I was having lunch with an Israeli friend, asking him how it felt to be at war all the time? And he joked back, ‘actually the U.S. has been at war far more than Israel!’ Yes, the U.S. has been at war continuously for almost 50 years! After decades of war, every man, woman and child in the U.S. is now personally obligated to pay $15,000 each in taxes to pay back the debt racked up by the government in these silly wars. The wars have been expensive – not just in terms of money but lives.
And the truth is, the U.S. has nothing to show for its endless wars. Here we are almost 15 years after invading Iraq and Afghanistan, and almost a decade after funding the “Syrian Opposition” and by ALL objective analysis the U.S. has added NO value to itself or the region. Quite simply everyone is much worse off than before. The wars have been horrific. The U.S. has only brought in poverty, destitution, and dozens of mini-dictators. Even those (once) in favor of these intervention agree. Let’s look at each case separately, and then see if there is a pattern of success that would lead to a ‘successful invasion of Iran’ – which Donald Trump’s team has been pushing.
Liberating Iraq from Saddam’s regime was “like curing cancer but killing the patient,” Samir Ali, editor of The Voice of Freedom published by US forces following the occupation, “Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were killed, millions are living in tents and the country is in a dismal situation,” he added.
There is so much embarrassment that the Iraqi government refuses to publish its findings. But the truth cannot be hidden. We know for example that roughly 430,000 Iraqis were killed between 2003 and early 2017. The worst fatalities were recorded in 2006, during which 59,000 people were killed in terror attacks and killings by militias, compared to 38 to 43,000 Iraqis killed in the first year of war.
The number of people injured in the same period was around 620,000, a third of whom receiving life-changing injuries. Up to 58,000 Iraqis remained missing by December 2016, and 271,000 detained, including around 187,000 who are yet to be referred to the courts.
Up to 3.4 million Iraqis are displaced outside the country in 64 nations, added to 4.1 million internally displaced persons including 1.7 million living in camps across Iraq. Up to 5.6 million Iraqis aged 0 to 17 years are recorded as orphaned, while 2 million Iraqi women aged between 14 and 52 are recorded as widowed.
Roughly 35 percent live below the poverty line (less than $5 per day). Up to 6 percent are addicted to narcotic substances. And up to 9 percent of children (below 15 years of age) are in the work force.
Unemployment has soared to an average of 31 percent.
The same trove of data covering this period shows that up to 6 million Iraqis are illiterate.
Healthcare has deteriorated, in terms of both quality and cost. There is now only one hospital bed per 1,000 Iraqis. Free healthcare is a thing of the past. Nearly 40 diseases and epidemics have spread across the country, including cholera, polio and hepatitis while cancer and congenital disease rates have skyrocketed.
According to sources in the Iraqi ministry of planning, 13,328 factories have been shut down since the invasion. Iraq now relies on imports for food, building materials, and various necessary supplies. And once agriculturally self-sufficient, Iraq’s farmed areas have dropped to 12 million dunums from 48 million.
Iraqis displaced from Mosul receive aid distributions at near Qayara, Iraq
The same figures show Iraq needing 2.6 million housing units to cope with its housing crisis. In education, 9,000 schools are partially or totally damaged out of 14,658 schools, which is about 11,000 schools less than Iraq needs to accommodate its school-age children.
Financially, Iraq’s debt has hit $124 billion held by 29 different nations, the IMF, and six Western oil companies.
Interestingly, Iraq is now home to 126 local and foreign security companies, and 73 different armed militias with 117,000 fighters.
Farid Saadi, secretary of the Iraq Interim Governing Council created by the US forces in 2003 following the invasion of Iraq, told news media that many of his colleagued at the council now regret having ever served on it.
“Saddam Hussein was no good man, and the people were waiting to be rid of him. But those who came after Saddam made the people wish they could return to his days.”
Perhaps it was entirely predictable, but the U.S. has left Afghanistan worse off than before its invasion in 2001. Ironically, record Opiate production there, has come to haunt America that is now suffering a Opiate epidemic. Although U.S. officials are scrambling to cover up the evidence (claiming the drugs are coming from Latin America or from over-prescribing), the facts are in plain view.
The real story behind this epidemic, is that it all started when the U.S. walked into Afghanistan. That same year, Afghan production of ALL opiates in 2001 before the invasion was below 1 ton or less than 8000 hectares under poppy cultivation. 15 years later, this has skyrocketed to 224,000 hectares (according to U.N. reports).
The UN has estimated that the US and Canada accounts for 13% of global heroin use. With about 95% of global heroin derived from Afghanistan, Burma, Thailand and Laos. Latin America (mainly Mexico with a small amount from Colombia) simply CANNOT produce enough to supply most US heroin, let alone 96% of American demand. The White House itself (their Office of National Drug Control Policy) undercuts this claim when it says Mexico had 10,500 hectares under poppy cultivation in 2012, while Afghanistan alone had 154,000 hectares in 2012 and 224,000 hectares in 2014, per UN estimates. Mexico accounts for less than 5% of global poppy production, yet, U.S. consumes 15% of the global product. This basically means Afghanistan is supplying almost 70% of U.S. heroin. Yes, at least 70%! It’s basic math.
An Afghan farmer collects raw opium from poppies in Balkh province, Afghanistan
Media interviews with ordinary Afghans reveal a dark truth. Here are some quotes:
“The biggest mafias here are directly linked to both UK and US. The West lies that they want to stop trade with drugs in Afghanistan; they never will allow it to stop.”
