Afghanistan War: Everyone loses, except American military-industrial complex
Published: Sep 07, 2021 04:43 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/Global Times

Illustration: Liu Rui/Global Times

When the last C-17 Globemaster cargo plane sneaked out in darkness from Kabul airport on August 30, the longest war triggered by the US eventually finally bid The Long Goodbye. 

Twenty years have passed, yet nobody has dared to stand on the rostrum, except for a vulture hovering above and coveting dead bodies. 

The US has become a global laughing stock instead of a victor. There is already an international consensus that the chaotic and disastrous retreat of the US marked a huge failure of its foreign policy, military enforcement and even intelligence services. "The images of despair at Kabul airport shame the political West," said German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

The Afghan people are certainly not the winner. They are deprived of almost everything, from the hope to survive to the survival of hope. This is all due to the US that once vowed to bring them democracy and prosperity. According to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, 18 million Afghans need aid to survive. One in three does not know where their next meal will come from. Over half of all children under age 5 are expected to become "acutely malnourished" next year. 

Afghanistan has become extremely vulnerable to the resurrection of terrorism due to the disorderly American retreat. The recent terrorist attack targeting Kabul airport is clear evidence that the US war on terror has failed to eradicate terrorism. Neighboring countries, and indeed most European countries, are facing an urgent humanitarian problem with the sudden influx of Afghan refugees. Then again, ironically, the Republicans in the Capitol Hill vetoed the entrance of Afghan refugees into their land. This is creating a chance for their beloved European allies to enjoy the déjà vu of the Syria refugee crisis.

The American people would vote a firm NO. The American taxpayers lost their beloved ones, and were financially exploited by the immense military expenses. From 2001 to 2021, the US annual defense budget kept skyrocketing, and the war in Afghanistan alone has cost $2.3 trillion so far according to the latest survey by Brown University. That's $241 million per day or $6,949 per capita per US citizen. Should the money be better used against COVID-19, those poor and elderly who couldn't afford the treatment would have no longer needed to perish in desperation. 

What was the war all about and who is the beneficiary? Here comes the vulture: the American military-industrial complex (AMIC), an iron-triangle made up of arm dealers, congressmen and the Pentagon. 

Countless greenbacks were turned into Black Hawks, Scan Eagles, Humvees and Carbines to kill human lives. They also added to profits on the balance sheets of giant defense contractors like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics, and so on. Within the past two decades, the stocks of these top five contractors increased 10 times or more, outperforming the stock market overall by 58 percent. The war only made these "legitimate killers" build up their bloody empire on the pillars of Afghan skeletons.

Part of this colossal profit was used for lobbying or political contributions, becoming pocket money for congressmen. This could explain why the revision and approval of the defense budget went through in such a smooth manner. 

Supporters of medical-care or gun-control acts can only dream about such ease of politics. Some congressmen tend to find jobs in these big-money making companies. The old tricks of their former colleagues on the Hill simply go on and on.  

Regarding the Pentagon, it always obtains the weaponry it needs to propel the chariot while chanting it is "protecting human rights or defending democracy." They purportedly safeguarded universal values. But what they really defend is the endless money flow from constant wars. When the defense secretary becomes the hidden CEO of an arms contractor and congressmen become undocumented stakeholders through the revolving door, death looms. Neither the taxpayers' financial burden nor the casualties of his fellow Americans become issues of concern.  

Blaming the US army for their lack of strategy in Afghanistan could be construed as wrong. But they do have an alternative. As a former Air Force fighter pilot put it, "Don't interrupt the money flow, add to it." 

Like a vulture, the AMIC has devoured the last bits of flesh from the crippled body of Afghanistan. It has raised its head to spot the next target. When their Eagle Eyes squint and fixate on another prey, we have no idea who's going to suffer. Yet we know for sure that somebody's got to make other big bucks.

The author is a commentator on international affairs, writing regularly for Global Times, CGTN, China Daily, and so on. He can be reached at xinping604@gmail.com