Daniel Ellsberg is a former U.S. military analyst employed by the RAND Corporation who precipitated a national uproar in 1971 when he released the Pentagon Papers, the U.S. military’s account of activities during the Vietnam War, to The New York Times.
“Polarization” is the word most associated with the positions of the Republicans and Democrats in Congress. The mass media and the commentators never tire of this focus, in part because such clashes create the flashes conducive to daily coverage.
When you imagine ending a war, do you imagine the U.S. President lamenting the human cost of the war’s financial expense while simultaneously demanding that Congress increase military spending — and while mentioning new wars that could potentially be launched?
In some future lovely little war, perhaps with China or some other demonized target, some percentage of the U.S. public may suddenly exclaim: “Hey, since when does a draft include young women as well as men?!” Old tunes will be revised and sung in protest with lyrics about being the first one on your block to have your daughter come home in a box. The tragedies will be played out in tears and screams and flag-covered propaganda-regurgitating rationalizations. Dead women and men will be thanked for the service of stirring up World War III before being dumped in the ground to rot, as some of the living begin to envy them and wonder about the merits of the service they’ve provided.
I wanted to share some thoughts with you on Afghanistan, as it sits atop the rubble of another indifferent imperial folly with the dread of once again living under a fundamentalist authoritarian regime on the horizon. And especially on the American public’s disconnect from its own government’s culpability in spreading misery there and throughout the Global South. I wanted to talk about reflection too.
In many ways, war is ever more and less visible. Of course in U.S. academia, the Pinkerist pretense that we are living through a period of great peace is accomplished by all sorts of statistical manipulation, but first and foremost by declaring civil wars to not be wars, and declaring U.S. wars to be civil wars — a tricky thing to do when the minute the U.S. leaves, Afghans, for example, decline to keep killing each other (damn them!).
It’s far from the longest U.S. war. There was no peace before or after it. There is no after it until they end it — and bombing has always been most of what it is. It has had nothing to do with opposing terrorism. It has been a one-sided slaughter, a mass killing over two decades by a single invading army and air force dragging along token mascots from dozens of vassal states. After 20 years Afghanistan was one of the worst places to be on Earth, and the Earth as a whole was a worse place to be — the rule of law, the state of nature, the refugee crises, the spread of terrorism, the militarization of governments all worsened. Then the Taliban took over.