to once again become a launching point for attacks on our homeland or on our allies. We are making progress in degrading these groups, but their defeat will come about only by giving our men and women on the ground the support and the authorities they need to win…. [This] ensures the Department of Defense can facilitate our missions and align our commitment to the rapidly evolving security situation, giving our troops greater latitude to provide air power and other vital support. Our core mission will remain the same: to train, advise and assist Afghan forces. We are there to help defeat a common enemy and ensure Afghan forces can safeguard the future of their country. This decision is part of a broader strategy we are developing that addresses our role in Afghanistan and beyond.”
Mattis’s statement is a ticket to protracted occupation on an unlimited time-scale. And since Mattis may be controlling Trump’s mind, it seems the hope of US non-intervention has now become a mirage.
Is Mattis talking like an imperialist? In view of the chart of US occupation across major parts of the globe, the answer has to be yes. He is presenting rationales for an unlimited military “role in Afghanistan and beyond.”
David Stockman, on Russia Insider, sums up the impact of these imperialist adventures:
“In short, the generals have spent 17 years sacrificing 2,400 dead US soldiers, 20,000 wounded and upwards of $1 trillion of taxpayer money to do what? Kill tens of thousands of Taliban who never threatened us and who could not remotely harm any American in farms, towns and cities across the land from sea to shining sea – even as Washington’s war machine has reduced the Afghans’ own country to rubble and economic desolation and caused upwards of 60,000 civilian deaths and casualties.”
Stockman continues, lampooning a quote from Trump:
“Indeed, ending the war on the Assad government and working with Russia and its allies to clear the remnants of ISIS from Syria would do far more to enhance the safety and security of the American people than killing half the Taliban army. Yet here is what the Donald’s ventriloquists mumbled as he lip-synched along with the TelePrompTer: ‘Second, the consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable. 9/11, the worst terrorist attack in our history, was planned and directed from Afghanistan because that country was ruled by a government that gave comfort and shelter to terrorists. A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum that terrorists, including ISIS and al Qaeda, would instantly fill, just as happened before September 11th. And, as we know, in 2011, America hastily and mistakenly withdrew from Iraq. As a result, our hard-won gains slipped back into the hands of terrorist enemies. Our soldiers watched as cities they had fought for, and bled to liberate, and won, were occupied by a terrorist group called ISIS. The vacuum we created by leaving too soon gave safe haven for ISIS to spread, to grow, recruit, and launch attacks. We cannot repeat in Afghanistan the mistake our leaders made in Iraq.'”
Of course, as Kurt Nimmo points out on Newsbud, and as most of us already know:
“There is no evidence the attack of September 11 was ‘planned and directed from Afghanistan…. [T]he Bush administration had no evidence Osama bin Laden planned and orchestrated the attack from a cave in Afghanistan. Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh cited officials from the CIA and the Justice Department as saying there was no solid evidence of this.”
This 9/11 Bin Laden fairy tale just one of Trump’s and Mattis’s lies. To elucidate all their lies would be tedious. What we might as well conclude is, their rhetoric is that of imperialists.
There is no motive for extended occupation of Afghanistan other than that the United States government, the governments of its allies, Western corporate elites, and the military-industrial establishment seek total control over the world. Control for the sake of control, as control becomes a runaway obsession for those bent on eradicating all threat.
What Drives Trump’s Appeasement of the Warhawks?
Analysts have dissected Donald Trump’s seemingly unfathomable psyche in myriad commentaries without consensus. Such dissections are actually projections of the analyst’s own psyche. I project that Trump is bright enough to see the importance of being straightforward. His motives are therefore transparent.
1) Trump has become a puppet of the deep state because he is probably afraid of being assassinated. Trump is willing to risk his life, but not if the risk is 100%. His reticence to leap willy nilly into the realm of spirit is not entirely self-serving. If Trump were to perish, Vice President Mike Pence, diehard neoconservative warmonger with a documented history, would become president. This is a possibility, but not an option.
Who do I mean by deep state? I am using the term loosely to mean not just bureaucrats, intelligence, and military officials in the United States, but to the entire New World Order-Bilderberg-Banking-Corporate elite, many of whom live in Europe. With this definition in mind:
2) Trump has become a puppet of the deep state because the corporate media tortured him psychologically with relentless lies and slanderous accusations, many of which went unrefuted by insouciant liberal alternate media pundits, who favored Bernie Sanders, although his seldom revealed foreign policy was in fact neoconservative, as Quemado Institute has proven (see conclusion, War on Assad Spells Naked US Aggression). How much mental torture can an individual endure and retain integrity? Probably not as much as Trump has had to endure.
3) Trump has become a puppet of the deep state partly because most of the anti-war alternate media hypocrites vilified him to death. The very folks who should have fought tooth and nail to defend him against the liberal neocon left ridiculed him at their leisure, as if they could afford to risk the fate of the world, upon which they apparently thought they had no influence. As if Trump could afford emotionally to endure such hatred from the very people whose concerns he was trying to address. As if Trump were not a human being, with all the vulnerabilities of a human being who is not a professional politician.
The very same commentators who hated the deep state also inexplicably hated Trump, even though Trump himself hated the deep state and was willing to risk his life to fight against it. Fight against it for our sake. Even though he was the only hope in the world for countering the deep state other than Russian President Vladimir Putin.
During the campaign, these are the commentators we at Quemado Institute slammed—or should have slammed—with the Diogenes Dunce of the Day award for advocating US non-intervention while vilifying Trump. And they are a long list:
- Michel Chossudovsky of Global Research and almost all authors he posts,
- Moon of Alabama,
- Upon occasion Justin Raimondo of the sometimes inaptly named site Antiwar.com and his fellow opinionists Jason Ditz and others,
- Almost all authors at Information Clearing House,
- Almost every analyst at Strategic Culture Foundation, with rare exceptions, usually Russian, like Andrey Akulov,
- Almost everyone at Ron Paul’s sometimes oxymoronic Institute for Peace and Prosperity,
- Consistently and viciously F. William Engdahl, touted geopolitical expert of New Eastern Outlook and all the authors he posted.
4) Trump has become a puppet of the deep state because, in order to prevent impeachment or assassination, he erected a fortress of Marine Generals to guard him, a gambit prolonging his presidency but incurring the risk of a de facto military executive takeover, which may have already happened.
5) Trump has become a puppet of the deep state because he fired his loyal defenders, Mark Flynn and Steve Bannon, apparently because Trump, in his toddler stage as a Washington politician, thought this would appease the throat-slashing neck-biting congressional and media hyenas from which Flynn and Bannon were trying to protect him, leaving Trump wide open to the fangs of the military-industrial warhawks.
6) Trump has become a puppet of the deep state because of his exposure to pro-Israel and Zionist influence after years of financial dealings in New York City, as well as his vulnerability to his daughter Ivanka’s wishes and her husband Jared Kushner’s nepotist interference in presidential decisions.
7) Trump has become a puppet of the deep state because he has lost his way. He has lost his way because he is idealistic and politically inexperienced—in other words, he’s just like the rest of us.
And who among his former alternate media supporters is reaching out to help him? Russia Insider? Paul Craig Roberts? Alexander Mercouris of The Duran?
Not with much conviction.