Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic, the U.S. War Machine Presses On

by Jeff Mackler, published on Socialist Action, July 24, 2020

That Russia paid the Taliban financial bounties to kill 18 U.S. and “coalition” soldiers in Afghanistan is in dispute to say the least. Both Democrats and Republicans cite various and conflicting official U.S. intelligence agencies on the veracity of this latest New Cold War episode. The July 9 New York Times reported,

“The C.I.A. – as well as analysts at the National Counterterrorism Center – expressed medium or moderate confidence in that conclusion. The National Security Agency, which puts greater stock in surveillance intercepts, was more skeptical, officials have said.”

As with the Democrats’ Russiagate charges that Vladimir Putin and Company rigged the 2016 elections – without a shred evidence of a single ballot box or computer voting machine manipulation anywhere in the U.S. – today’s Cold War Democratic Party tops are leading the charge in demanding that the U.S. increase its sanctions on Russia, while accusing President Trump of being soft on “tyrants” the world over.

Bi-partisan bluster and bluff aside on the 19-year U.S. war on Afghanistan – the longest U.S. war in history – the warmongering corporate media’s twisted “big lie” reporting misses the proverbial forest for the trees, or better, for a handful of alleged twigs on the trees.

The truth about the Afghan war

The truth about the Afghanistan War is stark and horrifying. After 19 years and $2 trillion in Pentagon spending, after deploying more than 120,000 U.S. troops at the highpoint of the war – half of them U.S.-financed Blackwater and other privatized mercenary and war crimes-committing forces accountable to no one – after more than 460,000 civilians killed directly and indirectly and 2,400 U.S. troops dead and another 20,660 wounded, the war continues. The U.S. government, however, and not its imposed puppet government of warlords and corrupt corporate intriguers, is negotiating a “peace” treaty with the Islamic theocratic Taliban, who occupy much of rural Afghanistan. The latter negotiations are said to be held up due to the Taliban’s failure to agree to release some U.S. prisoners.

The above figures, except for the 360,000 indirectly killed due to the U.S. war, are the official tallies of the U.S. Defense Department. They omit the estimated 55,000 dead among the U.S.-trained and financed Afghan Army forces as well as the dead and wounded among the U.S.-orchestrated “coalition” of a dozen nations brought on board to lend an “international” appearance to the “war on terror.” We add to the horror the dead and wounded in neighboring Pakistan, where the U.S. has been drone bombing with impunity for much of the war’s duration. After 19 years, with the Pentagon “experimenting” with obliterating the Taliban’s underground bunkers with the largest non-nuclear weapons ever and with drones constantly hunting for prey in remote regions, some 25,000 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan, half of them mercenaries and “contractors” organized by enterprising U.S. corporations in the business of death and destruction for profit.

Need we recall that the U.S. war on Afghanistan, launched in 2001 following the September 11 bombing of the World Trade Center, began when the Afghan government was charged, not with any role in the Trade Center bombing, but with harboring Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida associates, who were alleged to be hiding out in caves in the Afghan mountains. During the Soviet Union’s 1979-89 war of intervention in Afghanistan – a deadly war violated that poor nation’s right to self-determination – bin Laden’s al-Qaida forces and those of some of the seven factions of the jihadist Mujahidin, were armed and financed by the U.S. government. Bin Laden, who later claimed responsibility for the 9/11 attack, was assassinated by U.S. Navy SEALs in Pakistan in 2011. But the U.S. war continues to this day. Not for freedom and democracy, to be sure, but for “geopolitical advantage” – that is, booty.

Since the U.S. war began in 2001, Afghanistan, 80 percent rural countryside, has been the world’s leading illicit opium producer. Its opium poppy harvest produces more than 90 percent of heroin globally and more than 95 percent of the European supply. More land is used for opium in Afghanistan than is used for coca cultivation in all of Latin America. Further, Afghanistan’s lithium reserves, worth trillions of dollars, are the most valuable in the world, ahead of Bolivia. Since 2011, the Pentagon’s financial arm has been in negotiations with various corporate entities as to which will be granted mining contracts. Similarly, Afghanistan’s gold, niobium, cobalt and other minerals may well transform this poorest of the poor nations on earth into a global foreign-owned mining hub. As with the U.S. war and occupation of Iraq, where oil was the booty, the Pentagon’s U.S. corporate favorites are likely to end up with the lion’s share. The U.S. fights for lithium and gold and perhaps a hand in the lucrative drug trade, as it did in partnership in the 1980s with the Colombian Medellin cartel…  and freedom too!

The U.S. war on Syria continues

Today, the U.S./NATO-orchestrated war against Syria, with the support of jihadist military forces trained and armed at U.S. military bases in Turkey, continues, albeit with more limited goals as compared to the previous U.S. objective of total conquest and permanent occupation. That war, beginning in 2012, saw U.S.-financed, armed and trained forces from Saudi Arabia and elsewhere at one point occupying more than two-thirds of the country. At that moment, the U.S. was openly presiding over conferences in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere with its invited guests assembled to discuss the permanent division of Syria and its resources in the context of the expected imminent departure of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

With U.S.-backed jihadist forces, including al-Qaida and its formerly associated al Nusra Front firing missiles into the capital city of Damascus, few believed that the outcome would be otherwise. As with Iraq, following the U.S. removal of the Saddam Hussein government at a cost of 1.5 million Iraqi lives, Syria’s resources, if not its geographic borders, were to be divided by the imperial U.S. in a manner not too dissimilar from the French and British division of the Middle East imposed after WWI.

Beleaguered Syria, however, decided otherwise. As a poor and oppressed nation, it justly exercised its right to self-determination and asked its allies for assistance. These included Iran, Russia and the Hezbollah forces in Lebanon that years earlier had defeated the Israeli attempt at conquest. The U.S.- war against Syria has cost the lives of 60,000 Syrian soldiers and an estimated 500,000 civilians.  But with the help of its allies, Syria successfully turned back and defeated the U.S./NATO-backed jihadist invaders, who by brute force sought to impose their version of Sharia law on a reluctant population. Over the course of two years, these jihadists were driven from one occupied city and region after another. A major poll of Syria’s population organized by ORB International, a London-based Gallop-affiliated organization, during these years indicated that the U.S./NATO forces and all of their “coalition of the willing” jihadist allies had the support of less than nine percent of Syria’s people. In contrast, the Assad government, pilloried and demonized by the U.S. media and falsely accused of using poison gas on its opponents, had the support of a significant majority.

Today, with the exception of the northwest province of Idlib, bordering on Turkey, where the remnants of al-Qaida and its allies are protected and armed by the U.S., NATO and Turkey, all of Syria remains under the al-Assad government’s control, minus the fertile and oil-rich northeastern region bordering on Turkey where a contingent of some 2,000 U.S. troops remain to protect U.S. “interests.” “We’re keeping the oil,” proclaimed the moron imperial President Trump when he was attacked by the Democrats for removing most of the U.S. forces from Syria! Meanwhile the U.S. and its NATO allies openly threaten to bomb Syria to smithereens should it move to liberate its nation from its imperialist-backed occupiers. An estimated half of Syria’s population was driven into internal or external exile during this imperial war of mass murder and destruction of Syria’s infrastructure. And the horror continues to this day, as the U.S.’s unilaterally-imposed sanctions have reduced Syria’s economy to barely survival levels.

