Illustration: Liu Rui / Global Times
When the last C-17 Globemaster cargo plane slipped into the darkness of Kabul airport on August 30, the longest war unleashed by the United States finally came up with The Long Goodbye.
Twenty years have passed, but no one has dared to step onto the rostrum except for a vulture hovering overhead and lusting for corpses.
The United States has become the laughing stock of the world instead of the winner. There is already an international consensus that the chaotic and disastrous retreat of the United States marked a huge failure of its foreign policy, its military enforcement and even its 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 of surviving to the survival of hope. This is all due to the United States, which once vowed to bring democracy and prosperity to it. According to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, 18 million Afghans need help to survive. One in three doesn’t know where their next meal will come from. More than half of all children under 5 are expected to suffer from “acute malnutrition” next year.
Afghanistan has become extremely vulnerable to the resurrection of terrorism due to the disorderly withdrawal of the Americans. The recent terrorist attack on Kabul airport is clear proof that the US war on terrorism has failed to eradicate terrorism. Neighboring countries, and indeed most European countries, face an urgent humanitarian problem with the sudden influx of Afghan refugees. Here again, ironically, the Republicans on Capitol Hill have vetoed the entry of Afghan refugees into their country. This creates a chance for their beloved European allies to profit from the déjà vu of the Syrian refugee crisis.
The American people would vote a firm NO. American taxpayers have lost their loved ones, and have been financially exploited by the immense military spending. From 2001 to 2021, the annual defense budget of the United States has been steadily skyrocketing, and the war in Afghanistan alone has cost $ 2.3 trillion so far, according to the latest survey by the United States. ‘Brown University. That’s $ 241 million per day or $ 6,949 per capita and per US citizen. If money were better used against COVID-19, the poor and the elderly who could not afford the treatment would no longer need to perish in despair.
What was the war about and who is the beneficiary? Here’s the vulture: America’s Military Industrial Complex (AMIC), an iron triangle made up of arms dealers, members of Congress, and the Pentagon.
Countless greenbacks have been turned into Black Hawks, Scan Eagles, Humvees, and Carbines to kill human lives. They also increased the profits of the balance sheets of defense giants like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics etc. Over the past two decades, the shares of these top five sub-contractors have risen 10 times or more, overall outperforming the stock market by 58%. The war only made these “legitimate killers” build their bloody empire on the pillars of Afghan skeletons.
Some of this colossal profit was used for lobbying or political contributions, becoming spending money for members of Congress. This could explain why the review and approval of the defense budget went smoothly.
Supporters of medical care or gun control can only dream of such ease of politics. Some members of Congress tend to find jobs in these lucrative companies. The old tricks of their former colleagues on the Hill go on and on.
As for the Pentagon, it always obtains the weapons it needs to propel the tank while chanting “protect human rights or defend democracy”. They were supposed to safeguard universal values. But what they really stand for is the endless flow of money from constant wars. When the Secretary of Defense becomes the hidden CEO of an arms supplier and members of Congress become undocumented stakeholders through the revolving door, death looms. Neither the financial burden on taxpayers nor the losses of fellow Americans are becoming matters of concern.
Blaming the US military for its lack of strategy in Afghanistan could be interpreted as a mistake. But they have an alternative. As a former Air Force fighter pilot put it, “Don’t stop the flow of money, add to it.”
Like a vulture, AMIC devoured the last pieces of flesh from Afghanistan’s crippled body. He looked up to spot the next target. When their Eagle Eyes squint and fixate on other prey, we have no idea who is going to suffer. Yet we know for sure that someone has to make more big bucks.
The author is an international affairs commentator, writing regularly for Global Times, CGTN, China Daily, etc. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org