Trump Is Third President to Lie About Afghan War Success

After the deaths of 157,000 people at a cost of $2 trillion, corruption is rampant and the carnage continues, writes Marjorie Cohn.

Protest against the war in Afghanistan during the Obama administration on Dec. 22, 2009, New York City. (Felton Davis, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

By Marjorie Cohn

The administrations of George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump all routinely lied to the American people about the success of the 18-year war in Afghanistan. They exaggerated progress and inflated statistics to create an illusion that that the war was winnable. But after the deaths of 157,000 people at a cost of $2 trillion, corruption is rampant and the carnage continues.

“There’s an odor of mendacity throughout the Afghanistan issue … mendacity and hubris,” John Sopko, special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee during his Jan. 15 testimony. In the last few years, Sopko said, the Trump administration has been “lying by omissions,” classifying “everything that is bad news,” including Afghan troop casualties and calculation of Taliban strength.

Sopko was called to testify before the committee to explain The Washington Post’s explosive December 2019 series known as The Afghanistan Papers.” Based on hundreds of interviews with leading U.S. officials, Sopko published “Lessons Learned,” seven reports about the secret history of the war. The reports omitted the names of more than 90 percent of the interviewees.

John Sopko in 2013. (Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction/Flickr)

Constant Lies

“Several of those interviewed described explicit and sustained efforts by the U.S. government to deliberately mislead the public,” the Post reported. “They said 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.” U.S. military officials took a page from the Vietnam War playbook, “manipulating public opinion.” As Sopko told the Post, “the American people have constantly been lied to.”

In September 2008, Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser declared in a news briefing, “Are we losing this war? Absolutely no way. Can the enemy win it? Absolutely no way.”

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Meanwhile, U.S. troops didn’t know whether the enemy was al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Pakistan, Islamic State, foreign jihadists or warlords on the CIA payroll.

Indeed, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld wrote in a 2003 memo, “I have no visibility into who the bad guys are.”

Wasted Blood & Treasure

Since the George W. Bush administration illegally invaded Afghanistan in 2001, about 157,000 people have been killed, including 2,300 U.S. military personnel and 43,074 Afghan civilians. In 2018 alone, 3,804 Afghan civilians were killed, the highest yearly number since the United Nations began calculating casualties 10 years ago.

The cost of the United States’ longest war is over $2 trillion. That figure includes $1.5 trillion to wage war, $87 billion to train Afghan military and police, $10 billion for counter-narcotics, $24 billion for economic development, $30 billion for other reconstruction programs and $500 billion for interest.

Burying civilians in Afghanistan. (Ariana News)

Moreover, U.S. policies have exacerbated corruption in Afghanistan. “A toxic mix of U.S. government policies, under the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, directly contributed to Afghanistan’s descent into one of the world’s most corrupt countries,” the Post reported.

The massive amount of money Congress appropriated was distributed “with little oversight or recordkeeping,” according to the Post. “The ensuing greed and corruption undermined the legitimacy of the nascent government and helped make the ground more fertile for the Taliban’s resurgence.”

For example, a forensic accountant analyzed 3,000 Defense Department contracts from 2010 to 2012, totaling $106 billion. Approximately 40 percent of that money went to line the pockets of corrupt Afghan officials, criminal syndicates or insurgents.

A senior U.S. official reported, “[W]e were the most corrupt here, so had no credibility on the corruption issue.” One government contractor said he distributed $3 million per day for projects in an Afghan district the size of a county in the United States.

Carnage Continues

On Jan. 8, more than 60 Afghan civilians and “dozens of militants” were reportedly killed in a U.S. drone attack in Herat Province. TOLO News, Afghanistan’s main 24/7 television news channel, cited local government officials and members of the Herat provincial council, who said “at least 60 civilians including women and children” were killed in the drone strikes.

Abdul Hakim told Stars & Stripes that U.S. bombers carried out a double tap in Herat, in which the drone or warplane bombs the people trying to rescue those hit by the first strike.

Two U.S. service members died on Jan. 11, when their vehicle collided with an improvised explosive device. In 2019, 23 service members were killed during operations, the highest number in five years.

Withdraw All U.S. Forces

U.S. Army soldiers return fire during a firefight with Taliban forces in Kunar Province, March 31, 2011. (Pfc. Cameron Boyd, Flickr, Wikimedia Commons)

The U.S. government has been negotiating with the Taliban. On Jan. 16, the Taliban offered a brief period of reduction in the violence but it is not clear whether the U.S. has agreed. The two sides were on the brink of a peace agreement when Trump thwarted the negotiations in September 2019.

During the last Democratic debate, none of the candidates promised to pull all U.S. forces out of Afghanistan. Senator Elizabeth Warren said she wants to bring combat troops home. Senators Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden have also said they would withdraw combat troops. But, as Phyllis Bennis noted, “[C]ombat troops are not the ones who have been killing people probably since about 2011. The killing of civilians, in particular, is being carried out by Special Forces, by bombing, by drones.”

Both the progressive Veterans for Peace (VFP) and the conservative Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) support withdrawing all U.S. troops from Afghanistan. CVA has mounted a multimillion-dollar advertising operation, funded by the Koch family, in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Trump’s unfulfilled 2016 campaign promise to end the United States’ “endless wars” was favorably received in those three swing states.

Veterans for Peace said in a statement, “The U.S. military has destroyed countless villages and continues to create an atmosphere of fear and hatred with covert drone operations that kill thousands of innocent people.” VFP called for immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops, immediate release of all 300 names of those quoted in the Afghanistan Papers, a congressional tribunal at which Afghanistan veterans could testify, repeal of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force and reparations to all Afghan families who have lost a family member.

A majority of U.S. veterans thinks the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were not worth fighting, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. This mirrors the sentiment of the public at large.

After 18 years, it is long past time to end this war. We must contact our congressional representatives and Democratic presidential candidates, cite The Afghanistan Papers, and demand total withdrawal of all U.S. forces — including intelligence and Special Forces — from Afghanistan. It will save lives and money.

Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers and a member of the advisory board of Veterans for Peace. Her most recent book is Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues.”

This article is from Truthout and reprinted with permission.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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13 comments for “Trump Is Third President to Lie About Afghan War Success

  1. michael
    January 24, 2020 at 05:47

    The “War” in Afghanistan may be only for 18 years, but American involvement, arming “the alliance of the Day” and constantly shifting support between multiple groups of terrorists and war clans, has been ongoing since before Clinton. So it’s a 30 year Neverending War, not an 18 year Neverending War (though still early). The waste in Blood and Treasure should bring up the “How are we going to pay for that?” aimed at every request and advanced policy aimed at helping American citizens inside the US.

  2. robert e williamson jr
    January 23, 2020 at 17:20

    Yup, this all has become totally ridiculous. Americans at home are to blame here now as well the liars who got us into this fiasco in the first place. Failure to correct this egregious act by 43 and the liars he surrounded himself with and repeal the Patriot Act is killing the country. Never mind the asinine concept of money being the same thing as free speech as pushed by the SCOTUS.

    We have two political parties that are totally ineffective in doing the work of the people because they are too busy covering the tracks of their Super Wealthy Supporters. They have been bought.

    With evidence being produced by Oliver Berruyel and the website, les p , as seen here at CN showing Joe Biden’s involvement in the Ukraine mess himself presents very serious issues for the U.S. government.

    I would suggest a great place to see the results of U.S. government officials who are profiteering, members of the Trumps elite cabinet staff might be in the natural gas fields of Ukraine and Russia. Key term LNG!

    But what I do know for sure that this Ukrainian drama is totally ludicrous and if there were any justice both political parties should be censured for being totally willing to try and cover up a very inconvenient truth.

    Appears to me as long as the Ukraine is prohibited from capitalizing on it’s natural gas reserves Putin continues to win.

    My Dog, gas and oil people are pains in everyone ass while representing themselves as glowing examples of American Exceptionalism.

  3. Steve Naidamast
    January 23, 2020 at 13:46

    “After 18 years, it is long past time to end this war. We must contact our congressional representatives and Democratic presidential candidates, cite The Afghanistan Papers, and demand total withdrawal of all U.S. forces — including intelligence and Special Forces — from Afghanistan. It will save lives and money.”

    Yeah… That will work alright… :-(

    • Realist
      January 24, 2020 at 00:19

      That is a bit of a disconnect, is it not, when the only Democratic presidential candidate clearly running against any of this country’s seven or eight ongoing shooting wars is Tulsi Gabbard, the one candidate that the entire Democratic Party and its MSM tools see fit to gang up against (even the Bernie Believers)? Moreover, the entire Congress (both sides of the aisle) has repeatedly seen fit to not only endlessly fund these wars but to simultaneously justify them as necessary and patriotic whilst concomitantly condemning them as a malefaction of the opposing party.