The U.S. destruction Iran

The U.S. and Israeli governments barely conceal their role in the July 2 massive bombing of Iran’s nuclear research facilities at Natanz. An NYT article entitled “Long-Planned and Bigger Than Thought: Strike on Iran’s Nuclear Program,” authored by veteran staff writer David E. Sanger and others is quite explicit:

“As Iran’s center for advanced nuclear centrifuges lies in charred ruins after an explosion, apparently engineered by Israel, the long-simmering conflict between the United States and Tehran appears to be escalating into a potentially dangerous phase…”

Sanger et al. continue:

“Officials familiar with the explosion at Natanz compared its complexity to the sophisticated Stuxnet cyber attack on Iranian nuclear facilities a decade ago, which had been planned for more than a year. In the case of last week’s episode, the primary theory is that an explosive device was planted in the heavily-guarded facility, perhaps near a gas line. But some experts have also floated the possibility that a cyber attack was used to trigger the gas supply.”

The attack at Natanz was accompanied by a series of bombings across Iran.

Trump’s former C.I.A. director, Mike Pompeo, now Secretary of State, has long worked closely with Yossi Cohen, who heads the Mossad, Israeli’s secret spy agency and counterpart to the C.I.A. “The two men talk often,” Sanger wrote, “making it difficult to believe that Mr. Pompeo had no idea about what was coming, if indeed it was an Israeli operation,” as opposed to a direct U.S. operation.

Sanger added, “Cohen was a key player in the sophisticated series of cyber strikes known as Olympic Games that took out nearly 1,000 operating centrifuges at Natanz – near the site of last week’s explosion and fire – a decade ago.” Cohen was also head of Mossad during its supposed “seizure” of extremely dubious “secret Iranian nuclear documents,” which was followed immediately by a bombastic presentation of the “secret documents” by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used to justify further extremes of U.S. sanctions and attacks against Iran.

And finally, Sanger concluded,

“In some way it feels a bit like a decade ago, when the George W. Bush administration handed off the cyber operations to the Obama administration – part of a broad covert effort to cripple Iran’s nuclear program. At the same time, the Israelis were killing Iranian scientists.”

Today, U.S. warships are deployed to stop Iranian oil tankers bound to U.S.-beleaguered Venezuela, whose oil reserves – the largest in the world – have been rendered near worthless due U.S.-imposed sanctions, sabotage, a virtual blockade and embargo. U.S. sanctions, according to a former UN rapporteur, including blockage of food and medical supplies, cost the lives of 100,000 Venezuelans.

U.S. sanctions and acts of war against Iran and Venezuela have similarly reduced these oil rich nations to near starvation levels with their currencies have been reduced to near worthless.

Venezuela under renewed attack

In late June, Trump’s Special Representative for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, announced yet another round of sanctions – but not just on Venezuela, which is under a near total blockade, but on any company found to be helping the importation of goods to Venezuela in any way. Mint Press reporter Alan Macleod provided the details:

“Abrams has managed to force London-based Lloyd’s Registrar to withdraw insurance and registration to ships the U.S. deems to be helping break the blockade, meaning they are unable to dock anywhere in the world. ‘It’s just not worth the hassle or the risk for [companies],’ he gleefully told Reuters. ‘[If] there are people who don’t cooperate… We’ll go after the ship, the ship owner, the ship captain.’ U.S. citizens breaking the embargo already face 30 years in prison.”

McLeod continues:

“Washington’s power and influence have helped bring the Venezuelan economy to a standstill, with oil exports at their lowest in modern history… Sanctions are a bi-partisan endeavor, beginning under President Obama in 2015, who declared a ‘national emergency’ due to the ‘unusual and extraordinary threat’ Venezuela was posing to the United States.”

Not to be outdone, the Democrats’ hoped for president-in-waiting, Joseph Biden, retorted, “Trump talks tough on Venezuela, but admires thugs and dictators like Nicolas Maduro. As President, I will stand with the Venezuelan people and for democracy.” Picking up on Biden’s one-upsmanship denunciation of Trump and aiming to win 2020 votes from Florida’s rightwing Venezuelan and Cuban exile communities, a Democratic Party Super PAC touted Biden’s cold war credentials by not only comparing Trump to Maduro, but to his predecessor Hugo Chavez, and former Cuban leader Fidel Castro!

