Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.
This week marks the tenth anniversary of the Afghan War, a war that keeps dragging on and on.
Even with Osama bin Laden dead, even with Al Qaeda having, by the CIA’s own estimate, only 100 fighters in Afghanistan, the United States keeps nearly 100,000 soldiers there.
And the costs keep mounting.
The United States has lost more than 1,700 soldiers there, and August was the most lethal month ever. Things are not getting better for us in this long war.
Nor are they getting better for the Afghan people. U.S. and coalition forces have killed thousands of Afghan civilians, and for all the carnage, the Taliban still controls two-thirds of the country. The price tag keeps mounting on us, too, even as our economy at home is sputtering and our budget deficit is growing. Just counting the out-of-pocket costs, the Afghan War has run up a $500 billion tab so far. And the Pentagon is burning through $2 billion a week there right now.
These figures don’t account for all the money we need to spend on the 13,000 soldiers who’ve been wounded over there. A clear majority of the American people understands that the costs are way too high, and that the Afghan War is not worth fighting. But the Obama Administration wants to stay—even longer, even beyond 2014, when the United States is obligated to leave and when Obama promised to leave.
General John Allen, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, told CBS’s 60 Minutes: "Well, the plan is to win. The plan is to be successful. And so, while some folks might hear that we're departing in 2014 as a result of the Lisbon Conference and the process of transition, we're actually going to be here for a long time," Allen said. What is “winning” going to look like? There is no way the United States is going to “win” unless it engages in genocide because the U.S.-puppet government in Kabul is corrupt and extremely unpopular, and the Taliban has a large base of support among the people.
The Afghan War has become Obama’s War. He tripled the number of U.S. troops there (if John McCain had done that, imagine the outcry among Democrats?), and for all his talk of withdrawing troops, the United States is on a pace to have between 60,000 and 70,000 troops in Afghanistan by Election Day—nearly twice as many as when Obama took office.
The underlying reasons those troops are there have nothing to do with Al Qaeda or the Taliban. Rather, they have to do with controlling oil pipeline routes to the Arabian Sea, surrounding Iran, and putting military bases on the western edge of China.
But Obama has never leveled with the American people about these reasons because they aren’t sufficient to persuade us to keep paying for this war in our blood and treasure.
And now he’s pulling a lethal switcheroo by preparing to stay beyond 2014.
We can’t let him get away with that.
That’s why I and thousands of other protesters are in Freedom Plaza in Washington right now.
Please join us if you can, or join a protest in your own city or town, or link this issue up with the great Occupy Wall Street protests happening all over the country.
Only pressure from below will bring this war to an end.
If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story "Wall St. Protesters Show the Way"
Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter