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Report: US Government Deliberately Misled The Public About Afghanistan

Soldiers quickly march to the ramp of the CH-47 Chinook helicopter that will return them to Kandahar Army Air Field on Sept. 4, 2003. The Soldiers were searching in Daychopan district, Afghanistan, for Taliban fighters and illegal weapons caches. The Soldiers are assigned to Company A, 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division. (Photo: U.S. Army, Staff Sgt. Kyle Davis)
Soldiers quickly march to the ramp of the CH-47 Chinook helicopter that will return them to Kandahar Army Air Field on Sept. 4, 2003. The Soldiers were searching in Daychopan district, Afghanistan, for Taliban fighters and illegal weapons caches. The Soldiers are assigned to Company A, 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division. (Photo: U.S. Army, Staff Sgt. Kyle Davis)

While the War in Afghanistan has been a catastrophe for most, it has been tremendously profitable for multinational corporations that do business with the U.S. military.

U.S. Government officials systematically deceived the American public about the reality of the War in Afghanistan over the past 18 years, according to an investigative report from the Washington Post published on Monday. The report, based on thousands of confidential documents, shows how officials distorted statistics, gave false announcements about progress in the conflict, and concealed evidence that they knew the war “had become unwinnable.”

“The American people have constantly been lied to,” John Sopko, the head of the federal agency that conducted the interviews, told the Post. Sopko’s agency, The Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), was created by Congress in 2008 to investigate waste and fraud in the war zone.

More than 2,400 American soldiers and more than 38,000 Afghan civilians have died in the 18-year war, and the New York Times estimates that the final cost of the conflict will be well over $2 trillion. The Times notes that the U.S. borrowed heavily to finance the war, meaning the U.S. will pay more than $600 billion in interest on loans through 2023, with years of debt payments to follow.

“It was common at military headquarters in Kabul — and at the White House — to distort statistics to make it appear the United States was winning the war when that was not the case,” wrote the Washington Post’s Craig Whitlock, who authored the report with over 2,000 pages of notes from SIGAR’s interviews with people involved in the war effort, including generals, diplomats, aid workers, and Afghan officials. The documents were obtained after a three-year legal battle.

“Every data point was altered to present the best picture possible,” Bob Crowley, an Army colonel who served as a senior counterinsurgency adviser to U.S. military commanders in 2013 and 2014, told interviewers. “Surveys, for instance, were totally unreliable but reinforced that everything we were doing was right and we became a self-licking ice cream cone.”

The interviewees speak frankly of massive corruption, the absence of strategy, the waste of human life and public funds, and the misinformation campaign they maintained to mislead the public about the failures of the war. SIGRA blacked out around 85% of the interviewees’ names as the speakers did not know their candid views would be made public, although some notable names, like former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, made an appearance.

“For a while [the operational successes on a daily basis] might have made me feel good, but after 2006, for me, it was actually irrelevant because we were just killing so many people and it wasn’t making any difference at all,” Flynn, the director of intelligence for the International Security Assistance Force [ISAF] in Afghanistan from June 2009 to October 2010, told his questioners.

“Commanders and policymakers, on the spectrum of news, they want always to be good news,” said Flynn. “Operational commanders, state department policymakers and Department of Defense policymakers are going to be inherently rosy in their assessments. They will be unaccepting of hard-hitting intelligence.”

U.S. Government’s History Of Lying About Wars

Some critics viewed the revelations as merely the latest episode in a long history of deceptions by the U.S. government and military about its foreign engagements.

“The US military & security state lie constantly, reflexively & by design,” tweeted journalist Glenn Greenwald. “The more important the issue, the more they lie. It’s horrific that we’re always required to treat their pronouncements as honorable & credible. It’s even more disturbing that they now fill news outlets.”

The most obvious parallel to Monday’s Afghanistan Papers is the Pentagon Papers, the massive trove of secret government documents leaked by whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg in 1971 that revealed how the U.S. government systematically deceived the public about the United States’ engagement in Vietnam, as well as its bombing campaigns in Laos and Cambodia.

From the Bush administration’s lies about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to recent evidence indicating that the U.S. pressured the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to mislead the public about chemical weapon attacks in Syria, critics argue that these deceptive tactics continue to be used with minimal scrutiny from lawmakers or the media.

Current Situation In Afghanistan

The Washington Post’s report comes as peace talks between the United States and the Taliban have reinitiated after President Trump abruptly withdrew from months of negotiations in September after a suicide blast in Kabul killed an American soldier and 11 others. The Taliban carried out a series of almost daily attacks after the president’s cancelation.

During a trip to Afghanistan over the Thanksgiving holiday, Mr. Trump said the United States would maintain its military presence in Afghanistan until the two countries strike a deal or the U.S. has achieved a total victory, causing the Taliban to “want to make a deal very badly.” Trump said he wanted to reduce the American military presence in the country to 8,600 troops, down from its current number of around 14,000.

In September, the percentage of Afghans who described their life situation as “suffering” reached 85%, the highest amount recorded since Gallup began surveying public well-being. Of the respondents, most of whom were 35 or younger, 52% said they felt worry for much of the previous day, an increase from 42% in 2016. Only 36% of respondents said they laughed or smiled the previous day, another record for Gallup.

Gallup attributes Afghanistan’s status as the most miserable country in the world to the lack of safety and security and the inability to repair infrastructure that would allow the population to improve their economic well-being. Monday’s Washington Post report found that much of the U.S. spending on reconstruction programs was wasted on corruption and poorly planned projects.

“American dollars went to build hospitals that treated no patients, to schools that taught no students (and sometimes never existed at all) and to military bases the Afghans found useless and later shuttered,” wrote the New York Times’

“If you look at the overall amount of money spent in Afghanistan, you see a tiny percentage of it went to help the people of the country,” Robert Finn, the United States ambassador to Afghanistan in 2002 and 2003, told investigators. “It almost all went to the military and even most of that money went for local militia and police training.”

The Afghan Army’s high casualty and desertion rates force it “to train new recruits totaling at least a third of their entire force every year,” as per the Times.

Despite $10 billion invested in counternarcotics operations, Afghanistan is now the source of 80 percent of illegal global opium production.

“Before the war, Afghanistan had almost completely eradicated opium, according to United Nations data from 1996 to 2001, when the Taliban were in power,” according to the Times. “Today, opium cultivation is a major source of income and jobs, as well as revenue for the Taliban. Other than war expenditures, it is Afghanistan’s biggest economic activity.”

Who Benefitted From The War in Afghanistan?

While the War in Afghanistan has been a catastrophe for most, it has been tremendously profitable for multinational corporations that do business with the U.S. military.

The privatization of the war effort led to military contractors outnumbering U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan almost two to one in 2018 and three to one in 2016. “Lockheed Martin, DynCorp, Black & Veatch, Academi (formerly Blackwater) and the oil companies that ship the fuel on which the army runs are just some of the most profitable,” wrote the Pacific Standard in 2017. “The contracts often come jumbo-sized: the Harris Corporation last year, for example, was awarded a $1.7 billion contract to supply communications equipment to Afghan security forces.”

Erik Prince, brother of billionaire Education Secretary Betsy Devos and head of the private military company Academi, formerly known as Blackwater, has recently proposed to the White House to further privatize the foreign campaign in order to mine Afghanistan’s vast natural mining resources like Lithium, according to revelations by Guardian journalist Antony Loewenstein last year.

In an article with the Nation in January, Loewenstein explains while Trump has not completely heeded Prince’s call, he has been meeting with contractors to discuss mining options and pressured Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to open the country for mining by foreign corporations.

“To discuss mining options, Trump or his senior aides have met with Michael Silver, the head of American Elements, a chemicals and rare-earth minerals company, along with Stephen Feinberg, whose private-equity fund, Cerberus Capital Management, owns the large military contractor DynCorp, which has been involved in Afghanistan for years,” writes Loewenstein. “DynCorp has countless scandals to its name, including widespread allegations that the company’s employees hired young “dancing boys” in Afghanistan and ran a sex-slavery operation in Bosnia in 1999.”

A senior source in the Afghan government provided a series of confidential documents to the Nation that warn of the rampant corruption in the mining industry and the likelihood of greater violence by the Taliban and other groups if the U.S. pursues increased mineral exploitation.

“Exploitation of the country’s resources seems destined to further inflame an already unstable climate,” wrote Loewenstein. “The Trump administration likely knows this but doesn’t care, so long as American companies are making a profit.”

Peter Castagno

Peter Castagno is a co-owner Citizen Truth.

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  1. Larry N Stout December 10, 2019

    Same as Vietnam. The military top brass lied about it even to the president. And presidents, like all politicians, are themselves professional liars.

    Abraham Lincoln is credited with saying something to the effect that if the American public is given the facts, they will make a good decision. Suffice to say, the American government gives the public, through their corporate media propagandists, half-truths and disinformation, and not a word about a great deal that goes on in back rooms, behind the scenes, and subject to media blackout.

    I for one don’t believe the public is capable of a wise (voting) decision, even if they have all the facts. We should note, too, that the public have no voice whatsoever in determining whose names appear on the ballots, which represent the carefully vetted puppets of the two special-interests mega-conglomerates that operate as the Republican and Democratic parties.

  2. PSG December 10, 2019

    Wow and only two comments while we are baseless on stupidity of USA capital hill ar all in for theirselves

  3. Larry N Stout December 11, 2019

    “Theirselves” is not a word.

  4. Pingback: Pelosi Knew Bush Lied About Iraq But Didn’t Object - Newsstand7

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