“My brother is a writer and he has images of the U.S. army giving water pumps, studs and other basic stuff, for the growth of poppies. The biggest supporter of drugs production in Afghanistan, and the export, is Western government. They are dealing directly with the locals, even giving them money… The West is also the major market for the export. Helmand, Kandahar, you name it, from there, directly, transport planes are taking off and going straight towards Europe, even the US. The Westerners are people who physically put drugs into the airplane at our airports.”
“My relative was an interpreter for the British… He was killed by them, after he had been witnessing and interpreting at a meeting between the UK officials, and the local drug mafias.”
“I have nothing to hide. They are destroying my country right in front of my eyes. What could be more horrifying than that? The Western occupation is ruining Afghanistan. I want the world to be aware of it, and I don’t care what could happen to me!”
The U.S. is leaving Afghanistan worse off than when the Taliban was in power. This should come as no surprise, given that for decades the U.S. has refused to back anyone other than corrupt and criminal elements.
Most Americans are ignorant of how the U.S. government has worked closely with warlords that are no different than the Taliban, or according to some reports are worse than the Taliban, who most Afghans claim are destroyed Afghanistan all over again.
One quick indicator is the United Nations Human Development Index, which has remained virtually unchanged over a decade: In 2004, Afghanistan ranked 173 out of 178 countries for which data was available; today it ranks 175 out of 187 countries.
If you look at Afghanistan today, the north is officially under the control of the government, but most of this control is through local militias who commit countless crimes against people every day. And the Taliban control the south (about 30 percent of Afghanistan) — more than it controlled at any other time since 2001. Nothing has been accomplished, one gang has replaced another.
A recent report by the US said that, while 68 per cent of the country was safe for reconstruction in 2009, the proportion has since shrunk to 45 per in 2016 cent and is predicted to halve in 2017.
Growth, which jumped to 14 per cent last year thanks to a bumper harvest, has since slumped to 3.1 per cent. Unemployment remains high. The overall prognosis is grim.
Public confidence in the Afghan national unity government is waning because of continued attacks in Kabul and the threat of violence from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The economy is in free fall. The partial withdrawal of foreign military infrastructure means that hundreds of thousands of people are now unemployed or soon will be. Corruption among government leaders remains rampant.
In Kabul people don’t need a 230-page report to understand the deteriorating security situation. On Feb. 1 a Taliban suicide bomber killed at least 20 police officers in an attack near a police complex, wounding 29 others. It was the latest in a series of assaults in the Afghan capital this year and yet more proof that the U.S.-led “war on terrorism” is not working.
“Afghans accounted for 20 percent of the million-plus migrants to the European Union in 2015, second only to Syrians fleeing their own civil war,” the SIGAR report said. Afghanistan issued more than 2,000 passports a day in Kabul last year, a six-fold increase over 2014, mostly to men and women under the age of 30, according to SIGAR. And last fall Afghanistan’s Refugees and Repatriations Ministry launched a social media campaign to stop the exodus of young people.
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that if the people of Afghanistan themselves are leaving, it’s probably true that it hasn’t really become a better place since Western troops marched in. Maybe the only positive outcome has been that at least the ‘people can get passports now and leave’; and with declining birth rates in the West, in some strange way, tax payer bases are being replenished to help pay back the huge costs of endless war.
After decades of ‘boots on the ground’; the U.S. tried an entirely new tactic in Syria. Let’s arm the rebels. It’ll cost less in terms of blood and treasure!
And what a debacle that has turned into? Eh?
Well a quick summary of the facts yields: roughly half-a-million dead; 13.5 million Syrians displaced; 4.8 million refugees flooded into neighboring countries and Europe!
But more interestingly, this flood of refugees stoked anti-immigrant fervor, empowered right-wing political parties and contributed to Brexit and Trump’s victory.
Another abject failure. A disaster in fact. No one is counting how many schools or hospitals got bombed, and how Syria has now turned into a ruin!
And for what benefit? What did the U.S. (and its allies) gain? How was this a ‘win’ for anyone?
Residents of the refugee camp of Yarmouk queuing to receive food supplies from the United Nations in Damascus, Syria.UNRWA
The truth is, all these direct or indirect wars the U.S. in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria have yielded nothing. Neither the U.S., nor the countries involved have benefited. No value has been added.
So, with all this history in mind, we come to the real question of the moment, would any objective, sensible person recommend an invasion of Iran?
Let’s remind everyone that Iran is roughly 3 to 5x the size and population of Iraq or Syria. It has a standing, well-armed military, with decades of real war experience. It has 534,000 active military personnel, and 400,000 reservists. Add to this, literally several hundred thousand Iranian led militias in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, which by the way, were used to fend off ISIS in Syria.
It seems to me, that the new U.S. policy is to enable Saudi Arabia and its new gang (including Israel) take in the lion share of the military weight. But, that too is a lost cause. The Saudi’s can’t thrash the Yemeni Houthi tribe, let alone even ‘thinking’ about taking Iran on.
Bottom-line, there are no good options for the U.S. to reassert itself in the region. Decades of mismanagement and idiotic policies have left the U.S. with virtually no policy options.
But, one thing’s for sure, a war with Iran isn’t a solution to anything… it will only increase misery and pain, for yet another nation. Does, the U.S. want to be a pawn for countries like Israel, with a bone to pick with Iran, or does it want to make sensible, rational, win-win type decisions?
Cover photo: U.S. Army soldiers from Battle Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team collapses in exhaustion during Operation Rock Avalanche in Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, East Afghanistan on Oct. 25, 2007. (Photo: Balazs Gardi/flickr/cc)