      You’d think rank and file Democrats would all have broken necks from the repeated whiplash of opposing these fights under Bushdaddy when he originated most of ’em, supporting them under Slick Willie when he put the hammer down to distract from Monica, then opposing them under Dubya, embracing them under Obomber and most recently rejecting them under Bad Orange Man. Frankly, I think they will simply accept and repeat whatever instructed to believe by Maddow and company, just like the Right will ever parrot Limbaugh and Hannity. The thing is, it seems not to matter to most whether we are presently at war with East Asia or Eurasia. All they know is that the war is necessary and we are doing the right thing because America = Truth + justice + God’s Will and everyone else can bite it. Simple as pie when you believe everything you are told by those you assume to be your “leaders.”

  4. AnneR
    January 23, 2020 at 10:17

    Thank you Ms Cohn for listing the calculated number of Afghani deaths first, before that of US military. All too frequently even articles critical of US warmongering policy those numbers are in the reverse order making patent who “matters more” – well, of course.

    Drone killings are truly obscene, criminal, amoral murders of people without any danger to the (essentially) “video game player” who is usually many if not thousands of miles distant. Not risking his or her life while slaughtering other human beings far away. How anyone can do this is beyond my comprehension and even more so given that we have been aware of the fact that our governments (US and UK) *lied* their way into these never-ending wars, rapines and pillages, devastations and murders for some years now. How can anyone sign up to kill other humans – who have *never* threatened this country, who present no danger to this country’s people?

    And no difference is made whoever is in the WH of whichever head of the Janus party – Obama was as eager to kill using drones as Bush before him; Truman had been as lacking in morality as any eager beaver murderer, as Reagan with the Contras, as Bush 1 in Panama and Iraq war 1, when he ordered the use of the atom bombs on Japan.

    Sickening to its very roots.

  5. JohnDoe
    January 23, 2020 at 08:24

    Defining Afghanistan one of the world’s most corrupt countries is a lie. Most of the corruption is caused by the US occupation, and the statement that says: “Approximately 40 percent of that money went to line the pockets of corrupt Afghan officials” is probably based on inflated figures, the local officials get just the crumbles while the money goes back in American hands.

    • AnneR
      January 24, 2020 at 05:58

      Almost certainly true, JD. Like most of that unaccounted for Pentagon-MIC taxpayer Congress gifted money… And almost certainly the same is true regarding Iraq…yes locals get some baksheesh, but it’s those American “contractors” that pocket the bulk. Surely one of the reasons Cheney was keen and eager to invade Iraq (and Afghanistan?) – because he was/had been financially connected to some large scale company which would benefit from “reconstruction” (I’ve forgotten the name if it).

      War making, murder, destruction for profit…

  6. JohnDoe
    January 23, 2020 at 08:23

    What does it mean winnable war? There is nothing to win, the current situation is what was planned from the beginning, because it’s permanent disorder that yields the best profits. If with the sentence “winning the war” the reader gets an idea of the level of violence subsiding the image is false, that will happen when a big chunk of the population will have died out, it would be a defeat for both the victims and the perpetrators left without slaves.

  7. Realist
    January 22, 2020 at 18:43

    Whether the American troops in Afghanistan achieve any moral, worthy or simply pragmatic geopolitical goals or just flatly waste lives and squander money they will be kept there as long they are useful for striking fear into would-be independent countries around the globe. Afghanistan is one of the examples the gangsters in Washington can point to in their ongoing global extortion racket. “Nice country you Iranians have here, it’d be a pity if it ended up looking like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya or Syria.” I think the head-crackers from Washington even have the EU running scared. Why else would they abandon all their hard-learned principles (after WWII) and now support blatant thuggery?

  8. Drew Hunkins
    January 22, 2020 at 15:33

    “…a forensic accountant analyzed 3,000 Defense Department contracts from 2010 to 2012, totaling $106 billion. …”

    Ok, but let’s cut Social Security and Medicare.

    • Gregory Herr
      January 23, 2020 at 20:38

      Galling, isn’t it? And then we’re told Sanders’ plan for college tuition is pie-in-the-sky (47 billion annually). The Pentagon spends more than that every month and has simply “lost track” of much much more than that since the GWOT was perpetrated.

    • Drew Hunkins
      January 24, 2020 at 10:10

      It’s galling beyond belief.

  9. Drew Hunkins
    January 22, 2020 at 15:29

    “…Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld wrote in a 2003 memo, “I have no visibility into who the bad guys are.”…”

    Just look in the mirror.

Comments are closed.