Afghan Agony: Way-Big Winner — The Military-Industrial Complex

August 22, 2021

Life continues, and war will keep rolling along, too, even if brakes are applied:

Biden’s been pretty-straight about the Afghan shit so far, and this morning he apparently kept it going — via NPR:

In a televised address from the White House, Biden said the administration’s first priority in Kabul is getting American citizens out as soon as possible. They’ve used phones, emails, and other forms of communication to locate Americans and try to move them to the American compound, he said.

“It’s an incredible operation,” Biden said. But, he added, “the evacuation of thousands of people from Kabul is going to be hard and painful” no matter when it began.
“There is no way to evacuate this many people without pain and loss,” Biden said.

In discussions with the Taliban, “they have been cooperative with regard to changing the perimeter,” Biden said.
But, responding to a reporter asking whether Biden can trust Taliban promises, “I don’t trust anybody, including you,” he said.

“The Taliban has to make a fundamental decision,” he added.
“Is the Taliban going to attempt to be able to unite and provide for the wellbeing of the people of Afghanistan, which no one group has ever done since before — for hundreds of years?”

In the scope of winners and losers in Afghanistan, the way-biggest and most-likely winner in this entire 20-year fiasco mirrors Eisenhower’s catch-all warning of ‘the military-industrial complex‘ — in this case, however, the millions upon millions all-legal money funneled into the graveyard of empires.
Shaan Sachdev at Salon this afternoon took a deep-dive look into the vast financial rewards given a few American companies — a must-read for scope, but here’s some brief highlights:

Yet, this meandering, ineffectual, deadly war — the longest in American history — was a grand victory for one behemoth sector of manufacturing that thrives upon tactical failures and stalemates: the military-industrial complex.
Mainstream coverage of Afghanistan this past week touched a bit on military spending but generally omitted the vast profits accumulated since 2001 by big guns like Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and Raytheon, as well as hundreds of smaller and lesser-known defense contractors.

Instead, such reports framed the American occupation as a moral imperative.
Ever since George W. Bush swaggered into what some call the Heart of Asia — mountainous, gorgeous, ever-antagonized — the invasion, unlike that of Iraq, has been seen as a flawed but justified battle against evil: the Taliban, al-Qaida and terrorism.

The initial poster boy for military action, of course, was Osama bin Laden. But when he escaped into Pakistan — on horseback, the story goes — a mere two months after the U.S. started dropping bombs, the war was repurposed as a “feminist mission … to liberate Afghan women from their burqas,” as Arundhati Roy put it in 2002.
When the Taliban were beaten out of governance, the mission changed again — this time to one of grueling, corruption-prone, glacially incremental reconstruction.
The U.S. would build, Bush said at the time, “an Afghanistan that is free from this evil and is a better place to live.”
What this really meant, whether or not he knew it, was fresh billions — and steady billions — for the Pentagon, State Department, contractors, mercenaries and a host of Afghan warlords and politicians.

The war was ultimately a colossal financial operation with an unfathomable toll in taxpayer dollars and human lives.
That it accomplished virtually nothing of political or civic durability only confirms this.

And the list is long of companies making buckets of cash, but the big throw-down is how officials of high government positions okay the bullshit — even current Joe Biden’s guy at the DOD:

To publish tactical analyses by people like Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, a former director of Raytheon, while ignoring the vast profits accumulated by that company from never-ending wars, symbolizes the ingrained failure of the mainstream press to scrutinize our political leaders in ways that matter.
When Austin pressed President Biden to preserve a military presence in Afghanistan, for example, the New York Times reported it with no apparent irony.

Austin was just one of a sizable number of establishmentarian voices urging that the occupation be prolonged, in one form or another.
Former Secretary Hillary Clinton warned of “huge consequences” if troops were to be withdrawn.
Former Secretary Condoleezza Rice sagely recommended a sustained counterterrorism mission.
Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, foresaw “some really dramatic, bad possible outcomes.”

Jim Mattis, who took a short break as a director of General Dynamics to serve as Trump’s defense secretary, warned that withdrawal from Afghanistan could leave the U.S. vulnerable to threats of terrorism.
In the less than two years that Mattis served in Trump’s cabinet, General Dynamics was awarded $277.66 million for work either fully or partly in Afghanistan.


When it comes to foreign policy, American lawmakers seem to be feminists and freedom fighters only when it’s convenient. Otherwise, human rights and democracy serve as buzzwords and stratagems, too easily wielded by a military establishment that believes global problems require military solutions, which in return require half of Congress’ discretionary spending.

When it comes to the media establishment’s selective criticisms of tragedies like Afghanistan and the broader role of the U.S. military — not to mention its often inglorious and sometimes depraved history — it ends up doing the bidding, knowingly or otherwise, of the world’s most moneyed military-industrial complex.

Money talks, war walks and walks and walks…

In context somewhat, science sees a physical-to-fiscal link. New research indicates monetary concerns can hurt more than your wallet — from the study’s Abstract via ScienceDirect yesterday:

Physical pain is one of the most severe of human experiences. It is thus one of the most important to understand … The study uses pooled cross-sectional Gallup data from 146 countries (total N?>?1,350,000). It estimates fixed-effects regression equations that control for personal characteristics …The hypothesis is that economic worry can create physical pain.

This study provides the first cross-country evidence that the level of physical pain in a nation depends on the state of the economy. Pain is high when the unemployment rate is high. That is not because of greater pain among people who lose their jobs — it extends far beyond that into wider society. The increase in physical pain in a downturn is experienced disproportionately by women.

Big business of war and the economics of losing:

“His parents will get it.”
“They don’t need it. They’re rich.”
“Then they’ll understand.”

And here we are, once again…

(Illustration: ‘Self Portrait,’ by GW Bush, and found here).

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