The rabid bi-partisan rantings of Trump and Biden and their twin parties notwithstanding, the U.S. war machine presses on. Ever threatening U.S. warships patrol the world from the South China Sea to the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, the Arctic waters, both coasts of Africa and now off the coast of Venezuela, in all cases insisting on Pentagon and Defense Department proclamations to wit the whole world poses a threat to so-called U.S. national security interests.

Genocide in Yemen and beyond

The U.S. is a partner with Saudi Arabia in the ongoing genocidal war against the people of Yemen, where millions die from U.S.-supplied weapons to the Saudi invaders and from starvation and cholera. Elsewhere, U.S.-supported and imposed dictators preside over corporate “interests” on every continent, inflicting death squad punishment or overt war on any forces that challenge its domination. Its crippling economic sanctions are imposed on 37 nations; stealing assets in overseas bank accounts, as with Venezuela, and imposing heads of state by force or rigged elections have been the historic U.S. government practice. In the modern era cyberwar stealing of scientific discoveries is the norm. Drone wars, death squad assassination wars, Special Operations wars, privatized army wars and open wars that near instantly destroy any nation’s fundamental infrastructure are daily bi-partisan deeds. The Obama administration presided over seven U.S. wars.

The U.S. secret surveillance intelligence apparatus has no rival on earth. Its “enemies” and “allies” of the moment are near defenseless in its wake. In the name of “national security,” the U.S. maintains the capacity to spy on its entire population, if not the world’s. 1,100 U.S. military bases in 80 countries stand ready for action. The United Kingdom, France and Russia combined have 30. China has 11.

While the horror of the world’s most deadly pandemic in a century has captured world headlines, the U.S. war machine operates uninterrupted today but with the glare of terrible deeds largely obscured from public view.

U.S. ranks first in COVID-19 cases

The endless U.S. imperial drive for power and profit is not limed to the international stage. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the average daily new cases in the U.S. “plateaued” for a few weeks at 22,000 per day, all fifty states, ignoring the warnings of the scientific community, began to implement plans for a return to work. Capitalism’s wage slaves were deemed expendable in comparison to the profits extracted from their labor. Human lives, in the U.S. and the world over are subordinate to capitalist profits. Today, at over 4 million, the U.S. stands first in the world in the number of COVID-19 infections, accounting for more than one quarter of the world’s total cases. With the “safe” reopening criteria deployed, the daily infection rate has soared to 70,000 with daily deaths once again over 1,000 and climbing! Johns Hopkins University reported that the U.S. has a death rate of 44.11 per 100,000 people that ranks fourth-worst in the world among the countries most affected by the coronavirus!

Just as systemic – that is, institutional – racism is embedded in the very fabric of U.S. society, so are its imperatives to war, exploitation, environmental destruction and climate catastrophe in all their myriad and horrific forms. Today, for the first time in a very long while, mass forces are emerging in the U.S. and worldwide to challenge capitalism’s deadly prerogatives and bring into being a future where the multiple horsemen of the capitalist apocalypse are forever banished and human beings – the vast majority as opposed to the billionaire elite – build a new world where freedom, justice and social equality reign across the globe. For the socialist future now! Join us!

*Featured Image: “President Trump is absolutely right to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria,” said Paul Kawika Martin of Peace Action. “President Obama deployed U.S. soldiers to Syria in violation of international law, and the ongoing U.S. presence there only serves to prolong the war and fuel the risk of confrontation with Russia, Iran, and other parties to the conflict.” (Photo: DoD/flickr/cc)


Jeff Mackler is the national secretary of Socialist ActionHe is also Socialist Action’s candidate for U.S. President in the 2020 elections and he was the Socialist Action candidate for President in 2016.   Mackler founded Northern California Climate Mobilization, is a longtime teacher and union activist with the American Federation of Teachers in Hayward, California and is director of theMobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal.

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